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SSD news - November 2010 - week 1

the SSD Buyers Guide
the Top 10 SSD Companies
Branding Strategies in the SSD Market
Yes you can! - swiftly sort Enterprise SSDs
SSD Pricing - where does all the money go?
Megabyte is wearing his Christmas hat - image for storage news page as we approach that season There is a tide in the affairs of men
(and mice) where it is not judged too
ridiculous for the editor to don the
seasonal garb.

.But I'm not doing that chimney
...stunt again...
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What do data recovery stats tell us about HDD vs SSD reliability?

Editor:- November 7, 2010 - how do SSDs compare with HDDs for reliability in the real world?

Forget all the theoretical calculations about MTBF - which are grossly over optimistic...

In a short article in the right hand column of this page I share what's known about the stats for SSD data recovery. See the footnotes to the article about ActionFront - to learn more.

News to me - Seagate has MRAM technology

Editor:- November 5, 2010 - an interesting article on Denali's blog site discusses Seagate's relationship with MRAM.

What's MRAM? - It's a non volative memory technology which is a long odds contender for use in some parts of SSDs.

Memoright fills 2.5" SSD performance gap

Editor:- November 3, 2010 - Memoright has launched its first range of MLC based SSDs - the 2.5" FTM-25 range are SATA 2 compatible - and have upto 400GB capacity.

Editor's comments:- from the performance figures (50k / 30k R/W IOPS) I guess they use a SandForce controller. But as I've said before there's a lot more in the price and makeup of an SSD than just the controller and flash chips. Memoright's newest SSDs have over-voltage protection and over-current protection and their quality management system (evolved for military SSDs) offers 100% traceability for every SSD.

3 years ago (Oct 2007) - Memoright was shipping the fastest 2.5" flash SSDs. Then for a few years the company seemed to be lagging behind in the speed stakes. The new products will appeal to designers who need industry standard speed with some extra reliability features added.

Wanted! - Mr Right (partner) for STEC

Editor:- November 2, 2010 - STEC today announced that revenue for the quarter ended September 30, 2010 declined 12% from the year ago period to $86 million) although it was 40% higher than the preceding quarter.

Editor's comments:- I've said this many times before in past years - STEC has weak routes to market - like EMC (ranked #20 in the top 20 SSD companies). STEC still has a stronger brand in the SSD market than any of the oems it partners with. It must dump them, bypass them or run the risk of fading away. In the enterprise and military markets in which STEC engages - it should be reporting 50% to 100% year on year revenue growth - not double digit revenue declines.

If I was looking for an analogy here - it would be that STEC decided several years ago on a safe "father figure" route to success in the mainstream market. Instead it should have gone for the James Dean or Elvis approach. SSDs are a disruptive market - a message not best delivered by men in suits. EMC is no Darcy either.

Foremay ships fastest 1.8" SSDs

Editor:- November 2, 2010 - Foremay today announced volume shipments of the fastest 1.8" micro SATA slim flash SSDs - with 280MB/s R/W and random IOPS as follows:- up to 30,000 read and 15,000 write.

The 5mm high SSDs have capacity up to 400GB and are available in industrial temperature versions.

Editor's comments:- I asked Foremay - who designed the SSD controller?

I was told - "It is joint solution between Foremay and a 3rd party" - whose identity they are keeping to themselves.

Walton Chaintech blends controllers in new consumer SSD ranges

Editor:- November 2, 2010 - Walton Chaintech today announced availability of 3 new 2.5" SATA 2 SSD ranges for consumers and gamers which feature SSD controllers from SandForce (skinny SSDs - from $147 60GB) and Indilinx (regular SSDs - from $91 30GB).

Demartek tests LSI's CacheCade

Editor:- November 2, 2010 - Demartek has published a sponsored test report (pdf) which compares the performance of SSDs and HDDs in a simulated web server environment when managed by LSI's CacheCade software - which provides SSD ASAP functionality.

Editor's commnents:- The report shows that throughput and access times were improved by at least 3x using a single SSD cache compared to the HDD only situation.

However - it's disappointing that the sizing of the test was not best chosen to draw meaningful conclusions. Because the web content was only 25% larger than the SSD capacity! It would have been more helpful to design a simulated case in which there was at least a 10x or 100x size difference. Because if you can fit all the web content onto an SSD then you don't need the burden of the "cache" software at all - and might get better results by switching it off.

