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12 months of headlines
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
March 2016 New funding for endurance stretching NVMdurance

Cadence and Mellanox demonstrate PCIe 4.0 interoperability at 16Gbps.
February 2016 It's not worth paying more for SLC reliability in PCIe SSDs says Google field study
January 2016 Quarch says many SSDs fail their first hot plug tests.

Plexistor announces availability of its Software Defined Memory

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past Januaries in SSD market history
January 2000 The world's first online ads for SSDs appeared on

The ads were for a 5.25" SCSI RAM SSD called the Clipper 2 from Curtis.

more about SSD ads
January 2001 M-Systems sampled the world's smallest 16MB single-chip flash disk, the DiskOnChip 2000 TSOP.

more about SSDs on a chip
January 2005 published results of the world's first SSD user adoption preferences survey.

more about SSD market research
January 2006 NextCom was the first notebook maker to qualify flash SSDs for use in Windows XP, Linux and Solaris notebooks.

The drives used were BiTMICRO's E-Disks.

SPARC notebook history

notebook SSD market timeline

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industrial SSDs

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SSD myths - write endurance
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storage glue chips
storage glue chips

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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.

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SSD market 2016?

No more deference to other markets.

4 SSD companies which made me stop and thinkand 4 shining companies

which made me stop and think

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - December 20, 2016
If you're trying to understand the SSD and memory systems markets and looking for a single big idea which gives you a confident feel for what's going on - then you'll be disappointed if you stare too hard and look in the expected places.

Unlike past years you won't find the answer in any single interface, memory technology or startup company.

In past years we could (and often did) identify - as the SSD news stories unfolded - that there were bright candles which provided clarity to how SSD adoption strategies would emerge with examples coming from particular angles and hinting at plausible multigenerational roadmaps:-
  • the implicit assumption of SSD accelerators in every new enterprise server - due to ground breaking business development by Fusion-io with PCIe SSDs (2007 to 2009).
In 2016 - if you can say there is a single big idea in the SSD and memory market which reaches out everywhere - I would say it's this.

The SSD and memory systems market is now a self-aware interconnected ideas ecosystem in which the detailed implementation of new advanced technologies has to take into account the big data and big controller architecture ideas in all the other parts of this new SSD aware ecosystem.

And in this new market paradigm - management complexity at the micro level and the ability to have intelligent flow control symmetry which has been enabled by the flattening of read latency costs spanning across many previously hard banded tiers - is enabling utilization rates of installed data infrastructure which are vastly more efficient than legacy enterprise architectures which were heavily optimized to hide the latency weaknesses of hard drive based systems rather than optimized to support native application based data query flows.

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.

The difficulty of this lack of a single technology focus point (instead everything seems to be hot) is like the difficulty of seeing the wood for the trees.

It's much easier to demonstrate how some of these interconnected ideas interact with each other in business stories (like I tried to do with the story below - a winter's tale of SSD market influences). And I'll be using similar stories to show the interconnectedness of this new SSD market paradigm in my writing next year.

Of course this doesn't mean to say that there aren't worthy new hot technologies too. As to what they are? You probably have your own ideas.

And to get a wide trawl I asked a bunch of people in the SSD industry for their suggestions and you can see what they said in this article - what were the big SSD memory architecture ideas in 2016?
4 SSD companies which made me stop and think
4 shining companies which made me stop and think

Companies matter too.

For me - the SSD ecosystems companies which made me sit up and take notice - because of the promise of better prospects for the SSD market implied by something new they did in 2016 were:-
  • Symbolic IO - who hinted that all the calculations which have traditionally been done related to storage capacity and performance give you the wrong expectations of what you can expect to get from memory systems enhanced architecture - if you can find a way to embed data packing transparently into the memory system. (We'll learn more about the details I hope in 2017.)
  • Diablo Technologies - who showed that if you integrate motherboard DRAM and software into the controller thinking of "flash as RAM" - then enterprise server workloads don't stress flash based NVDIMMs as much as you might have thought when extrapolating from storage SSD based RAM emulation previously done in the market.
  • Marvell - who (with their FLC technology) confirmed that even battery powered embedded products like phones should now aspire to reap the "flash as RAM" benefits which had been pioneered in big memory enterprise systems.
And while we're on the subject of interesting SSD companies I recently published the new Q3 2016 edition of the Top SSD Companies which is based on the crowd sourced intelligence of readers here on

SSD ad - click for more infoThis is the 38th quarterly edition and sometimes when I look back at past editions I am impressed by how well the SSD industry has changed so much from being a small and disruptive influence in a corner of the data systems market and had now grown to confidently sit at the center of everything that matters.

