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picture of Z drive 4500 PCIe SSD from OCZ
bootable integrated PCIe SSD based acceleration
with caching optimized for Windows WXL
the Z-Drive 4500 - from OCZ
a Toshiba group company
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2014 will be seen as the start of a new phase of creativity in the enterprise SSD market on the subject of pricing and affordability
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing
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LSI SandForce SSD processors - click for more info
the awards winning silicon
driving world's leading SSDs
from Seagate


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Cost of SSDs
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D2d
Dark matter users in enterprise SSD
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Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise
Dedupe
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Enter the SSD market - 3 easy ways

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ICs
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"SSD is going down!
We're going down!"
Surviving SSD sudden power loss
image shows Megabyte's lighter than air storage balloon - image for SSD PSU is going down article
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when we run out of gas?


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Zero RPM SSDs killed 20K hard drives

Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com


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who d'you call for the SSD crystal ball?
click here to see some more storage market  predictions
SSD market analysts directory
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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 SSDs versus memory channel SSDs





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





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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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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.

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updating 10 key SSD ideas in 2014

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - September 2, 2014
It's September already, and 8 months of another new year in SSD history already behind us!

As we approach what is traditionally another busy quarter of search and business activity in the SSD market I suddenly realized - that simply too much has changed already since I wrote my previous annual SSD market roundup article - what changed in SSD year 2013?.

So here's my list of 10 key SSD ideas - each of which there has been associated with significant progress in 2014.

key SSD idea #1

in-situ SSD processing


This is about closing important gaps in the intelligence of message passing and the speed of data access between application processors and SSD controllers.

(SSD controllers which - in the vast majority of SSDs - come attached with their own offload processors or associated data movement engines.)

Traditionally SSDs have been designed to reduce the access times to data - but within the framework of commands, APIs and data structures which have been designed for applications agnostic data storage drives.

And in order to make SSDs easier to use - classic SSD controllers also perform a lot of house-keeping and data integrity related functions - in a way which is the apps processor doesn't need to know about (although it can collect stats related to endurance etc).

There is much evidence to support the idea that both applications performance and data storage efficiency can be greatly improved if the flash management and apps management processor are either the same CPU - or if they can talk to each other in a more effective way.

These improvements (which enable data handling responsibilities to be partitioned downwards to the flash or upwards to the apps host - depending on which has the best view of what is needed) have already been implemented by various SSD vendors in experimental or custom APIs.

These concepts - which first took root in large web scale server farms - have also delivered useful results in some industrial SSDs when scaled down to a single SSD.

A handful of SSD vendors have already done work in this area - notably Fusion-io (in whose non offloaded SSD controller architecture - the flash management and apps processors were the same processor).

But in 2015 and 2016 these concepts will become much more explicitly talked about.

Related SSD drive companies:- NxGn Data, LSI, Memblaze, InnoDisk

Related SSD array companies (who probably already do some degree of in-situ SSD processing) include:- Skyera, Violin

key SSD idea #2

re PCIe SSDs


This year - as part of a continuing trend - we've seen an upswing in the number of companies who offer PCIe compatible SSDs in form factors like M.2 and 2.5".

The barriers to market have been reduced by standards such as NVMe and SATA express - which by creating frameworks of software and hardware interchangeability - have minimized the risks for oems who incoprorate such SSDs into their storage and computing systems.

An important new factor for the PCIe SSD market this year was the materialization of product announcements centered around the core concept of using PCIe as an interconnection fabric between racks.

The key pioneers driving these efforts have been PLX and A3CUBE.

key SSD idea #3

random access memory doesn't have to be RAM


The idea of using flash as a new memory tier isn't new. And neither is the idea of using flash in DRAM memory slots. But in 2014 there were several developments which added weight to the usefulness of these ideas.
  • Applicable to any kind of standard flash SSD - SanDisk's ZetaScale software (described by StorageSearch.com as "one of the most significant SSD software products launched in 2014") is an API toolset which gives software designers the freedom to treat flash in a similar way to DRAM - thereby being able to rely on much higher capacities within any given monetary budget ceiling.

