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the Solid State Disks Buyers Guide - 2005

click here for the current SSD Buyers Guide

by Zsolt Kerekes editor -December 21, 2005

StorageSearch.com is the leading publication covering the SSD market and we have regular contact with most vendors.

As in previous years - I contacted every manufacturer of SSDs and visited every SSD web site in October and early November 2005 to compile data for this article and I also datamined the SSD news stories from the past year.
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solid state disks
Solid State Disks
Product Category of the Year 2005
on STORAGEsearch.com
..
How is this Guide Organized?

Scrolling down this page you will see 5 main tables grouped by form factor, interface type and memory type. Those are the most important initial selection criteria cited by most users.

What are the Main Changes in the Market Since the Last Edition?

the notes below are from the article:- Charting the Rise of the Solid State Disk Market

In January 2005 - STORAGEsearch disclosed results of the SSD Survey to strategic oem customers. The results included buyer preferences for form factor and interface, budgetary data and factors which would make it easier for SSD vendors to do more business in future. Selected extracts from the survey results also appeared in articles and editorial.

In March 2005 - SiliconSystems announced that Bell Microproducts would distribute its SSD products in North America. This would greatly simplify the access to this technology for thousands of systems integrators and oems.
Also in March 2005 - 5 out of the top 10 company profiles viewed by STORAGEsearch.com readers in March were SSD Makers (out of more than 1,000 storage company profiles).

In April 2005 - Texas Memory Systems offered the world's first performance related guarantees for SSD products. That they would outperform any competing storage system, or meet the customer's agreed application speedup expectation - or the customer would get their monry back. This approach was founded on market research data from STORAGEsearch.com's Q405 SSD User Survey - which said that users would be more likely to try SSD systems if vendors offered such guarantees.

Also in April 2005 - Solid Access Technologies made the first SSD with a Serial Attached SCSI interface.

In May 2005 - Samsung Electronics announced it was entering the SSD market with 1.8" and 2.5" drives. This is the first time in this phase of the SSD market's development that a multibillion dollar company (Samsung's 2004 revenue was $55.2 billion ) has entered the market.

In June 2005 - M-Systems announced availability of the industry's highest capacity 2.5" SATA SSD with 128 gigabytes of storage. SATA had been identified in STORAGEsearch.com's Q404 market research survey as the #1 most popular interface for future applications. But at this stage in the market's development (Q205) only 10% of SSD vendors (3) actually offered products with this interface.

In July 2005 - Texas Memory Systems launched the industry's first SSDs with a 4Gb/s Fibre Channel interface. The 3U rackmount system offered upto 128-gigabytes capacity and 500,000 random I/Os per second performance.
Important Changes in the SSD Market in 2005?
a vendor view from Guy Freikorn, Product Manager, Rugged Products, M-Systems.

"The SSD market has been shifting from Parallel interfaces (PATA, SCSI) to Serial interfaces (SATA and SAS).

Re new applications:- Apple's iPOD Nano is using flash today! It shifted from HDD to Flash. This will boom the flash industry in terms of pricing and flash allocation, providing more flash awareness.

The gap in capacity between hard disk drives and flash SSDs is narrowing. M-Systems offers an Ultra320 SCSI flash SSD product with 352GB capacity."
In August 2005 - SimpleTech acquired Memtech. The acquisition of one SSD company by another has (so far) been a rare occurrence but could become more common in future.

In September 2005 - SimpleTech launched the world's first dual interface SSD. At launch time the Zeus Dual Interface SSD, with both a USB and SATA interface, offered capacities up to 192GB in a 3.5-inch form factor, and sustained read/write rates of 60 MBytes per second.

In November 2005 - STORAGEsearch published a new updated market penetration model for the SSD market called - Why are Most Analysts Wrong About Solid State Disks?

Also in November 2005 - Texas Memory Systems demonstrated the first solid state disk with a native InfiniBand interface at the Supercomputing conference.

In January 2006 - NextCom became the first notebook maker to qualify flash SSDs.
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Solid State Disks by Form Factor - Part 1 - Classic HDD Types
72.4% of SSD users surveyed said that traditional hard disk packages are the most suitable for their requirements.
1.8" 2.5" 3.5" rackmount
Memtech
M-Systems
PQI
Samsung Electronics
SMART Modular Technologies
Adtron
BiTMICRO Networks
Afaya
Altec ComputerSysteme
GalaxyStor
Hagiwara Sys-Com
Memtech
M-Systems
Pretec Electronics
PQI
Samsung Electronics
SiliconSystems
SimpleTech
SMART Modular Technologies
Targa Systems Division
Unigen
Winstation Systems
Adtron
Altec ComputerSysteme
BiTMICRO Networks
Curtis
Gnutek
Hagiwara Sys-Com
Memtech
M-Systems
SimpleTech
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
Broadbus
Curtis
Fuji Xerox
Imperial Technology
SEEK Systems
Solid Access Technologies
Solid Data Systems
Taejin Infotech
Texas Memory Systems
TiGi
Vanguard Rugged Storage
ViON
In 2005 the highest volume SSDs were chip based products such as M-Systems' DiskOnChip, which the company reported had been designed into numerous mobile phones.

