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SSD news - November 1-14, 2012

Micron sources power holdup technology for NVDIMMs

Editor:- November 14, 2012 - Micron has signed an agreement with AgigA Tech to collaborate to develop and offer nonvolatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products using AgigA's PowerGEM (sudden power loss controller and holdup modules).

Skyera feels misunderstood

Editor:- November 14, 2012 - Regular readers of have got used to the idea that sometimes even 1 or 2 letters surrounding a word in an SSD article can make a big difference to the meaning, market context and price.

For example when I prefix the 2 letters HA to SSD - it makes it more reliable.

In the interests of editorial efficiency I use many abbreviations - but I trust the intelligence of readers to know - for example that it's enough to say "SAS SSD" - the "enterprise" prefix being already understood.

And my sentences get long enough already anyway without being cluttered up by brain busting redundant concept loaded words which don't add value to the meaning.

I've even gone so far as to collect and reduce everything in the SSD auto tiering / caching / pooling appliance market under the heading of SSD ASAPs.

Hundreds of hours of diligent editorial care have been applied to explaining and maintaining the nuances of individual letters such as "S", "M" and "T" when they prefix "LC" - because each letter comes attached with its different baggage of IP (which all of you understand in this context means "intellectual property" and doesn't need to be disambiguated).

Likewise - as nearly 100% of flash SSDs in the market today are NAND flash - when I talk about flash - I rarely add "NAND" to differentiate it from "NOR".

Now that several months have elapsed since Skyera did its historic launch of an efficient, adaptive R/W, big architecture SSD rack - the company's ingenious marketing people are scrabbling around to find good reasons for editors to write about them. And what they've come up with is a bit of a moan about SSD terms not being adequately understood.

But they must have been thinking about other editors, publications and readers - because the mouse site reader stats show that you do understand what they're all about.

(If you work at Skyera and are wondering how to get more attention in the serious world of SSD - instead of pitching more moany boo hoo wah, try instead HA - but avoid haha.)

flooded drives article resurfaces

Editor:- November 12, 2012 - Sadly for all those affected - one of the top 10 articles on the mouse site this month is a 5 years old article - Recovering Data from Drowned / Flooded Hard Drives which includes useful counter-intuitive advice about what you should do to prevent making things even worse before you contact any data recovery companies.

If you know people affected - you may want to pass this on.

I'm in 2-3 minds about data recovery and striking the right balance in giving this subject visibility.

On the one hand it seems ghoulish to give the subject visibility which is timed to coincide with anticipated and actual disasters.

On the other hand the right knowledge and resources can be helpful at a difficult time - so it would be perverse not to mention it.

And on the 3rd other hand (apologies to those of you who saw my alpha centauri feature a few weeeks ago - which is still lurking around somewhere low down on the left hand side of the home page - and who have come across this "last" other-hand before) - but finally on the last of these other hands - most of you - who luckily aren't in a dire data recovery needy situation right now - aren't interested in DR or hard drives. That's why getting the balance right is so tricky.

Quad-life industrial MLC - from Memoright

Editor:- November 9, 2012 - I love it when SSD vendors are direct in communicating what they do and you can't get a less ambiguous example than - "Quad-life" - which is the name Memoright has chosen for its new family of MLC SSDs which are aimed at the industrial SSD market.

The quad-life meaning literally that they get more than 4x the traditional endurance - (you already knew that quad thing didn't you?) - anyway inside their SSDs it's more like 6x - and so they achieve 20,000 write cycles using their patented version of adaptive R/W technology. It's not news that they have this technology. When I spoke to them in June that's why I added them to the adaptive R/W / DSP vendors list. What is new to me is the name - which I only saw today for the first time in the context of some event that's going in Munich next week.

The only problem with naming SSDs in this way - which I touched on in an earlier SSD branding article - is that it creates a target for competitors to outbid - so you could get octal-life, hex-life, etc until you stretch beyond the educational ability of your customers to recognize these classical ancient Roman / Greek / Goa'uld references - and they stop understanding what you're talking about.

Memoright's quad-life is a good illustration of the kind of SSD marketing climate this adaptive DSP technology leads us into - which I was referring to in my May home page blog - MLC flash lives longer in my SSD care program. If you can't remember it - it contains the memorable line - "Is Lenin dead yet?"

New to me - Diablo Technologies

Editor:- November 8, 2012 - every week I learn about new SSD companies and today one of them was Diablo Technologies - which is working a new high speed direct attach like memory nand flash (and maybe other nvm) SSD controller / product concept which it calls Memory Channel Storage.

Diablo today announced it has closed a $28 million funding round which will help the company bring their concept to market.

"With this equity funding we are accelerating the completion of a memory channel-based solid-state storage platform that will deliver breakthroughs in system performance and flash storage density for analytic data processing, web-page serving, cloud computing and other server-based enterprise computing applications" said Diablo's CEO and founder - Riccardo Badalone.

The company's management background is in chips (ASIC+FPGA), telecomms and DRAM.

