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SSD news - April 15-30, 2012

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DensBits samples new TLC flash controller

Editor:- April 30, 2012 - DensBits today released a new SSD controller - the DB3610 - which supports the latest 2Xnm and 1Xnm TLC (3 bits/cell) MLC flash with an extreme endurance figure of more than 10K P/E cycles and R/W performance of up to 95MB/s / 65MB/s and 4,000 / 1,100 R/W IOPS (4KB), for sequential and random operations, respectively.

DB3610 employs DensBits' Memory Modem technology (adaptive DSP in SSD IP) which enables a native TLC solution with more than double the endurance of 2 bits/cell (MLC), and near-MLC R/W performance.

Editor's comments:- It's easy to miss the significance of new SSD products and technologies. And you might think from looking at the text and numbers above - this is a consumer style SSD controller - and it's not for me.

But I think DensBits may become one of the top 20 SSD companies real soon - unless it gets acquired before that happens. Its flash technology has very high roadmap symmetry and the potential to impact competitiveness in the consumer, embedded and fast-enough enterprise SSD markets with a splash that's as big as SandForce made when it emerged on the scene 3 years ago. You can read more in Who's who in SSD? - DensBits.

SandForce driven SSDs get 5x SMARTer

Editor:- April 26, 2012 - SMART is close to sampling a new fast-enough (enterprise component) 2.5" SATA SSD - called the CloudSpeed 500 - which uses a controller from LSI/SandForce - and I can already see a lot of you starting to yawn or click away or look at something different on this page or out of the window - which is a good argument for putting duct tape over that camera lens on your browsing device BTW.

"Let me cut you off right here!" - I said to SMART's President - John Scaramuzzo last week - right after we had done with the conference bridge pings and greetings. "Because if all you want to talk to me about is just another SandForce driven SSD then this is going to be a very short conversation. Can we talk about something else instead? - because this is not going to get onto my news page - which has a big yellow note on it explaining why."

Just to drive home my point I followed up by saying - "There has to be something different in a SandForce inside announcement to make it news for me and my readers. So for example - if STEC or SanDisk launched a SandForce based SSD that would be news."

John said - "I saw your note - and we have a new twist on this which no one has done before."

So I listened. He was right. Here goes...

SMART have learned a lot - about better ways to interact with cheap consumer flash - from the experience they accumulated designing the adaptive DSP based SSD controller which goes inside their Optimus SSD (which I wrote about in February).

That gives them raw stats for factors like write pulse length, endurance and data integrity - when they are in this closed loop adaptive DSP managed flash environment - with brand X flash memory and generation Y process. In a new wave DSP SSD controller those figures are going to be different in different parts of the memory and different over time - but it gives you an idea of what the memory can do. (With a view which even the original memory manufacturer doesn't have.)

What SMART have done is ask - if we know this stuff about this type of memory - and precondition it during manufacture or first boot (with different parameters to the default setting done in the fab by the chip maker) then can we get better reliability even when using an SSD controller which doesn't see the memory the same way and runs open-loop?

They found the answer is - yes! They can't get exactly the same reliability that they would get with their Optimus controller - but they do get a 5x reliability boost by using the new setups with unmodified and lower cost SandForce chips.

SMART has to back off the preset numbers - to allow a safety margin - because they're optimizing the numbers for the whole population of memories they will use - rather than optimizing each part of each memory.

To use an analogy here - your average safe running speed is different for you as an active kid compared to you with a broken ankle or you at 3 score years and 10. And the average safe running speed for an olympic athlete is different to the population as a whole. Traditional SSD controllers can't tell if this piece of flash is an olympic champion or not - and unlike new wave controllers - they can't give them juice.

And here's another analogy. I changed my behavior in this interview with SMART from what I thought I would to - to do something different instead as a result of what I learned. (And I hope it was worth it for you.)

SMART's trick with the SandForce controllers is like using Dolby correction with a 1980s cassette tape. Whereas SMART's trick with its Optimus controller is like having a dynamic sound equalizer built into an iPod.

What's this got to do with SSDs? There's a new wave of flash SSD management - based around combining adaptive flash interaction with DSP. In one way it's not that new - because some companies have been working on it for years. What's new is that more vendors are doing it - and in different ways. In order to create enough space to discuss these issues more fully for those of who are interested - will publish a new directory for housing content related to adaptive DSP flash management in SSD IP in the next few weeks.

Now coming back to the "cloud" thing. Attaching the word "cloud" to an SSD name isn't new. I recall that OCZ have done it before - and there are many other examples. Maybe there should should be a new editor's filtering rule about SSDs and cloud names. Don't look now but here comes another one...

Diverse views emerge on SSD caching / tiering video

Editor:- April 26, 2012 - In a 50 minutes panel discussion YouTube is SSD simply a big cache or a real storage tier? - moderated by Chris Evans, editor of the Storage Architect.

Participating in this discussion on SSD ASAPs were representatives from EMC, STEC, Nimble Storage, Velobit, SolidFire and Virident.

The discussion ranged from - where's the best place to put SSDs? and which agency should determine where to put the hot data? The app or the storage system? Here are just some of the ideas expressed in the talk.

Caching is best because it's simple to deploy and scale - and you don't have to bet your career or your business future if it goes wrong - (and discover new bottlenecks which you didn't know about before).

Caching is a short term fix. SSD is a tier.

You need both caching and tiering.

SSDs provide new possibilities which means maybe the SSD shouldn't be hidden by caching - but remain visible to SSD specific APIs.

You don't see any of the big HDD storage box makers in the biggest customer data centers like Amazon, Google and FaceBook. The HDD isn't a datacenter device anymore - hard drives just live in the cloud.

