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SSD news - September 2011

SSD jargon
top 50 SSD articles
SSD market research & analysts
Surviving SSD sudden power loss
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Enterprise SSDs - the Survive and Thrive Guide
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GridIron's fat flash stirs ASAP caffeine sooner to beat weekly peaky loads

Editor:- September 29, 2011 - GridIron Systems today announced general availability of its TurboCharger - an FC SAN fat flash SSD ASAP / auto-tiering cache - which has low latency (tens of microseconds) and is intended to be used in what the company calls "Big data" installations.

Editor's comments:- Although conceptually similar to Dataram's 2 year old XcelaSAN - GridIron's product is scaled to work with much bigger storage capacities - and includes more dedicated silicon.

Also - unlike most other caches - GridIron says its hot data stores and recognizes peaking data patterns over many days - and not just short term real-time data spikes. That makes it better able to react more quickly to cyclical business demands - such as time of day, day of the week, start/end of month etc - without having to relearn them. So the acceleration will kick in faster.


Microsemi packs secure SATA 75GB SLC SSD into PBGA

Editor:- September 29, 2011 - Microsemi announced it's shipping secure rugged SATA SSD chips for embedded defense applications with upto 75GB SLC capacity in a single 32mm x 28mm PBGA (plastic ball grid array).

Advanced security features include AES-128 encryption, self-destruct capability and whole-module erase with "push-button" trigger option, which are essential for mission-critical defense and aerospace applications, ruggedized mobile systems, surveillance, avionics, navigation and ruggedized portable storage solutions.

"Our ability to miniaturize microelectronics systems has proven to be a key advantage in defense applications where SWaP solutions are critical," said Jack Bogdanski, director of marketing for Microsemi. "Offering a complete solid state storage system in a compact module allows designers to add more features to their systems, while supporting key security features that are increasingly important to our defense and aerospace customers."

Editor's comments:- as with their 2.5" SSDs - Microsemi's new SSD chips protect data integrity from sudden power loss using a unique architecture which doesn't involve batteries or supercaps.


InnoDisk magic makes MLC SSDs last 7x longer than SLC

Editor:- September 27, 2011 - InnoDisk has turned the conventional wisdom about MLC vs SLC life on its head in a press release about its newest "EverGreen" (industrial SSDs).

The company says that its, MLC based, .EverGreen Plus Series has a lifespan which is 7x longer than traditional SLC SSDs, and 140x better than conventional MLC SSDs - due to a combination of features in its SSD architecture. The company recently published a report which compared the raw incoming quality of various generations of MLC and SLC - so it knows that data integrity, endurance and power vulnerabilities are hard bridges for mission critical SSDs to cross.

See also:- MLC seniors live longer in my SSD care home


the fastest PCIe SLC SSD

Editor:- September 27, 2011 - Texas Memory Systems is promoting an independent PCIe SSDs benchmark test (pdf) - which illustrates the performance of its - RamSan-70.

The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre - which earlier published similar reports about competing PCIe SLC SSDs - said - "The RamSan-70 provided by far the best IOPS result we have ever measured..."

"It wouldn't surprise anyone if they heard me say that when speed and performance are critical to the success of a company's business, there is no better solution on the market today than the RamSan-70," said Holly Frost, CEO of Texas Memory Systems. "But to have those claims backed up by independent testing by a respected organization like the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, we are able to validate the hard work we've undertaken to achieve our results. We went head-to-head against Fusion-io and Virident and we came out on top."

Editor's comments:- I discussed the issues related to this type of report in an earlier article - the 3 fastest flash PCIe SSDs list.


Violin unveils naked cost advantages in reliable SSD arrays

Editor:- September 27, 2011 - Violin Memory today announced new models and options in its range of fast iSCSI / FC SAN rackmount SSDs.

The new 6000 series - designed for high availability applications with no single point of failure and hot swappable "everything" - provides 12TB SLC, or 22TB MLC usable capacity with 200/600 microseconds mixed latency, 1 million / 500K sustained RAIDed spike free write IOPS, in 3U rackspace at a list price around $37K / $20K per terabyte.

