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Storage news - October 2010 - weeks 3 to 4

storage history / is remanence in NVDIMMs a new security risk?
DensBits gets series B funding for Memory Modem

Editor:- October 31, 2010 - DensBits has closed Series B funding, led by a new investor, Bessemer Venture Partners and existing investor Sequoia Capital.

"NAND Flash technology is hitting a wall as it is pulled in 2 opposite directions of lower cost per bit and yet, higher performance requirements for everything from embedded Flash storage, used in smart phones and tablets, to solid state disks (SSDs) in the data center. Over the past 3 years, we have developed the world's first "Memory Modem," which is an intelligent Flash controller that will significantly extend the life of NAND Flash technology," said Ilan Hen, DensBits' Chairman and CEO.

"Our Memory Modem is composed of proprietary ECC, DSP, and memory management solutions, specifically designed to overcome Flash memories' unique problems. Similar to a communications modem, our Memory Modem dramatically improves Flash reliability, which in turn enables memory vendors to continue their cost reduction with smaller process node geometries as well as higher number of bits per cell. We are currently working with several leading NAND Flash vendors on their 2Xnm products and beyond. This latest investment is a testament to our technology and market leadership, and will enable us to expand our development and support for customers".

See also:- adaptive DSP ECC for flash controllers

ATP launches slim SATA SSD module

Editor:- October 29, 2010 - ATP Electronics launched a vertical Slim SATA Embedded SSD module with 2GB to 16GB capacity and sequential R/W speeds upto 116MB/s and 102MB/s respectively.

ATP's new SSD module has internal wear-leveling and has drivers for Windows and Linux. Its small size (54mm x39.8mm x4.0mm) makes it a viable replacement for 2.5" SSDs in space constrained embedded applications.

Just another new SSD standards group

Editor:- October 28, 2010 - there's another new ORG for SSD form factors the SSD Form Factor Working Group .

Among other things - it will make over 2.5" SSDs with PCIe interfaces. Perhaps it should have been called - the "we think OCZ is a jumped up upstart" group. Because OCZ started talking about this idea publicly first - but it's not part of the club (yet).

OCZ's new PCIe SSD has 4x SandForce inside

Editor:- October 28, 2010 - OCZ has launched a 2nd generation version of its RevoDrive - a bootable legacy architecture PCIe SSD with R/W speeds up to 740MB/s and and 120,000 IOPS.

It uses 4x SandForce SF 1200 controllers versus 2 (in the earlier model launched in June 2010). Capacity options range from 100GB to 960GB.

Editor's comments:- when you ask the question - why did OCZ leap up 3 places to #7 in the top 10 SSD companies list in the last quarter? - the answer isn't that it makes the fastest SSDs. It's not even close. And this RevoDrive 2 doesn't use the fastest SandForce chip either - the SF 2000.

But - from what users have said to me - it seems that OCZ's SSDs are fast enough to make a worthwhile difference in budget strapped server acceleration applications. And unlike most other products in this category - they are bootable too - which gives users more flexibility in tinkering with servers they already know and own.

Fusion-io opens sales office in UK

Editor:- October 28, 2010 - Fusion-io has opened a sales office in the UK..

The phone number is +44 (0)1295 264 33. Where is that? I looked it up. It's about the middle of England in Oxfordshire. Although geography is my weakest subject - and a few years ago I got lost less than 1/2 a mile from my house - and ended up walking for hours in the wrong direction. And it's the correct number BTW - because I always dial these numbers before listing them.

I had a chat with a human being at the end of this number - the UK Sales Manager - Trevor Cooper - who has a lot of experience in the storage industry and the internet economy.

He said there were 7 sales people in the UK at the moment - and although the pattern of SSD adoption in the UK might be different to that in the US - markets like the financial market and customers using VMware could get a lot of improvements in speedup and availability - using the New Dynasty approach (a phrase which he had already seen on the mouse site - and said was an apt way of comparing PCIe versus SAN SSDs.)

