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Storage news - August 2007 week 1

SSD history
the fastest SSDs
Can you trust SSD market data?
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2007 - Year of SSD Revolutions?
One of the few dates I can remember from studying European history (at the age of 16) was 1848.

1848 was the Year of Revolutions...

I don't think we did any dates before that. And due to lack of time - we didn't quite finish the syllabus and reach the other end of this historical slice - which was 1945. I think we only got as far as 1933 before the exams crept up on us.

The definition of "Europe" in that academic context meant "continental Europe" and axiomatically excluded the UK - as England (where the exams took place) was naturally not considered to be a part of Europe.

As I found in later years there are plenty of things that have happened in the world before and after these magic dates - and most of these events have taken place outside the continent of Europe (whichever definition of the old world you choose). But one benefit of my history education has been that I've enjoyed many long hours reading about history - since leaving school - without the narrative plot having been spoiled by a fore-knowledge of what happened next.

Similarly with my knowledge of English literature. When I am occasionally dragged to Stratford upon Avon to see a new production by the Royal Shakespeare Company - I know that - as long as it's not that one play we did for the exams - I don't know the plot - or even whether it's supposed to be a comedy or tragedy - and I can enjoy it (or not) without any previous prejudice.

But back to the Year of Revolutions.

2007 is shaping up to be the Year of Revolutions in the Solid State Disk market.

Although I've been expecting something like this for many years the new SSD technology announcements in the past year have included many twists and revolutionary changes which will break down the barriers which once separated different segments of this market.

The old obsolete price comparisons between hard disk and flash SSD pricing sound as ridiculous today as dinosaur print media executives who still talk about the internet as "new media".

As I said to one reader this week "Hard disk pricing is irrelevant for many parts of the enterprise SSD market. Even if hard disks were free - users will switch to SSDs if they have the right type of applications - because the alternative cost of managing more servers, swapping out failed disks, electrical power and data center floor space are too high - or technically unfeasible."

The real battle in the enterprise server market in the next few years will be internecine...

I've invited the world's leading experts to contribute to an article on this subject which is in editing now and will be published here in the next 7 days.

"RAM versus Flash SSDs - which is Best?"
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SSDs - the big picture
Editor:- StorageSearch.com was the world's 1st publication to provide continuous editorial coverage and analysis of SSDs (in 1998) and in the years which have followed we've led the market through many interesting and confusing times.
click to read the story about why SSDs are taking up so much time on so many web pages If you often find yourself explaining to your VC, lawyer or non technical BBQ guests why you spend so much time immersed in SSD web pages - and need a single, simple, not very technical reference to suggest - this may be the link they need.
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this way to the Petabyte SSD
In 2016 there will be just 7 types of SSD in the datacenter.

One of them doesn't exist yet - the bulk storage SSD.

It will replace the last remaining strongholds of hard drives in the datacenter due to its unique combination of characteristics, low running costs and operational advantages.
click to read the article -  reaching for the petabyte SSD - not as scary as you may think ... The new model of the datacenter - how we get from here to there - and the technical problems which will need to be solved - are just some of the ideas explored in this visionary article.
Flash SSD Throughput - STEC Cranks Up the Volume

SANTA ANA, Calif - August 7, 2007 - STEC today announced its MACH8 product family of SATA-II / PATA flash Solid State Drives.

The MACH8 family of products (1.8", 2.5" and 3.5" form factors) will ship to OEM customers during Q407 in capacities of 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and 256GB. It is designed to deliver over 100MB/sec sustained sequential read and write speed. The drives can deliver up to 10,000 random read IOPS in the MACH8-IOPS version, and 5,000 random read IOPS in the base version. While most SSDs have historically struggled to deliver meaningful random write speeds, the MACH8 SSD delivers 800 random write IOPS - a significant improvement over the highest performance Enterprise-class HDD. The MACH8-IOPS SSD achieves 10X the performance of the existing enterprise HDDs when used in server applications.

"The product differentiation within the market for SSDs is beginning to resemble that of the hard drive market" said Patrick Wilkison, VP of marketing and business development at STEC.

An industry first, data stored on the MACH8 SSD is secured by proprietary full data path protection. MACH8 also boasts a projected MTBF of 2.8 million hours - twice as reliable as current best-in-class hard drives.


IQ Powers U23D

SEATTLE, WA - August 7, 2007 - Isilon Systems today announced that 3ality Digital Systems is using Isilon IQ clustered storage to power the creation and post-production of live-action 3D programming.

In the near future, 3ality, in conjunction with U2, will release "U23D," a live-action 3D film, featuring performances from U2's Vertigo Tour. The movie is the first film ever entirely shot, edited and shown in digital 3D, with production that featured the most 3D cameras ever used for a single project. Prior to using Isilon IQ, 3ality was unable to scale its traditional storage to match data growth demands.

"The explosion of digital content is no longer a new phenomenon," said Brett Goodwin, VP of Marketing, Isilon Systems. "It is an everyday reality, and the results of this dramatic shift are creating groundbreaking new opportunities in digital media for pioneering enterprises to deliver never-before-seen entertainment to viewers."