For less demanding applications (but still featuring hot swap memory modules) the company has also extended its lower priced 3000 series to 16TB SLC usable capacity.

Editor's comments:- when I spoke to Violin's CEO - Don Basile about the new 6000 series he was curious about how I would tell you what's unique about this product and signal whether it's relevant to you or not.

I said - when it comes to reliability - you've either got it - or you haven't - and there aren't too many enterprise SSD systems which have hot-swap everything. That's one of the reasons the latency looks slow - compared to many other fast SSDs - because the figures quoted here include the latency of the internal factory built protection schemes.

Another angle - I said is your product is an example of "big SSD architecture". When I explained what I meant - Don agreed and said what it means for the customer is lower price. Because when you look at the raw capacity that's lost to over-provisioning and RAID like protection and get down to the usable capacity that the customer sees in an MLC rack - say - then Violin's 6000 delivers about 70% of the raw capacity - versus nearer to 30% in an array of 2.5" SSDs for example. That confers a 2 to 1 native cost and density (SSD TB/U) advantage.

I said Violin's density looks good too - compared say to Kaminario's K2.

I also said - that our SSD readers would recognize what was meant by "spike-free" IOPS - because of various past articles about this - and because another enterprise flash vendor - Virident Systems - had made that one of the differences they talk about compared to some other flash PCIe SSD companies. I knew that in Violin's case that was due to their patented non-blocking write architecture - which was explained to me when their first flash products came to market in 2008.

Don said - that inside their protection array they're actually doing 5x more IOPS than the customer is seeing outside the box and on the datasheet - and that helps too.

I also asked about price - and where they were relative to $30K / TB - which is the ballpark for this type of product - and you can see where Violin are above. That's a competitive figure for a no SPOF SSD.

I said that for people who are serious about enterprise SSDs it's relatively easy to decide what products you may want to focus in on after just seeing a couple of simple metrics.

Don did also mention a comparative write up - about their SSD versus another so called "tier 1" storage solution - from EMC. Violin think it makes them look pretty good - but I can't understand why anyone cares how they stack up to EMC - who never understood the SSD plot - which is why their (at one time) prime SSD supplier STEC has had a bumpy revenue stream in recent years.

I had one final question for Don - which wasn't about Violin's new SSD - but about something which had come to my attention while I was googling the company just before our conversation.

When can we expect to see a picture of a naked man featured on a Vmem poster ad? - I asked.

He laughed and indicated it wouldn't be anytime soon.


Dell will distribute Dataram's auto tiering SSD

Editor:- September 22, 2011 - Dataram announced that Dell OEM Solutions will manufacture, provide hardware customization, distribute and support Dataram's FC SAN compatible auto-tiering / SSD ASAP - the XcelaSAN from November 2011.

Editor's comments:- Since Dataram launched the XcelaSAN 2 years ago it has fixed perceived gaps in its failover characteristics and established some impressive customer reference sites. But sales have been slow.

Part of the problem has been that this product is aimed at users who don't have the technical resources within their workgroups to tune vanilla SSD accelerators in SANs because of the many complex data architecture decisions which then arise. That's why they need auto-tiering.

But without internal safety nets these ideal potential customers have to be absolutely confident that it works and will be supported. This deal with Dell goes a long way to doing that - and will tip the balance for many who liked the idea but needed the reassurance that a 3rd party heavyweight company has looked at the design and is prepared to support it.


OCZ opens new chapter in notebook SSD history

Editor:- September 20, 2011 - OCZ today launched its Synapse Cache Series 2.5" SATA SSDs for Windows 7 environments.

The new SSDs (64GB / 128GB, R/W speeds upto 510/550MB/s, 80,000 IOPS) integrate NVELO's Dataplex cache / SSD ASAP software to dynamically manage the SSD in conjunction with standard hard disk drives.