I haven't spoken to anyone in the company yet. But if I had to make a wild guess it would be that Diablo's product may be something like Virident's or other PCIe SSD in architecture - but packaged more like Viking's DIMM compatible flash SSDs in form factor and connectivity.

...Later note:- "What Diablo is doing is effectively creating a new layer in the memory/storage hierarchy" said one of Diablo's investors Alex Benik in his blog today explaining why he likes the company. "Diablo's MCS-based products will be dramatically higher capacity than DRAM, persistent, and deliver more IOPS at lower latencies than any other SSD technology."

See also:- how will Memory Channel SSDs impact PCIe SSDs?

despite all those design wins... still no rebound at STEC

Editor:- November 7, 2012 - STEC yesterday announced that its revenue for the quarter ended September 30 was $42 million - 42% lower than the year ago period (and 57% lower than the same quarter in 2009).

The company's guidance for the next quarter is in the "range from $36 million to $40 million".

In the related conference call STEC said that it had 3 customers each of which accounted for over 10% of revenue. One of these was an end user which builds its own systems for cloud / web apps - (SSD dark matter segment).

STEC also said it will invest more resources into sales and hopes that next year over 50% of its revenue would come from large enterprise end users. The key product areas in which it pins these hopes are PCIe SSDs and SAS SSDs. STEC said that customers are telling them about their horrific endurance experiences with using consumer SSDs in enterprise apps and saying they want to buy in future from a "real SSD company."

Editor's comments:- in August commenting on STEC's previous quarter I said that while I was pleased to see many signs that the company had made visible changes and improvements in its marketing - "years of neglect won't be cancelled out in 1 month or 1 quarter."

STEC's latest results would have been even worse if they they hadn't already reached out to more people in the SSD market with their marketing efforts earlier this year.

So much of the management's time - for as long as I can remember - is spent wooing and placating shareholders and analysts and cleaning up legacy legal challenges - you have to ask - is there enough energy and talent going into understanding what's happening in the SSD market?

Even before their star faded - they were an inward looking company with little idea of who their competitors were and the significance of what other SSD companies were doing.

You don't have to look far for evidence.

This text below is the meta description tag on STEC's own home page - which tells Google's readers that - "STEC is the leading global provider of Solid State Drive (SSD) solutions tailored to meet the high performance and reliability needs of original equipment manufacturers."

I think it's time to change "the leading" to "a leading" - if the company is to retain credibility.

Cypress article re nvSRAMs in fast SSDs

Editor:- November 5, 2012 - A new article in EETimes discusses the theoretical advantages of using nvSRAMs as the RAM cache in enterprise SSDs in the context of simplifying design for surviving sudden power loss.

The author Pramodh Prakash from Cypress Semiconductor describes how the company's nvSRAMs transfer data in a parallel cell by cell operation - which takes about 8mS - from run-time RAM to down-time SONOS. No! - not the SONOS that plays your music - the Silicon-Oxide-Nitride-Oxide-Silicon (pdf) kind.

Back in September 2008 (in a comment which can still be seen in the hybrid SSDs page) I too speculated that this technology from Cypress might find uses in fast flash SSDs. Now I have doubts, however. And here are my reasons.
  • Cypress's nvSRAMs still require hold up capacitors - to support the store to nvm operation - although they don't need as much capacitance as DRAM designs.
  • Cypress's nvSRAMs offer memory capacity (16Mb sampling) which is too small to be useful in any of the RAM flash cache SSD architectures I know about. Too big for skinny designs and too small for regular designs.
My guess is that this technology could still be useful if it was integrated as a small part of an SSD controller chip (supporting the very low capacities needed by skinny designs) - but a lot of fast enterprise SSD controllers are implemented by FPGAs or eASICs. FPGA makers would have to preguess how much capacity to offer in their chips - because the SONOS cells require a mask level design - not simply a firmware routing.

Crocus will sample secure fast MRAM controllers in January

Editor:- November 5, 2012 - Crocus Technology today announced that in January 2013 it will sample high speed 1.2MB MRAM SIMs and small secure MRAM controllers - or what the company prefers to call - "Magnetic Logic Units" - which are aimed at the NFC-enabled smartphones market.

"The CT32MLU product family breaks the barrier of traditional non-volatile memory that will provide smartcard makers with best-in-class secure element microcontrollers with a 20 to 30% smaller footprint," said Alain Faburel, VP security business unit at Crocus Technology.
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will flash save tape? - flape
Editor:- November 9, 2012 - "Flape" - flash cached tape archive - is a new word discussed in a blog - Flape and Floud - by Steve Kenniston - The Storage Alchemist who says "Over the last two decades I have been in this business, tape has been killed off more than a bad guy in a James Bond movie..."

Editor's comments:- It's interesting to think that flash tiering and caching might extend the life of tape libraries. But in the distant future (2020 timescale) I expect that anyone still using tape cartridges might find when they open them - they have archive SSDs inside emulating the tape media. It was already done long ago for floppy drives. But even SSDs become EOL and cause problems for those trying to support legacy systems.