See also:- SSDs in IPTV, movie creation and tv


New Memory Development Center in China

Suzhou, China - August 7, 2007 - Qimonda AG today announced its plans to set up a new Development Center for memory products in Suzhou, China.

The $20 million investment will be in Qimonda's existing memory test facility in Suzhou. Development center activities are scheduled to start from October 1st.

Kin Wah Loh, President and CEO of Qimonda said "The new Development Center in Suzhou is another strategic step to expand our activities in the Asian market, which represented more than 30% of Qimonda's revenues in the last quarter."


EDGE Tech Bundles Migo into DiskGO Models

Dallas - August 7, 2007 - EDGE Tech Corp announced the release of its DiskGO Smart (1 - 16GB) USB Flash Drive and DiskGO Smart 2.5" Ultra Portable Hard Drive (40 - 160GB) with Migo.

Migo software synchs a computer's main drive to one of these portable drives, allowing users to access to their personal settings on another PC. Users can take documents, emails and preferences, web browser favorites and settings, and desktop background and shortcuts. The Migo software also ensures data privacy with "leave-no-trace" functionality; all Internet and document history is purged when the drive is unplugged. Upon return to their PC, users can re-synch their new and/or modified documents and settings.


Flash SSD Systems Get 100x Faster Writes

Wallingford, PA - August 6, 2007 - EasyCo announces the release of its "Managed Flash Technology" storage solution for Linux servers.

Dubbed "The 300,000 RPM Disk Drive", MFT combines flash SSDs with a patent pending drive management layer which delivers sustained random write performance that is more than 100x faster than the bare solid state flash drive.

Flash SSDs only solve the "read half" of the enterprise performance equation. By delivering 2,000 to 7,000 4K read IOPS (IOs Per Second), Flash SSDs randomly read 10 to 30 times faster than 15K SCSI drives.

Unfortunately, the random write performance of Flash SSDs is terrible.

With random write rates of only 13 to 50 IOPS, even applications that do as few as 5% writes will spend 95% of their time writing. This renders existing, unmanaged Flash SSDs as unsuitable for most enterprise applications. This is what SSD manufacturers refer to as "the random write problem" of flash technology. EasyCo's Managed Flash Technology solves the Flash SSD random write problem. As a result, random write speeds are in the range to 3,000 to 10,000 IOPS. Without MFT, Flash SSDs are only marginally faster than desktop hard disk drives. With MFT, Flash SSDs are accelerated into a class by themselves.

EasyCo's president, Sam Anderson, laughs about the first production data tests. "In our first live test, a prospect copied 218,000 of their own records, deliberately sorted out of sequential order, from one database file to another. Running on a 15K SCSI drive, the file to file copy took over 45 minutes. In fact, at one point, the client called to ask if the server had hung (they were testing remotely). The same job on an MFT Flash drive took only 2 minutes and 45 seconds, or 3,963 IOPS."

End-user pricing for the Linux supported product starts at under $2,500 and extends upwards to over $50,000 depending on the configuration. Windows solutions and storage appliance solutions should be available by Q407. EasyCo is also seeking qualified Linux system integrators, as well as server and storage appliance manufacturers who wish to distribute the MFT solution with their hardware.

Editor's comments:-
last year when I dismissed the relevance of hybrid hard disks for enterprise applications it was because I forsaw that with clever systems integration arrays of inexpensive flash SSDs could be harnassed to do a superior job with respect to capacity and performance. EasyCo says it's getting the high system write performance using commodity Samsung 32G PATA drives which are "far from "leading edge".


Acopia Networks Goes for $210 million

SEATTLE - August 6, 2007 - F5 Networks, Inc. today announced that it has agreed to acquire Acopia Networks, Inc.

The $210 million cash transaction for 100% of the equity of Acopia is expected to close on or shortly after September 14, 2007, subject to satisfaction of the closing conditions. Acquired storage companies


IBM Acquires Princeton Softech

ARMONK, N.Y. - August 3 Aug 2007 - IBM today announced it has entered into an agreement for IBM to acquire Princeton Softech Inc.

Financial details were not disclosed.


Attorn Launches Rackmount HyperDrive4 SSD Array

Zaandam, Netherlands - August 3, 2007 - Attorn BV today announced the release of its HyperDrive4 solid state RAID arrays.

These arrays, based on DDRRAM, provide up to 576GB of high-speed, non-volatile storage that dramatically increase response times and throughput for I/O-intensive applications. The patented HyperDrive4 delivers fast access times - 250 nanoseconds for write requests and 1.1 microseconds for reads.

The HyperDrive4 arrays are available in rackmount (1U 96GB / 3U 320GB) or tower configurations. They can deliver a maximum IOPS of 104,000 (IOMeter) and a maximum available STR of 850MB/s (HDTach). This makes the HyperDrive4 arrays a superior replacement for high-end RAID arrays or an alternative to in-server memory systems.