When used to support a pre-existing terabyte hard drive - the overall performance for popular PC benchmark tasks can be 4x to 6x faster - as the software learns where the hot data resides in that user's PC - according to benchmarks and data in OCZ's related white paper (pdf) . No data migration or OS installation is required.

OCZ's Director of Caching and Hybrids, Tobias Brinkman said the new product - "... Is a big win for a large number of (PC) customers who value SSD performance but still require HDD capacity. We are proud to be the first to offer this no-compromise approach to enabling high-performance..."

Editor's comments:- you're going to see a lot more solutions like this - as SSD makers license the critical caching software from the many companies who currently offer it.

This approach - from OCZ - of wrapping the caching software around a vanilla high performance SATA SSD is a much better business prospect for the PC market than the discredited notion of integrating both flash cache and HDD inside a single SATA hybrid. It works better because the SSD itself can still be sold for SSD-only markets - in addition to the cache market - the CPU is the one already in the PC (and not an add-on controller) and there isn't a compromize between the profit margins on the HDD and the SSD.

The first 5 years of SSD notebook history was a narrative of Scrooge-like designs and many failed market promises. Looking ahead into 2012 - new waves of no-compromize solid state solutions could transform this part of the SSD market.


SANRAD enters the SSD ASAP market

Editor:- September 20, 2011 - SANRAD has entered the auto-tiering SSD / SSD ASAPs market with the launch of its new VXL software which supports its family of FC and GbE unified storage network routers.

"Many organizations are adding flash resources to their virtual server environments but aren't able to use them efficiently," says Dr Allon Cohen, SANRAD's VP Marketing. "By combining our software with their infrastructure, they instantly have faster access, more secure data, and resilience."

Editor's comments:- the thinking behind SANRAD's acceleration architecture is described in this white paper - Where to put your flash SSD accelerators - for best enterprise results (pdf)


MLC in enterprise SSDs -forget wear-leveling etc - it's all done by magic

Editor:- September 19, 2011 - flash SSDs have been used as accelerators in enterprise server apps since 2004 - and the arguments about whether it's a good or bad thing have changed a lot in that time too.

As a rough guide - it's 450x harder today to guarantee the operating life of a typical high speed 2.5" SATA flash SSD than it used to be - just looking at the intrinsic metrics related to endurance and R/W speeds. And that's before you take into account the even greater R/W demands in PCIe SSDs. As we all know - enterprise flash SSD designers have been using all sorts of architectural features and patented tricks to wrap around raw flash to ensure that burn-out is something you can (mostly) forget about when you choose an MLC SSD supplier. But there's a danger that vendors are moving away from easily comparable technical explanations in their marketing towards a situation where they say in effect - trust me - my magic way of doing MLC SSDs is the best- even when they are using the same (or worse) flash than their competitors. ...read the updated article MLC vs SLC and all that enterprise stuff.


SDS shrinks SSD IOPS in VMware

Editor:- September 15, 2011 - the use of SSDs with VMware has popped up in these news pages in recent years more times than I care to count. But I got a new angle on this a few days ago in a discussion with Linda LaPorta, President of Superior Data Solutions .

Now you may ask - who is SDS? (the spelling is important here) and what do they know about SSDs? (It had been several years since I last heard from them too.) But you've all heard about STEC's ZeusIOPS - right? - Well SDS was selling this particular enterprise flash SSD design in 2006 - before STEC acquired it from Gnutek. An SDS platform was also one of Sun's early SSD offerings too. But SDS have switched focus from raw hardware to applications - and they are the US distributor for a product called VirtualStorm.

Linda LaPorta told me - "...Our software is changing the game in VDI. Right now IOPs is a big barrier to the acceptance of VDI because the cost to implement storage can be very high. (Windows 7 users are figuring 24-28 IOPs per VM…gets pricey if you need to provision HDAs for 10,000). We need a fast IO device to store the virtual applications. We like a fast SSD, but it only needs to be 100 to 200GB. It is a read only drive that stores the master image of each application. All the VM's go to a well cached raid system. This is where we reduce the IOPs to 2-4 /VM and we keep the capacity requirement to 3GB/per VM (which is actually making it AFFORDABLE to consider all SSD instead of HDDs)..."