2016 in the SSD and memory systems market was a year of growing confidence that no apologies or deference are any longer due to the older related markets of processors, and rotating media storage. The only market which SSD product plans need to adapt to and compete with are within the SSD market itself. And this market has big enough potential to make difficult efforts worthwhile.

SSD history

storage market research

can you trust SSD market data?
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a winter's tale of SSD market influences - from industrial flash controllers to HPC flash arrays - set against the tapestry of a single company which divided to face the tempests of change

a winter's tale of SSD

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - November 14, 2016
A conversation I had last week with Charles Tsai, President - AccelStor provides a useful example of how, nowadays, even the simplest type of SSD product plan has to be aware of strategic considerations in a wide range of contexts which are sweeping across the whole market. The factors which shaped everything in our conversation being:-
  • strategic changes in the merchant SSD controller market.

    Competing pulls between greater standardization, customization and for many companies the need to exit the controller market altogether and offer solutions at higher levels of integration.
  • strategic changes in the enterprise systems market.

    When too many bundled value-add features are perceived by users as fool's-gold which merely add cost and subtract value.
  • emerging changes which will come from the DIMM wars and SCM markets.

    If SDS users can eat NVDIMMs than flash array makers also need to look at eating such dog food.
The last time I spoke to Charles had been 2 years before (June 2014) - when I had been curious to find out what his company InnoDisk (an industrial SSD maker) thought it was doing by introducing a rackmount SSD (FlexiArray) for the high performance enterprise market.

I wrote up some of that stuff in my (2014) article - decloaking hidden and missing segments in the analysis of market opportunities for enterprise rackmount flash. InnoDisk spun out that product line and its associated marketing as a separate business called AccelStor in November 2014. And in August 2016 - the company's FlexiRemap software technology (which is used in its rackmount SSDs) won the Best-of-Show Technology Innovation Award at the Flash Memory Summit.

So the first thing I said to Charles was that he had been right about a lot of things he had said in our earlier conversation and that the launch of a new enterprise SSD box business by a company which was previously known only for its SSD controllers and industrial SSDs - a move which seemed rash or risky at the time - now in hindsight made more sense as fitting into the kind of framework which all SSD companies have to be aware of.

In the context of strategic changes in the merchant SSD controller market - all companies face the challenge that there is only so far that they can go in getting mileage out of innovative features in standard SSDs.

Most controller companies will have to make it easier for drive makers to customize their products and to live with the idea that - in an array setting - it is only possible to get best utilization of the flash from a system level aware perspective.

Trying to put too many clever features into a solo SSD can indeed be counter-productive because designers who integrate SSDs into arrays can get better results in other ways.

And in fact Pure Storage has said- in a 2015 paper (pdf) on HA design using flash - that when evaluating commodity SSDs for use in its own arrays that the introduction of clever benchmark driven controller activity which makes an SSD perform better at the solo (consumer market) level means that the SSD performs worse at the array level than simpler controller variants.

The business outlook for merchant controller companies is that business won't be the same as usual.

And confirming the trend which was one of the big SSD lessons of 2013 - I can reiterate that the box (or array) level of integration is still where SSD technology cleverness can be best experienced, judged and valued at a business level. (Another way of saying this is that SSD drive makers are hostages to the fortunes of the arrays their drives populate. That's why enterprise drive makers have been entering the rackmount systems market to participate directly. Meanwhile for many other drive makers - the array - at cloud level - represents a volume business opportunity in which being a well behaved member of the array population is a key citizenship criterion.)

Here are some of the things I learned about AccelStor's business and products in my recent conversation with Charles Tsai.
  • The separation of InnoDisk (focused on industrial markets) and AccelStor (focused on enterprise markets) into 2 distinct businesses although sharing core flash memory expertise enables each business to follow marketing plans which are appropriate for each market.
  • Most of the efforts to improve the product line in the past year or so have been directed towards improving the internal software. Each flash array system is inside a micro-tiered system. (In the past when we encountered the term "micro-tiering" in a storage box or SDS - this was often in the context of a hybrid storage array. But as I explained in my 2012 article - 7 ways to classify where all SSDs will fit in the pure SSD datacenter - there will be more (cost based) latency zones in the pure solid state storage and memory world than existed before in the rotating storage era - hence - even more need for tiering, caching and bridging technologies.
  • High availability in SSD systems is architected in different ways by different vendors. AccelStor has been drawn towards implementing HA with the fastest possible time to continue operations with failed system. So they use 2 node active-active synchronous replication with a shared nothing design. The result is that after the failure of an entire node then data IO can continue on the operating node in under a microsecond.