    Although the performance characteristics of such memory won't suit all applications - the ability to experiment and invest in a technology platform which promises to avoid lock-in to any particular SSD form factor - will encourage the development of new types of data repurposing platforms.
  • Those who may have been disappointed by the low aspirations of Diablo's 1st generation memory channel SSDs - were given a glimpse of something more akin to what they might have been wishing for - in the unveiling of an ambitious 2nd generation architecture which promised to go much further in 2015.

    The key ingredient here is a new software framework (Carbon2) with features like NanoCommit technology.

    The new software is being offered as part of developer packages which anticipate 2nd generation MCS hardware which will be fast flash DIMMs compatible with DDR4.
See also:- are you ready to rethink enterprise DRAM architecture?

key SSD idea #4

re micro tiering and micro clouds


One of the trends in computer architecture in recent years is that new software architectural concepts which deliver sustainable efficiency or management efficiencies have found it easier to get their benefits established and recognized at a large scale - as part of big web entities or cloud infrastructure.

But the lessons learned have been duly noted and reapplied to other use cases and are now finding their way into individual rack scale products too.

3 companies which stand out for their different approaches in this respect are:-

key SSD idea #5

adaptive R/W (including DSP) data integrity management in flash


2 years ago - there were only 10 companies with adaptive R/W technologies in their SSD product lines.

It was important to know who they were at the time.

Because looking ahead from the perspective of 2012 they and their licensees or acquirers were going to be among the first vendors who could leverage the economics of next generation flash.

They did this by moving away from classical flash controller technologies - which relied on anonymous industry wide characterization statistics for key flash parameters - and moving towards an adaptive model - which was able to recognize and grade different qualities of individual flash blocks (even within the same SSD).

The new adaptive DSP technology was able to choose from a wide bandolero of timing and ECC techniques instead of being dependent on a single caliber flash manage bullet.

By the middle of 2014 - adaptive R/W had become a mainstream technology - deployed by most leading enterprise SSD systems (in applicable products) - so its strategic advantage as a competitive differentiator has diminished.

Instead it has become the new "standard technology" for handling all sub 20nm planar MLC flash devices.

But it would be wrong to think of it as a uniform technology. There are significant differences in the scope, granularity and associated controller and power footprints of the many different adaptive DSP flash IP sets used in the SSD market.

key SSD idea #6

3D nand flash


Although 3D nand flash SSDs have been shipping in the market - the current technology doesn't deliver enough efficiency and cost advantages to replace 2D in the short term. Many manufacturability and design problems remain to be solved before that is likely to happen in mainstream SSD markets.

On the other hand the raw endurance of 1st generation 3D flash seems to be 3x to 4x better than 2D at the same line geometries - according to early work done by an industrial SSD company FMJ Storage.

If these early impressions are confirmed in later volume production - this could open up the possibility of alternative markets for this type of flash.

See also:- flash memory news and articles

key SSD idea #7

valuing SSD companies


Acquisitions reported in 2014 seemed to indicate that SSD companies aren't worth as much as they before.

Although there are special factors which complicate any particular analysis - as I discussed in the cases of Seagate acquiring LSI's SSD business, and SanDisk acquiring Fusion-io - it's clear that from the viewpoint of the people who matter (those with the money) an SSD company with a rich set of IP and strong market recognition in 2014 isn't generally worth as much as you might have thought if you had extrapolated from SSD company values in 2013.

Why is that?

In one way it seems perverse - given that the overall market opportunity for SSDs is now generally assumed to be much larger than it was before.

I think the key factor at work here is evidence (as reported in financial reports of some leading SSD companies) that competition is much tougher than before (due to the growing number of competitors and also the rise in the quality of such competitors).

But another key risk factor (for any encumbent SSD vendor) is vulnerability to future technology shocks - which can disrupt their business prospects.

These technology shocks don't just stem from new startup SSD companies - but can also occur as a result of macro changes in the market as users change the way they use and deploy the same type of SSDs when using different software.

key SSD idea #8

SSD pricing and business models


How much should you pay for an enterprise SSD array?

And what exactly is it that you're getting?

