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Is more always better?
The ups and downs of capacitor hold up in 2.5" military flash SSDs

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12 months of headlines
March 2017 Excelero - emerged from stealth.

Everspin began sampling an NVMe PCIe SSD based on its ST-MRAM.
February 2017 Tachyum emerged from stealth mode
January 2017 Pure Storage said the "new stack" is becoming the standard thing.

Crossbar announced it was sampling 8Mb ReRAM based on 40nm CMOS friendly technology.
December 2016 Violin seeks bankruptcy protection.

4Gb MRAM prototypes unveiled by SK Hynix and Toshiba
November 2016 Silicon Motion announced the "world's first merchant SD 5.1 controller solution."
October 2016 Rambus announced it is exploring the use of Xilinx FPGAs in its Smart Data Acceleration research program.
September 2016 Everspin files for IPO to expand MRAM
August 2016 Seagate previews 60TB 3.5" SAS SSD

Nimbus demonstrates 4PB 4U HA AFA at FMS
July 2016 Diablo announces volume availability of its Memory1 128GB DDR4 DIMM
June 2016 Pure said its AFA revenue in Q1 2016 was more than leading HDD array brand
May 2016 efficiently coded memory architecture unveiled in systems by Symbolic IO

Encrip announces tri-state coded DRAM IP which can be used with any standard process
April 2016 Samsung began mass producing the industry's first 10nm class 8Gb DDR4 DRAM chips
archived storage news 2000 to 2017

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In popular fiction about time travel it has often been said that the paradox you want to seriously avoid is meeting yourself coming forwards while you are actually traveling back.
big SSD ideas which emerged in 2016

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1.0" SSDs
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1973 - 2017 - the SSD story

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20K RPM HDDs - no-show

About the publisher - 1991 to 2017
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Zsolt Kerekes - (editor linkedin)


StorageSearch.com is published by ACSL founded in 1991.

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Editor's note:- I currently talk to more than 600 makers of SSDs and another 100 or so companies which are closely enmeshed around the SSD ecosphere.

Most of these SSD companies (but by no means all) are profiled here on the mouse site.

I still learn about new SSD companies every week, including many in stealth mode. If you're interested in the growing big picture of the SSD market canvass - StorageSearch will help you along the way.

Many SSD company CEOs read our site too - and say they value our thought leading SSD content - even when we say something that's not always comfortable to hear. I hope you'll find it it useful too.

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news:- March 21, 2017 - NVMdurance today announced that it has been granted US patent 9,569,120 for Adaptive Flash Tuning.
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optimizing CPUs for use with SSDs
in the Post Modernist Era

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - March 22, 2017

A new blog on StorageSearch.com - optimizing CPUs for use with SSDs in the Post Modernist Era of SSD and Memory Systems - was prompted by a question from a startup which is looking at adapting new processors for the SSD market. ...read the article
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is there a gap in the M.2 SSD market?

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - March 20, 2017

Does your company make M.2 PCIe 3 SSDs which operate at industrial temperatures?

A reader in a military equipment company asked me for help with this and when I followed up the links in my own directory of M.2 SSD makers I could see that there's an information gap here.

I suggested 2 possible companies - both of which have since been confirmed directly. In both cases these products were not listed on the vendors' own web sites at the time.
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this may be a stupid question but...

have you thought of supporting a RAM disk emulation in your new "flash as RAM" solution?

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - February 27, 2017
The idea of RAMdisk software is as old as the hills - and as you know for a long time now there have been real hardware SSDs - so why was I interested in a new blog - RAM Disk technology: Performance Comparison by Alex Khorolets (whose linkedin profile I can't find yet) at StarWind Software?

It wasn't the benchmark itself - although it's nice to see that there's so much choice now.

The blog post had reminded me of something which I had forgotten to ask Diablo Technologies in my recent conversation with them about their Memory1. (Although we had plenty to talk about as you can see by scrolling down below this "stupid question" blog.)

My question - which is now an open question to any vendor of software or related modules which repurposes flash as RAM to provide a high capacity, transparent memory tier is this...

Do you have a supported RAM Disk emulation for it?

and

how do the benchmark numbers look? (compared to a similar quantity of flash - or maybe even the same physical devices) when they are configured as native flash SSDs?

Now - if you're not into the art of evaluating new technologies - you may be thinking - that's just a stupid thing to ask.

