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Storage news - July 2011

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STEC loses ground in enterprise SSD war

Editor:- July 29, 2011 - STEC yesterday reported year on year revenue growth of 35% for the 2nd quarter of 2011 - but its revenue was 13% lower than in Q1 2011.

The company said it had lost business in its traditional oem customer slots to lower cost competing SATA SSDs and SAS SSDs - but it hoped that its next generation SSDs in mid 2012 would enable STEC to reposition itself as a price leader due to a combination of new ASIC and proprietary MLC management technology.

Editor's comments:- as I said in the top 20 SSD companies - STEC has been marketing its products for the past several years as though it were still 1 of 10 SSD companies instead of just one among hundreds. Its customers have many choices and as they learn more about SSDs themselves - they can be more confident about selecting what features they are willing to pay for.

Another weakness in STEC's enterprise SSD strategy is that the company is 3 to 4 years behind the market leaders in its involvement and shipments of PCIe SSDs. Fighting a market share war in today's enterprise SSD market without a mature PCIe product is as unrealistic as if George Washington set out to fight the British redcoats but was armed with only bows and arrows.


RunCore opens US sales office

Editor:- July 29, 2011 - RunCore has opened its first international sales office outside its original roots in China. The new office - which will handle sales and distribution is in San Jose, California.

"We are very excited about this opportunity," said Limuel Yap, General Manager of RunCore USA.


new DRAM market report

Editor:- July 27, 2011 - Databeans has published a new edition of its Memory Market Tracker ($2,800 quarterly / $6,450 annually) which provides the latest market trends in both DRAM and Flash as well as other memory markets.

Among other things - Databeans says - "Certain DRAM suppliers, such as Nanya, Taiwan's biggest computer DRAM chipmaker, expects prices to grow by a double-digit percentage during 3rd quarter of 2011..." See also:- storage market research, storage chips.


Looking for an SSD Ghost Writer?

Editor:- July 27, 2011 - I often get asked by SSD vendors to recommend PR agencies who understand the SSD market and can ghost write articles or news stories for them. 10 years ago - I created a directory of editor recommended PRs - which I update from time to time - which is why I'm mentioning it here.

SSD blogs are another potential source of ghostwriters - but nearly all the SSD bloggers I like are already vendors or analysts which presents obvious conflicts of interest... However, you might find suitable matches if you probe Google's site search for "SSD blog" deep enough.

Another place to look is PRs on my linkedin page. But I'm not pro-active on social networks so it's not a big list.

And in case you were thinking about yours truly... thanks - but please don't ask me to do any SSD ghost writing for you. I have been asked - but always decline - because I like to mention all your competitors too...

And I don't have the time to do it. Often as I abandon yet another half completed SSD article - I wistfully think to myself wouldn't it be nice to have some ghost writers of my own? But that daydream doesn't last long because I don't have any money to pay for it. And unfortunately most of the SSD articles which vendors offer me to place before you on these pages - don't say anything new - or if they do - their assertions are misplaced, unfounded or unsupported by data. There are plenty of other sites which are happy to publish them. I have lower standards when it comes to linking to articles. But then it's obvious who has written the content and what the agenda is.

Now here's a surprise!... If I extrapolate from SSD search stats this month - we could be seeing the first appearance of a software company in the next edition of the top 20 SSD companies - when that list is published in September. Who is it? You'll have to click on the link and make an educated guess. But a lot can change in the SSD market in 3 months - so I could be wrong.

Storage news is now SSD news... This month I finally got around to doing some important house-keeping. I terminated my main storage news page - despite the fact that it had featured well in Google and had been running at the same web address for nearly 12 years. The reason? I've been phasing out non-SSD related content for years - and the time had come to stop pretending that I'm interested in any of that other stuff - and there's too much to write about in the solid state storage world.

All enterprise storage will be solid state soon enough anyway - so the absence of mentions about magnets and mirrors won't seem very strange. And those fading storage stars might still return for some final appearances... The last tape library. The last 15K RPM hard drive. That sort of thing. I feel nostalgic about some of the old stuff - because knowing about those arcane things helped me to earn a living in the 1980s and 1990s. But, like you. I can always dip back into storage history to recapture the old days - if those moods come on.


recycling SSD capacity in transient virtual servers

Editor:- July 26, 2011 - IO Turbine today posted a useful comment about why you need dynamic rather than static allocation of SSD caches in VMware environments (bot rather than human SSD tuning). - "With virtual machines frequently spun up or taken down, flash capacity that's allocated to a specific VM is wasted when that VM is taken off line."


the new SSD uncertainty principle

Editor:- July 25, 2011 - STEC is starting to lift the veil off how it manages MLC flash inside its enterprise and industrial SSDs. You're thinking - isn't it all the same? Just a variation on what SandForce and Fusion-io already do? (Only STEC is more expensive than SF, and not as fast as FIO...)

