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.. is about thought leadership in the SSD market.

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To - how will SSDs change the future?

Since the 1990s our readers have been accelerating the growth of the SSD market and setting its direction and agenda.

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Zero RPM SSDs killed 20K hard drives

Zsolt Kerekes, editor -

what kind of SSD world... 2015?

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor -
SSD year 2015 in the enterprise already offers the tantalizing promise that even on those rare occasions when most people can agree they will be talking about the one same thing - you can be sure by what follows that everyone had a completely different idea of what that same thing meant to them.

SDS (software defined storage) being a good example of an illusory market idea for comfortably bringing technologies together which due to its many incompatible incarnations which will probably rip many business plans apart.

The SSD market has been around for a long time - about 40 years since the start of the ancient era and 12 years since the modern era of SSDs - and there is a tendency for all tech markets to slow down and become more predictable.

Following that line of thinking many readers - yearning for relief from their SSD uncertainty induced headaches - have asked me if - as a result of what they called recent "consolidation" in the market (by which they meant acquisitions) - what did I think about the prospects of any stability and order coming into this market?

And did I anticipate any drastic reduction in the number of SSD companies and new SSD startups?

My answers were:-
  • no - I don't predict a reduction in the number of SSD companies, and
  • no - I don't think we've reached stability in reference enterprise SSD designs and use cases.

    All the systems in the market today are implementations of transient architectures which are pragmatically adapting legacy installations and infrastructure.

    Let me clarify that when I use the word "transient" to describe different identifiable phases of the SSD market - what I mean is time periods which are typically less than 5 years and always much less than 10.

    It has always been clear to me that it would be impossible for the SSD market to get from its original stable embryonic start (tiny niche market) to the final stable state (SSDs everywhere as the dominant data technology by 2020) without going through multiple transient phases along the way.

    That's because the investments needed to solve known technology problems only make economic sense when there is already a big enough ecosystem to support the cost.

    Furthermore each transient phase of the SSD market requires a different bunch of competitive challenges to be met - not least of which is education.

    And there is the ever present risk that some roads - which look attractive along the way (and which generate the kind of revenue spikes which spawn crazy IPOs) - will prove to be dead ends.

    Having said that - it's also self evident that even when we do get to the state when SSDs represent the biggest part of users' new hardware budgets (and we aren't there yet) there will still be an economic case for adapting older SSD systems - into new setups.

    Some types of products in the market today will make this transition better than others.

    The obvious examples being server based systems (due to their inherent flexibility) and whatever SSD storage products become the de-facto standards (due to their widespread user deployment).
more change is coming

You probably won't be surprised to hear me say I think there are still many surprises ahead from SSD market in 2015 - which promises to be another momentous year for the SSD market.

the predictable stuff

As long ago as 2010 - it was clear that the last big user adoption hurdle which enterprise SSDs hadn't solved yet was their use as low cost alternatives to arrays of hard drives.

My gut feel was it would happen at the system level - despite all the extrapolated media trends at that time pointing towards the fact that hard drives would continue to offer lower cost per raw terabyte at the component level compared to flash SSDs.

Starting with the boundary condition assumption that HDD drives would have zero purchase cost per terabyte - I explained in my classic article - this way to the petabyte SSD - why the deciding factors would be a combination of operating costs (smaller physical space, lower power consumption) and the data utility.

What do I mean by data utility?

How useful is the product from the data factory point of view. And when comparing SSD based storage systems to HDD based arrays - the particular significance of "virtual usable capacity" outweighing raw physical capacity - due to the fact that a raw terabyte of SSD (with efficient dedupe and compression) can support more users than a raw terabyte of magnetic storage - even when running the same applications.

In that 2010 petabyte SSD article I stuck my neck out and predicted that 2016 would be a significant crossover year for the storage industry - characterized by an iconic new type of product - the availability of a petabyte of SSD utility storage in a 2U rack.

With the benefit of hindsight I was too pessimistic about how well controller designers would manage flash memory - and in 2014 I revised my estimate for that crossover year as being sooner - in 2015.

Although there will be many other revenue shifts in the storage market in 2015 due to the mainstream adoption of enterprise SSDs following predictable patterns and trends - I think that assaulting what I called back then - the last bastion of the enterprise hard drive - will still rank as being the most important of the many long ago predicted market milestones for 2015.

the unpredictable stuff

Less predictable in detail - will be SSD user reactions to new dimensions in architectural diversity.

The "one legacy server/storage architecture" to fit all "general purpose applications" enterprise model is clearly an economic and technical illusion as more SSDs enter the picture.

What is less clear - however - is the degree to which SSD based offerings - which simply ape and mimic legacy architectures will make up the final picture.

Making up the current market mix there are products which interoperate and span HDD and SSD generations of the installed base - while other new products promise to be better replacements for specific applications.

Adding to the confusion of what is possible in the SSDserver mix while retaining old applications software and classical boundaries between servers and storage will the growing market success of entirely different vendor interpretations of SDS (software defined storage) and fabric spanning server technologies which leverage SSD latencies and at heart include new generations of thinking about software.

Frankly I think "SDS" is an almost useless top level label for many of the products which fly under the SDS flag.

That's because there are so many different solution which are being offered under the SDS colors which are very different in what they do and how they do it.

What we really need is more jargon and granularity of definition which will help to categorize SDS products into similar and dissimilar buckets.

