| leading the way to the
new storage frontier
|LSI buys its way into the
top 5 SSD companies list|
Editor:- October 26, 2011 - LSI today
a definitive agreement to
acquire SandForce for
approximately $322 million in cash and to take up approximately $48 million of
unvested stock options and restricted shares held by SandForce employees.
transaction is expected to close early in the first quarter of 2012.
president and CEO, Michael Raam
will become General Manager of LSI's newly formed Flash Components Division.
comments:- in June 2011- a reader asked me - how much is
I said (here on StorageSearch.com) - "...in
the current state of the SSD market I would estimate that Sandforce is worth
significantly more than
SanDisk paid for
million) but slightly less than if someone were to acquire
then Sandforce has dropped slightly in its ranking in the
top SSD companies and
the competitive situation it faces has got tougher - with more viable
competitors operating in its market space (for customers of its oem customers -
which will dampen its growth rate). Those factors in the last 3-4 months have
depressed its value - and so it seems that LSI is offering a realistic price.
it's too early to make definitive statements about how this will impact the
market. Some things are clear.
- LSI has bought intself a place in the top 5 SSD companies - up from where
it has previously been at the bottom end of the top 20 and just below it.
- Uncertainty about what happens next in the
PCIe SSD space - which
had been a significant gap in SandForce's interface map - will benefit systems
competitors like Fusion-io,
and TMS and
controller makers like Marvell.
OCZ - which has used
SandForce controllers within its PCIe SSD products - has been growing the speed
of its own controller IP (Indilinx) and and
recently acquired additional PCIe human design resources from
PLX Technology which means
that it could easily uncouple itself from depending on SandForce controllers
if the new owner LSI ever turns into an SSD competitor. That's my threat
analysis. But OCZ has reacted positively to this news.
Petersen, OCZ's CEO - congratulated SandForce and
has been a great partner, and we expect the added resources of LSI will only
benefit SandForce's customers. Moreover, because OCZ and SandForce previously
contemplated this scenario, we expect that this combination will have no
material impact to our existing product lines or business."
So - if you
need to buy an SSD
company - there's one less company to choose from. Who's next? Watch this
- the first SSD product which LSI had codesigned with
Seagate - already had a
Sandforce controller in it - something which proud Seagate had been reluctant
to reveal until it became obvious.
SMART samples new MIL SATA 3 SSD
26, 2011 - SMART
imminent sampling of a SATA
3 version of its MIL-STD-810
compliant 2.5" SSD family - which includes encryption and
new Xcel-200 provides from 60GB to 240GB
500MB/s sequential R/W speeds and 60K/40K random R/W
operates at standard
temperature ranges and is certified for operation at altitudes up to 80,000
BiTMICRO nurtures microchip design training in Philippines
October 25, 2011 - the Bruce Institute
of Technology is a new training institute in the Philippines - focused
on microchip design - which has been set up in a collaborated effort led by
partnership with Synopsys,
The institute's name celebrates the family name
of the Bruce brothers - who founded BiTMICRO in
design consultancy - before embarking on their pioneering market developments in
SolidFire gets more funding for iSCSI cloud SSDs
October 25, 2011 - SolidFire
announced that it has
$25 million in its second funding round, bringing its total funding to $37
SolidFire's founder and CEO, Dave Wright said - "The
response to our Early Access Program... has been overwhelming. We have a very
solid sales pipeline and we will be investing in our sales and marketing team to
respond to customer interest and accelerate our growth."
comments:- The raw building block in SolidFire's product -
the SF 3010 (pdf)
- is a 1U system with 10 internal
2.5" SSDs (giving
3TB raw capacity) and with 72GB
also:- iSCSI SSDs
and cloud storage.
Fusion-io recruits enterprise SSD veteran Woody Hutsell
October 25, 2011 - this week Woody
Hutsell - former President of Texas Memory Systems,
and, more recently, author of the enterprise SSD blog - appICU has joined
a brief note about this in Woody's blog this morning - but I'm sure we'll
hear more later.