    From a traditional storage point of view such a failover scheme can appear to be expensive - but Charles said this is what AccelStor's customers prefer.

    I said to Charles I thought that the old maths of high availability costs were becoming more complex now because users could gain virtual capacity by leveraging fast flash storage speed (in their software) and might decide they can afford to trade off such gains against the cost of having more hardware.

    Some applications can tolerate longer recovery times than others. It's one of the many areas in which customers have different needs and will self select different approaches.
  • When I heard about the many levels of micro-tiering in AccelStor's arrays I asked what the company was doing about NVDIMMs etc.

    Charles said that when it came to the internal design of the NeoSapphire flash arrays the optimization for performance didn't start and end with the flash controllers. He said that the company's knowledge of memory and controller design reached into every part of the box and that included looking at the roles of flash and DRAM and where non volatility could be beneficial and leveraged in software.

    This is what I expected - given what Charles had said in an earlier part of this conversation. And also because nvRAM techniques have been used in flash arrays and software defined storage systems by other vendors in the past.
The issue of innovation arose several times in my conversation with Charles Tsai. In effect the message I took away was that unlike traditional storage array companies which have to fight hard to retain even a fraction of their previous revenue (due to theincreased utilization and effectiveness of solid state storage and SSD aware software - which means users can do more with less) newer flash systems vendors such as AccelStor can instead identify which markets are growing with new customer needs and design products for those markets without worrying about the impact on older product lines.

Charles also said that it's necessary for companies to compete with what they did before - because if you don't innovate then someone else will. But that's easy to say when you don't have a big vested market position.

I said in our conversation that some vendors like SanDisk faced the dilemma that by doing what was right for the future of the whole business (such as introducing rack based flash systems) they lost business from some traditional buyers of their enterprise SSDs who saw them as a potential competitor. But in a market like SSDs where so many clever technology companies are competing you have to anticipate what will be in the best interests of the customer and go with those product decisions regardless of the short term consequences (as long as your company can ride through to the next technology generation).

In some ways that's a business gaming strategy similar to the DRAM market. But unlike DRAM where huge investments of resources are necessary to claim a place at the gaming table - the SSD market still has dice which are loaded in favor of startups (until their success spawns a new generation of imitators and replacements).

How long can this game go on?

The remarkable thing is that from some perspectives everything in the SSD market still looks like it's ready to change while from other views it seems that nearly every technology decision has already been settled. (See the SSD heresies for exampes.)

The onset of a predictable stable future for solid state storage is what makes the rush to change everything before it settles down so urgent and rewarding.

In a way what my conversation with AccelStor shows is that every aspect of an SSD product:- from what it should do to how the functions are implemented internally - is affected by competitive and collaborative ecosystems influences in other markets.

Guessing the future for the whole market makes it easier for vendors to identify what their best fit roles might be. And as we've seen in SSD history - adaptation requires big changes. Such technology changes have to be attuned to needs that customers recognize and are willing to buy - before the funding for new product lines burn out.

One of the signs of growing diversity in the SSD ecosystem is the growing willingness of some vendors to ignore merchant market research predictions (which are often cast in terms which are too wide or backwards looking to be useful) and instead for vendors to develop their own understanding of micro segments based on customer feedback.
related articles
  • Big versus Small in SSD controller architecture (2011) - In any SSD system (whether it's a drive, array or cloud) the limits of what is possible to achieve in reliability, performance and efficiency is dictated by the underlying controller sizing philosophy.
  • Where are we heading with memory intensive systems and software? (2016) - When you start taking polymorphous memory systems architecture seriously as a permanent fixture in the data systems landscape then the future of computing will look very different to the past. And there will be greater expectations about what SSD systems can do.

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Retiring and retiering enterprise DRAM...
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latency loving reasons for fading out DRAM
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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.
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Some suppliers will quote you higher DWPD even if nothing changes in the BOM.
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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.
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and was there ever a missed opportunity in the past to simplify it?
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How committed (really) are these companies
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a not so simple list of military SSD companies

Can you trust market reports and the handed down wisdom from analysts, bloggers and so-called industry experts?

heck no! - whatever gave you that silly idea?
here's why

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

the past (and future) of HDD vs SSD sophistry
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Compared to EMC...
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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

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"
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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

It's by no means inevitable that the biggest memory companies will go on to become the biggest SSD companies.
an SSD guide to semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles

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

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

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

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

"You'd think... someone should know all the answers by now. "
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We can't afford NOT to be in the SSD market...
Hostage to the fortunes of SSD

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

the SSD heresies
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the SSD Heresies

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...
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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?