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SSD news - August 22 -31, 2012

Memory Channel Storage SSDs
Can you trust SSD market data?
Branding Strategies in the SSD Market
Baldness cures, diets and SSD longevity
The big market impact of SSD dark matter
What makes this enterprise SSD different?
Datacenter SSD capacity may grow 8x in the next 2 years - says IT Brand Pulse

Editor:- August 31, 2012 - Frank Berry, CEO at IT Brand Pulse gave a presentation at the Flash Memory Summit - SSD Buyer Behavior (pdf) - which lists perceptions of who are the SSD brand leaders based on datacenter surveys.

Among the many findings in this presentation is that datacenter SSD users expect their SSD capacity will grow nearly 8x in the next 2 years.

Among the many brand classifications - Whiptail was ranked #2 in unified SAN/NAS rackmount flash SSDs, after the #1 ranked Nimbus.

A more detailed report - Flash Unified SSD System Brand Leaders - is available ($3,950, 19 pages).

See also:- exciting new directions in rackmount SSDs

STEC may have gotten more business from EMC if its SSDs had cost less

Editor:- August 31, 2012 - for those of you who have been following the EMC related spike in STEC's share price 3 years ago and the ensuing legal claims and settlements - another postscipt to this story was published yesterday by STEC's CEO and legal team - on - which includes a narrative of the viewpoint seen from inside the company in the lead up to the August 2009 IPO. It also gives us some visibility about the negotiations between EMC and STEC - related to possible sizes of orders and discounts.

For SSD investors in particular - the message to carry away from this is that even SSD company CEOs don't always have perfect information and insights into the SSD market and their realistic position and impact on it.

See also:- where did all the money go? - inside SSD pricing

Microsemi gets NIST certification for rugged 2.5" TRRUST-Stor SSD

Editor:- August 28, 2012 - Microsemi today announced it has achieved NIST certification for the AES (encryption ) algorithm on its ultra-secure rugged TRRUST-Stor SSD.

A note on the NIST site says - "the XTS-AES-256 implementation runs in an Altera FPGA."

See also:- security, military SSDs

FlashMAX is FlashSoft compatible

Editor:- August 27, 2012 - Virident's PCIe SSDs are supported by SanDisk's FlashSoft auto-caching software - it was announced today.

The companies say this collaboration includes sales, joint testing and validation programs, and support and services assistance.

Editor's comments:- the thinking behind SanDisk's strategic decision to support competing SSD hardware with its software was one of the things which I learned in a recent interview with the company (see SSD news August 15 for more details).

DensBits acclaimed with "most innovative flash memory technology" award

Editor:- August 27, 2012 - at the recent Flash Memory Summit last week DensBits was acclaimed Best of Show award winner in the category of most innovative flash memory technology for its 3 bits/cell adaptive DSP IP controller technology (which the company brands as its Memory Modem).

Editor's comments:- as I said here in April when the company exited stealth mode - it was clear that this was a company which would make waves in the SSD market. It shot straight into the top 20 SSD companies list in the same quarter. The recent award from Flash Memory Summit - which is based on a panel of industry experts - is well deserved.

PS - Another joint winner in this Flash Memory Summit award category was Proximal Data for its AutoCache VMware (SSD ASAP software). Proximal Data also recently announced that it supports LSI's Nytro WarpDrive (PCIe SSDs).

who are Nimbus's hottest competitors? - are you sure about that...

Editor:- August 23, 2012 - SSD companies often misidentify (in my view) who their most serious sustainable competitors really are - as predicted by which enterprise SSD apps silos they satisfy best.

I was discussing this recently with Thomas Isakovich, CEO of Nimbus Data Systems and Scott Kline , Director of Corporate Communications as they were getting ready to launch a new fast SSD rackmount system (which they earlier this week.)

What I was most interested in - was the companies they had named as key competitors.

For the record - Nimbus's list included:- Violin Memory, Texas Memory Systems, Pure Storage and SolidFire. And the idea behind the document was to suggest that the new system from Nimbus (called the Gemini ) is at least as good or better than the competition - based on what was being compared.

It was clear to me that a lot of effort had gone into preparing their briefing document - showing things like comparative capacity per U, price per TB, IOPS, latency and that sort of thing. And I told them I enjoy reading these things - because they are the closest I get to reading SSD articles (or joined up writing about the SSD market) which someone else has written.