Dataram opens new site in Seattle to support SSD accelerator business

Editor:- October 26, 2010 - Dataram announced the opening of a development, test and QA facility in Issaquah, WA. to support the expanding resources for its XcelaSAN FC SAN optimization appliance (SSD ASAP).

Dataram chose the Seattle area based upon the rich technology talent pool and the welcoming business climate. In May 2010, Forbes ranked Seattle in the top 5 most innovative cities in technology.

"Dataram's expansion and opening of a Seattle location dedicated to the development of XcelaSAN is a reflection of our confidence in the product and the positive feedback we have received from our customers," said Tom Mayberry, Director of Product Development at Dataram. "The team at this location will enhance our XcelaSAN appliance as well as develop additional leading edge storage technology solutions for customers seeking high performance and high availability for mission critical applications."

PhotoFast unveils 256GB SSD for MacBook Air

Editor:- October 26, 2010 -PhotoFast said it will ship a 256GB USB SSD for the MacBook Air at the end of November.

Sustained R/W speeds are 250MB/s. Random R/W speeds are 50MB/s and 30MB/s respectively.

"Creating a whole new form factor SSD in the very limited time was quite a challenge" said PhotoFast's chief engineer Eddie Wang. "Thanks to support from SandForce, we finally made it".

Jim Handy says hybrid drives will replace HDDs in mainstream PCs

Editor:- October 25, 2010 - Objective Analysis has published a new market report Are Hybrid Drives Finally Coming of Age? - ($5,000 54 pages).

It explains hybrid drive technical principals, the technology's potential market, competing technologies, and how the NAND, PC, SSD, and HDD markets will all be impacted by this new twist on an old technology.

The report tells why the technology failed in the past, and forecasts its anticipated growth. Objective Analysis says this technology was well conceived but poorly implemented in its first generation. Now that working versions have been implemented the hybrid drive promises to sweep the PC hard drive market.

"We expect the hybrid drive market to nearly double every year for the 5 years following its initial adoption, reaching 600 million units by 2016," said the report's author Jim Handy. "This blazing growth will result from hybrid drives replacing standard HDDs in mainstream PCs."

Editor's comments:- this is the scenario which Seagate is hoping will come true - according to their recent statements.

In contrast's view is that instead of hybrids - users will do better using vanilla SSDs in light weight notebooks and in higher capacity notebooks using a combination of vanilla SSD (on the motherboard) working with vanilla HDDs tuned by SSD ASAP techniques (controller or software).

The market will decide which approach they prefer. For more differences of opinion about how solid state storage should fit in with computer architecture see the SSD Heresies.

Woody Hutsell to head ViON's acceleration business

Editor:- October 25, 2010 - ViON announced today that it has launched a new practice focused on application acceleration.

To head this new effort, Tom Frana, President and CEO of ViON, has enlisted Woody Hutsell, a noted expert in enterprise application acceleration and solid state storage.

"After 10 years building the solid state disk division at a leading SSD manufacturer, I decided I wanted to be closer to the customer," said Woody Hutsell, Director of ViON's Application Acceleration Practice. "ViON was the logical partner for my new career as they have sold, implemented and continue to maintain the world's largest and most important storage network attached solid state disk installations. Furthermore, ViON's partnership with Hitachi Data Systems and other industry leading players allows this application acceleration practice to deliver best-in-class solutions to the enterprises' largest problems."

George Crump, Lead Analyst Storage Switzerland said, "Woody is known in the industry for helping to build the solid state storage business for industry pioneer Texas Memory Systems. Woody's understanding of application acceleration combined with his expertise in the technology makes him a logical fit to lead ViON's efforts in this area."

Editor's comments:- if I had to compile a list of the top 10 people in the world who really understand the SSD market's promise and the complex interplays between technology, applications and market forces - Woody Hutsell would be up there at the top of my list in the enterprise category.

Over a period of more than 9 years we had countless discussions - which often concluded that the SSD market was more complicated than most other people thought. "The SSD market is multi-dimensional" was a memorable insight of his - and we always agreed that (difficult though it was) it was essential to improve the quality of user and vendor SSD education. ViON's customers will now get access to one of the most experienced and clearest thinking brains in the industry.

