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SSD news - October 15-30, 2012

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OCZ slims product catalog and headcount

Editor:- October 31, 2012 - OCZ today announced it has started EOL procedures to discontinue approximately 150 product variations to improve its business efficiencies.

Excluding production personnel, the company has reduced its global workforce by approximately 28%. Total personnel at the Taiwan production facility, including outside contractors, has been reduced by approximately 32%.. OCZ says it will continue to take further actions aimed at reducing overall costs and improving operating results.

Editor's comments:- OCZ had so many SSD product variations it was hard even for people like me (with the time and incliniation to look deeper) to understand where they all fitted into the competitive landscape and relative to each other. A smaller focused product line will make it easier for customers to recognize what they need too.


Samsung enters dual port SAS SSD market

Editor:- October 31, 2012 - Samsung today announced its belated entry into the serious end of the SAS SSD market with the launch of its 1st dual port SAS SSD - the SM1625 (2Xnm flash) has upto 800GB capacity and upto 101,000 / 23,000 R/W IOPS (when using both ports). It also includes sudden power loss data protection.

Samsung also launched today new models of fast-enough SATA SSDs - the SM843 - with endurance rated at 1064TBW (terabytes written) - which doesn't sound that great to me - but is (according to their own press release) 17x better than what they had before.

"Samsung will aggressively produce its new line-up of SSDs beginning this month to accelerate SSDs' move into not only the server but also the storage marketplace, as we continue to affirm our leadership in the SSD market." said Myungho Kim VP of SSD marketing at Samsung.

Editor's comments:- if you compare this with the recent announcement from SMART below - you can see what the advantages are of having better controller technology. SMART is able to use smaller geometry flash memory while still delivering superior endurance. Nevertheless the anticipated growth in adoption of SAS SSDs will easily sustain the growth aspirations of most of the 20 or so companies who actually make them.


SMART uses 19nm in SAS SSDs

Editor:- October 30, 2012 - SMART today announced that its flavors of adaptive R/W DSP technology - and sudden power loss SSD protection - which the company brands as the Guardian Technology Platform - has enabled the use of 19nm MLC flash in its enterprise SSDs.

"...We have focused on making the most cost-effective flash media enterprise ready" said John Scaramuzzo, President of SMART Storage Systems. "With the Guardian Technology... we can take advantage of the most cost-effective flash, and pass the benefits directly to our users, without compromising on performance or reliability."


STEC does that Linux source driver thing for PCIe SSDs

Editor:- October 29, 2012 - STEC today announced it's open sourcing the Linux driver for its fast PCIe SSD - the s1120.

Editor's comments:- the idea isn't exactly new. Texas Memory Systems did the same for its fast PCIe SSDs in January 2010 and I'm sure I could find some other examples if I looked.


New to me -Proton Digital Systems

Editor:- October 25, 2012 - every week I learn about new SSD companies and this week one of them was Proton Digital Systems which recently emerged from stealth mode and today announced that Sanjay Srivastava, former CEO and cofounder of Denali Software, has joined Proton's board of directors as Executive Chairman.

What does Proton do?

It's a kind of silicon ECC compiler, with shades of information theory - a bit like some of DensBits (memory modem) but leaning more towards the elemental "DSP" and "read" sides of adaptive R/W DSP IP than the whole SSD controller shebang.

Well - if I had said instead - Proton have developed LDPC compiler IP for NAND flash - would that have made it clearer?


Virtium creates a new framework for industrial SSDs

Editor:- October 25, 2012 - Virtium today announced new models in its StorFly range of industrial temperature rated embedded SATA MLC SSDs and the company also outlined a new 4 part categorization scheme for matching embedded SSDs to user cases and needs. These are - in order of R/W performance - as follows.
  • "write seldom, read many" apps - such as digital signage and automotive infotainment - is the role for StorFly CE.
  • optimized for higher reliability applications such as networking appliances or industrial computing - is the role for StorFly RE.
  • optimized to replace SLC SSDs economically in industrial automation or central office switches - is the role for StorFly XE (25GB per day for 10 years)
  • high R/W performance industrial SSD (500GB writes / day for 10 years) - is the role for StorFly PE
A key factor for systems designers is that Virtium offers all these different grades of guaranteed R/W lifetime performance in each of the popular form factors within the StorFly range (2.5", 1.8", Slim SATA (MO-297) and CFast).

That means designers who need industrial temperature range operation in embedded systems can choose an applications optimized SSD which is efficiently and economically matched to their knowable needs instead of having to overspecify a general purpose SSD.