I said - "There are 2 companies in there which I wouldn't have had on the list at all - and at least one other that I would have added instead.

Now I knew I had their attention. I always try to divert from any preordained script about the SSD market - because that's what makes these conversations interesting.

"And how did you decide which competitors to put on the list?" - I asked.

"We put companies on this list based on those mentioned as competitors by customers" they said.

"Well" I said "that explains it. Most end-users often aren't clear enough in their own undertanding of what they need - and many SSD vendors aren't focused enough yet to know which business they should go for and which they shouldn't waste time on. But just because you butt up against a bunch of companies doesn't mean to say they are your most serious long term competitors."

"Who would you take out of the list?" Tom asked "and why?"

I said Pure Storage - because they aren't in the same performance class as you (Pure is fast-enough - whereas Nimbus is fast). And I'd have left SolidFire out of the comparison table too.

Another - even better reason not to have them in your comparison list - I said - is that Nimbus has from time to time appeared in the Top SSD companies list - whereas Pure Storage and SolidFire haven't. It's less important to worry about competitors with much lower ratings and concentrate on what you can do about competitors who are already scoring better than you in the minds of the market.

Obviously Nimbus wasn't going to argue with me about that angle.

"OK" Tom said - "who would you put in the list instead?"

"Fusion-io" - I said. "Because their new ION software is a significant product capability which intersects with the set of paramaters you've shown in your competitive rankings. The cost and performance of FIO ION based systems will be an important factor in the fast rackmount SSD market."

My thinking about this is that while it's unlikely that many end users would realistically look at an SSD rack from Nimbus and Fusion-io based technology as viable suppliers for exactly the same application slot - there would be a small number of high volume end users who would be perfectly happy with the ION based solution and would wrap their own cloud-like fault tolerant wrappers around it - if they thought it would give them a significant cost saving compared to the built in HA/FT in the Nimbus product.

And because Fusion-io may already be in use in servers within a customer site - that meant that a starting point for competitive comparisons in rack based SSDs would often be FIO based - even if it wasn't an exact functional fit.

Nimbus said they have supplied their rack SSDs into customers who were using Fusion-io cards in servers.

I said I wasn't surprised because there are some apps where that would be the best thing for the customer to do. (I'll be returning to the subject of boundary conditions in the enterprise SSD market in my September blog.)

Another thing I asked Nimbus was - do they support adaptive DSP?

They said no.

I said - that's another thing which is going to impact the cost per TB in enterprise SSD racks - so I didn't think that the cost leadership they were showing in their tables would last for long. (That was before the recent launch by Skyera BTW - which is another company to add to the compete-with list.)

OK - so apart from chatting about the SSD market - what did I learn about Nimbus's new SSD?

As I said to Tom and Scott - what's interesting is that if you assemble a list of leading competitively priced fast SSD racks - then you can get very similar performance, pricing and capacity density from systems which have very different internal architectures.
  • proprietary:- TMS, Violin
  • open (array of PCIe SSDs) - Fusion-io
  • open (array of SAS SSDs) - Nimbus
Customers with different risk profiles (roadmap symmetry) and prefences about the granularity of how they replace SSDs (is it the module or rack level? - it's less risky pulling out 2.5" SSDs than conventional PCIe SSD cards for example) will lean towards one type of supplier rather than another.

For the same reason - most enterprise SSD users will wait several quarters to see how reliable Skyera's new systems are in somebody else's environment rather than risk being early adopters - even Skyera does have the lowest price in the industry.

3 factors in the Nimbus racks which I should mention here - and which I haven't written about before are:-
  • internally the array has point to point connections to every SAS drive. That's a factor in throughput performance and latency.
  • the Nimbus product allows non-disruptive software updates.
  • Nimbus use high level software in their OS as part of the endurance management. Overall their rack supports 50x full capacity writes each day for 5 years. (That's a good figure which compares with adaptive DSP - although Nimbus is doing this a different way using RAM cache in each of their flash SSDs.)
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When thinking about SSD market boundary conditions the starting point is often... this is what we expect most people to do. But what if we change some of the assumptions? Maybe stretch them to breaking point. Is there a point where the market would behave in a completely different way? And what can we learn from that?"
Boundaries Analysis in SSD Market Forecasting