With a price of around $250 per GB the HyperDrive4 product line offers the lowest published price for a RAM based solid state drive. The arrays incorporate several levels of data protection including:- a redundant power supply, batteries and back-up hard drives.


STORAGEsearch.com Readership Grows 31%

Editor:- August 2, 2007 - StorageSearch.com today updated its monthly list of the top subjects viewed by storage searchers in July.

The top 5 subjects were:-

(1) - Disk to disk backup - (no change)
(2) - Solid state disks - (no change)
(3) - 2.5 inch SSDs - (up 1 place)
(4) - Hard drives - (down 1 place)
(5) - RAM based SSDs - (no change)

Overall site readership was 31% higher than the year ago period.


Violin Memory Attacks Data Center SSD Pricing

Editor:- August 2, 2007 - Violin Memory, Inc. today launched an assault on the high end solid state disk acceleration market with the public début of the highest density rackmount memory system.

Designed for HPC and data center applications, the aggressively priced Violin 1010 connects via PCIe and supports 504GB of DRAM in a 2U chassis. Capacity can scale to 10 terabytes. Read write throughput is upto 1,400MB/s and 1,000MB/s respectively with 3 microseconds latency. Violin says this can deliver over 3 million random IOPS.

The Violin 1010 Memory Appliance is based on the patent-pending Violin Switched Memory (VXM) technology. VXM packs a 2U high Violin 1010 chassis with up to 84 Violin Intelligent Memory Modules which accommodate either DRAM or Flash memory. Higher density NAND Flash VIMMs will be released later.

While hard disk arrays are optimized for file accesses greater than a megabyte, the Violin 1010 supports full throughput for access sizes less than a kilobyte. The Violin 1010 provides significant benefits to applications with requirements for low latency or small file sizes. Video server applications benefit from the ability to have the same video simultaneously read by thousands of clients, without disk thrashing.

The Violin 1010 has been designed to provide cost-effective memory redundancy and protect against data loss. Its RAID algorithms store data redundantly across multiple VIMMs. The fully loaded system contains up to 4 hot spare VIMMs and supports non-disruptive replacement of VIMMs. Multiple VIMMs in the system can fail without the application losing any data.

The Violin 1010 Memory Appliance has been in trials for 6 months and is now available. A 504GB system is being demonstrated at LinuxWorld (August 7-9 in San Francisco). Pricing for a 120GB DRAM system starts at $39,500.

Editor's comments:-
although Violin doesn't call its new systems solid state disks - that's the best way to think about them - because they can do a similar server acceleration job as a classic RAM based SSD - but at a much lower price.

Part of the cost saving is because the memory array is volatile (data is lost when the power goes off). But in most data center applications that limitation has a simple workaround. Another part of the cost saving is the use of a PCI express interface instead of the classic Fibre-channel, SAS or Infiniband ports which connect other enterprise SSDs.

Violin is the first SSD oem to step across the artificial dividing line between flash SSDs and RAM SSDs - they will offer both. I've said for years that most enterprise customers don't care. They just want the best solution at the best price.

As with any product from a new company platform support is currently limited. Also reliability is an unknown factor. But Violin's entry into the SSD market (along with the 60% quarter to quarter drop in DRAM prices quoted recently by Qimonda's CEO) means that enterprise server customers can expect to get a taste of the SSD price wars which have been upto now confined to the flash SSD market.


ONStor Secures Another $27 million Funding

CAMPBELL, Calif - August 1, 2007 - ONStor today announced it has closed a $27 million mezzanine round of funding.

New investor Sand Hill Capital joins existing investors Foundation Capital, Mayfield Fund, ComVentures, and Worldview Technology Partners to support ONStor in this final round of funding. The mezzanine round closed with a significant increase in corporate valuation as the company simultaneously announced record results for the second quarter of 2007. ONStor was recently recognised as one of STORAGEsearch.com's Fastest Growing Storage Companies for 2006/7. Venture Capital Funds in Storage

Editor's comments:- ONStor has an impressive customer list, see their article:- Lessons from the world's largest data sharing applications (pdf)



How Solid is Hard Disk's Future?

Editor:- August 1, 2007 - StorageSearch.com today published a new article called - "How Solid is Hard Disk's Future?"

What impact will the fast growing solid state disk market have on the overall hard disk market? - is a question I've been asked a lot recently. Most of the articles published here on STORAGEsearch.com are written from the SSD perspective.

Is SSDs' gain really HDs' loss?

In some segments yes.

But it's not a zero sum game. ...read the article


Is the Storage Market Becoming Illogical?

Editor:- August 1, 2007 - Spectra Logic announced yesterday that it has changed its logo - which now just includes the single word "Spectra".

I only mention this because it may be part of a trend for the storage market to get less logical.

Earlier this year LSI Logic dropped the "Logic" suffix from its company name and 12 months ago Sierra Logic was acquired by Emulex. Looking ahead - Aristos Logic could maybe sever its logical appendage and still leave a usable name. But it may be more problematic for QLogic to do this - because that would just leave it with the enigmatic "Q" or maybe "Q?" Can you feel a Vulcan comment coming?

See also:- renamed storage companies
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