I think it's very useful to have conceptual labels and apps related contexts around which to discuss different types of SSDs - what they do, and their positioning within the market.

We already have loose definitions within the SSD industry such as client / enterprise – to differentiate controllers within SATA SSDs for example.

And I've proposed a complete set of top level applications architectures related silos which apply to the enterprise SSD market.

It's not a totally new idea for SSD vendors to propose apps related SSD categories within a market. In the enterprise space - STEC has proposed write targets and SMART has identified a spectrum of distinctly different use cases for SAS SSDs but I think that what Virtium is doing now goes a step beyond anything I've seen before in the industrial SSD market.

The business advantage for Virtium in creating a useful model which segments different types of industrial SSDs by apps usage – is that when you create a model which customers find useful - then people start seeing things your way. And competing solutions don't make as much sense - when viewed through this lens – if they don't seem to have a recognizable fit within the conceptual framework.

When I discussed this earlier this week with Virtium's VP of product strategy - Gary Drossel - he said he's already started writing a blog about these concepts and will expand these ideas in future posts.

I also asked whether UBER and sudden power loss data integriry protection was also differentiated across these categories. His answer was too long and detailed to include here - but I will write up the interesting bits in special interest articles later.

If you read my September write up of an earlier conversation we had (which is in Virtium's profile page) you'll get a picture of Gary's views on:- steering an industrial SSD roadmap in a memory market where other markets are setting the agenda, and also some mission statements about SSD design efficiency.


FIO reports revenue growth in line with predictions

Editor:- October 25, 2012 - a year ago Fusion-io was saying that despite how fast it had been growing up to that point (300% year on year) the company expected its revenue growth in the foreseeable year to drop down to being more like 55%.

And that's almost exactly what FIO reported yesterday - $118 million in the quarter ended September 30, 2012 - which was 59% year on year revenue growth.

To me that shows a company which has a good understanding of the market and the dampening effects on business of more competitors. (If you can call 59% growth - a dampened down figure - which I do.)

The enterprise SSD market in 2012 is probably growing faster than last year - but due to the goldrush effect - the percentage growth in the number of competing vendors is higher than the percentage growth in the available market size.

That means SSD vendors have got to work harder and be better at what they do (in both business and technology terms) to achieve even the same revenue percentage growth as they did in years before.


Samsung CIO forum on SSDs in enterprise and cloud

Editor:- October 24, 2012 - Samsung is doing an event next week at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, CA.

The Samsung CIO Forum panelists and speakers will include high ups from Samsung, academics, some Microsofties, the Director of Capacity Engineering at Facebook and the CEO of Pure Storage.

The headline theme is "Greater Efficiency in the Data Center" - and topics will include the Disruptive Use of SSDs in the Enterprise and the Technology Ecosystem of the Public Cloud.

If you've ever talked to SSD high ups in Samsung in the past year or so - the topic of the cloud always seems to come up.

When you've got tens of billions of dollars invested in memory fabs you need to look at future markets for SSDs which are at least as big as phones, tablets and music players (preferably bigger, and maybe - I'm speculating here - even more preferably - markets which aren't already dominated by Apple).


Microsemi' speeds up fast SSD erase

Editor:- October 23, 2012 - Microsemi today announced a new faster erasing 2.5" industrial SSD.

The SECURRE-Stor (upto 128GB) can perform a first level software fast-erase in 0.1S followed by a fully destructive hardware erase in less than 10 seconds.

The company says applications include secure laptops, automated teller machines and other systems currently using hard disk drives that may need to be physically destroyed to prevent data from getting into the wrong hands. See also:- fast purge SSDs


OCZ's new VXL software release includes fault tolerant support for arrays of PCIe SSDs

Editor:- October 23, 2012 - OCZ today released a new version (1.2 ) of its VXL cache and virtualization software - which provides high availability, synchonous replication and enhanced VM performance across arrays of the company's Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSDs.

The company says this assures that host-based flash is treated as a continuously available storage resource across virtualized clusters and yields no data loss and no VM downtime even during complete server failures.

"By combining the power of storage virtualization and PCIe flash caching, and by working centrally with the hypervisor rather than with each local VM, we have developed a solution that takes full advantage of flash without losing any of the benefits associated with virtualization," said Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Software and Solutions, OCZ. "VXL's ability to transparently distribute flash resources across virtualized environments provides IT professionals with a simple to implement solution..."