Editor's comments:- My immediate reaction on
hearing this was - it hardly seems fair that FIO is hogging so much of the
talent in the enterprise SSD market. But I guess they have growing demands on
the ways they can leverage their human SSD resources.
As well as
increasing their footprint with
IOturbine they also
have many new technology and partnership avenues opening up which mean they
need to lengthen their stride too.
I congratulated Woody and am secretly relieved that he isn't going
to a competing SSD publication. That would make my life too difficult - as he
writes such good articles.
OCZ pads out SATA-3 SSD range to pull in latency
October 21, 2011 - Just in case you spotted any little gaps in OCZ's already crowded 2.5"
SATA SSD range - they've introduced another new model called -
which unlike its skinny
sister - has a regular
RAM cache architecture - and therefore lower latency.
Satisfying apps speedup hunger without expensive SSD write
Editor:- October 19, 2011 - Read caching can lift the glass
ceiling on write caching - by as much as 3x. That's one of the
unexpected twists revealed in a
blog by Gary
Orenstein VP of Products at Fusion-io.
are the practical applications of this? - Gary gives several examples - like
greatly simplified data replication / protection. But that's not the only
trick in the SSD toolkit. To demonstrate how this can be leveraged Gary
shows readers a graph which shows a 10x write speedup obtained when
using FIO's PCIe SSDs as read caches - managed by their
SSD ASAP software -
in a server attached to a storage array from
comments:- providing fail safe
data replication within the
low latency of an SSD acceleration environment is a non trivial problem -
discussed in an earlier
blog by Woody Hutsell (who now
works for Gary - see news above).
That complexity is why you pay more
for SSD solutions which include write replication (like
Huawei Symantec and
Dataram) - the extra
cost appearing in both the invoice and accrued latency.
blog by Gary Orenstein says - in effect - that you don't have to go all the way
to full à la cartre R/W SSD caching to get a satisfying meal of the day
apps speedup. ...read
Viking ships 8GB DDR3 NVDIMM
Editor:- October 18,
Viking Modular Solutions
said it is shipping
extension of their nv module range.
ArxCis-NV plugs into standard
RAM sockets and provides
2GB to 8GB RAM which is backed up to SLC flash in the
event of a
power failure - while the memory power is held up by an optional external
25F supercap pack. Viking says these new memory modules can eliminate the need
for battery backup units in servers and the maintenance logistics associated
with maintaining them. They are specified as being maintenance free for "5
years @ 60°C".
"Our enterprise OEM customers are
leveraging this persistent memory solution in a variety of applications, adding
significant value to their products," said Adrian Proctor, VP of
marketing at Viking Technology. "ArxCis-NV's high speed non-volatile memory
was developed through our extensive experience in both DRAM and SSD technology
to create a hybrid solution that leverages the speed and endurance of DDR3
memory, seamlessly integrated with the non-volatile storage retention of flash
Editor's comments:- will these new modules
replace batteries in RAM
SSDs? - I doubt it - because of scalability issues - like managing a
spiderweb of 100+ dangly bits of wire when you have a terabyte of RAM. Having
said that - there are many applications which only use a small number of memory
chips which could benefit from such a product.
a guide to
semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles
another new season for that depressing consumer SSD saga
October 18, 2011 - Like anyone who makes a lot of
market predictions I'm
delighted if any of them come true - but there are 1 or 2 cases where I would
be just as happy to be proved wrong - in particular - on the subject of
consumer SSD reliability.
2 years ago I wrote an article called -
Why can consumers expect
to see more flaky flash SSDs? - which had the sub-headline - "You need
to stay vigilant because it's not going to get better anytime soon."
get a lot of emails about this subject - which is threatening to tarnish the
reputation of the whole SSD market - and not just the small part which is
Today I got an email from a reader who told me
that out of 13 client SSDs he'd bought 7 months ago "4 have died so far."