Seagate sold less HDDs than WD in Q3

Editor:- October 20, 2010 - Seagate - reported zero per cent revenue growth (year on year) for the quarter ended Oct. 1 - reaching $2.7 billion.

Seagate shipped 49.2 million disk drives in the latest quarter (6% more than the year before) .

Editor's comments:- superficially this is a quarter in which WD sold 1.5 million more HDDs than Seagate - but let's look at the market dynamics re SSDs.

In the earnings conference call Seagate's response to questions can be summarized as:-
  • Seagate views the volume of SSDs as still very small compared to HDDs (in the 3% to 5% range)

    Seagate may be strictly correct - but this semantic analysis obscures an important market reality.

    My own view is that when the SSD numbers get analyzed early next year we're going to find that the SSD market in 2010 was a little over 10% of the HDD market in terms of revenue.

    A bit chunk of that - in the enterprise - has been replacing servers rather than HDDs. And - with a few exceptions - most of the leading SSD companies are not publishing their SSD sales figures - because they don't want competitors to know how well (or badly) they're doing.
  • Seagate says its expects that hybrid drives represent a better option for consumers than notebook SSDs.

    My view - which I've maintained since the very first hybrid hard drive idea surfaced years ago - is that hybrid notebook products are a waste of space and will give users an unsatisfactory experience compared to using vanilla HDDs or vanilla SSDs or a mixture of both.
Because Seagate spent so many years being an SSD market denier - it will be at a severe disadvantage if it ever gets its act together with a credible SSD product line.

Why? Because the server oems who buy its hard drives (and who didn't like SSDs much either to begin with) will have already made other plans.

So Seagate will be looking at SSD design slots from the outside of the meeting rooms where the important decisions have already been made - instead of sitting at the head of the table.

WD reports 9% revenue growth

Editor:- October 19, 2010 - Western Digital reported revenue grew 9% (year on year) for the quarter ended Oct. 1 - reaching $2.4 billion.

WD shipped 50.7 million hard-drives in the latest quarter (15% more than the year before). WD did not break out figures for its SSD business.

OCZ can make 140K SSDs / month

Editor:- October 19, 2010 - OCZ announced it will open a new SSD manufacturing plant in Taipei, Taiwan next week increasing overall manufacturing capacity to 140,000 units a month.

OCZ said it sold over 54,000 SSDs in August - 3x the monthly level at the start of this year.

Lortu simplifies disk backup for SMBs

Editor:- October 19, 2010 - Lortu Software today announced a new family of disk backup appliances for SMBs that provides deduplication and remote replication capabilities.

Models range from 30TB to 600TB capacity and Lortu also offers a remote backup service, which enables customers to have a complete backup solution without requiring them to purchase another appliance for remote backups or to have their own remote facilities. Lortu says a 5Mbps internet connection supports replication of about 4TB / day of deduped data.

Lortu's D2d systems run an internal procedure which prevents the system from running out of space. They can delete the oldest files in accordance with retention policies defined by the user, so it's always possible to store new data.

Fusion-io launches partner program

Editor:- October 18, 2010 - Fusion-io today launched a new iniative - the Fusion-io Technology Alliance Program which help to accelerate the development and market dissemination of products which leverage the company's ioMemory technology.

"Enterprises around the world are seeking simplified and consolidated solutions that reduce infrastructure and overhead," said Tyler Smith, VP of Alliances for Fusion-io. "One-stop solutions, like those provided through Fusion-io's new Technology Alliance Program, reduce strains on resources, remove risks inherent with managing several partners and reduce expenditures. Working together, we believe we can offer greater value to our customers who are looking to solve the ever increasing data-intensive nature of the contemporary enterprise."

Editor's comments:- when deployed correctly acceleration SSDs can be a business transforming resource.

In the past SSD vendors have cherry picked applications and markets to get the industry to where it is today. No single company has the expertise to recognize the opportunities which exist below the shiny surface of the usual suspects - or the resources to bring hidden market gems to life. So you can expect to see a lot more collaborations in the SSD market in the future.