See also:- the SSD Heresies

Nimbus publishes tick test results

Editor:- April 25, 2012 - Nimbus Data Systems today announced that several key performance and operational characteristics of its S-class systems (iSCSI rackmount SSDs) have been validated by Demartek.
  • Throughput:- a single Nimbus S-Class 2.5 TB system with a dual-port QDR Infiniband connection delivered (near line-rate) 7.6 GBps performance on reads and over 2GBps on parity-protected (RAID 5/6) writes.
  • Support of Automatic SSD Enablement, a new feature in vSphere 5 (pdf) that leverages the low latency of flash technology to improve VMware operations with simplified out-of-the-box administration.
Editor's comments:- it's a complicated business doing meaningful SSD tests which can be used as an input into performance modelling. And I've seen many vendor funded SSD test reports which failed in that respect. But recently - as the market has got more experienced - some SSD vendors are changing the emphasis of their sponsored reports to show that their products can walk and chew gum at the same time. That's the message I pick up from this Nimbus press release. How much gum? And how brisk the walking pace? It will suit some users more than others.

Permabit launches SSD dedupe software

Editor:- April 25, 2012 - -Permabit today launched a low latency dedupe engine (pdf) which has been optimized for flash SSDs and which is scalable to millions of dedupe operations per second.

The product is aimed at SSD appliance makers.

still waiting to learn more about GridIron's SSDs?

Editor:- April 24, 2012 - GridIron Systems yesterday announced that it is approaching petabyte scale FC SAN SSD capability with its OneAppliance auto-tiering product family which will be shipping next month.

Building blocks include:-
  • FlashCube (1 million IOPS, 10GB/s R/W, upto 100TB)
  • iNode (40 core TB RAM with 100TB flash)
  • RackPack (40 server system with 4 million IOPS, 40GB/s bandwidth and 250TB of Flash
Editor's comments:- I took the unusual step (for me) of registering with GridIron's website so I could read the product details. I had asked the company last December to remove this anti-informational inquiry process - but the barrier is still in place. Today it took far too many many minutes for their web site to come back with a message saying that I could now be allowed to read their datasheets. But by then I had used up my time budget.

GridIron's blogs suggest that because their systems are so fast - you'll get better results using their racks for big data analytics instead of other SSDs - and in particular PCIe SSDs like those from Fusion-io, OCZ and LSI.

Are you going to wait 5 minutes or more on their web site to get information which you should be able to see immediately so you can decide how credible is their claim that they can save you time and money with their proprietary solution?

Someone should tell their VCs that this company is still in stealth mode when it comes to web based communications.

And SSD racks versus PCIe SSDs is a flawed analysis anyway. Most enterprises will need and use both.

...Later:- April 28, 2012 - GridIron's CTO, Som Sikdar responded to my criticism above and said the company is sorry and will review and improve the information accessibility on its website. And a few days later - the log-in wall was removed.

how fast can your SSD run backwards?

Editor:- April 20, 2012 - today published a new article which looks at the 11 key symmetries in SSD design.

Whether you're a buyer, designer, marketer or investor in SSDs - this new conceptual framework will help you to comparatively evaluate any SSD compared to competitive offerings. It's helpful whether you're looking at raw SSD IP and controller chips right up to the most complex datacenter SSD racks.

SSDs are complex devices and there's a lot of mysterious behavior which isn't fully revealed by benchmarks and vendor's product datasheets and whitepapers. Underlying all the important aspects of SSD behavior are asymmetries which arise from the intrinsic technologies and architecture inside the SSD.

Which symmetries are most important in an SSD? - That depends on your application. But knowing that these symmetries exist, what they are, and judging how your selected SSD compares will give you new insights into SSD performance, cost and reliability.

There's no such thing as - the perfect SSD - existing in the market today - but the SSD symmetry list helps you to understand where any SSD in any memory technology stands relative to the ideal. And it explains why deviations from the ideal can matter.

The new article unifies all SSD architectures and technologies in a simple to understand way. Now that I've spent 20 years thinking about it - it all seems really obvious now. This is the most important article about SSDs that I've written in the past few years. I couldn't have written it before. I hope you like it. to read the article

PS - I'll be using the new symmetry terminology from now on in news stories and in SSD company profiles - so you'll soon get used to it - just as you've got used to lots of other SSD jargon.

RamSan meets SANsymphony to negotiate SSD ASAP

Editor:- April 18, 2012 - Texas Memory Systems today announced an auto-acceleration / SSD ASAP marketing bundle with DataCore Software.

"Companies are looking for solutions that make SSD benefits available across the entire IT infrastructure..." said Dan Scheel, President of Texas Memory Systems. "Rather than go with a rip-and-replace upgrade to get these benefits, the TMS/DataCore bundle will provide better utilisation of existing storage infrastructure while dramatically improving it."

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How big was the thinking in this SSD
Does size really does matter in SSD design?

By that I mean how big was the mental map? - not how many inches wide is the SSD.
click to read the article - Big versus Small SSD  architectures For designers, integrators, end users and investors alike - understanding what follows from these simple choices predicts a lot of important consequences. the article
Surviving SSD sudden power loss
Why should you care what happens in an SSD when the power goes down?

This important design feature - which barely rates a mention in most SSD datasheets and press releases - has a strong impact on SSD data integrity and operational reliability.

This article will help you understand why some SSDs which (work perfectly well in one type of application) might fail in others... even when the changes in the operational environment appear to be negligible.
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics If you thought endurance was the end of the SSD reliability story - think again. the article

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