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SSD news - May 1-14, 2012

EMC acquires XtremIO

Editor:- May 10, 2012 - EMC today announced it has acquired XtremIO for $430 million.

Editor's comments:- XtremIO was a vendor of rackmount SSDs which included dedupe and management of the storage drives in the array using proprietary array technology which the company said was much more efficient than RAID - while also supporting high performance and fast snapshots.


what would Micron do with more memory fabs?

Editor:- May 10, 2012 - Micron today confirmed it is serious about acquiring Elpida's memory business.

Editor's comments:- steel making and memory making have some things in common - they both require big capital investments and the businesses swing from boom to bust and back again over the decades.

But the difference between memory and steel factories is that steelmakers can get good utilization from assets which are more than 50 years old - whereas in the chip world - the useful life of a wafer fab is 10x less.

Recently Micron has been pro-actively building up its memory making resources which indicates confiidence that they will be able to do something useful with them. And what's the best thing you can do to add value to raw memory? You can probably guess the right answer.


sharpen your SSD R/W grid latency weapons to 5µS

Editor:- May 9, 2012 - Kove has published some new record latency numbers for its fast RAM SSD - the XPD L2 - which has achieved continuous and sustained 5 microsecond random storage read and write when connected via 40Gb/s InfiniBand adapters from Mellanox .

Kove's system has good R/W symmetry which the company says - is not subject to periodic performance jitter or "periodicity". Even under constantly changing disk utilization, it delivers uniform, predictable, and deterministic performance.

"The Kove XPD L2... allows high performance applications to use storage as a weapon rather than accept it as a handicap," said Kove's CEO, John Overton. "We are pleased to set a new bar height for storage latency."


STEC still suffers from SSD revenue droop

Editor:- May 8, 2012 - STEC today announced that its revenue for the quarter ended March 31, 2012 was $50.4 million, a decrease of 46% from $94.9 million for the year ago period.

Editor's comments:- in Febraury 2011 - I said (and this is a verbatim quote) - "At the current rate of progress STEC's SSD revenue - on the way down - may intersect with that of OCZ during 2011 going up - contrasting the fortunes of a company (STEC) which once had technical leadership in the SSD market - with a company (OCZ) which never had technical leadership in any SSD segment - but knows how to market and sell SSDs."

That's exactly what did happen - but STEC's declining SSD sales can't be blamed on OCZ - because I'm guessing they rarely talk to the same customers about the same SSD business.

Since I made that comment 15 months ago OCZ has made great strides to improve the strength of its IP in the controller, software and enterprise PCIe markets - while also improving their reach into international SSD markets.

Meanwhile - what has STEC done? It had a gaping hole in its enterprise SSD product line for a long time (no PCIe SSD offering) but its weakness has always been marketing.

Newcomers to the SSD market may even be asking - why do we talk so much about STEC at all? - given the (small) size and (negative) direction of its SSD revenue?

It's still 1 of the top 5 companies in IP related to using MLC for fast-enough enterprise SSDs and also industrial SSDs although I think it's debatable whether STEC is still the absolute #1 technology leader in any of those categories any more.

The company has been a laggard at transitioning to a marketing-led rather than technical-sales-led SSD market. Getting the marketing right in the enterprise SSD market today can be more difficult than designing a new SSD controller.


60 seconds to make your SSDs accelerate even faster

Editor:- May 8, 2012 - VeloBit today released 1.1 of its SSD caching software for Linux called HyperCache. (VMware and Windows versions are in Beta.

Editor's comments:- I spoke to VeloBit's CEO, Duncan McCallum about the company and the new product.

Like many other SSD ASAP software packages HyperCache ducks the problem of how to manage high availability environments by effectively only caching host reads and bypassing the caching SSD when doing host writes.

Duncan said the software is efficient in its use of host resources. It takes up less than 3% of host server CPU cycles and about 2% of RAM (compared to the capacity of the attached SSD cache).

How is VeloBit's caching software different?

In use - the company says its content locality caching uses the signatures of the data patterns which already are used frequently and have lots of references in order to predict and prioritize the caching of similar looking data. In that respect - the cache manager is learning something which is unique to that apps environment rather than simply caching blocks based on where they are address-wise relative to the current hot data.

In its business model - Duncan said he wanted to make VeloBit's software easy to adopt and install via web marketing. A design goal was to make HyperCache capable of being installed in under 10 minutes. He said the new launch version typically installs in under 60 seconds!

VeloBit has tested their software with SSDs in various form factors from leading companies including OCZ, Fusion-io and Virident.

Duncan commented that when it came to PCIe SSDs - they found their software produced the best results with Virident - which he said produced the fastest SSD caching results of any SSD they had yet tested.

Other aspects of VeloBit's offering (to me) look similar to many other previous SSD software products:- internal compression, write attenuation, real-time dedupe and pricing on a per CPU basis.

With so many companies vying for the same customer share of mind the thing which stands out for me is the 60 seconds install time. Even allowing for a degree of future software bloat - the slowest part about acquiring new SSD ASAP software could soon become typing in your credit card details.


FIO demos 2.5" PCIe SSD

Editor:- May 3, 2012 - Fusion-io recently demonstrated a 2.5" form factor PCIe SSD.

"We believe that SCSI Express will be adopted as a leading standard for PCIe deployments. We look forward to collaborating with fellow STA members and leading SCSI experts to share our expertise in this area...." said Gary Orenstein, Fusion-io VP of Products.


"mixed earnings results" for flash controllers - says DIGITIMES

Editor:- May 3, 2012 - today a report in DIGITIMES provides a snapshot of business activity at 5 of the 30 plus merchant market nand flash SSD controller IP companies.