He gave me a link to a blog on
which illustrates the soul searching and frustration that SSD unreliability
is causing to so many thoughtful people who want to get the speedup advantages
of SSDs but are rightly anxious about the flaky reputation of consumer SSDs.
agree this is a lamentable state of affairs - which needs some explanations.
This is a tidied up version of what I said.
SSDs aimed at the consumer
market are designed to deliver basic functionality at the lowest price. That
means the designers (originally due to ignorance but nowadays with
foreknowledge) have to decide what shortcuts they can take in the production
process and what design
factors they can leave out to reduce the price - compared to a reliable
There are countless techniques they can use to get the cost down.
- Shutting off reliability features in the controller. For example the
SandForce SF-2200 controller (launched in
Feb 2011 and
optimized for consumer markets) has an option which enables oems to deliver an
SSD with a smaller or larger usable capacity when using exactly the same set of
flash chips. The bigger capacity sounds like it's better value for money to the
consumer but they are losing some of the RAIS protection which means the
SSD won't survive the failure of an entire flash chip. And that's just the tip
of the SSD
- Using cheaper components in the
management system. The consequences are that the trigger events to save data
may come at the wrong time or that the capacitors don't hold enough charge to
maintain reliable operation for vital data saves because they have
drifted out of tolerance. That's before considerations like whether the
controller has an
intrinsic foolproof auto recovery architecture in the first place.
- Using no-name cheap flash memory. The difference between the best and worst
flash manufacturers is a
many times factor.
Also if the memory is unknown the controller parameters may not be set up
correctly for it leading to wrong handling by the controller.
When companies want to design reliable SSDs for non consumer
markets there are many additional steps they take in their processes
such as qualifying the memory to see which is the best, allocating more memory
to act as hot spares for defective blocks, using better reliability
architecture, and burn-in and functional test before shipping.
- Saving time and cost on testing the design. Many consumer SSD products
aren't adequately validated before they're shipped. That's why you hear about
firmware upgrades and recalls. It's expensive for SSD makers to invest in
comprehensive tests before they ship - and some consumer SSD marketers worry
that if they delay their launches they run the risk of losing market share.
But even when all those precautions are taken - expensive SLC
flash enterprise SSDs can fail too. The difference in the enterprise is
that the data is more likely to be
backed up and the
storage system is likely to be protected by a
RAID-like or fail-over
architecture which means that life can go on without too much disruption.
it's any consolation the
hard disk industry was
even worse at one time. In 1986 when I was designing a demo RAID controller -
most of the brand new drives I got for the project arrived with serious
What is the SSD industry doing to improve the state of the
art? You can get an idea of who's doing what in the
SSD reliability papers.
Kove snapshots financial markets 12x faster
October 14, 2011 - STAC
(a specialist in testing low latency platforms used in financial markets) has
audited benchmarks for Kove's
XPD2 - a
RAM SSD - in a setup
configured with InfiniBand
This solution stack set several new official records. For
example, the Market Snapshot benchmark was over 12x the previous best
published speed. See also:-
the fastest SSDs,
Intel would like to be where Fusion-io's SSDs are now...
snuggling up close to the CPU
Editor:- October 11, 2011 - an
article in VR-Zone
discusses a "leaked" Intel SSD roadmap which
indicates the company may enter the
PCIe SSD market in
It's hardly a revelation - because Intel is member of
technical groups which are
co-ordinating standards in this segment of the SSD market - and until standards
for the Hybrid Memory Cube get
established (which could take another 3 years) - the PCIe SSD market is the
closest attachment that an SSD can make to an Intel server host processor bus.
And PCIe has the additional attraction of not needing 3rd party
storage interface glue -
IB - thereby giving
more control to any chip company which does it right. Over 30 companies have
already shipped PCIe SSDs in the past 3 years. This will be a multi-billion
dollar market segment according to StorageSearch.com's long range enterprise
SSD market model.