That's what I thought too - but I learned I was wrong. This could be the start of new enterprise MLC branding wars when SSD designers and memory makers battle it out to prove to you that their own different way is better. ...read the article


OCZ elevates performance of Indilinx SSD controllers

Editor:- July 21, 2011 - OCZ is now sampling a new dual core ARM based SSD controller for 6Gbps SATA SSDs which can deliver upto 500MB/s sequential throughput and 200 mega transfers per second.

The Indilinx Everest platform supports up to 1x nm NAND Flash with 1, 2, or 3 bits per cell, has 70 bits of BCH ECC per sector, end to end data protection, fast boot options (50% faster than competing SSDs) and enhanced power fail protection. The new platform - supports 1TB flash capacity and has a 400MHz DDR3 DRAM cache interface with support for up to 512MB.

Editor's comments:- ever since I wrote my Petabyte SSD roadmap article in March 2010 I've been waiting for controller manufacturers to start mentioning faster boot times in their press releases. There's a long way to go from what we have now - and the 20 milli-second range boot times needed to support what I call SSD library devices - but any step in electronic system design away from the Newtonian mechanical inertial corsets of hard drives towards the freer flowing boundaries set by quantum semiconductors is progress.

Why will the SSD industry need ultra-fast faster boot times? They don't need to boot that fast for netbooks. But the power consumption of a 1U multi-petabyte archive storage rack will be too high (and too hot) unless 90% of the SSDs are normally unpowered.


STEC ready for the ramp to a pure solid state enterprise storage market

Editor:- July 20, 2011 - STEC held a conference call earlier this week hosted by financial analyst Stifel Nicolaus. Here are the highlights:-

size of enterprise market opportunity
  • STEC mentioned several factors in the enterprise SSD market - which when added together - could result in 10x increase in monthly shipments in the next year or so.
  • 40 million servers / year are being shipped - and every one will be a candidate for internal SSD acceleration
  • replacement of 15K RPM HDDs with MLC SSDs - sooner than hitherto expected
  • pure SSD based storage systems (without any internal HDD) are attractive in some user applications already and STEC's oem customers are seeing early demand for those systems
enterprise MLC issues
  • shrinks from 34nm to 1X nm - STEC will get early physical models and samples of 1X nm nand flash at the the end of this year.
  • ECC and SSD data integrity - STEC says traditional BCH error codes aren't viable for future MLC flash generations because they would need 100 / 300 bit codes for consumer / server apps. In the server case - the error codes could waste 30-40% of the original capacity
  • eMLC vs STEC style MLC. STEC said it has 2 dozen pending patents on its MLC protection technology (called Cellcare) - which works with consumer MLC. STEC says its MLC technology provides better operating life and more even performance in SSDs than higher priced enterprise MLC. STEC says that the tweaks and selections done by flash memory makers to produce eMLC won't scale to future generations.

    STEC also said that eMLC doesn't guarantee an operating life which is as long as its Cellcare - and some SSD makers may find they don't have a long term future in the market - due to a combination of wear-out / performance degradation that will affect customers - and due to the fact that eMLC isn't scalable. You can be sure this is going to develop into a new SSD marketing claims pissing war - which will make anything you previoulsy heard about MLC vs SLC seem much simpler and tamer in comparision. There are precious few people who really understand the technical issues enough to judge these matters on their rational merits - so the market may go with whoever shouts loudest or most plausibly.
overprovisioning?
  • -STEC says its Cellcare using consumer flash doesn't need overprovisioning to deliver 10x writes / day for 5 years - which suits most SSD applications - but its oem customers will have the tools to wraparound overprovisioning for caching type applications (see the SSD iceberg syndrome for more on what other vendors do).
PCIe SSDs
  • -STEC says it will sample its first enterprise accleration PCIe SSD in this quarter - and expects to be in production in 2012. It will consume less than 15W. STEC says it expects to have price advantages over the current MLC market leader Fusion-io due to STEC's ability to use cheaper flash, and also using ASICs instead of FPGAs. (Fusion-io could also switch to using lower recurring cost ASICs too - so I think that part of the argument is a red herring.)