SLC still rules in industrial SSDs

Editor:- May 3, 2012 - I've been talking this week to a reader who has been looking for high capacity industrial 2.5" MLC SSDs for a project which - because of where it's used - really does need the full industrial temperature range.

He said he'd been having difficulties. Anyway I suggested he look at the industrial SSD directory and contact all the companies to see who did have such a product and after a lot of work he has found some possible suppliers - but the success rate comes out as about 20% - or 1 in 5 industrial SSD oems actually having a useful MLC product in this category. So this is still a part of the SSD market where SLC reigns supreme - regardless of what you hear about in the server and consumer markets. (And the other SLC SSD bastion is military.)

I said - I think that one of the problems in finding cheaper MLC SSDs for industrial temperature apps is that the few companies who really have the IP to be able to design such a product from the controller stance - mostly pursue bigger markets - like consumer. And even if the consumer guys do have the controller technology for extended temperature MLC - they don't cope well with other factors - like surviving SSD sudden power loss. But it's good to know that some companies can do it - even if it's less than you would expect.

A few hours after posting the above - I got this helfpful comment from another reader (on a different continent)...

Peter Kindl, Managing Director at Solid State Storage Consulting in Germany emailed me to say -

Hi Zsolt, I'd like to comment on your today's news "SLC still rules in industrial SSDs" and your article about industrial grade SSDs.

The most critical criteria for industrial clients is neither of technological nor technical nature, but a process management topic: industrial clients expect a true fixed BOM management by the supplier, in order to get exactly the same product, that they had qualified for their system.

Fixed BOM has become a sales & marketing argument and is being misused. Many suppliers allow "minor" changes, i. e. F/W updates or even dye changes under their "fixed BOM" definition, which can cause severe integration issues at the client's site.

Digging deeper into that subject, fixed BOM suddenly turns out to be marketed the same as so called controlled BOM for certain suppliers, whose core business is still the commercial or client SSD market.

In addition, it's my experience, having been in that market since 2005, that the typical life time expectation for SSD product is closer to 7+ years - at least with most German industrial clients (telecom, IPC and industrial automation). And in many cases, you start the evaluation with a current product generation, that will be almost EOL by the time the client has finished his qualification.

Therefore, sharing the product roadmap and migration plan becomes an important issue, in order to minimize re-qualification cost. This is also becoming a major challenge as most Asian suppliers are hesitant to even talk about current technological matters like NAND flash supplier and lithography being used in the product as well as the NAND flash controller manufacturer.

The top tier industrial clients in Central Europe have a certain expectation by history of the past 5-8 years and new comers don't seem to understand the market requirements when they enter that market. At this year's Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany it became very obvious, that many new and "old" suppliers (Kingston!?) want to get a decent piece of that tasty cake.

Best regards - and keep up the good work at storagesearch.com


$25 million C round keeps Nirvanix cloud flying

Editor:- May 3, 2012 - Nirvanix today announced it has raised over $25 million in a Series C funding round - bringing its total capital raised to $70 million.

It's cloud stuff - so you may not be very interested. But one interesting thing is that they say keep self-healing replicas of customer data in multiple geo-diverse locations - not just static DR copies - which they say improves the data recovery experience.


OCZ's annual SSD revenue more than doubles

Editor:- May 2, 2012 - I'm not sure if this story rates as "SSD news" - because in a way it was predictable - but OCZ yesterday reported that its SSD revenue for the year ending February 29, 2012 was $338 million - (2.5x the company's year ago SSD revenue).

And in the most recent quarter OCZ has averaged over 1 million dollars of SSD sales every day.

Looking ahead:- OCZ says it expects net revenue for its fiscal year ending February 28, 2013 (FY'13) to be in the range of $630 to $700 million.

Putting that into a historical context... OCZ anticipates that its own SSD revenue in the year which has already started (FY13) will be bigger than the entire SSD market generated in 2008 - when the size of the market passed 100 SSD companies.

OCZ has been steadily moving up the rankings in the top SSD companies list too - based on search volume - here on StorageSearch.com (reaching #5 in Q1 2012, and #4 in April 2012).


TrendFocus launches new memories in SSDs report

Editor:- May 2, 2012 - have you ever wondered what percentage of a memory maker's SSD output is SLC or MLC or TLC? and other things like that?

TrendFocus has launched a new NAND/SSD Information Service which includes that kind of data. The company says that the SSD section of the report will include client and enterprise SSD memory shipments and forecasts.


HGST claims first demonstration of 2x faster SAS SSD

Editor:- May 1, 2012 - HGST today announced successful demonstrations of the industry's first 12Gb/s SAS SSD.

"We have successfully achieved interoperability between our 12Gb/s SAS drive and 12Gb/s SAS HBAs and expanders from both LSI and PMC-Sierra" said Brendan Collins, VP of product marketing, HGST.

Editor's comments:- no great surprises here if you read the SSD performance roadmap published here 4 years ago. The new challenge for SAS SSDs in this speed class - will be cannibalization from hot-swap 2.5" PCIe SSDs like those from Micron.


no wear out yet in sight for Violin's VC flash cash

Editor:- May 1, 2012 - Like many other SSD companies Violin Memory is still burning flash cash faster than it's coming in from customers - but professional investors are still happy to fuel the flames.

The company has increased the size of its recent series D funding round to $80 million - up from the $50 million announced a few weeks ago - to take advantage of the high subscriber demand and has named a new strategic investor - GE Asset Management. See also:- VCs in SSD


RunCore offers plug-in DOM versions of tiny SATA SSD

Editor:- May 1, 2012 - Do your interests include tiny SSDs?
RunCore  SATA mini DOMs
RunCore has recently packaged its SATA SSD on a chip - the rSSD - onto 3 different plug-in MiniDOMs.

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