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SSD news - September 2009, week 4

... top 50 SSD articles
SSDs - the big picture
flash SSD Jargon Explained
the Top 10 SSD Companies
RAM Cache Ratios in flash SSDs
3 Easy Ways to Enter the SSD Market
SSD Myths and Legends - "write endurance"
"This is a tsunami warning event for SSD vendors in the enterprise server acceleration market" - Editor:- September 24, 2009 (below) commenting on the fact that PCIe SSD searches had shot past those of 2.5" SSDs.
Megabyte's selection of storage news
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MLC flash in enterprise SSDs
what do enterprise SSD users want?
High Availability enterprise SSD arrays
Survive and thrive guide to enterprise SSDs
Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage
RAM SSDs versus Flash SSDs - which is Best?
Legacy versus New Dynasty in Enterprise SSDs
7 SSD types will satisfy all future enterprise needs
Efficiency - making the same SSD - with less chips
how will Memory Channel SSDs impact PCIe SSDs?
Rackmount SSDs - open vs proprietary architectures
what do I need to know about any new rackmount SSD?
better thinking inside the box - new directions in SSD racks
Bottlenecks in the pure SSD datacenter will be more serious

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classic SSDs from SSD market history
click for more info about the revolutionary auto tuning XcelaSAN SSD accelerator from Dataram
XcelaSAN is a "revolutionary" self optimizing
2U enterprise SSD accelerator
from Dataram
Nowadays there are many companies in the auto-caching enterprise SSD market. But the first systems product was the XcelaSAN - launched in September 2009 - which was advertised here on

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Flash Hype Leads to SSD Myopia - Says Solid Data

Editor:- September 29, 2009 - Steve Topper, CEO of Solid Data Systems today commented on market perceptions about RAM SSD versus flash SSD positioning in a press release about the company's updated range of FC compatible terabyte class RAM SSDs.

"There is a market perception that only NAND flash is solid-state storage and that DRAM is too expensive and too volatile," said Steve Topper. ""The market is being told that flash drives are the way to go as they are cheaper and can best deliver enterprise-class performance and reliability. This simply is not true. While flash is somewhat less expensive than DRAM, they cannot beat us on latency and performance, and large numbers of customers have told us that the endurance of these products simply is not there. In many cases, these drives wear out after only days of use."

Editor's comments:- while I wouldn't agree exactly with all the details in these comments. I do agree with some of it. It's important to realize that the most competitive RAM SSDs are best regarded as part of a product continuum which starts with flash and extends up to RAM. If a flash SSD can do the job - it generally will be chosen because of the lower cost.

But in some applications access-time replaces random-IOPS as the key determinant of application performance.

Let's say for example that a critical bottleneck in your application looks like a small table resident on the SAN which involves 5 consecutive R/W modify cycles to the same block of memory. At the system level - a RAM SSD can be 10x to 20x faster than a flash SSD - even if it has the same nominal random IOPS* and data throughput. It's an undeniable fact that RAM SSDs do a better job at application speedup for a small group of applications - regardless of the 9x higher typical cost for the same capacity. That's why customers still buy them.

* There are rare exceptions. Violin Memory has patented a non blocking write in their flash SSD array - which enables a read operation to immediately follow a write on the same block (without waiting for the erase write to complete). But I don't know how many consecutive operations would be speeded up in that architecture - maybe just the next one in the sequence - but not the whole set.

Pillar's CEO Has Strong Views About SSDs

Editor:- September 29, 2009 - a lot of raw (and sometimes emotional) SSD soundbites emanating from DISKCON are quoted in an article written by Stephen Lawson and published yesterday in Techworld.

These colorful phrases are not the kind of toned down polite things which appear in a typical press release. There is real passion here.

My take is - when companies haven't braced themselves for a new market they are more likely to be disturbed by the waves which hit them. Human nature hasn't changed in the 97 years since that unsinkable ship went down - so why should hard diskophiles (lovers of hard disks - a new word I invented - so no need to look it up) be any different?

Dataram eliminates waits for the SSD Hot Shot / Hot Spot Engineer

Editor:- September 28, 2009 - Dataram launched the XcelaSAN - a fast 2U rackmount flash SSD with 450,000 random IOPS performance (assuming 50/50 R/W and 4k blocks), and upto 8x 4Gbps FC ports - aimed at the SAN application acceleration market. Pricing starts at $65,000 for a unit with approx 360GB internal flash, of which 128GB is effectively used as a cache.

"It is now well understood that the benefit of a solid state infrastructure for compute-intensive environments is higher application performance with less equipment and lower operational costs," said Jason Caulkins, Dataram Chief Technologist. "The question is no longer 'How can I benefit from solid state storage?' but 'How do I best implement solid state in my existing infrastructure?' With XcelaSAN, we enable organizations with performance intensive applications to seamlessly add a dynamic, intelligent solid state storage tier to their existing SAN environment."