I mean - why would you want an SSD emulation of a flash drive running on a flash system which is emulating RAM?

There are a couple of reasons.
  • The results will reveal interesting performance anomalies (in the flash as DRAM emulation) and (if they exist) complex quality idiosyncrasies.

    That's because RAM disk software is mature and generally well behaved. But flash as a RAM software is relatively new. Running one as an emulation on the other means you can leverage well proven flash SSD benchmark tools to see if there are holes or spikes in the RAM emulation software.

    This isn't going to magic away the need for true RAM tier evaluation tools. Something I've touched on before in a news story is it realistic to talk about memory IOPS?

    But you will learn something useful from the gap between ideal behavior and what you measure.
  • Another reason is this... In the present state of the market the need for pure play vanilla SSD storage (whether it's dressed up as AFA (capacity or performance optimized), or hybrid appliance or SDS is healthy and users will still be buying such quaint old fashioned products for many years to come. But....

    In the long term future... in another 5 to 10 years - such "storage focused" implementations of memory systems will become a smaller part of the overall local storage market. ("Local" being on your premises and not in the cloud. In the cloud we assume they will still find value based uses for cheap old slow stuff in the same way as they currently do with hard drives.)

    Instead - I think that "storage" itself may become just a software selectable setting in resource boxes which are really just big memory systems. The forerunners of which I hinted at in my blog - after AFAs - what's the next box?

    When all storage is made from memory chips - then the decision - sell it as memory or sell it as storage - may become a business and branding decision rather than a true representation of the technology in the box.
That's why I think the "supported RAM disk" emulation question today is a probe into a future market.

And I use the term "supported" advisedly - because it's obvious that a vendor specific "SSD emulation" on "flash tiered as RAM" should include hardware supported datamovers and perform better than a bland software based solution.

Either way - the industry will learn a lot about the "goodness" of new memory tiering products by stressing them in ways which the original designers never intended.
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controllernomics and user risk reward with big memory "flash as RAM"

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - February 16, 2017
A recent conversation I had with Kevin Wagner at Diablo Technologies began with talking about the recent benchmarks they have been sharing related to their Memory1 (128GB flash as RAM DIMMs) when running large scale analytics software. But it finished somewhere unexpected.

I'll start with the benchmarks.

Kevin said that some of the results (for SPARK SQL performance) came from a real financial customer who had run these tests themselves using data from their own production environments.

They were able to achieve a 4 to 1 server reduction using Memory1 enhanced servers (3x M1 nodes versus 12 384GB DRAM only nodes) and still get 24% faster performance.

They also have some publicly shareable benchmarks which show useful acceleration when using identical numbers of server nodes and comparing the results to alternative SSD implementations (NVMe and arrays of SATA SSDs).

As in the early phases of flash array market 10 years ago - you have to filter yourself in or out of following up interest in this depending on whether you think you have the right type of problem.

The risk reward factors of using this DIMM based flash as RAM system like Memory1 is that users with big memory apps will be able to choose whether they prefer the idea of getting faster results (using a similar number of servers) or using less servers to save costs (or some combination). But not all jobs will run faster. Small jobs which would have fitted into the DRAM comfortably anyway could run upto 30% slower.

Users who are evaluating this new tiered memory approach can buy preconfigured supported servers from a variety of sources and Diablo says that no changes are required to the OS or applications.

Compared to many of the alternative emerging new semiconductor memory approaches - flash (as RAM) seems like it will be the mainstream safe choice for the next 2 or 3 years - because it will take that long for the newcomers to prove their reliability and even after that - we have the issue of software support for the tiering and caching.

competition?

There will of course be alternative competing implementations of "flash as RAM in the DIMM form factor". (Which is not the only form factor for this concept - but I'm trying to keep this article as short as I can.)

Companies like Xitore and Netlist have been saying they want to get into the "flash as RAM in the DIMM form factor" market for a while now.

I haven't seen details from these expected competitors from my guess is that - unlike Diablo's product - which leverages the DRAM which is already in other DIMM sockets in the same motherboard - that some of the later contestants in this market will take the approach of placing everything needed to provide transparent emulation and caching into a single DIMM.

That alternative approach might work better for smaller scale embedded systems which don't have a lot of DIMMs - but creates difficult design constraints - because the "all in a single DIMM" approach means there will be less flexibility about RAM flash cache ratios. The real RAM will be fixed into the design. (Unlike Diablo's solution where the ratio of flash to DRAM DIMMs is fluid.)