This isn't a new problem for the SSD market.

10 years ago - a simple bilateral split of SSD types by memory type - DRAM or flash - was a good enough clue to indicate almost everything you would need to know in advance about a new SSD and the markets for which it might be intended.

But it's been years since such headline flash descriptors told you anything definitive about the market use of the SSD.

The list of things which you need to safely understand any new SSD drive (even a humble old style embedded legacy CF or USB drive) let alone a rackmount system has grown very long indeed.

So don't be surprised to see the SDS market growing up this year and accruing many more sub levels of descriptors and architectural shortcut descriptors. Because under the guise of new "software" - what we're really getting is glimpses of new SSDcentric visions of what is possible with SSD enhanced software architecture.

That's a story which will retain our rapt attention well into the next decade.

In the meantime - here in early 2015 my firm belief is that the SSD market will demonstrate that it still retains the ability to surprise and shock us all. (Myself included.)

SSD market volatility in 2015?

In a future article I'll look at whether it's possible to predict the comparative volatility of the SSD market in 2015 - based on the empirical measure of how many new companies have entered the top 10 part of the Top SSD Companies List (compared to previous years).

2015 is my 20th year as an online web publisher - and I've got plenty of evidence to show that search patterns for technology can be correlated with later market adoption (and revenue) if you know where to look, have the right data and understand what you're looking at.

I've been thinking about the SSD market and writing about SSDs longer than anyone else on the planet.

Every year I've had to learn new ideas and throw old once-cherished notions on the scrapheap - as their expiration date had come and gone.
12 things which changed in SSD year 2014?

The simple idea - that one new SSD thing can replace one old SSD thing - is rarely as simple as the advocates of the new thing say.
PCIe versus memory channel in SSDs

"Don't place too much faith in what SSD companies tell you about the present or the future of the SSD market."
Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs

In January 2008 - After a 20 year absence from the SSD market - EMC re-entered the SSD market with the launch of its Symmetrix DMX-4 networked storage systems populated with SSDs from STEC.
SSD market history
Hmm... it looks like you're seriously interested in SSDs. So please bookmark this page and come back again soon.
So you want x3 and 3D?
OK - here's how to do it
Flash Memory
Which would you choose?
The parachute or the jetpack?
flash DIMM vs MCS - the non-tech analogy
memory channel storage

Why weren't these enterprise users
in all the AFA new product business plans?
Decloaking hidden segments in enterprise SSD
SSD segments

SSD ad - click for more info

If you had asked me to predict what SanDisk's position would be in this list - before the quarter began - I would have said I expected SanDisk to acquire most of the benefit from having acquired Fusion-io - which was the previous long running #1 SSD company.
the Top SSD Companies in Q3 2014

"responding too slowly
is equivalent to transaction failure."
will SSDs end my bottlenecks?

SSD ad - click for more info

what's the state of DWPD?
endurance in industry leading enterprise SSDs

how fast can your SSD run backwards?
11 Key Symmetries in SSD design
what they are and why you need to know

I don't see how SSDs can replace enterprise HDDs in the timescale you've talked about in some of your articles. Where's all the flash going to come from?
meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon

"The winners in SSD software could be as important for data infrastructure as Microsoft was for PCs, or Oracle was for databases, or Google was for search."
all enterprise data will touch an SSD

It may seem like a huge leap from a 4U rackmount RAM SSD (with internal flash backup and load) to hybrid DIMM (modules) but good ideas in SSD architecture have often made that kind of transition.
flash backed DIMMs / NVDIMMs

Lowering the risk of getting the enterprise flash use case analysis wrong. Innovation comes to selling SSDs.
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing

"The user mood is changing from - can I afford to use SSDs? to a realization that - I can't afford not to."
where does all the money go?

the difference between "good enough" and the "best" endurance architecture schemes can still be 2x, 3x or 100x - even when using the same memory.
SSD endurance - the forever war - now in 3D

"...Application-unaware design of memory controllers, and in particular memory scheduling algorithms, leads to uncontrolled interference of applications in the memory system" - said Onur Mutlu, Carnegie Mellon University.
Are you ready to rethink RAM?

"95% of the data corruption found in SSDs seen by this data recovery company were found to be due to the endurance mechanism."
statistical indicators re SSD data recovery market in 2014

Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP in flash SSD controllers and firmware.
What is it? Who does it? and why?

$1 billion may not be enough
but $5 billion may be too much.
VCs & SSDs

Why can't SSD's true believers agree on a single shared vision?
the SSD Heresies

"A critical test of whether you really understand the dynamics of a complex market like enterprise SSDs - is whether you can predict what rational buyers might do when offered new product options at the extreme limits of - for example - price."
Boundaries Analysis in SSD Market Forecasting

"A new generation of enterprise SSD rackmounts is breaking all the rules which previously constrained price, performance and reliability."
exciting new directions in rackmount SSDs

usable versus raw flash capacity
what you see isn't what you get.
the iceberg syndrome

"...the SSD market will be bigger in revenue than the hard drive market ever was."
How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?

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

Sorry - this isn't a magic formula which resolves neatly into 5 easy bullet points
SSD education

These intriguing questions will be answered much later when the patents are applied for.
my flash controller scheme is 100x better than yours is published by ACSL. © 1992 to 2015 all rights reserved.

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 learn about new SSD companies every day, 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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