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SSD news - June 2012

SSD news / SSD history / SSD market research
Software is key to SSD innovation - says Virident

pcie  SSDs - click to read article
Editor:- June 29, 2012 - Dedupe and fibre-channel are some of the innovations discussed in a new blog by Jeff Sosa, Director of Product Management, Virident Systems who poses the question - is flash storage an incremental or a radical innovation?

Sosa's article goes on to say - "The 'radical' innovation in the host-attached flash storage marketplace today comes from products that not only access flash through a PCIe connection, but also bypass storage protocols to drive new levels of performance and enable new functionality not previously imagined." the article

See also:- SSD software, SSD - Legacy vs New Dynasty

Important update to DSP IP in SSD ECC article

Editor:- June 28, 2012 - after publishing my article about DSP techniques inside MLC SSDs - I realized that some of you would want to know a lot more about the subject than I know or have time to write about about.

So yesterday I asked Gregory Wong founder of Forward Insights if he could add anything for our readers - and also which of his many reports would be appropriate for someone who needs to dive more deeply into this subject?

You can see what he said in this important update in a footnote to the article here.

Tegile publishes ESG test report

Editor:- June 27, 2012 - Tegile Systems, has gone to a lot of trouble to pay ESG to test their Zebi storage arrays and tell you how well they work.

They published the report results here today.

Such a shame they make you sign up to read a copy. I guess we'll never know what they say.

Don't worry. Many other SSD ASAPs and test results are available.

If companies think their products are so good and will save you time and money - they shouldn't make it hard for you to read their sponsored tech blurb.

See also:- Can you trust SSD market reports
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Seagate chooses DensBits for flash care SSD roadmap

Editor:- June 25, 2012 - Seagate announced today it will use DensBits's flash care technology in the design of forthcoming consumer and enterprise SSDs.

Seagate has also made an equity investment in DensBits.

Editor's comments:- I've already written more than enough about about this technology trend recently on the home page.

As DensBits told us a few months ago - their business plan is work with companies which sell complete SSDs - instead of licensing their technology to other controller makers. DensBits's technology spans the widest spectrum of adaptive DSP flash SSD applications from consumer and industrial to fast-enough enterprise SSDs.

If Seagate leverages DensBits's flash technology successfully - the result will be tougher competition for companies like SanDisk in the consumer SSD market and tougher competition for STEC and SMART in the fast-enough enterprise SSD market.

Seagate's technology deal with DensBits is probably the most significant positive step Seagate has ever taken to establish a leadership position in the SSD market.

However, due to the complexity of integrating the multi-dimensional IP from DensBits into real working SSD products - it could take another few quarters before we see a market impact. (It's not as simple as integrating a new SSD controller - but on the other hand - once the design work is done - the degrees of freedom to optimize products which this technology gives to SSD designers is awesome.)

just another speedup Oracle with SSDs story

Editor:- June 25, 2012 - If you're into accelerating Oracle in analytics apps with SSDs - then a customer story published today by Nimbus has some market growth and speedup percentages you might be interested in.

I liked this quote from Nimbus's CEO, Thomas Isakovich - "DBA's have long struggled with disk arrays, going through all sorts of configuration complexity in hopes of reducing latency by a millisecond or two. As this win demonstrates, organizations that deploy Nimbus flash memory systems can eliminate decades of disk array tuning challenges and supercharge database performance, increasing revenue opportunities and improving quality of service."

Editor's comments:- that's a nice cheer leading story about enterprise SSDs on which to start the week - but I would caution you to reread it with this emphasis - "flash memory systems can eliminate decades of disk array tuning challenges..."

Bottlenecks aren't going to disappear when all storage is solid state. And you will still find many Oracle apps which don't speedup just because you stick an SSD next to the server / HDD storage.

You'll still need to use your brains to control where you spend your performance budget.

Tech Report article on consumer SSD prices

Editor:- June 22, 2012 - a recent article in Tech Report reported the price per GB of consumer SSDs as being mostly between $1 and $2 across a range of popular models.

Editor:- I usually regard this type of article as banal and too single-dimensional - so why should you look at it?

Because if you're interested in getting an idea of what's happening in the minds of potential SSD consumers - the article has attracted very interesting reader feedback.

Some of Tech Report's readers are pretty impressive and punchy at writing headlines which describe what their own decision tipping points would be.

See also:- What's the best / cheapest PC SSD?, the consumer SSDs guide, Clarifying SSD Pricing, notebook SSDs

Web-Feet and SSDs in notebooks

Editor:- June 21, 2012 - "Adoption of SSDs in client, commercial and enterprise applications gained momentum in 2011 with shipments and revenue totaling 16 million units and $4 billion respectively" says Alan Niebel in the exectutive summary of the latest SSD market report from Web-Feet Research.

