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SSD news - July 8 - 30, 2012

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LSI ships 1 million SandForce controllers / month

Editor:- July 31, 2012 - LSI has announced enhanced support for the Ultrabook SSDs market in its SandForce SF-2200/2100 controllers:- enabling lower SSD power consumption, faster boot and support for "virtually all MLC flash product families".

"LSI has shipped well over 10 million SandForce processors and we anticipate our shipment volumes will continue to increase, driven by the exploding demand and lowering price points for NAND flash technology," said Thad Omura, VP of marketing, Flash Components Division, LSI.

Editor's comments:- last week I asked LSI if the power saving feature was related in any way to adaptive DSP care. I haven't got an answer yet - so it may be the answer is No.

On the other hand maybe they're waiting for the Flash Memory Summit (in 3 weeks time) before they say more about their adaptive write DSP IP roadmap.

LSI/SandForce have shipped over 10 million SSD controllers - since 2010 - and they're currently shipping over 1 million per month.


Seagate names new VP SSD

Editor:- July 30, 2012 - After 6 years at other companies Gary Gentry has rejoined Seagate to lead its SSD business as senior VP SSD.

He was recently GM of the Enterprise SSD Division at Micron.

Editor's comments:- If you want to see what I've said recently about these 2 companies - from the angle of the SSD market - just click on their profiles.

There are many possible interpretations of what this (and other recent rumors) may mean. The simplest is that Seagate is taking the enterprise SSD market more seriously.


new blog - the Survive and Thrive Guide to Enterprise SSDs

Editor:- July 30, 2012 - I've already written and researched many different types of guides to the enterprise SSD market. Is it possible to say everything important in 1 set of bullet points? Maybe.... You can see the result in my new blog today - Enterprise SSDs - Survive and Thrive Guide.


some VCs like their storage startups Nimble and Pure

Editor:- July 27, 2012 - In a recent article on BusinessInsider.com a bunch of VCs named 2 SSD companies among their list of the Next 25 Big Enterprise Startups - the companies being - Nimble Storage, and Pure Storage.

It's nice if your mother or your VC likes you. An old friend of mine, Ross King, used to classify the way that most VCs prefer to do their market research as BOGSAT - because VCs don't like to waste money and think they know market trends better than a bunch of desk / trade-show research monkeys.

If and when either of these SSD companies gets enough of your attention they might get into a more significant similar sized list.


intrinsic temperature related data rot in flash SSDs... a new blog by WD

Editor:- July 26, 2012 - Back in February 2009 - on this very page - I started talking about the Jekyll & Hyde personality of flash SSDs - specifically in the context of Data Remanence vs Permanence.

What I meant was that the apps use case is what determines whether an intrinsic physical attribute is good or bad.

Retaining stored data is a bad thing in a military SSD when the SSD could fall into enemy hands. That's why we have fast-purge SSDs.

Retaining stored data is a good thing in an always powered enterprise SSD array - and you may have thought that maintaining this aspect of data integrity in so called "non-volatile" memory like flash was a no-brainer.

But enterprise SSD designers have long known that they can't rely on physics alone. That's why you have "healing cycles" which pro-actively work their way through the flash array to repair data rot - which otherwise would accumulate and become irrecoverable.

One of the seldom advertised beneficial side effects of pro-active endurance management cycles BTW is that they suck up data from unworn out blocks - which from an apps view haven't changed and are "at rest" - and while shunting that data into a less new physical location - also detect and correct silent errors.

Intuitively users know that temperature comes into this somewhere too. But how fast (if left to itself) does flash data rot at different temperatures?

These factors affect every user of SSDs - but industrial SSD users are most at risk - because the period of operating temperature stress is longer than in other markets - and embedded industrial SSDs can't afford the type of high availability architectures of the enterprise world.

A good analysis of temperature affects on flash data integrity can be seen in a recent blog - about intrinsic temperature related data rot in flash SSDs - by Eli Tiomkin, Director, Business Development, WD Solid State Storage who says (among other things) - "Over time, NAND cells may lose enough charge and flip enough bits to overwhelm the ECC capability of the drive controller and cause data loss."

Eli Tiomkin's useful table lets you look up the SSD storage temperature and see how much more quickly the native flash will corrupt - if a suitable controller or healing process isn't in place to detect changes and fix them....read the article


Another $25 million funding for Tintri

Editor:- July 24, 2012 - hybrid NAS rackmount SSD ASAP maker Tintri today announced it has closed a $25 million funding round which brings the company's total capital raised to over $60 million.


