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10th anniversary of the Modern Era of SSDs

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - January 2, 2013
Even in a market which appears to be so fast moving as the SSD market - where hot new SSD companies can enter the top SSD companies list (ranked by search) within weeks of exiting stealth mode, and some new SSD companies are acquired within a few quarters of launching their first product - it can still take years before new technologies which excite technologists, analysts and investors are adopted by more than 10% of SSD users.

It's those strategic multi-year big changes and transitions which are sometimes hard to pin down to a single year. For example the transition in the enterprise SSD market from RAM to 98% flash - which took 8 years.

Although it's easy to recognize the start of new technology changes - it's harder to be so precise about big market shifts - because those - by their very nature - occur only when enough people get hold of a new way of doing things and change their buying behavior.

For me looking back at the SSD market - 2013 now clearly marks the 10th anniversary of a distinct market period which I now think of as - the Modern Era of SSDs.

What do I mean by the Modern Era of SSDs?

It's when SSDs changed from being a niche tactical technology which satisfied the needs of some markets (ruggedized military / industrial storage and next generation server acceleration at any cost) to a time when the market advance of SSDs as a significant well known core market within the computer industry became a historical inevitability - and when the only serious technology which could displace an SSD from its market role was another SSD.

Although products which we would recognize as enterprise SSDs were shipping for several years before 2003 - it was in that year, 2003 - when there was enough confidence in the minds of enough people in the SSD market that the future of SSDs could be much bigger (100x bigger) and different to what had happened before.

It wasn't simply my publication of an article at the time which explained why this could happen - nor simply the immediately post publication discussions I had with SSD industry leaders at the time - nor indeed in later years when founders and managers of new SSD companies kindly told me that some of their thinking about the possibilities for the SSD market had been influenced by those earlier articles on

It's just as much the case that the alternative futures which could have knocked the SSD market off-course (such as faster CPU clock rates, faster hard drives or faster optical storage) didn't happen.

The year after year "no-shows" by SSD's past phantom demons were just as important as the new SSD technologies which did put in an appearance.

Today it's clear to anyone looking seriously at the data economy - the SSD market is here to stay and has its sights set on being at the center of your future hardware and infrastructure decision making.

lookahead to big upcoming changes in SSD market thinking?

Can I say anything at all useful at this stage about what the 2nd decade of the modern era of SSDs will be like?

I think it will be the time when a critical mass of SSD users become more sophisticated in their understanding and use of different types of SSDs - and when each part of the SSD market becomes less generalized and more focused.

It's not just about the SSD software, and iit's not just about the SSD chip technologies. These simply outline possibilities. What's important - and what will become even clearer - is the dividing lines and colors of application specific SSDs.

Application specific enterprise SSDs - is a technology trend which started shipping more than 3 years ago. But - as I said above - markets happen when enough people have decided to make them happen - and not simply because pioneering products are available.

some thoughts about SSD customization

where are we heading with memory intensive systems and software?

a tale of SSD influences - from industrial flash controllers to HPC AFAs

Decloaking hidden and missing segments in the analysis of market opportunities for enterprise rackmount flash

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Since 2003 the only technology which has been able to displace an SSD from its market role has been another SSD...

or related software.

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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 golden age of enterprise SSDs

In 1978 a 45MB enterprise SSD system from StorageTek cost $400,000 which was about half the price of the rotating IBM mainframe storage it could replace while at the same time running applications faster.

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