He goes on to say that "SSDs in notebooks are not expected to significantly impact and displace HDDs in notebook platforms until 2015 with adoption of over 24% penetration."

Greenliant enters industrial e.MMC SSD market

Editor:- June 20, 2012 - Greenliant Systems today announced it is sampling industrial temperature range (-40°C to +85°C ) e.MMC compatible SSDs on a chip (14mm x 18mm 100 pin BGA) with upto 128GB capacity.

"The new e.MMC NANDrive fills a gap in current e.MMC offerings for applications requiring high reliability SSDs, such as automotive, industrial and networking.." said Arthur Kroyan, VP of business development and marketing, Greenliant.

Hynix acquires DSP SSD IP company LAMD

Editor:- June 20, 2012 - SK Hynix today announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire California-based storage solution company Link_A_Media Devices.

The reason for the acquisition should be clear enough if you have already read the article on my home page yesterday about the new generations of adaptive SSD controllers.

The roadmap for flash memory is dependent on these technologies to enable workable SSDs. And SSDs will account for most of the memory used in the future.

what's the role of social media in electronics design?

Editor:- June 20, 2012 - EE Times is running a survey to see whether electronics engineers consider social media useful in their work.

Skyera claims 100x gain in system level SSD endurance

Editor:- June 19, 2012 - In a new positioning video launched today - Skyera's founder Rado Danilak claims that his company's vertically integrated technology - which includes both a new SSD controller and supporting SSD software - achieves effectively a 100x gain in endurance using new consumer grade flash. The result will be SSD bulk storage systems which cost less than hard drive arrays. ...see the video

new article - adaptive flash care IP (including DSP)

Editor:- June 19, 2012 - A few months ago I promised readers that I would publish a tentative list of SSD companies who use what I loosely called "adaptive DSP technologies in SSD IP" in their new designs. .

It's one of the most important design techniques being used in some leading flash SSDs - in which the SSD designer can adapt the reliability, speed and power consumption of the SSD - not based on some faw away population model of flash chips - but optimized for the chips in each SSD - and adapting the controller behavior to what is measured and learned from interacting with the flash chips installed. This is a market changing technique. the article

Virident speeds up telco billing queries

Editor:- June 19, 2012 - That legacy versus new dynasty thing as a way of viewing different SSD companies - is illustrated in a quote from a customer of Virident Systems - mentioned in a press release today.

"We needed to eliminate the disk-drive bottleneck without changing the architecture of the billing system or the customer-care interface," said David Fruin, VP of engineering at Vail Systems - a conferencing technology services provider - which processes more than 48 million billing records a day on Microsoft SQL Server.

Vail Systems improved their response times by an order of magnitude and more than doubled their ability to handle more customers by using Virident's FlashMAX PCIe SSDs to accelerate their systems "without requiring any other changes".

Editor's comments:- "SSDs accelerate telco system" stories are as old as the hills. But what's interesting about this example from Virident is it shows that PCIe SSDs can do useful work in high availability environments which are usually regarded as the exclusive domain of SAN based SSDs. Those PCIe OR rackmount SSD use case distinctions aren't as rigid as some people think.

CWCDS offers 5TB version of SANbric SSD JBOD

Editor:- June 19, 2012 - today Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions announced a new version of its FC compatible SSDs the SANbric which supports just under 5TB and weighs about 5 lbs and is designed for deployment in high speed rugged data streaming apps such as on-board wide body aircraft, and helicopter platforms.

STEC is doing better at enterprise marketing

Editor:- June 18, 2012 - Extrapolating too far from small data samples is dangerous - and the warnings I give about this in the monthly real-time updates to the quarterly Top SSD Companies List - takes up almost as much space as the list itself.

But when - what appears to be - a small movement for a company in the top 5 end of the list is accompanied by a narrative of significant market activities - then I think it's worth sticking my neck out and mentioning it.

So I'm going to say something positive about STEC - and specifically about the way they interact with the SSD market via their routes to market and general marketing.

Long time readers of the mouse site (as well as investors) have for the past few years seen this company lose its way through what I interpreted as being an outmoded way of doing business - which was suboptimum for the enterprise SSD market. As a result of those factors (over reliance on too small a customer base, being difficult to do business with, and being out of touch with enterprise user adoption trends such as PCIe SSDs) STEC's quarterly SSD revenue approximately halved in the 2 year period from early 2010 to 2012 - at a time when the available enterprise market quadrupled.

I've written more than enough about that in the past and am not going to repeat the analysis here.

What's been different about STEC's marketing in the past few months is that the company has doing new things which it didn't do before - rather than just doing the same old things better.

In the past few months ads for the company's enterprise SSDs have started to appear on various websites and the company has gotten into the SSD software business. And if you want users to download your software - then you have to make yourself more approachable.