There are case studies going back nearly 10 years which show that SSDs can provide big speedups in web servers. The exact speedup depends on how fast the SSD is. This test report doesn't answer the question - is LSI's CacheCade useful in a realistically scaled environment?

How fast is the SSD market changing?

Editor:- November 1, 2010 - if you look at the top 20 SSD topics viewed by readers in October - (listed on the market research page) they look very similar to the same list a year ago.

Is this a sign of the SSD market maturing?

It's tempting to think so - but that would be a mistake in my view.

Yes there is traction. The main concerns in the SSD market today are very similar to what they were a year ago - but there are new ways of addressing those concerns too.

And a lot more SSD vendors who want to persuade you that their own particular way is the best. You can see how the popularity of individual SSD companies has changed in the past 3 years by viewing the top 10 SSD oems list in the 3rd quarter in these years - 2010, 2009 and 2008.

When you look at daily or monthly changes in the SSD market - the cumulative changes don't give a clear picture - because the sampling interval is too small. But enlarge that window - and it's easier to discern the start of momentous changes.

Here are some segments in the SSD market which were invisible or didn't exist a few years ago - but are worth thinking about seriously now.

2 years ago - the PCIe SSD card business was just starting and didn't register in any top 10 lists. Today it's shaking up the enterprise SSD market.

2 years ago - outside of a small technical elite - most customers didn't ask the question - who had designed the SSD controller in the SSD they were buying. If they thought about it at all - they assumed it was the same company whose logo was on the invoice. Today the controller identity has become one of the key ways that vendors differentiate their SSD brands.

2 years ago - the SSD ASAP market didn't exist. It's still a very small market today - even though 10 to 20 vendors have shipped or announced ASAP products in the past year. That's because users are being very cautious and evaluating these systems - rather than taking on trust vendor claims that they can accelerate pools of HDD storage automatically and economically. If vendors can convince users that their ASAPs work - and are a low risk way to accelerate legacy apps and infrastructure - this could become a multi-billion dollar market.

2 years ago - the SSD backup market didn't exist. Today it's still a tiny niche - because it doesn't offer economic or reliable solutions for the mainstream. That's a slow burner market - with many technologies still to be developed and prove. My most optimistic forecast indicates it could be another 5 years before it this one become mainstream. It will still use 2.5" SSDs - but they will be unlike any products in the market today - optimized for reliability, low power consumption and data integrity rather than speed.

2 years is a short time in the history of the SSD market. But as you can see from my examples above - if you simply assume that the trajectory of the SSD market will be like that of speeded up hard drives - you'd be wrong about where the market's destination.

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What do data recovery stats tell us about HDD vs SSD comparative reliability?
Nowadays - in 2010 - there has been a lot of speculation in the storage market about the reliability of flash SSDs in the field - as opposed to their theoretically calculated lifetimes due to factors like write intensive wear-out.

Having said that - the MTBF figures quoted in some company's datasheets become fiction for flaky SSDs - which fail at the start of their life because the design was wrong - and which need euphemistically called "firmware upgrades" to make them work properly.

How can you get an undistorted industry wide view of the SSD reliability experience?

SSD data recovery is a subject I've discussed in detail with many leading DR companies.

In this context I mean trying to recover data from an SSD in situations where there is no useful backup.

The main causes of SSD failure are power surges, static, environmental stress, software anomalies and ineffective flash wear leveling. Extrapolating from the data I've seen suggests that the industry is handling in the low hundreds of SSD recoveries per month. That compares to an installed base of around 40 million SSDs.

What can you infer from this?

If hard disks were as reliable as SSDs - the data recovery business would be much smaller than it is today.

SSD data recovery is a tiny business today.

It's so small that it's not economically viable for any DR companies to advertise their SSD recovery services here on

That may be bad news for SSD market publishers - but it's good news for prospective SSD buyers. The message from the data recovery market experience is - that if you choose the correct type of SSD for your application - it will be much more reliable than any hard drive.
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SSD jargon - such as - write amplitude to garbage collection etcclick for article
SSD jargon - explained
Do you understand all the clues in
the solid state drive headlines?
This article will help.
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SSDs - the big picture
Editor:- was the world's 1st publication to provide continuous editorial coverage and analysis of SSDs (in 1998) and in the 12 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, non very technical reference to suggest - this may be the link they need.
Beware the distorting lens of viewpoint
as in - "SSDs are similar to..."
Can you trust SSD market data?
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