Fusion-io can do secure erase in less than 60 seconds

Editor:- September 15, 2011 - Fusion-io today announced that its new SureErase data sanitization tool has been confirmed as meeting Department of Defense sanitization standards by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

SureErase enables users to securely remove/erase all data on any ioMemory-based technology, following DoD/NIST standards, regardless of capacity, in less than 1 minute.

Editor's comments:- although that sounds like a long time - relative to fast purge SSDs (and it is too long for some applications) nevertheless when you take into account that many of Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs have multi-terabyte capacities - it's impressive. See also:- disk sanitizers


Anobit joins the high performance 2.5" MLC set

Editor:- September 14, 2011 - Anobit today announced it is sampling the fastest (yet) 2.5" SATA SSDs based on its own controller design.

The new Genesis SSDs (upto 400GB) delivers up to 70,000/40,000 IOPS (4K block size) and 510 MB/s sequential read/write with non-compressible data (that's a side swipe at SandForce) using 2xnm MLC NAND. Anobit says its patented Memory Signal Processing technology elevates MLC endurance from 3,000 write cycles to over 50,000.

Editor's comments:- like STEC - Anobit has adopted - 10x drive writes / day for 5 years - as the market acceptance criteria for a general purpose enterprise SSD. Anobit is now on a head-on a collision course with STEC, SandForce, SanDisk and others with a product which will increase competition (and reduce prices) in the high end 2.5" SSD market.

...Later:- the new approach to managing flash characteristics - which was pioneered by Anobit and STEC - became a major industry trend - which was later analyzed in this article - Adaptive R/W and DSP ECC IP for use in flash SSDs


Intel launches general purpose 2.5" enterprise MLC SSD

Editor:- September 14, 2011 - Intel has launched a new 2.5" SATA MLC SSD for hard drive replacement in datacenters.

The 710 series (1K unit price is $1,929 for 300GB) has low performance (by SSD standards) - with random R/W IOPS of 38,500 IOPS and 2,700 respectively. But this performance is more than good enough for use in general purpose bulk storage arrays. And we're going to see bigger performance spreads between the fastest and slowest SSDs in datacenters in future as they get value designed to fit more specialist roles.

Editor's comments:- Intel said it has enhanced the power-loss data protection compared to previous models. Frankly - it couldn't have de-enhanced it. UBER is quoted as 1 sector per 10-16 - which is OK - but nowhere near the best.


SSDs vs HDDs - groan... not that again

Editor:- September 14, 2011 - You'd be surprised how many people still think about the SSD market as an SSD vs HDD thing...

That idea is just so out of date - and I never saw it that way. But I still get thousands of new readers / month coming into 6-10 year old vendor written articles centered around that theme. To redirect or not redirect? That is the question... Instead of redirecting those old pages - this morning I mixed up some recycled SSD content filler paste and slapped it on the old web cracks to bring this theme up to date on those pages as you can see in my new article (is article the right word here?) and you can see the messy result in - SSDs replacing HDDs? - that's not exactly the way it happened.

My headline - "SSDs vs HDDs - groan... not that again" - comes from the fact that Google still brings in thousands of new readers every month to some really ancient SSD articles published here 6 to 10 years ago. It's not their fault - it's due to link volume. (I had been ignoring it before and hoping it would go away.) So to satisfy the demand for those new readers - searching for that old concept - I've patched the link gap.

Most of you don't need to read it -unless you think the solid state storage market is really about SSDs replacing HDDs. In reality it's about much more than that. Let your mouse decide betwen ...read the new stop-gap article, or instead ...read newer artcles about SSD adoption - or hitting the back.button - or scroll down a bit more and see what comes next...


finally SANward bound... Fusion-io inside Kaminario's K2

Editor:- September 13, 2011 - Kaminario announced it has integrated Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs as a new option in its K2 FC SAN compatible SSD product line (which was until now RAM SSD only) to provide flash and hybrid storage options.