Although SSD vendors had always been enthusiastic about what their products and technologies could do in the first decade of enterprise flash - the language with which they bundled their pricing offers did not show the same leaps of creative imagination which they were expecting their customers to make.

But in 2014 - a small number of SSD pricing pioneers designed new enticing pricing models for their flagship flash arrays which broke away from the formulas of the past.

Behind these new pricing models was the explicit recognition that there is always a high degree of uncertainty involved in such purchases for various technical and business reasons.

This was the subject of my previous home page blog - Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing - which describes why the change is happening now and names the companies who are leading this charge.

key SSD idea #9

re rackmount SSDs


Surprisingly - given its already substantial size and gravitational business pull for SSD drive makers - there are still significant parts of the enterprise SSD market which remain uncharted and unsatisfied.

For investors and SSD startups the opportunities to grow business in under exploited high value user territories may be a source of comfort - given the potential upside.

However, for users who are still waiting for vendors to offer them the kind of products and services they really need - it's a source of frustration.

I described the reasons for these market voids in a recent article - Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise.

key SSD idea #10

the importance of SSD software


One of the key ideas which permeates everything now in the SSD market is the importance of software to the SSD market.

In an article in January this year I said

"the SSD software market is getting ready for a world in which all enterprise data touches SSDs"

And elsewhere in the same article I also asserted

"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."

Apart from any confirmatory events in 2014 - when I think about to what might happen in the next few years - the overwhelming importance of SSD-centric software seems like a no brainer.

I think we will see not only new predictable generations of SSD software coming to market (which will be designed to work with currently known computer architecture models) but also entirely new data architectures and ecosystems whose very existence has been predicated on the assumption of a widely deployed SSD enhanced base infrastucture.

other key SSD ideas in 2014?

top SSD companies...


In the notes above I've focused on significant market wide SSD trends rather than significant SSD companies.

There are many significant SSD companies who have done noteworthy things in 2014 or who have had noteworthy things done to them.

For a summary of 2014 (so far) as seen from an SSD company list perspective - then as usual - the best place to look is the Top SSD Companies Series. In particular:-


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In October 2003 - Memtech announced that its Wolverine - a military 5GB 2.5" 9.5mm high PATA SSD designed for use in submarines, space vehicles and aircraft carriers - was guaranteed to exceed a minimum of 8 million erase/write cycles. The Wolverine included advanced data integrity features such as the Kicker Hold Up Circuit, and Active Remap Data Reliability.
SSD market history
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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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About the publisher - 22 years guiding the enterprise market
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click to see article
StorageSearch.com reports
changing interests in SSD architecture
Editor:- October 1, 2014 - Total SSD article views on StorageSearch.com grew 5% year on year in September 2014- despite all the changes in Google algorithms and increased competition in the SSD market reporting space.

But what have readers actually been looking at?

I'll be reporting on the 30th quarterly Top SSD Companies later this month. That involves a lot of work, cross checking and writing associated articles. All of which takes time. But what I can reveal today are these observations - based on reader metrics.
  • In Q3 2014 - Memory Channel SSDs became the 2nd most popular SSD form factor which readers followed up in articles and news stories. (#1 - in case you can't remember - has been - since 2009 - PCIe SSDs)
  • In September 2014 - the 3 SSD related companies which our readers were reading about most were:-

    #1 - Diablo (DDR3/4 flash technology)
    #2 - A3CUBE (PCIe memory fabric) and
    #3 - Fusion-io (no introduction required)
What does that signify?

It won't come any surprise to long term readers that there are still significant changes coming in SSD enabled data server architecture.