These little factors are necessary hygiene factors for business success in today's enterprise SSD market. Although they aren't sufficient.

My brutally harsh perspective of STEC - reflected in my editorial and market analysis in recent years - has been that the company was at one stage 5 years behind the curve when viewed from an enterprise SSD marketing perspective compared to its competitors. The company survived - because in some aspects of its flash management technology - as applicable to enterprise SSDs - it was a few years ahead of its competitors. Although that lead has evaporated now.

The business steps the company has taken recently - have moved it forward from being an electronic component biased SSD company into an enterprise systems oriented SSD company.

SSD readers are reacting to these differences too - and that's why STEC looks like it is nudging back up towards the sharp end of the top SSD companies list. 5 years ago - STEC was #1.

The SSD market is much more competitive now. Wherever it ends up - these search stats indicate that STEC - competing with itself - is on a better course now than it has done for many years. That should bode well for the company's long term future outlook too.

Kaminario recommends you read SSD Symmetries article

Editor:- June 15, 2012 - I accidentally discovered today that earlier this week Gareth Taube, VP of Marketing at Kaminario published a new blog in which he recommends my article about SSD Symmetries.

Gareth says "Flexibility, such as being able to integrate multiple memory technologies into a single box (like Kaminario's K2-H), is going to be increasingly important to customers who want efficiency and customization options. This is especially true because there are many memory innovations coming on the near horizon." Gareth's blog

Editor's comments:- when I was writing the symmetry article one of the things I had in mind to do was to put more examples in it. Then I realized that having lots of examples would simply make the article unreadable.

One of the examples I was going to use for good roadmap symmetry (but then forgot to put anywhere) was in fact Kaminario - because they can leverage off whatever Fusion-io does with flash (or other nv memory) and furthermore Kaminario can also leverage off whatever server makers do with CPUs and RAM. Roadmap symmetry is a long term consideration - important for big users who don't like supplier churn and important for VCs and investors too.

...Later:- I'm glad I wrote that bit about "roadmap symmetry" - because by a spooky coincidence - 3 days later we got the news that Kaminario's investors still love what they do.

June 18, 2012 - Kaminario today announced it has secured a $25 million series D round of funding, bringing its total funding to $65 million.

does ReRAM have role in hybrid enterprise SSDs?

Editor:- June 15, 2012 - A research group led by Professor Ken Takeuchi at Chuo University in Japan has published results of using ReRAM in a hybrid design with flash which can reduce power consumption by an order of magnitude and increase the operating life by 7x according to -an article in The research is looking at implications for enterprise SSD designs.

See also:- SSD controllers, RAM flash cache ratios, hybrid SSDs

SSDs and USB 3

Editor:- June 13, 2012 -Does my NAND flash need USB 3.0? - is a good summary of the value that USB 3 can bring to the SSD market - written by Eric Huang, at Synopsys

Nutanix has a new NFS for PCIe SSD accelerated CPUs

Editor:- June 12, 2012 - Nutanix today announced the general availability of NDFS (Nutanix Distributed File System), a bold new distributed filesystem that has been optimized to leverage localized low latency PCIe SSDs such as those from Fusion-io.

By shifting the NFS datapath away from the network directly onto the VMware vSphere host, NDFS bypasses network communications that have historically been fraught with multiple high-latency hops between top-of-rack and end-of-row switches.

Nutanix accelerates both read and writes for any workload. Redundancy and availability are achieved by data mirroring across high-speed 10GbE switches. Nutanix says it harnesses the same distributed system techniques that power webscale clouds such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn clouds into an enterprise-friendly package that starts out as a high-density 2U datacenter rack.

Editor's comments:- Nutanix is in the SSD ASAP market - with CPU-SSD equivalency architecture integrated in the OS. The company says their architecture "collapses compute and storage into a single tier." You can get the general idea from their blog and video.

LAMD launches 90K IOPS SATA SSD controller

Editor:- June 11, 2012 -Link_A_Media Devices today launched a fast new SSD controller aimed at the SATA SSD market.

The LM87800 can deliver 90K sustained random R/W IOPS and 550 MB/s sustained sequential throughput using a 6Gb/s SATA host interface.

The company says its eBoost SSD technology uses proprietary adaptive DSP techniques coupled with powerful on-the-fly error correction technology.

With 8 NAND channels supporting the high-speed ONFi 2.3 and Toggle 1 flash interfaces, the LM87800 can access up to 1TB of commodity NAND flash while also cost-effectively supporting lower capacities.

OCZ interview on DigiTimes

Editor:- June 8, 2012 - If you've ever wondered what's the main difference between OCZ's enterprise and consumer SSDs, and why the company has so many models - you'll see these questions (and more) answered by OCZ's CMO, Alex Mei, in a recent interview in DigiTimes.

more SSDs at Computex

Editor:- June 7, 2012 - there are a lot of SSD companies and products appearing this week at Computex 2012 that I won't be writing about right now.