    STEC says its new SSD will totally offload flash management and result in 1/10 the number of host interrupts compared to Fusion-io (in that respect it will be similar to SLC products from Texas Memory Systems and Virident Systems). However, as Jamon Bowen from TMS explained in an interview last December - in high performance caching roles the need to overprovision MLC (even the STEC kind) and the extra complexity of the controller (for MLC instead of SLC) may reduce the competitive difference of STEC's MLC compared with SLC.
performance
  • STEC said that while other SSD makers talk about high headline IOPS numbers - feedback from its oem customers indicates that STEC has the lowest MLC latency in the industry - which results in more consistent performance in some types of apps. They aren't the only vendor to make that claim, however.
If you want to hear more details you can dial into +1 973-528-0005 using this ID - 518391


the latest SSD market report from Web-Feet Research

Editor:- July 19, 2011 - Web-Feet Research has published a new quarterly edition of its SSD market report series (annual subscription $7,500). You can see the introduction and summary here (pdf) - where among other things you'll learn...

"Adoption of SSDs in client and enterprise applications gained momentum in 2010 with shipments and revenue doubling to 10.3 million units and $2.6 billion. The outlook for 2011 is 16.6 million units and $4.1 billion in revenue demonstrating continued strong growth."

Editor's comments:- this report is aimed at storage vendors who need to understand the opportunities for solid state storage and how SSD technologies interact with and compete with traditional hard drives and related systems.

Regular readers of StorageSearch.com know that I keep emphasizing how complex an overall view of solid state storage is becoming - and I've been analyzing the SSD market for a long time. If you're a vendor with a broad product line or an investment company with a billion dollars or so to spend on an SSD companies - reports like this from SSD analysts like Web-Feet can provide a useful safety net - because even if you think you understand the segments you're reading about - there's always the risk that there may be some dark matter out there- in the shape of an important adjacent SSD segment which you aren't aware of. Avoiding that kind of mistake helps put the cost of reports like this into context.

On the other hand - if you've got hundreds of hours to spend on this topic you can just try to learn what you can on sites like this one - and put all the pieces together yourself. That's what most of the company founders and analysts I talk to do. It's feasible if you're looking at a single vertical strand in the market. Everyone who's serious about the SSD market comes to these pages sometime - because it was the first place to discuss the SSD market and it's where you'll still read about future SSD trends first.

Alan Niebel founder of Web-Feet was kind enough to tell me yesterday "Your website (StorageSearch) gives a lot of good info on the future of the industry...."


8 out of top 10 SSD companies support PCIe

Editor:- July 18, 2011 - 8 out of the top 10 SSD companies in the 2nd quarter of 2011 sell (or have announced) PCIe connected SSDs.

That compares to 6 companies 1 year ago, and 2 companies 2 years ago. This shows the growing scale of interest in high performance bus connected SSD acceleration.


SAN Shared File Systems with SSDs

Editor:- July 11, 2011 - SAN Shared File Systems with SSDs is the subject of a new blog from Texas Memory Systems.

Author Jamon Bowen says in the article - "There is a new option that I have seen getting deployed more and more often: using high capacity SSDs and a SAN shared file system. A SAN shared filesystem provides the locking to allow multiple servers to directly access the block storage concurrently."

Editor's comments:- The "new option" above is narrative license - because I know that TMS has been doing this for years - but this type of configuration is more common now - because of declining SSD costs. I like this article for its conceptual purity (sticks to the theme and doesn't waffle on about SANs or SSDs) - and it has a nice picture too. ...read the article


How big was the thinking in the SSD design?

Editor:- July 5, 2011 - Why size really does matter in SSD design architecture is a new article recently published on StorageSearch.com

For designers, integrators, end users and investors - understanding what follows from simple Big versus Small architectural choices predicts a lot of important consequences. ...read the article
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Top 50 SSD articles - in July 2011