Using the new options the K2 can provide from 3 to 30TB of non-stop, protected and self healing, blade server based flash storage in 4U to 12U of rack space with R/W latency of 260 / 150 microseconds at a list price of $30K / TB.

Editor's comments:- Kaminario was already thinking about how to do a flash option when I spoke to them in March - but at that time they hadn't made a definite decision about how they were going to proceed. I've said to several RAM SSD makers in the past year or so - that working with Fusion-io can make business sense - because when a user has an installed base of flash acclerated servers that opens up opportunities for upstream SAN SSDs.

Anyway Kaminario's VP of marketing - Gareth Taube - told me yesterday he remembered that earlier conversation and said it was funny how when they were going around visiting potential customers for their RAM based K2 - how many times the sales people from Fusion-io were just going out the same doors. Anyway - they met up with Fusion-io's CEO David Flynn and did a deal.

If you're interested - you can see what I think it means for Kaminario by reading my comments their profile page.

I almost forgot... You may be wondering - what do I mean by my headline? - the "finally SANward bound" part?

Well - when Fusion-io came to market - 4 years ago (September 25, 2007) - a lot of the publicity following their launch talked about their product being a SAN SSD.

Of course it wasn't - but it was just their way of communicating with simple editors and analysts who didn't know any better - that they were in the enterprise SSD market space. Because at that time (in 2007) the SAN market was already 13 years old and well understood - whereas the PCIe SSD market wasn't.

Nowdays many other companies also sell Fusion-io inside - for example 3 server companies whose names are composed of 2, 3 and 4 letter words / acronyms - but the K2 is the first time that Fusion-io's ioMemory modules have appeared in a collaboratively designed and marketed - unashamedly FC SAN storage product.

...Later:- Having got into the flash market via Fusion-io's technology - Kaminario later switched to other suppliers (initially 2.5" SSDs from SMART Storage).

One reason was that Fusion-io itself launched into the rackmount SSD market too - and so became a competitor to Kaminario.

In the end - SanDisk acquired both Fusion and SMART - but by then Kaminario had demonstrated that it could build flash systems from anyone's SSDs - and was not dependent on any particular enterprise supplier.


OCZ's low profile SATA 3 SSDs inside LG notebooks

Editor:- September 13, 2011 - OCZ has been supplying custom SSDs which use its Indilinx Everest SSD controller to LG for use in its in LGP220 ultra-thin notebooks.

The 7.5mm high 128GB custom SATA SSD leverages the Everest's "instant-on" features and low power consumption features.


new low cost enterprise 2.5" SSD from SMART

Editor:- September 13, 2011 - next month SMART will begin sampling a new 2.5" SATA MLC SSD aimed at cost sensitive / general purpose enterprise storage apps.

The XceedStor 500S (60GB to 480GB capacity, 600MB/s burst throughput) combines a SandForce controller with SMART's proven power fail technology. UBER is less than 1 in 10-18 bits read, an 100x improvement over the JEDEC JESD 218 spec for enterprise grade SSDs. See also:- Surviving SSD sudden power loss, Data Integrity in flash SSD Design, 2.5" SSDs.


when it pays to understand the SSD market

Editor:- September 12, 2011 - as the SSD market gets bigger - so too does the cost of not understanding it and making the wrong SSD business decisions.

That's probably why the SSD market analysts page has moved up into the top 10 weekly articles viewed by StorageSearch.com readers for the first time. My email is always burning with hot SSD market questions - but the web stats confirm that it's a significant trend.


RunCore samples new SSD chip for smart phones

Editor:- September 12, 2011 - RunCore is sampling a low power SATA SSD chip - in a BGA micro-chip package for embedded apps like mobile phones and tablet PCs.