The most popular SSDs (based on reader pageviews) were the smaller (physical size) products in traditional disk form factors such as 1.8" and 2.5".
M-Systems 2.5" Ultra ATA Flash Disk
2.5" Ultra ATA Flash Disks
from M-Systems
3.5" flash SSD with fibre-channel interface 156G bytes from BiTMICRO
3.5" Fibre-channel flash SSDs
from BiTMICRO Networks
Tera-RamSan - terabyte solid state SAN storage
Tera-RamSan Enterprise SSD Array
1 Terabyte of Non-Volatile DDR RAM
from Texas Memory Systems
At the top end of the market, in server acceleration applications, Texas Memory Systems reported a higher than expected customer take up of its Terabyte class SSD systems (above).

In a related move, in June 2005 the company introduced Chipkill technology into its systems which protects against multi-bit errors and guarantees no data is lost even if a whole RAM chip in a protected array goes down.

Speaking to STORAGEsearch about this, Woody Hutsell, Executive VP at TMS said it was essential to have this level of absolute protection against soft and hard RAM errors when customers had terabyte RAM systems.

Solid State Disks by Interface - Part 1 - the Usual Suspects
SATA was cited by users as the #1 most useful interface for future SSD systems in the the 2004 Solid State Disk survey. Only one manufacturer offered SSDs with a SATA interface in 2004, but this had increased to four by the publication date of this article.

In the second half of 2005 4Gbps Fibre-channel storage products started to appear in the storage market. Texas Memory Systems was the first to ship 4Gbps SSDs.
SCSI SAS Fibre-channel Parallel ATA / IDE SATA
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
Curtis
Memtech
M-Systems
SEEK Systems
Solid Access Technologies
Solid Data Systems
Targa Systems Division
TiGi
Vanguard Rugged Storage
Solid Access Technologies BiTMICRO Networks
Curtis
Gnutek
Imperial Technology
Solid Access Technologies
Solid Data Systems
Taejin Infotech
Texas Memory Systems
TiGi
ViON
Accelerated Logic
Adtron
Afaya
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
GalaxyStor
Hagiwara Sys-Com
Memtech
M-Systems
Pretec Electronics
SiliconSystems
SimpleTech
SMART Modular Technologies
Targa Systems Division
Unigen
White Electronic Designs
Winstation Systems
Accelerated Logic
Adtron
GIGA-BYTE Technology
Memtech
M-Systems
PQI
SimpleTech

Solid State Disks by Interface - Part 2
The Infiniband market took many more years to gain user acceptance than analysts had predicted. Texas Memory Systems demonstrated the first SSDs with native InfiniBand in Q405, and customer shipments are expected in January 2006.
iSCSI NAS InfiniBand FireWire
BiTMICRO Networks BiTMICRO Networks
Taejin Infotech
Targa Systems Division
BiTMICRO Networks
Texas Memory Systems
Altec ComputerSysteme
BiTMICRO Networks

How Much Do Solid State Disks Cost?
We had intended to include more pricing information in this edition of the SSD Guide. Unfortunately, due to the volatile nature of memory prices, most manufacturers expressed reluctance to quote indicative pricing.

There are 2 main factors which will drive down the price points of SSDs are
  • falling memory prices. Typically the price of memory capacity halves every couple of years due to semiconductor process improvements, following Moore's Law.
  • greater market efficiency. As the SSD market grows and products become more standardised, users will need less education about choosing and evaluating products. Consequently the marketing and distribution costs, which are currently a high percentage of the selling price of many products, will be amortised over a larger number of units. In the next few years this could deliver as much cost reduction as the technology improvements (above).
In one priced case study, Out of the Alpha Frying Pan into the Sun Fire?, a single 10GB flash disk, from BiTMICRO Networks, costing around $3,000 (Q405 oem pricing) significantly speeded up the response time in a VMS Cluster used by almost 25,000 users. There wasn't any other attractive option for the customer, because HP's Alpha processors had been end of lifed. The SSD avoided a costly migration and extended the useful operating life of the system.

In another priced case study, SSD Speeds Up Eve Online, a SAN based SSD from Texas Memory Systems provided a 40x speedup in a system running on 150 IBM servers with 17,000 concurrent users. The system which TMS supplied for this application,, and has a list price (Q405) of $142,000.

In a press release (January 2006) - Adtron said that single unit pricing for their high performance 24GByte IDE UDMA I25FB flash drive with a commercial temperature rating is $5,710.
Squeak! - Why are Most Analysts Wrong About Solid State Disks?
read the article - Why are Most Analysts  Wrong About Solid State Disks?
Most analysts and editors of other computer publications don't really understand the solid state disk market. They show their ignorance and naivete by prefacing every discussion of SSDs with a superficial analysis which compares the cost per byte of storage between flash and hard disk drives. That's the wrong answer to the wrong question. And it's far removed from why the SSD market is racing to become a multi billion dollar market seemingly in blithe ignorance of the cost per byte proposition.