Don't worry - you can see who they are and read about them on the organizer's web site by clicking on this link.

STEC releases SSD cache software for anyone's SSD

Editor:- June 6, 2012 - STEC today announced the general availability of the company's EnhanceIO SSD Cache Software for Linux and Windows environments with pricing starting from $295 and $495 (per server) for a 1 year subscription.

STEC says its SSD cache software can used with any vendor's SAS, Fibre Channel, PCIe or SATA SSD. And a Linux version of this software, based on Facebook's Flashcache caching module, will be made available under a general public license (GPLv2).

"As one of the original architects of Flashcache, I'm extremely pleased to see this technology being enhanced and supported by STEC in their EnhanceIO software," said Mohan Srinivasan, software engineer at Facebook. "Flashcache has proven to be an invaluable tool for accelerating application performance at Facebook."

Users can choose from a selection of caching schemes and block sizes to suit their preference and SSD's capabilities. STEC stores the metadata for the cache in system DRAM rather than in the SSD. The DRAM required for the cache is 0.1% of the cache size so a terabyte of SSD cache requires about 1GB of DRAM support. Product support tools include a profiler which can collect user data and suggest the best policy option parameters for the cache setup.

Editor's comments:- irrespective of the technical strengths and weaknesses (and pricing model) of this new product compared to other competing SSD ASAP / caching offerings - some questions immediately spring to mind.

How serious is STEC about making this software work as a standalone product? And if it becomes successful will the company be tempted to bundle it free with its own SSDs?

BiTMICRO acquires mixed signal IP assets from QualCore

Editor:- June 5, 2012 - BiTMICRO today announced it has obtained over 600 IP assets from QualCore whose portfolio includes analog, digital, and mixed-signal IC design.

Engineers retained from QualCore's IP and ASIC services team have joined the recently established BiTMICRO India. The acquisition also brings BiTMICRO closer to its goal of bringing the entire development cycle in-house, from ASIC design to characterization testing.

Skyera sets up HQ

Editor:- June 5, 2012 - Skyera (still in partial stealth mode) today announced it has moved into its new (81,000 square feet) headquarters in San Jose, CA.

"We are installing world-class manufacturing facilities that enable us to offer exceptional product quality while maintaining the lowest possible solid-state storage systems cost in the industry" said the company's CEO - Rado Danilak

SanDisk launches long awaited PCIe SSD accelerators

Editor:- June 5, 2012 - SanDisk today launched a new family of bootable enterprise PCIe SSDs with upto 400GB (MLC) capacity ($2,350 MSRP) - the Lightning - which leverages SSD IP from 2 previously acquired companies (Pliant for the controller hardware and FlashSoft for the auto caching software).

Upto 5 cards can be installed in a single system.

Editor's comments:- no useful performance data about the new products was available on the Lightning PCIe SSD home page when I looked - so you'll just have to imagine how fast an SSD with that type of name might be.

IOPS needs survey

Editor:- June 4, 2012 - throughout June - Objective Analysis and Coughlin Associates are conducting a survey of how many IOPS people think they need. here to take part

multi-generational SandForce SSD controllers demonstrated with 19nm flash

Editor:- June 4, 2012 - LSI recently announced demonstrations of its SandForce SF-2000 flash controllers working with Toshiba 19nm and Intel 20nm NAND flash memory at Computex 2012 taking place this week in Taipei, Taiwan.

"Working with all 6 leading manufacturers of NAND flash technology enables LSI to optimize our flash processors for ever-shrinking silicon geometries," said Michael Raam, VP and GM, Flash Components Division, LSI.

Editor's comments:- over 7 million SandForce controllers had been shipped upto the start of Q2 2012 - and 20% of all the flash capacity in computing today is controlled by a SandForce controller according to company sources. IDC says shipments of SSDs in client and enterprise markets are expected to exceed 100 million units in 2015.

LSI says that its multi-generation roadmaps are a key reason that oems (currently 50 companies) like its way of doing things. The 1st generation SandForce controller supported 4 flash generations from 5Xnm down to 2Xnm and its current generation started at 3Xnm geometries and already supports 3 generations of flash down to 20nm. One of the reasons it can support so many generations of flash from the same generation controller design is that it uses firmware as part of the flash management IP.

Biwin enters PCIe SSD market

Editor:- June 4, 2012 - Biwin is showing a (slow) prototype PCIe SSD at Computex 2012.

The company says this isn't a marketable product but signals its intention to enter the PCIe SSD market soon with products which are closer to the 8GB/s potential thoughput of 3rd generation PCIe servers.
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