The rSSD T100 will be available in industrial temperature versions - and includes SMART commands to monitor the life expectancy of the product.

"MCP products will be the next high market demand in the future, and we foresee that this growth will increase exponentially " said , the RunCore's CEO Jack Wu.

Editor's comments:- the 1st "disk on chip" products came to market 17 years ago in 1994. In those days flash controllers were simpler. Wear-out wasn't an issue because of the slow interfaces and high endurance (large geometry) SLC. Today's tiny SSDs (listed in the 1" SSD directory) - have all the same functions inside as regular 2.5" SSDs. Over 30 oems make them - for markets ranging from military systems to phones.


Flash accelerators could speed up legacy warfare decision support apps

Editor:- September 12, 2011 - Researchers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (SSC Atlantic) in Charleston, SC have published a whitepaper (pdf) which compares the performance of a Fusion-io SSD to a pre-existing RAID-5 system running a legacy Oracle app in a Windows 2008 environment.

An 8x performance speedup of was observed while using identical server platforms.

"The performance improvements and reduced latency realized in testing... demonstrate that flash-based technologies could provide significant acceleration for military organizations that require fast access to data" said Cary Humphries, Enterprise Systems Engineering, SPAWAR Systems Center.


SSDs and storage events

Editor:- September 7, 2011 - One of the sessions taking place at next week's The ExecEvent, (in Santa Clara, Calif) will be a panel event called - "So Much SSD and So Little Time" - in which leading SSD vendors will review the various "flavors" of SSD and how each technology benefits cloud and virtualized environments.

All the events now listed on the Storage Events page include SSD themes and content - which is a big change from just a few years ago.


will OCZ's new hybrid SSD be a market game changer?

Editor:- September 1, 2011 - OCZ yesterday launched a hybrid PCIe SSD - the RevoDrive Hybrid - which integrates 100GB SSD capacity along with an onboard terabyte HDD and SSD ASAP / auto hot spot cache tuning controller capable of 910MB/s peak throughput and upto 120,000 random write IOPS (4K) - all for an MSRP under $500.

"The RevoDrive Hybrid leverages the best attributes of both solid state drives and traditional hard drive technology to deliver dynamic data-tiering on a single easy to deploy PCIe storage drive," said Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ.

Editor's comments:- although many oems have tried to make a success of all in one SSD-HDD hybrid drives - the hybrids which have come to market in the past 6 years have mostly been failures - as I predicted back in 2005 they would be. That's because there's an infinite number of permutations which designers can choose to blend the mix of interface, SSD and HDD capacity and budget - whereas there is only a small and finite market in which any such combination of features will work and be competitive. Many past hybrids have also failed to ignite user buying chain reactions - because they were too slow - having been designed with interfaces which were too slow, controllers which didn't work, and not enough SSD capacity relative to the hard drive storage.

OCZ's new product therefore is coming into a market which has been littered with the bodies of past failures from other larger storage oems. What's different - and what could make a difference in this case - is that the ratio of SSD capacity to typical desktop RAM is a usable number (it's been much too low in all previous hybrids from hard disk makers) and the ratio of SSD to HDD looks right too. And the interface - PCIe means that the controller latencies won't get in the way between the host and the SSD - which has been a weakness in SATA based hybrids. Therefore it looks like a balanced design.

Is there a big enough market for this exact combination of features? OCZ with its track record of high performance consumer SSD sales is better placed to judge this than most SSD companies (and most analysts). If any hybrid SSD is going to provide the kind of user experience which leads users to spread the word and become part of the sales force - this one might well just be it.
...

Kaminario's VP of marketing told me he remembered that earlier conversation and said it was funny how when they were going around visiting potential customers for their RAM based K2 - how many times the sales people from Fusion-io were just going out the same doors.

Fusion-io inside Kaminario's K2 (September 13, 2011)

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"You can't afford to make all your storage the fastest kind. Not even when it's all SSD."
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