That lack of flexibility is why I predicted that the hybrid storage drive market would never succeed in the enterprise and so far no one has been silly enough to admit to stuffing JBODs with 2.5" hybrid flash-HDDs and instead the hybrid storage appliance market picked and chose components from a wide range of best of breed flash modules.

But I think the "all in a single DIMM approach to implement flash as a RAM tier will succeed as a viable market too. (In addition to the Memory1 approach.) Personally I think the all in one DIMM solutions will work better in small capacity memory systems but be less upwardly scalable for large capacity servers.

The product definitions will involve some very complex segmentation and application analysis.

I expect that the "flash as RAM in a DIMM form factor" market will fragment into:-
  • applications which only need a single such DIMM on each server and
  • the other segment will be those applications which tend to use the maximum number of DIMM slots.
the interesting thing? - dataflow controllernomics

Let's pause for some perspective...

What's data? - Now hold on - that's too philosophical. Encode data a different way... to make it work better - now you're talking engineering. But that's a discussion for another time.

Right here we don't care what the data means.

It just comes and goes.

And it's surprising how far or how little it may have traveled.

From the cloud? Another storage device? Maybe it was computed just now from an earlier matching of data. Sometimes the data arrives in a rush only to sadly discover that it's not needed after all. There's a lot of data shuffling happening around the world. Most of it isn't even for you.

It's when that data (or lack of it) is the next thing which the software is going to look at - that the economics of having data in the right or wrong place suddenly becomes very serious. Because if we have to wait too long to get the data then we may need a faster processor (or more processors) to get the next thing done.

You may like to think that data lives in cables, or in storage media or flying around on electromagnetic waves. But from a memory systems perspective the time when data really comes alive is when it's in our memory locality.

We care that data comes when we need it.

And if we haven't got it in our live place (the memory) then we really care about and want to know where it lives. (And not just addresses in memory spaces - but locations in between the memory spaces - in transit.)

Even better if we can tell the data where to live. And if its comings and goings heed our calls.

(Sadly other controllers too have a say in this matter. And even when they think they're trying to be helpful their understanding is based on past customs of politeness.)

back to my conversation with Diablo

Our conversation took an interesting diversion when Kevin Wagner said something about the techniques Diablo uses in the management of its data caching.

We had discussed its DMX software in depth before and I wrote something about it last summer.

The new point which I latched onto is that Diablo has used machine learning to not only get a better understanding of the applications it commonly works with - but also to reverse engineer and understand the behavior of some of the external controllers which it encounters - in particular memory controllers.

That enables DMX to sometimes predict the best way it should request and deliver new data.

The behavior of controllers is a very important factor in the modern digital economy.

I've touched on this aspect in the past as you can see in past stories in the SSD controllers page and my article about controller and caching impacts on DRAM latency.

big datasystems controllernomics?

Analyzing how to get optimal performance from tiered memory, tiered storage etc which will be at the center of future focus for much of our industry - especially in emerging fields like in-situ (SSD / memory) processing, fast elements and software.

Although latencies for raw data media and communications and interfaces have been well understood and managed in their own ways for some time. The science of how to manage large populations of different types of controllers in different localities is fragmented with differing purposes.

Every controller company has its own IP which does the best it can with the things it connects to and can control.

What is becoming more important - when you are in the memory zone - right in close with the RAM and processor - is getting a better understanding of the connected controllers in your space. Because application performance in the data world is limited by the complex interactions of controller-controller speak (from the cloud right down into each processor DRAM cache request ) to a much greater extent than ever before.

When storage was slower and memories were smaller and the software was older - all the controller designs looked good in comparison to the other devices surrounding them. Now with faster storage, bigger memories and modern apps software controllernomics has become the limiting factor.

So it's not how fast the intrinsic memory cells or blocks work... you never get that physical - because media controllers sit between you and noisy physics. And if you are that media controller - speed (from the software's point of view - isn't just how well you and the host interface get along together.) And it's not just how fast your application's CPU works either - because other CPUs and other tasks are competing in the same data highways.

Datasystems controllernomics is like figuring out traffic patterns - some of which you can anticipate (the effects of predicted snow, or the rush hour) but most of which you just have to react to as best you can (a big truck took the wrong turn). And mixing up the two things at the same time. And BTW - each time you call it wrong - you contribute to the next controllernomics snafu.

