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SSD news - August 15 - 21, 2012

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IDT samples controllers for NVMe compatible 2.5" PCIe SSDs

Editor:- August 21, 2012 - IDT today announced it's sampling single chip NVMe compatible flash SSD controllers for designers in the PCIe SSD market.

2 models are available:- a 16-channel with PCIe x4 Gen 3 (89HF16P04AG3 for smaller footprints such as the 2.5" PCIe SSD market - supports upto 2TB capacity) and 32-channel with PCIe x8 Gen 3 (89HF32P08AG3 for the conventional size cards upto 4TB capacity) - in 27 x 27 mm and 40 x 40 mm FCBGA packages respectively.

Both products support connection to 2 hosts and failover for HA applications.

Editor's comments:- for those of you who like videos - I suggest you see IDT's video which starts with an introduction to acceleration SSDs, explains the advantages of having a standard such as NVMe - which means that oems can have a single common set of drivers which work with SSDs from multiple vendors and describes more features of the products - including hot pluggability.

Texas Memory Systems to be acquired by IBM

Editor:- August 16, 2012 - IBM today announced it will acquire Texas Memory Systems. The deal is expected to close later this year. Following acquisition close, IBM plans to invest in and support the TMS product portfolio, and will look to integrate over time TMS technologies into a variety of solutions including storage, servers, software, and PureSystems offerings.

Editor's comments:- TMS has been in the enterprise SSD market longer than any other other company. But unlike other enterprise SSD pioneers which failed to adapt to the many memory and business transitions in the market in the past 10 years Texas Memory Systems adapted and became a serially successful performance leader in multiple memory technology generations:- the RAM, SLC and then MLC phases of the market. TMS even managed to establish strong products in the fiercely competitive PCIe SSD market.

TMS's core technology strength is a big controller architecture, which provides ultra low latency and very fast performance with minimum system impact when used in the context of legacy enterprise storage applications. In the past year TMS also showed that this technology can be redeployed down market to build low cost fast-enough SSDs and up market to deliver the fastest fault tolerant SSD systems too.

Texas Memory Systems- which employs about 100 people, is privately owned and doesn't have VC involvement. It was clear to me last December that TMS had changed its long held ideas about remaining independent - and at about that time they started the process of seeking an acquirer.

With this acquisition IBM will get 2 benefits
  • a range of SSD racks and PCIe SSDs which are OS agnostic and have been market proven in a wide range of applications within most of the largest enterprises which use SSD acceleration.
TMS's SSD products have always leaned heavily on silicon to achieve performance - and have been light in their use of SSD software. My guess is that by leveraging the high reputation which TMS has already established in the SSD market - along with the systems support, software and marketing of IBM - this acquisition could rapidly scale into a billion dollar revenue enterprise SSD business unit - thereby making it one of the largest SSD companies in the business.

Pure Storage announces $1 million funding per system shipped

Editor:- August 15, 2012 - Pure Storage recently cranked up the heat on its funding to $95 million with a new $40 million Series D funding round - which will help expand its international presence towards Europe. The company says it has shipped more than 100 of its production FlashArrays to customers since emerging from stealth a year ago.

is SanDisk really nurturing true enterprise SSD DNA?

Editor:- August 15, 2012 - Do you remember FlashSoft?

Many of you still do. It was one of the top enterprise SSD software companies before it got acquired 6 months ago by SanDisk.

One of the tips in the Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs - is that when it comes to SSDs - rules are made to be broken.

And earlier this week I learned this can apply to my own gut feel rules of thumb too. The unwritten rule being that semiconductor companies generally make a mess of enterprise software and are not so hot at understanding the enterprise SSD market either.

Frankly I had expected that FlashSoft would disappear into SanDisk - and would get smothered by a marketing organization which had many times before demonstrated its lack of awareness of the fundamentals of good enterprise SSD marketing. And that was the tone of my parting message to the founders along with a few words of congratulations as they disappeared into the new SNDK afterlife. I never expected to hear from them again.

So the first thing I asked Rich Petersen - (former VP of Marketing at FlashSoft and now Director, Marketing Management at SanDisk) a few days ago was - how are they doing as part of a chip company? What are they doing with the FlashSoft brand? How do they plan to develop the enterprise SSD business? etc.

One of the things that Rich had wanted to talk about was the release of new support in their caching software for VMware vSphere. We spent a lot of time talking about that too - and had a big discussion about the role of SSD software - not only as a business tool - but in effect as a new way of virtualizing and looking at enterprise SSDs and how they can fit into architecture models. (My view is that a powerful SSD suite - if it becomes widely used - can be as significant to the SSD market - as a new interface or form factor.)

We covered enough ground to write several long articles. I'm not going to do that today - because I'm supposed to be on vacation and sitting out in the garden by my pool.

So you should regard this as the really really short version - and a placeholder for much more detail which I will return to later.

FlashSoft - or the enterprise SSD software part of SanDisk (or whatever else you may want to call it) is today operating in a business mode which is like what you would expect from a best of breed enterprise SSD systems company. They talk to end users like they've always done. They learn to change important aspects of how the products work and are sold because of feedback from end users - and not because they've read that something is a good idea in a market analyst's report.

There are some surprising consequences of this at the technical and business level.

Chief among those surprises for me is that FlashSoft says it will still support other brands of SSDs. Rich explained this was just a pragmatic business decision. Big users told them they like FlashSoft - but they already use or might want to use non-SanDisk SSDs. These users are only going to standardize on one SSD software platform. They don't want to learn 2 different ways of doing the same thing.

On the other hand an advantage of having access to an enterprise SSD maker is that if a big user needs some expensive hardware on which to evaluate the benefits of their software - then it's easier on the marketing budget to get some SanDisk SSDs to do this.

FlashSoft's visibility into what enterprise end users really do - and the suprising preferences they have - which are driven by customer business optimizations rather than simplistic technical extrapolations - also means that - like rackmount SSD companies - FlashSoft learns valuable market lessons which can be reapplied to optimize designs in future SanDisk enterprise silicon.
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