  1. SSD Myths - "write endurance" - StorageSearch started lobbying flash SSD makers to standardize on a way of specifying SSD endurance in 2006 - but vendors were reluctant to talk about this issue because they were worried that user fears about sudden SSD death would backfire on the industry - and they each had their own secret ways of managing flash endurance. Nowadays you can't stop SSD vendors talking about how clever they are at dealing with endurance. In theory the problems are now well understood - but solving them presents a challenge for each new chip generation - especially as MLC flash heads into 1X nanometers.
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  2. the SSD Buyers Guide - summarizes key SSD market developments in the past 2-3 months and has a top level directory of SSD content listed by market, form factor, interface etc.
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  3. the Top 20 SSD OEMs - updated quarterly - who are going to be the most successful SSD companies in the market? For over 4 years - this quarterly tracker has proved its power and accuracy as a sensitive way to pick up new companies and also as a way of predicting bumpy rides for those already in the market.
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  4. Magneto-flash wars - HDDs v SSDs - this classic article published in 2005 was one of a set which looked at the SSD-HDD market battle. It's still a popular read for newcomers to the SSD market - although I can't understand why.
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  5. SSD news - is our classic SSD news page (updated daily since 1998) which gives you a news view of the whole SSD market from chips to cabinets. It also includes a long list of key SSD oems extracted from the 300+ SSD makers profiled on this site.
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  6. the Fastest SSDs - updated daily - this article lists the fastest SSD in each popular form factor.
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  7. HDD news - chronicles the last gasp years and historic anecodotes from the hard disk market - as it reluctantly retires in favor of SSDs.
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  8. PCIe SSDs - lists oems who market PCIe SSDs, and news and market commentary. We've reported on PCIe SSDs since the first products shipped in 2007.
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  9. RAM v Flash SSDs - which is Best? - I asked experts from 10 leading SSD companies to write their views about the strengths and weaknesses of these 2 types of SSD technologies. The article is updated from time to time - and you may be surprised to learn that in some heavy duty server apps RAM SSDs are cheaper to buy than flash - (as well as being faster).
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  10. Flash v Hard Disks - Which Will Win? - this classic article published in June 2005 - introduced the concept of "flash SSD floor price" - which correctly predicted why some SSDs started to replace HDDs in many embedded applications - long before flash reached capacity price parity with magnetic media.
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  11. 2.5" SSDs - this is the most crowded part of the SSD market - as you'll see by the vendor listings. This directory page also includes extracts from 2.5" SSD news and a list of related articles.
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  12. are MLC SSDs safe in Enterprise Apps? - this classic article discusses the important differences between MLC and SLC - and how these related to SSD data integrity. It's been updated many times - and includes new commentaries from enterprise SSD companies. A new thread in 2011 has been factional wars between different types of so called enterprise MLC SSDs.
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  13. RAM SSDs - 20 or so companies still market RAM based SSDs. This directory page tells you who they are and explains why - as the market uses more flash SSDs - the need for RAM SSDs is growing (instead of shrinking).
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  14. SSD market history (1976 to 2011) - I published the first edition of this history article in 2004 - and have been adding to it every month since. For people who are new to the market it provides a clue to how much things have changed - and how fast (or how slowly).
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  15. Top 50 SSD articles on StorageSearch.com - this is the article you're seeing now.
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  16. 3.5" SSDs - this vendor directory gives you examples of popular 3.5" SSDs going back 10 years to the first such products in the market. Some of these had performance specs which sound impressive now! (As long as you don't mention the price.)
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  17. SSD controllers & IP - this is a directory of merchant market SSD controller chip technology providers. There was a time when most SSD companies designed their own flash SSD controllers. But as the market races its way along to an SSD oem headcount which I expect will top 1.000 companies - the newer SSD makers don't have the inhouse talent to design world leading products for all the slots which their marketers would like to fill. And many older SSD companies have found they can't react fast enough to integrate new memory technologies into new SSDs. Enter the new market of SSD SoC makers.
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  18. 1.8" SSDs - who's who in the 1.8" market? - vendor directory, news and articles.
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  19. the 10 biggest storage companies in 2012? - in 2008 I explained why it would be impossible to continue my series (started in 2001) which accurately predicted 3-4 years ahead who would be the leading storage companies - because SSDs were becoming a significant and disruptive factor - and many of the world's biggest storage companies still hadn't entered the SSD market at that time.
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  20. SSD market analysts - StorageSearch.com is a trusted primary resource in the SSD market - but the more you learn about this market - the more questions you realize remain unanswered (or unanswerable). I compiled this filtered list as a recommended resource for all those people who need custom reports and detailed market help - which go way beyond my limited "content prioritized" time budget or would involve too many conflicts of interest for me to take on.
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  21. SSD jargon - because we've have been at the leading edge of reporting the SSD market - we've had to invent some of the jargon which is used to describe some SSD concepts. You can't have a meaningful discussion about the intricacies of SSD design without using these words. This article gives you simple explanations of these terms and tells you where they came from - and links you to more detailed info if needed.
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  22. Surviving SSD sudden power loss - this article surveys SSD power down management across all the SSD architecture types in the market today. It explains why subtle design choices made to boost speed can have drastic conseqences in flexibility of system deployment. Power cycling induced faults kill more SSDs in real life than endurance ever did. But SSD PSU management topology is rarely mentioned in most SSD datasheets.