So you might ask... hey why doesn't some software manage all this? And what about the role of operating systems?

Let's look at the OS first. If you've read any histories of computing you'll know that in the dotcom era (which was the last grand ball era when server CPUs, DRAM and hard drives all knew their place and were equally respected because they had all grown a little bit faster and fatter together up to that that). Chronologically that's upto about 1999-2000 - if you prefer a date. Well upto that time - the OSes took many of their responsibilities seriously.

After that we got into the causes of the great war (I mean the modern era of SSDs). I already dealt with most of the decline, fall and abandonment of the OS (in a useful memory systems context) in my 2012 article - where are we now with SSD software? (And how did we get into this mess?).

Rather than repeat that analysis here - and to be fair to the OS companies their traditional systems partners didn't know what was happening either. But in any case the OS companies had other distractions - like trying to be the next search engine destination, the next phone platform or trying to hang on while pesky open source OS startups were giving enterprise OSes away free to whoever could download them quickly enough.

Anyway that's how the critical software for SSDs got to be written by SSD companies themselves - because for a long time - no-one else was going to do it.

This brings us to the present day. And the SSD market has grown large enough to merit its own conferences, standards etc - which is how we got new form factors like M.2 and new software like NVMe. So the OS companies and the hypervisor companies are more than happy enough to gatecrash the SSD party . But...

And this is a big but... They have no real incentive to improve performance to the next level. And as their business models depend on remaining as hardware agnostic as possible - they have every reason to avoid tying themselves too closely to any quick changing deep piece of single sourced semiconductor trickery. And - even if that wasn't so - the enterprise OS companies have business models which depend on supporting hardware platforms which are already shipping in high volume - and not in creating new platforms.

Give them a problem like tiered memory - which can be solved with a purely software solution and yeah they'll support it eventually (or buy little software companies who can show them how to do it).

But give them a problem where the little pieces involve nanosecond hardware support in semiconductors and where the analysis comes from learning what they themselves have been doing wrong for years - and you can see why the OS companies are not where the best solutions are going to come from.

Diablo got into big datasystems controllernomics (that's my term for it - not theirs) because they spent a lot of time analyzing problems from a particular angle (in the memory close to the processors). And they discovered that even after you've understood the stacks and the apps and the architecture there's still another factor of modeling and predicting which it's worth getting to know - but only if you can do something about it.

And once you've done that - and are comfortably working in the memory and storage and controller-controller alternate universe - then just as Google found with search - you're in a better vantage point to learn more and stay ahead. And if you do - and occupy enough server boxes - then you might become the controller behavior which others in the controllernomics universe have to reverse analyze and understand.

And although this started out as a "flash as RAM" problem - the solution methodology isn't tied to flash.

Interesting times ahead.

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Hmm... it looks like you're seriously interested in SSDs. So please bookmark this page and come back again soon.

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the top 10 SSD oems
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The next wave of disruptive change in memory systems architecture has barely begun.
The Top SSD Companies in Q4 2016
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The cloud adapted memory systems concept raises the question:- what proportion of the raw semiconductor memory capacity ought to be usable as storage? or usable as memory?
after AFAs - what's next?
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SSD ad - click for more info
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You can see the effects everywhere. Or nowhere depending how you interpret what you see in the news and market reports. This is a business phenomenon rather than a technology shift. But it affects all technology business plans.
1 big market lesson in SSD year 2016

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What we've got now is a new SSD market melting pot in which all performance related storage is made from memories and the dividing line between storage and memory is also more fluid than before.
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?

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"We are at a junction point where we have to evolve the architecture of the last 20-30 years. We can't design for a workload so huge and diverse. It's not clear what part of it runs on any one machine. How do you know what to optimize? Past benchmarks are completely irrelevant."
Kushagra Vaid, Distinguished Engineer, Azure Infrastructure - quoted in a blog by Rambus - Designing new memory tiers for the data center (February 21, 2017)

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Lightning, tachIOn , WarpDrive ... etc
Inanimate Power, Speed and Strength Metaphors in SSD brands

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latency matters
Latency? - the devil is in the detail.

"latency" - mentions on the mouse site

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is data remanence in NVDIMMs a new risk factor?
maybe the risk was already there before with DRAM

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Some suppliers will quote you higher DWPD even if nothing changes in the BOM.
what's the state of DWPD?