Having become accustomed to the idea that low latency flash inside servers has become an essential part of the job description of any multi-user enterprise server - and being offered a rich variety of competing alternative ways to bind CPUs and storage with SSDs by the SSD software market - the next natural questions for users and applications developers to ask are these:-
  • why do we have such low limits being set in directly addressible low latency memory capacity?
  • why should the performance in a single server box still dictate the ultimate bottleneck perfomance limits for critical data integrity and synchonization house keeping tasks in strategic applications - when we have access to thousands of servers?
  • why are our most expensive and fastest SSD enabled servers and storage systems being forced to use different software to the cheaper ones we use in other locations?
The roadmap vision I'm seeing emerge from enterprise SSD developments in 2014 - is that while oems and users are being offered more choices in form factors and flash memory types - each of which adds to the raw confusion of which one is best to use - the mission statement for the software developers and fabric enablers - or those who want to please their investors - will be to create SSDcentric platforms which enable these disparate pieces to be seen as interoperable subsets of a bigger continuum architecture - in which users can move freely across wide cost/performance boundaries without hitting walls which restrict their freedom to expand in any direction they want to go.

But it will get more complicated than that.

Just as early modern SSDs had to interoperate with legacy software and data storage in order to justify their costs - future SSD software developers will have to look at the messy patchwork of SSD accelerated servers and SSD SAN storage which are being installed today as part of their future "legacy problem".

Seen from that angle - some solutions in the enterprise SSD jigsaw puzzle box today - already seem to have better longevity prospects and opportunities for future upcycling than others.
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SSD ad - click for more info

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"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

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Many factors at play in enterprise SSD market behavior still don't appear as explicit assumptions in SSD product marketing plans.

One contributory cause for gaps in segmental understanding has been the continuing pace of disruptive innovation in enterprise SSD-land - which has meant there hasn't been a stable market template for vendors to follow from one seemingly chaotic year to the next as they encroach on new markets.

Smaller nuances of user behavior (which are easier to discern as patterns in a stable market) easily get lost under the noise created by headline technology changes and the market's apparent willingness to slaughter and discard once loved past industry leaders.
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise

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"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?

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how fast can your SSD run backwards?
11 Key Symmetries in SSD design

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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

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whatever gave you that silly idea?
Can you trust SSD market data?

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Hi Zsolt

I work at a financial institution which has started to cover the storage market - and in particular enterprise SSDs. I'm trying to estimate:-
  • how big will the SSD market will be when SSDs replace hard drives?
  • when will it happen?
  • what will be the revenue of the SSD market at that time
meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon
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"Our past work showed that application-unaware design of memory controllers, and in particular memory scheduling algorithms, leads to uncontrolled interference of applications in the memory system.

"Such uncontrolled interference can lead to denial of service to some applications, low system performance, and an inability to satisfy performance requirements, which makes the system uncontrollable and unpredictable" - said Onur Mutlu, Assistant Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University.
Are you ready to rethink RAM?

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The new economics of SSD storage took the CPU designers and OS software developers by surprise.

Instead of weaving in SSD support into computer architecture over a 10 year period - based on an incremental technology roadmap - the SSD market has gate-crashed the server party - and the SSD roadmaps are changing too fast for the old style computer vendors to keep up.
the New Business Case for SSD ASAPs

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How do I explain the significance of the SSD market to someone with no technical background?
historic perspectives - on the SSD market

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"Bottlenecks in the pure SSD datacenter will be much more serious than in the HDD world - because responding slowly will be equivalent to transaction failure."
will SSDs end my bottlenecks?

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

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Today - if you're in a big company in a traditional market - and hoping to do something equally big in the SSD market - then $1 billion may not be enough - but $5 billion may be too much.
VCs & SSDs

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


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"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



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"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



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Usable versus Raw flash capacity - what you see isn't what you get.
SSD capacity - the iceberg syndrome



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SSD ad - click for more info



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



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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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DWPD (Diskful Writes Per Day) for 5 years - has become an established part of SSD jargon in the writings of enterprise SSD makers in recent years.
DWPD numbers for industry leading enterprise SSDs


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One thing which hasn't changed since the early days of enterprise flash - is the concept of "naughty flash".

This is a new type of brash flash memory which sensible, cautious types point at while waving their fingers sternly and declaiming dire warning - that's never going to be reliable enough for the enterprise!

This has happened many times.
enterprise flash - a 10 year history


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


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These intriguing questions will be answered much later when the patents are applied for.
my flash controller scheme is 100x better than yours


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dolphins, foxes, elephants, hawks, lizards, rhinos and tigers etc
animal brands in the SSD market