Web-Feet reports on Storage Class Memories

Editor:- October 18, 2010 - Web-Feet Research has just released its latest technology assessment report on Flash Memory, DRAM and the rise of alternative Non Volatile Memories and Storage Class Memories in - MTS650FT-2010 (summary pdf) - price $7,500.

This new report evaluates the most promising SCM memories: PCM, STT-RAM, MRAM, Z-RAM, ReRAM, CBRAM, QsRAM, and FeRAM. The manufacturability of SCM storage is evaluated for: CMOx, PCM-S, RRAM-S, 3D NAND and some claims that SST-MRAM can fulfill the storage function.

There is no easy path for the next technology to really make it but there are a few front runners that have a slight chance. Each of these new vendors has been profiled for their technology status, who the principals are, and how much and who has invested in each company.

Interpreting SandForce's PCIe SSD plans

Editor:- October 18, 2010 - in an article last year 3 Easy Ways to Enter the SSD Market I discussed why it's getting much easier for any company - lured by the attractiveness of the expanding SSD market bubble to create a credible new SSD business - in a fraction of the time it used to take just a few years ago - even if they had little or no previous experience of the market.

Out of all the market segments the enterprise SSD market is the most attractive for wannabe SSD T-Rex's for these reasons:-
  • the market opportunity for enterprise SSDs is larger than any other segment - and is 2x to 4x the revenue of the notebook SSD market - depending which year you are forecasting.
  • profit margins for enterprise SSDs are higher than in the consumer SSD market (although not as high as in military SSDs)
  • the sales ramp for enterprise SSDs is faster than for military SSDs (where it can take years from initial qualification to max shipment volumes). And if vendors are lucky they can offer their enterprise products as a substitute product which parachutes in at the tail end of another oem's qualification cycle - or better still - when the pioneer's sales ramp is already under way.
There has been a problem for those eyeing the PCIe SSD market - and hoping to get for themselves some of the business which is going to Fusion-io and Texas Memory Systems, OCZ, Seagate, Virident Systems etc. That is - assembling a product which maintains fast IOPS performance and doesn't burn out. Anyone can put together a PCIe SSD prototype which looks good at a trade show or in a sponsored benchmark.

Help may soon be on the way from SSD controller maker - SandForce. When SandForce launched their SF-2000 family earlier this month - they said that support for PCIe SSDs is in their roadmap. Their SAS-3 compatible controller already delivers 60,000 IOPS, and 500MB/s throughput.

SandForce told me that although some oems already use their SATA compatible controllers in PCIe SSDs (OCZ and Seagate who use arrays) there is plenty of headroom in controller performance for supporting a native PCIe socket. The issue is market size. When you're selling an SSD processor you prioritize the highest volume applications for your technology and work down.

Given the current high level of industry acceptance for SandForce's SATA SSDs (over 20 SSD oems use their controllers in industrial and enterprise SSDs) - users can assume that they will soon see enterprise PCIe SSDs which are even more affordable.

UK Event for those in Energy Markets

Editor:- October 18, 2010 - there was a light frost on my car windscreen when I drove to Plumpton station (in East Sussex) this morning - and the car thermometer showed 1 degree C outside. (Inside too - because I didn't run the engine to heat up the passenger compartment before setting off.)

Fortunately I already moved the sensitive pot plants (mostly Geraniums ) off the patio into the greenhouse at the weekend - and I've recently filled up my oil heating tank. At this time of year the level drops an inch or so every day - which means I can't help thinking about the cost of energy.

Energy companies are different to other types of organizations. And their data storage needs are different too.

A new event catering for those special needs will debut next month - Energy Data Storage 2010 takes place November 3 - 4, in Kensington, London

The name of this event does lend itself to confusion. When you first see it your reaction - like mine - might be to think it's got something to do with designing better batteries for electric cars - or using nuclear generated power to pump water back up into reservoirs.

But the themes of this event are:- new ways of looking at backup technologies, designing comprehensive disaster recovery strategies, data security and the challenges in building and managing large archives.

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Editor:- was the world's 1st publication to provide continuous editorial coverage and analysis of SSDs (in 1998) and since then 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.

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