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  23. SSD pricing explained - this article clarifies SSD pricing. Understanding what goes inside the SSD recipe helps you understand why some SSD menus cost a lot more than others.
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  24. the problem with Write IOPS in flash SSDs - this classic article helps you understand why a once well regarded performance modelling metric (IOPS) got abused - and why all SSD benchmarks incorrectly suggest you're going to get much higher performance from some types of flash SSDs than you will actually see in your application..
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  25. SAS SSDs - our market research uncovered a strong demand for SAS SSDs years before any such products actually existed. Vendors were slow coming into this market for a number of reasons. This article includes a timeline of the SAS SSD market - and lists significant vendors.
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  26. this way to the Petabyte SSD - in 2016 there will be just 3 types of SSD in the datacenter. One of them doesn't exist yet - the bulk storage archive SSD. This article describes the future storage architecture of the datacenter, explains the economics of SSDs replacing HDDs for bulk storage, predicts the characteristics of these future products and suggests a roadmap for getting there.
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  27. SSD Data Recovery - this is the industry's first SSD recovery directory (a topic we started writing about in 2007). It includes articles and news related to recovering data from faulty or damaged SSDs.
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  28. notebook SSD market overview - this is one of a set of related articles which introduce vendors, technologies and problems in the notebook SSD market. This is a segment in which most of the solutions which have been delivered to the market still fall far short of user and analyst expectations.
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  29. the 3 fastest PCIe SSDs? - here's why it's not worth agonizing over the details of comparative benchmarks.
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  30. What's a Solid State Disk (SSD)? - first published in 2000 - with some updates - this article also includes another directory of more SSD related articles.
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  31. a new way of looking at Enterprise SSDs - published in September 2010. This is a unique new segmentation method which cuts across interface and form factor to provide a simpler way for customers to categorize products into the "learn more" or "ignore" mental buckets. Industry leaders I've spoken to since the article was published have told me they like the simplicity of the new terminology - whichever side of the line their own companies happen to be on.
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  32. What's the best / cheapest - PC SSD? - I often get emails from readers who ask the above question.
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  33. the SSD Reliability Papers - links and abstracts of articles related to the subject of SSD reliability and data integrity.
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  34. Data Integrity in flash SSD Design - this is a classic article written by a leading SSD controller company - which describes the design concepts used to manage data integrity in flash SSDs. It also includes updates, links and comments on this theme from around the industry.
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  35. 1" SSDs - vendor directory and news related to 1 inch (and smaller) SSDs and SSDs on a chip.
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  36. Increasing Flash SSD Reliability - classic article about wear leveling published in 2005.
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  37. Storage Market Outlook to 2015 - although published 15 months ago - the key points in here are still valid. And there are links to updated projections.
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  38. Fast Purge SSDs - is an article which includes a directory of vendors who design SSDs which can self destruct or quickly and securely erase flash SSD contents (typically in a fraction of a second) to prevent data getting into unwanted hands.
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  39. rackmount SSDs - news and articles with special relevance to the rackmount SSD market.
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  40. SATA SSDs - directory of companies who make SATA SSDs.
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  41. Calling for an End to Unrealistic SSD vs HDD IOPS Comparisons - in 2008 I suggested that SSD vendors stopped comparing their hard disk performance with SSDs. Who cared about hard disk performance? It had n't changed for nearly a decade.
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  42. the Flash SSD Performance Roadmap (Z's laws) - published in 2008 included performance and architectural roadmaps and projections till 2012. Most were very accurate when viewed with the benefit of hindsight - although one (re IOPS symmetry) was not. For several years I added updates to show what has happening compared to the predictions. Except for those interested in historical research this article has been mostly superceded by newer content.
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  43. storage market research & analysts - is a directory of all the market research companies ever cited in past storage news.
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  44. Hybrid Storage Drives - market reports and news.
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  45. storage reliability - news & white papers.
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  46. Flash vs DRAM Price Projections - for SSD Buyers - published in 2008 this showed historic and projected comparisons for the 2 main memory types used in SSDs.
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  47. InfiniBand SSDs - this is a timeline of the InfiniBand storage market from its start - to the present day - with market commentaries, news, vendors etc. In recent years it has become more exclusively focused on InfiniBand SSDs.
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  48. RAM Cache Ratios in flash SSDs - knowing whether your flash SSD is skinny, regular or fat tells you a lot about the performance and reliability characteristics too.
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  49. the SSD Heresies - Why can't SSD's true believers agree upon a single coherent vision for the future of solid state storage?
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  50. SSDs - the big market picture - explains - what's all the fuss about SSDs?
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  51. Fibre-Channel Solid State Drives - article and directory.
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  52. SSD ASAPs - market guide to Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage.
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  53. Does size really does matter in SSD design? - it does when it comes to the thinking behind the SSD's architecture.
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