Editor's comments:- At 1st glance this product looks like many others which have aimed at the traditional market of SAN users. But its revolutionary design opens a new market - for SSD ASAPs - which has been inaccessible to traditional FC SSD vendors. Dataram's product includes proprietary software - which does away with the need for an SSD expert engineer to identify hotspots and relocate critical data. The company says the XcelaSAN will automatically learn and self optimize during the 1st few hours of operation - and it will maintain application speedups even when applications and loads change - which is not possible with human tuned systems.

The search for a self tuning agnostic SSD software layer which sits between a SAN server and conventional rotating disk bulk storage has been the Holy Grail of SSD oems for over a decade. None have actually achieved it - till now. Although many vendors have developed semi-automated tuning kits and strategies for common applications - they require considerable expertise on the part of the applications engineer to make them work well. That has slowed down the adoption rate of SSDs in many midsized organizations which don't have a big enough installed base to attract the start SSD talent to look at their problems. And it's also why SSD accelerators, have not been viable as a reseller product.

When I spoke to Dataram's CTO, Jason Caulkins, I was impressed by the depth of marketing thinking behind the new product launch.

Dataram realized that simply launching a me-too SSD box would have an uncertain outcome in a market that's already so crowded. And Dataram's corporate memory goes back over 30 years to pioneering SSDs for minicomputers which they launched in 1976. But all memory companies know that in the future SSDs will use more memory than traditional markets - such as server or pc motherboards. So it's important to stake out ground in the SSD market.

I asked - where did the technology come from? Jason said some of it came from Dataram's acquisition of Cenatek - where he had already been thinking about the SSD business model problem for many years. With much bigger resources available after Dataram's acquisition - he's had teams of software engineers working on the XcelaSAN concepts and licensed essential glue where needed.

Will it work? Dataram says the XcelaSAN has been tested and working in customer sites. Product shipments in the US start in the next quarter. And the product is storage agnostic - meaning the customer can replace their SAN arrays at a future date and retain the acceleration speedup. XcelaSAN seems to offer a viable route for mid-budget user enterprises - who have been neglected by SSD vendors for economic reasons - to join the march of the SSD Revolution.

Is it competitive? - If you use my quick and dirty magic number for SSD sever accelerators - (write IOPS divided by cost per TB) - it's in the same order of magnitude as leading PCIe SLC flash SSD cards - so it's definitely worth a look.

Fast Purge flash SSDs

Editor:- September 25, 2009 - today published a new directory of Fast Purge flash SSDs.

The need for fast and secure data erase - in which vital parts of a flash SSD or its data are destroyed in seconds - has always been a requirement in military projects. Although many industrial SSD vendors are offering their products with extended "rugged" operating environment capabilities - it's the availability of fast purge which differentiates "true military" SSDs which can be deployed in defense applications.

PCIe SSDs Snatch #1 Storage Search Crown

Editor:- September 24, 2009 - disclosed today that search volumes for PCIe form factor SSDs have surpassed that for 2.5" SSDs for the 1st time.

"This is a tsunami warning event for SSD vendors addressing the enterprise server acceleration market" said Zsolt Kerekes, editor of

"In the 25 years that I've been involved in the enterprise storage - there were just 3 great waves of user mass adoption for new disk form factors - starting with 8.5", moving onto 5.25", then 3.5" and finally 2.5".

"In contrast, after 3 decades of sleepy stealth mode development the SSD market is now streaming ahead on SSD time. Users have woken up to what the SSD market can do for their servers - and for new systems they don't want to plow through their data fields dragged down by the clutter and dead weight baggage of the rotating disk peddlers. A year ago interest in 2.5" SSDs was an order of magnitude higher than PCIe SSDs. Both have grown in search volume - but PCIe SSDs seem to have captured the imagination of this market to a degree which only its most optimistic supporters would have predicted."

See also:- Can you trust SSD market data?

Samsung Wheels Out PRAM (Problematic RAM)

Editor:- September 22, 2009 - Samsung today announced it has begun producing 512Mb PRAM memory.

PRAM combines the speed of RAM for processing functions with the non-volatile characteristics of flash memory for storage.

"We believe PRAM will make a highly significant contribution to the efficiency of mobile phone designs, particularly for multimedia handsets and smartphones," said Sei-Jin Kim, vice president, mobile memory planning and enabling group, Memory Division, Samsung Electronics. "We expect it to become one of our core memory products in the future."

Editor's comments:- let's do a reality check here. This has been a Problematic (rather than a Perfect) RAM technology. Samsung originally announced a working prototype of the 512Mb PRAM 3 years earlier - in September 2006.

SMART Chooses SandForce SSD SoC

Editor:- September 22, 2009 - SMART Modular Technologies today announced it has selected the SandForce SF-1500 SSD processor for use in its next-generation enterprise-class SATA SSDs sampling in both 1.8" and 2.5" form factors later this year.

"Considering SMART's longstanding history as a memory and storage solutions provider to Tier-1 OEMs, we are excited to support them as an early adopter of our technology," said Steffen Hellmold, VP Business Development for SandForce. "We expect that our SF-1500 SSD processor will bring tangible competitive advantages to SMART's new SSD product offering."

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