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DRAM's reputation for speed is like the old story about the 15K hard drives (more of the same is not always quickest nor best)
latency loving reasons for fading out DRAM

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It's by no means inevitable that the biggest memory companies will also go on to become the biggest SSD companies. That's like expecting Exxon to be the biggest car maker.
boom bust cycles in memory markets

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Why would any sane SSD company in recent years change its business plan from industrial flash controllers to HPC flash arrays?
a winter's tale of SSD market influences

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In SSD land - rules are made to be broken.
7 tips to survive and thrive in enterprise SSD

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There's a genuine characterization problem for the SCM industry which is:- what are the most useful metrics to judge tiered memory systems by?
is it realistic to talk about memory IOPS?

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Many of the important and sometimes mysterious behavioral aspects of SSDs which predetermine their application limitations and usable market roles can only be understood when you look at how well the designer has dealt with managing the symmetries and asymmetries which are implicit in the underlying technologies which are contained within the SSD.
how fast can your SSD run backwards?

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The enterprise SSD story...

why's the plot so complicated?

and was there ever a missed opportunity in the past to simplify it?
the elusive golden age of enterprise SSDs

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How committed (really) are these companies
to the military SSD business?
a not so simple list of military SSD companies

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Can you trust market reports and the handed down wisdom from analysts, bloggers and so-called industry experts?
heck no! - here's why

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Why do SSD revenue forecasts by enterprise vendors so often fail to anticipate crashes in demand from their existing customers?
meet Ken and the enterprise SSD software event horizon

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the past (and future) of HDD vs SSD sophistry
How will the hard drive market fare...
in a solid state storage world?

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Compared to EMC...
ours is better

can you take these AFA companies seriously?

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Now we're seeing new trends in pricing flash arrays which don't even pretend that you can analyze and predict the benefits using technical models.
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing


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Reliability is an important factor in many applications which use SSDs. But can you trust an SSD brand just because it claims to be reliable in its ads?
the cultivation and nurturing of "reliability"
in a 2.5" embedded SSD brand



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A couple of years ago - if you were a big company wanting to get into the SSD market by an acquisition or strategic investment then a budget somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion would have seemed like plenty.
VCs in SSDs and storage


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Adaptive dynamic refresh to improve ECC and power consumption, tiered memory latencies and some other ideas.
Are you ready to rethink RAM?


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90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive.
market consolidation - why? how? when?


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With hundreds of patents already pending in this topic there's a high probability that the SSD vendor won't give you the details. It's enough to get the general idea.
Adaptive flash R/W and DSP ECC IP in SSDs


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SSD Market - Easy Entry Route #1 - Buy a Company which Already Makes SSDs. (And here's a list of who bought whom.)
3 Easy Ways to Enter the SSD Market


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"You'd think... someone should know all the answers by now. "
what do enterprise SSD users want?


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We can't afford NOT to be in the SSD market...
Hostage to the fortunes of SSD


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Why buy SSDs?
6 user value propositions for buying SSDs


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"Play it again Sam - as time goes by..."
the Problem with Write IOPS - in flash SSDs


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the SSD heresies
Why can't SSD's true believers agree on a single shared vision for the future of solid state storage?
the SSD Heresies


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There's one kind of market research report which you won't find listed on the website of any storage market report vendor - and that's a directory of all the other market research companies they compete with! Here's my list - compiled from over 20 years of past news stories - which includes all categories of market research companies...
who's who in storage market research?


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If you spend a lot of your time analyzing the performance characteristics and limitations of flash SSDs - this article will help you to easily predict the characteristics of any new SSDs you encounter - by leveraging the knowledge you already have.
flash SSD performance characteristics and limitations


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The memory chip count ceiling around which the SSD controller IP is optimized - predetermines the efficiency of achieving system-wide goals like cost, performance and reliability.
size matters in SSD controller architecture


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Are you whiteboarding alternative server based SSD / SCM / SDS architectures? It's messy keeping track of those different options isn't it? Take a look at an easy to remember hex based shorthand which can aptly describe any SSD accelerated server blade.
what's in a number? - SSDserver rank


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A popular fad in selling flash SSDs is life assurance and health care claims as in - my flash SSD controller care scheme is 100x better (than all the rest).
razzle dazzling flash SSD cell care


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These are the "Editor Proven" cheerleaders and editorial meetings fixers of the storage and SSD industry.
who's who in SSD and storage PR?