Booting up a dialog about the future of PCIe SSDs

Editor:- July 24, 2012 - You can see how an anticipated 45 second dialog with Texas Memory Systems about bootable PCIe SSDs turned into a 45 minutes discussion about the future of the PCIe SSD market in a new article extracted from the SSD news page today. ...read the article


AutoCache for PCIe SSDs

Editor:- July 23, 2012 - Proximal Data announced immediate availability of its first product - a software based SSD ASAP - designed to work with PCIe SSDs - in particular - products from LSI and Micron.

AutoCache ($999 for cache sizes less than 500GB) reduces bottlenecks in virtualized servers to increase VM density, efficiency and performance. The company says it can increase VM density upto 3x with absolutely no impact on IT operations.

Editor's comments:- here are some questions I asked about the new product - and the answers I got from Rich Pappas, Proximal's VP of sales and business development.

Editor:- How long does it take for the algorithms to reach peak efficiency?

Pappas:- It varies by workload, but typically it takes about 15 minutes for the cache to warm to reach peak efficiency.

Editor:- Is the caching only on reads, or is it effective on writes too?

Pappas:- AutoCache will only cache reads, but by virtue of relieving the backend datastore from read traffic, we have actually seen overall write performance improvements as well. This effect is also dependent on the workload.


CRN's Top SSDs List

Editor:- July 23, 2012 - Many publications which discuss the consumer SSD market seem to be devoid of any intellectual, rational or business analysis.

A good example is CRN's recent article - which is entitled "the 10 Coolest SSDs Of 2012 (So Far)" - which simply lists a bunch of SSD pictures (1 on each page) without any coherent argument given for their selection that I could see.

I guess CRN's ad sales people must said to their content - we need more SSD pageviews.

If you're the one paying for those useless ads - in that null content zone - I hope your career gets better in the future and you can put this period of consumer tainted SSD darkness behind you.


Seagate's rumored proposal to OCZ

Editor:- July 20, 2012 - In the past few days there have been rumors flying across the web speculating on a story that Seagate might buy OCZ.

I didn't mention it in these pages before - because the original valuations which were being quoted by a site called Fudzilla.com were so low - that I didn't give them any credence. And as I've already written a lot about both the headlined companies recently there's nothing more I can usefully add at this time.

Nevertheless - I know from my own conversations that every day of the week companies which want to improve their positions in the SSD market - are discussing, analyzing and evaluating possible SSD acquisitions.

When you look at the numbers of companies involved - there are thousands of plausible pairing permutations. And at the right price many things are possible.

I always tell wannabe SSD company acquirers that after they have assembled their wish lists - it's pragmatic to prioritize companies in the Top SSD Companies list in their shorlists.


SEC revisits 2009 SSD History in suit against STEC's CEO

Editor:- July 19, 2012 - STEC's Chairman and CEO Manouch Moshayedi - is the subject of a civil action filed by the SEC - the company announced today.

The SEC says this is in connection with the timing of sales of stock holdings in 2009.

Among other things - SEC says about its complaint...

"STEC's stock price increased more than 8x from January to August 2009 as the company reported higher revenues, sales, and margins for its products, particularly its flagship flash memory product called "ZeusIOPS". The stock rise also came on the heels of STEC's July 2009 announcement of a unique agreement with its largest customer, EMC which agreed to buy $120 million worth of ZeusIOPS in the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2009.

SEC alledges that "Moshayedi touted the sales growth of ZeusIOPS and said the agreement with EMC was "part of the expected growth" for STEC going forward."

Among other things- STEC's press release says - the Commission has notified the Company that it would not bring an enforcement action against the company or any of its other executive officers. Also - a spokeperson for the company expressed confidence that the allegations will be seen to be without merit.

Editor's comments:- although this relates to old happenings in SSD market - many investors were surprised and annoyed when they lost money by following what they had assumed to be safe bets in STEC's SSD outlook.

This is one of those stories where a single letter (the difference between STEC and SEC) can make a lot of difference to the meaning. I'm reminded of what Winston Churchill wrote in his history of the 2nd World War. He said that when discussing the Middle East - his staff kept mixing up Iraq and Iran. So to avoid mixups he decided for planning purposes they should refer to Iran as "Persia".

...Later:- SEC dropped the case.


Amazon offers SSD speed in the cloud

Editor:- July 19, 2012 - There are many ways SSDs can be used inside classic cloud storage services infrastructure:- to keep things running smoothly (even out IOPS, speed up backups), reduce running costs etc.

Amazon Web Services recently launched a new high(er) IOPS instance type for developers who explicitly want to access SSD like performance.

In 3 to 5 years time all enterprise storage infastucture will be solid state - but due to economic necessities it will still be segmented into different types by speed and function - as I described in my SSD silos article - even when it's all solid state.