This article tells you what's important to users and the main applications in which SSDs are already being used and new applications where they will be used in the next 3 years. ...read the article, Solid State Disks

Solid State Disks on Cards by Bus Type
Only 17.2% of SSD users said that a computer bus interface or host bus adapter format suited their requirements. PCMCIA, SD and other consumer Flash Memory cards have capacities which overlap with low end SSDs, but they are too slow for most SSD applications.
chip / PCB module PCI compactPCI PMC VMEbus
Afaya
BiTMICRO Networks
M-Systems
SanDisk
Silicon Storage Technology
SiliconSystems
White Electronic Designs
BiTMICRO Networks
Cenatek
GIGA-BYTE Technology
Micro Memory
Taejin Infotech
Adtron
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
Targa Systems Division
Vanguard Rugged Storage
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
Curtiss-Wright
Vanguard Rugged Storage
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
Targa Systems Division
Vanguard Rugged Storage

Solid State Disks by Memory Type

All SSDs in the market today use either RAM or flash memory as the primary storage media.

RAM based SSDs have been around for decades. They rely on batteries to retain data when power is lost. Some models, such as those from Texas Memory Systems, also include internal hard disk drives to which data is saved under battery power, so that data is not lost when the battery runs down. This hybrid technology means that RAM based SSDs are more bulky than flash counterparts and RAM SSDs are unable to operate in the same range of hostile environments as flash products. RAM based SSDs are mostly used in enterprise server speedup applications. The fastest RAM SSDs are faster than the fastest flash SSDs.

Flash based SSDs use non volatile semiconductor technology to store data, and do not need any batteries to retain data when they are unpowered. Because they have no moving parts they are inherently more reliable than hard disks and use less operating power. Flash SSDs can operate in hostile environments including industrial, military and even outer space applications. Flash SSDs are physically smaller than RAM SSDs. The densest flash SSD products available today offer nearly the same storage capacity in 2.5 inch form factors as hard drives. The fastest flash SSDs can offer random IOPs which are 10 to 50 times as fast as 15k RPM hard disks, and this makes them also suitable for enterprise server speedup applications.

One disadvantage, compared to RAM SSDs is that flash has an intrinsic limit on the total number of write cycles to a particular destination. The limit varies, according to manufacturer but is over millions of cycles in the most durable products. Internal controllers within the flash SSD manage this phenomenon and can reallocate physical media transparently to prolong media life. In most applications, high endurance flash SSDs can have a reliable operating life which is typically 3 times as high as that of a hard drive. But I would hesitate about installing a flash SSD as a server speedup in a university maths research department, for example, or in other applications where the ratio of data writes to data reads is unusually high.
Flash SSD vendors RAM SSD vendors
Adtron
Afaya
Altec ComputerSysteme
Apacer
Asine
BiTMICRO Networks
Curtiss-Wright
DataDirect Networks
GalaxyStor
Gnutek
Hagiwara Sys-Com
Memtech
Micro Memory
M-Systems
Pretec Electronics
PQI
Samsung Electronics
SanDisk
SEEK Systems
SiliconSystems
SimpleTech
SMART Modular Technologies
Taejin Infotech
Targa Systems
Unigen
Vanguard Rugged Storage
White Electronic Designs
Winstation Systems
Accelerated Logic
Broadbus
Cenatek
Curtis
Dynamic Solutions International
GIGA-BYTE Technology
Imperial Technology
Solid Access Technologies
Solid Data Systems
Texas Memory Systems
TiGi
ViON
.

.
A25FB - 2.5"   flash SSDs from Adtron with upto 56 GBytes
Adtron 2.5" SATA / IDE solid state
flash disk with secure erase

For more information about SSDs take a look at these resources
  • Solid State Disks - is our directory of SSD manufacturers, and includes current news stories related to the SSD market
  • - the Solid State Disks Buyers Guide - 2004 - the product tables have been superceded by market developments, but the article includes a lot of general information about technology and trends which have not been repeated in the latest edition of this article
  • Why are Most Analysts Wrong About Solid State Disks? - describes the main applications which account for nearly all the SSDs used, and gives the user value propositions explaining why SSDs are taking over in these applications. It includes strategic predictions about the market for the next several years.
click to read article by SiliconSystems
Increasing Flash Solid State Disk Reliability - article by SiliconSystems

Solid state disks, based on flash technology, have greatly improved in performance in recent years and now compete head to head with RAM based accelerator systems. Flash also has significant advatanges in servers compared to RAM SSDs due to low power consumption.

But if you think that all solid state disks which use flash are equally reliable and enduring then think again.

That's a bit like saying that a Mercedes 300SL sports coupe is as tough as a Tiger tank because both were made in Germany and both are built out of metal. But as Oddball (Donald Sutherland) says in the movie Kelly's Heroes "I ain't messing with no Tigers."

This article by SiliconSystems, shows how their patented architecture cleverly manages the wear out mechanisms inherent in all flash media to deliver a disk lifetime that is about 4 times greater than of other enterprise flash products and upto 100 times greater than intrinsic flash memory. ...read the article, ...SiliconSystems profile, Solid state disks

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