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SSD news - February 2012 - 1st week

Kaminario's systems today are mostly flash

Editor:- February 7, 2012 - Here's an update on the long running RAM versus flash transition in enterprise SSD accelerators.

It's about 20 months since Kaminario entered the SSD market as a new name in the RAM SSD market - and just 6 months since the company also started offering flash - as a hybrid or pure alternative - based on PCIe SSDs from Fusion-io.

Yesterday I asked Kaminario's VP of marketing - Gareth Taube how's the flash thing going? And can you tell me and my readers what proportion of recent system shipments are flash rather than RAM.

He told me - "I would say we are running about 45% all flash arrays, 45% Hybrids (but the hybrids are mostly Flash with 10% DRAM) and about 10% all DRAM. At least that is the way it has been running in the last 2 quarters."

See also:- sugaring flash for the enterprise - how the enterprise adoption of flash changed in the first decade of enterprise flash arrays.

Intel's fastest SSD uses SandForce inside

Editor:- February 6, 2012 - Intel today announced it has used SandForce controllers for the first time in its new (and fastest) SATA 3 2.5" SSD - the Intel SSD 520 - which (with upto 80K R/W IOPS peak - 4KB) is aimed at gaming, CAD and graphics content creation markets. Price- based on 1,000-unit quantities is - 60GB for $149, 120GB at $229, 180GB at $369, 240GB at $509 and 480GB at $999.

"We worked closely with Intel to leverage their deep understanding of the NAND flash, ultimately providing a unique and optimized solution for client computing applications with the LSI SandForce Flash Storage Processor," said Michael Raam, VP and GM of LSI's Flash Components Division.

Rambus aims at replacement technology for flash SSDs

Editor:- February 6, 2012 -Rambus today announced it has acquired Unity Semiconductor for an aggregate of $35 million in cash.

As part of this acquisition, the Unity team members have joined Rambus to continue developing innovations and solutions for next-generation non-volatile memory.

With 9 years of development history, Unity's memory technology, CMOx, has been designed to accelerate the commercialization of the Terabit generation of non-volatile memories. Unity expects that devices using CMOx cell technology will (one day) achieve higher density, faster performance, lower manufacturing costs and greater data reliability than NAND Flash.

"At Rambus, we are creating disruptive technologies to enable future electronic products," said Sharon Holt, senior VP and GMof the Semiconductor Business Group at Rambus. "With the addition of Unity, we can develop non-volatile memory solutions that will advance semiconductor scaling beyond the limits of today's NAND technology. This will enable new memory architectures that help meet ever-increasing consumer demands."

Editor's comments:- Unity's CMOx - is one of the many alternative non volatile memory technologies which have been camping outside the gates of the flash SSD castle for the past 10 years or more - saying in effect to the flash insiders - please surrender (or preferably give up the ghost) - because we'd like to take your place.

If it wasn't so serious - billions of dollars have been sunk in the "kill-flash" camp sites - you might think you were watching a scene from Spamalot.

The flash technologists look down on the besieging efforts and effectively say "I fart in your general direction".

The castle walls keep getting stronger and the flash people inside the castle - who were supposed to be dead years ago - are counting their riches and having the world's best chefs and food flown in daily by chopper - which the wouldbe flash terminators can only throw stones at.

I've been observing and making judgements on nv memory technologies ever since the first such technologies appeared appeared in silicon. It's much longer than you think - and predates flash itself.

I wrote an article about this - last year called 3 things that could have killed flash SSDs.

Does the intervention of Rambus change things?

Well it's good news for CMOx - because this technology gets another lease on life and a leg up to access markets more easily if the comparisons ever look competitive.

But as all the other wannabe nvRAM developers know - to their cost - when you're chasing a fast moving quarry like flash - which keeps changing and reinventing itself - it's hard hanging on the tail lights year after year.

EMC gets around to PCIe SSD launch

Editor:- February 6, 2012 - EMC today launched its new PCIe SSD based product line - which as widely reported last month - leverages hardware designed by LSI.

As you'd expect - EMC say they plan to do a lot of things to support this with their wrap around software protection (high availability, data integrity, reliability, and disaster recovery) and auto tiering / SSD ASAP. And in the future they're going to do things even faster. Nothing to get excited about then - unless you are a supplier to EMC.

EMC would like to suggest that it was the first company to offer flash SSDs in an enterprise storage array Their press release said - "VFCache is the latest in a line of enterprise flash innovation firsts, beginning in 2008 when EMC was the first to integrate flash drives into an enterprise storage array."

That's an idiosyncratic reinterpretation of SSD history. In the interests of accuracy I would rewrite that to say - "EMC was the 1st company to ship lonely flash drives in an EMC branded enterprise storage array (which consisted mostly of hard drives)."

losers from this?

I guess you can count STEC as a loser - because having been EMC's original flash SSD supplier (in other form factors) they may have had some hopes that their late-to-market new PCIe SSD might get its tires kicked.

I'm only saying this - because otherwise I'll get a load of emails asking what I think - but in my view it would be a mistake to count Fusion-io as a loser in this.

FIO is the company which did most to establish PCIe SSDs as a recognized and disruptive force in the enterprise market - and a year ago upset EMC by disclosing it had shipped significantly more of its fast ioDrive flash SSD capacity into the enterprise than EMC had done with its slower STEC kind - despite EMC having had the prior advantage of a legacy tied customer base.

I heard recently from someone who is no longer with the company - that as you might expect for a fledgling company developing oem opportunities - many years ago Fusion-io offered its PCIe SSDs as an oem platform to EMC. Apparently EMC evaluated the ioDrive and poked around the issue for months - but EMC was - at that time - "clueless" about the potential of the SSD market couldn't understand what to do with it.

SSD talk with the founder and CEO of Nimbus

Editor:- February 2, 2012 - I had an interesting discussion about the enterprise SSD market yesterday with Thomas Isakovich, CEO and founder of Nimbus Data Systems which recently launched its first high availability SAN SSDs. ...rea d the article

SSD rack FAQs you shouldn't have to struggle to answer

Editor:- February 1, 2012 - what do you need to know about any new rackmount SSD? - is a new article published today on our home page.'s readership grew 28%

Editor:- February 1, 2012 - I was pleased to see that the readership here on grew 28% in January compared to a year ago.

Now you may think that's not so great when the SSD market is growing so fast. But I'm more interested in quality than quantity. In the quantitive SSD bucket - there are thousands of other sites and blogs talking about SSDs so there's a lot of competition out there for your precious time.

One good thing about this mass of other "out there" SSD content though is it means I can spend more of my time on SSD thought leadership issues. Because like most of you - I'm seriously interested in thinking about and helping to steer the SSD market's direction - so it gets to somewhere better, faster while minimizing the bumps.

If you want to read SSD RSS feeds masquerading as SSD headline news - such as for example - the 45th company which has launched a 2.5" SSD which uses brand X's controller (unless it's Intel), or a consumer SSD maker's Nth annual SSD firmware recall, or some throwback enterprise SSD marketer gushing about their rackmount SSD being so much faster than a room full of 15K whirligigs - all very important things no doubt for the companies involved - then you can read about those elsewhere.

You'd be surprised how many editors of other SSD magazines read the mouse site too. But we all have different goals and reader demographics. Here - since the 1990s - it's always been about leading the way to the new storage frontier. Thanks for your participation in helping to make the SSD market better.

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billions of dollars have been sunk into the "kill-flash" camp sites - you might think you were watching a scene from Spamalot.

editor's comments in news below that Rambus had acquired Unity Semiconductor (February 6, 2012)

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