I predict that when that happens - AWS's marketers may choose to describe its lowest speed storage as "HDD like" - even when it's SSD - in order to convey to customers what it's about. It takes a long time for people to let go of old ideas. Remember Virtual Tape Libraries?


Micron in volume production of 1Gb PCM

Editor:- July 18, 2012 - Micron today announced it was the 1st company to be in volume production of Phase Change Memory (PCM).

The company's 45nm memories have upto 1Gb in a multichip package.

Editor's comments:- PCM fans will get excited about this.

But before we get carried away on a tidal wave of PCM SSD speculation let's recall the reason we still use flash to implement the bulk storage capacity in nearly all SSDs (despite flash's many defects and complex ramifications).

It's economics.

PCM can be viable as an alternative to battery backed RAM in the cache part of a flash SSD. Some SSD oems have already done that. But PCM's storage density is too low to replace flash in mainstream SSD applications for at least the next 3 years.

You can read more about various nvm technologies which were going to make flash obsolete (including details of the 1st PCM PCIe SSD which was unveiled a year ago) in my article flash SSD's past phantom demons


Dell launches storage VC fund

Editor:- July 17, 2012 - A report in CNNMoney says Dell is launching an investment fund for early stage storage startups.

Editor's comments:- The tranches of money on offer (3 to 5 million dollars) seem quite small by SSD IP startup standards today - but that could buy Dell a useful chunk of an early stage SSD software company - for example.

When I think of vendors who have already invested in SSD companies Intel and Samsung are the first which spring to mind. See also:- VCs in SSDs and storage.


when there's no SSD news - another benchmark record

Editor:- July 17, 2012 - When companies don't have anything new to say about their technology, revenue, or funding rounds - their PRs manufacture benchmark / partner / customer success story news.

One story today (pdf) in this category connects Violin to Cisco in a VMware benchmark.

There are many other "SSD news" stories I could have inserted in this space today - if I was less discriminating - such as an enterprise user survey by one SSD company which doesn't say anything worthwhile - and a new SSD ASAP product from another company which has a different combination of drives in it (than the previous model).

Just showing you I'm still awake. My real work is being done on other pages today. Something which really is newsworthy might land on this page a little later.


new edition of the Top SSD Companies

Editor:- July 16, 2012 - 2 new companies shot straight up from stealth mode into the ranks of the top SSD companies that readers followed up in the last quarter. The new edition of the Top 20 SSD Companies tells you who they are - and analyzes the technology and business stresses affecting the established SSD market leaders. ...read the article


Overland enters SSD ASAP market

Editor:- July 11, 2012 - Overland today made its long overdue début into SSD market history with the announcement that it uses SSD auto acceleration in its SnapSAN (iSCSI / FC SAN) hybrid storage racks to get upto 8x faster file performance. See also:- SSD Backup, SSD ASAPs.


OCZ reports 54% SSD revenue growth

Editor:- July 10, 2012 - OCZ today reported that its SSD revenue for the recent quarter (ended May 31, 2012) grew 54% year on year to reach $106 million.

The company also said it had achieved record bookings in this quarter of nearly $140 million.

Editor's comments:- OCZ also moved up 1 notch in the Top SSD Companies List in Q2 2012 to its best ever position #4.


Skyera increments headcount

Editor:- July 10, 2012 - Skyera today announced that 2 industry veterans have joined the company.

Dr. Alessandro Fin - Skyera's VP of Product Management was previously VP of product development for PNY Technologies and before that he was director of solid state storage at SMART.

Roy DCruz - Skyera's VP of Array Systems comes to Skyera from iTools. Before that DCruz was principle engineer at Brocade, contributing to the architecture of FCoE and storage services. His career also spans Nishan Systems, Andiamo and Cisco.
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Enterprise SSDs - Survive and Thrive Guide
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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. ...read the article
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HA enterprise SSD arrays
high availabaility SSD arrays Due to the growing number of oems in the high availability / fault tolerant rackmount SSD market StorageSearch.com earlier this year published a directory dedicated to HA / FT enterprise SSD arrays.
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I still remember the first day I stumbled on StorageSearch.com
"Hey Zsolt,

I'm sure, more than anyone, you have the widest audience range visiting your site because you really are the industry expert so everyone from an analyst to a VC to an IT guy wants to see what you have to say.

I still remember the first day I stumbled on on your site and thought 'haha what is this site, never heard of it' and then within minutes I realized you can't judge a book by its cover...it's the most thorough and thought-out overview of the storage market by far!"

Jessica Luken,
Director, Global Marketing,
OCZ Technology Group

(email to the editor - July 12, 2012 )