NEVEX launches SSD ASAP software for Windows Server
October 11, 2011 - NEVEX
its first product - an auto-tiering
/ SSD ASAP software cache for Windows Server, VMware, Hyper-V priced at
$2,495 per physical server.
CacheWorks' selective cache optimization
technology empowers administrators by providing flexible control to accelerate
specific data by application, file type, and location to deliver typical
speedups of 3x - according to customer quotes in their
press release (pdf).
Hybrid Memory Cube will enable Petabyte SSDs
October 7, 2011 - Samsung
and Micron this
week launched a new industry
initiative - the Hybrid
Memory Cube Consortium - which will standardize a new module
architecture for memory chips - enabling greater density, faster bandwidth and
"HMC is unlike anything currently on the radar,"
Feurle, Micron's VP for DRAM Marketing. "HMC brings a new level of
capability to memory that provides exponential performance and efficiency gains
that will redefine the future of memory."
HMC may enable SSD designers to pack 10x more
RAM capacity into the same
space with upto 15x the bandwidth, while using 1/3 the power due
to its integrated power management plane.
The same technology will
enable denser flash SSDs too - if flash is still around in 3 years' time and
hasn't been sucked into the obsolete market slime pit by the
lurking nv demons
which have been shadowing flash for the past 10 years and been waiting for each
"next generation" to stumble and be the last.
management architecture integrated in HMC and the density scaling it allows
for packing memory chips (without heat build-up) are key technology enablers
which were listed as some of the problems the SSD industry needed to solve
in my 2010 article -
this way to the
Steve Jobs passed away this week
6, 2011 - Like most of you - this morning on the tv news I heard that
Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple,
The outstanding products created by his visionary
ideas affected billions of people in the past 30 years - not just those who
used them or competed with them (or tried to copy them).
showed that if you designed digital products which were easy to use, people
would buy them - even if they cost more.
Stories about Steve Jobs
kept thousands of journalists busy during his life and there have been many
about his achievements. I'm sure - that like Elvis - the media industry will
long continue paying homage to Steve Jobs and future generations will
find it hard to imagine that there ever was a world without irock and
Here's a link to an
on CBS news - with Steve Wozniak - life-long friend of Steve
Jobs - and the other cofounder of Apple.
OCZ nabs PLX team to speed new PCIe SSDs
October 5, 2011 - OCZ
has has agreed to acquire the
UK Design Team
(approximately 40 engineers located in Abingdon) and certain assets from PLX Technology which will
enable OCZ to accelerate the development of its next generation of SSDs -
while also reducing development costs.
Editor's comments:- in
addition to traditional storage interfaces - PLX's special focus in the past
year has been technologies related to faster
see more stories like
those above in the
|I've been thinking that
maybe 2015 / 16 / 17 (it's not clear which yet) will mark another critical phase
in the SSD market - which I'm tentatively thinking about as the Post Modernist
Era of SSD and Memory Systems. |
CPUs for use with SSDs |
|Marie Antoinette never said
this about SSDs|
|Editor:- October 12, 2011 - "Let them eat
cake" said Marie Antoinette - on hearing that bakers in
pre-revolutionary France had run out of the right type of flour to make bread.|
she were alive today and had shares in pure play SSD companies (instead of a
tracker which oddly mixes in HDD makers too) then on hearing the
that severe flooding in Thailand has impacted WD's hard drive
production - which might lead some people in the HDD supply chain to fret
about where their next drives will come from - she might retort - "Let
them use SSDs instead!"
The Marie Antoinette quote isn't
strictly true. And neither is the idea that -
SSDs will directly
replace hard drives.
What is true is that WD did issue guidance
on the flooding impact today and most importantly said "The company is
gratified to report that its approximately 37,000 Thailand-based employees
are deemed safe at this time."
...Later today:- Seagate
production is also affected said - "This devastating natural disaster
has tragically taken hundreds of lives and displaced many families. At this
time, Seagate reports that all of its employees in the region are safe."