SSDs or hard drives? - the data forensics differences

Editor:- October 23, 2012 - When you need to retrieve critical unbacked up data from a damaged notebook (which you left in the car when you clambered out the window after realizing that the puddle across the road was much deeper than you first thought) you call the process "data recovery" - but when a court seizes a suspect's notebook to try and retrieve data which may have been deliberately "deleted" - they call it "data forensics" - either way - in the most demanding cases the experts who work on these tasks are the same.

SSD Data Recovery (as opposed to dumb flash memory recovery) is a relatively new market which didn't exist 5 years ago.

A recent article Why SSD Drives Destroy Court Evidence - on a site called ForensicFocus.com - discusses how techniques which are essential to the operation of flash SSDs (such as garbage collection and wear leveling) mean that from the forensic viewpoint SSDs yield up potentially much less deliberately deleted recoverable data than hard drives.


2.5" PCIe SSD - Dell talks to Micron

Editor:- October 22, 2012 - Removable 2.5" PCIe SSDs are the subject of a new video today from Micron - which features Micron's Ed Doller and Dell's Brian Payne.


eWEEK article about Violin and HP

Editor:- October 22, 2012 - an article in eWEEK.com discusses the future of the relationship that HP has with Violin in the context of an email to the publication suggesting that HP's 3PAR product line is HP's sole strategic direction for solid-state storage. ...read the article

Editor's comments:- as Violin has already started the process of preparing for a possible IPO - the company is probably best advised not to participate directly in public speculations about its future business. However, carrying on its normal day to day activities is allowed - and the eWEEK story was linked from Violin's own media coverage page.

I've commented on the strengths and weaknesses of Violin many times before in past editions of the Top SSD Companies and won't repeat those points here.

However, as neither HP nor 3PAR has ever appeared in this list and HP is not regarded in any way (by people who know the SSD market) as a thought leader or business leader in SSDs, but rather is seen as a distributor, oem, reseller or possible acquirer of other people's SSD stuff - it doesn't really matter what HP thinks or says about SSDs.

Violin is well known - among people who buy enterprise SSDs. And if users like Violin's SSDs - and can't get them via HP - it only takes a few clicks to get them somewhere else.

PS - when I looked at Violin's web site today it looked as if someone had hacked and trashed their home page. I showed it to a colleague of mine - and said - "Isn't it dreadful that something like that can happen!"

She said - "No Zsolt. - You're wrong. Violin probably paid someone to do that."


making history at the US Presidential Debate

Editor:- October 22, 2012 - supporting the US Presidential Debate taking place today at Lynn University is a high availability hybrid storage array from Tegile Systems.

"Having won the university's request for proposal process earlier this year we are diligently working to assemble the technology that will bring the debate to millions of people and households," said Rob Commins, VP of marketing, Tegile Systems. "We are honored to be a part of American history in this important way."


SSD data recovery & adaptive R/W

Editor:-October 22, 2012 - Earlier this year I wrote an article about adaptive R/W and DSP ECC flash techniques - an important new set of technologies working its way into all SSD markets (except hard military).

The new technology can improve speed, power consumption, data integrity and endurance in standard MLC flash SSDs - and adaptive R/W DSP techniques are an essential prerequisitie for designing reliable TLC (x3) SSDs and all future generations of flash memory used in SSDs.

One of the characteristics of adaptive DSP is that the ECC coding and even the size of raw data blocks within the same SSD vary. But the IP set - which lies behind these technologies is extremely valuable, tightly controlled and the subject of hundreds of patents.

Where am I going with this?

I think - at this time- data recovery of SSDs which use adaptive R/W is only feasible by the original manufacturers of the SSDs.

It will be impossible for independent data recovery companies to reverse analyse the data - because the exact pattern of coding in the flash translation layer is unique to each SSD and is a mixture of many different coding schemes.


SanDisk's SSD revenue run rate passes $0.5 billion / year

Editor:- October 18, 2012 - SanDisk today reported revenue of approx $1.3 billion for the quarter ended September 30.

Editor's comments:- most of SanDisk's business is phone related flash - but here are some useful SSD related points which emerged from the earnings conference call.
  • The company declined to reveal the exact size of their SSD revenue but said that SSDs are already more than 10% of SanDisk's revenue and they expect to see strong growth in SSDs.

    They're still at the early stages of qualifying their enterprise PCIe SSD products. Nevertheless - in this quarter - SanDisk's SSD business grew in both the consumer and enterprise markets.
  • 50% of the company's overall product mix uses 19nm flash - and SanDisk is a leader in TLC (x3). They expect to use more TLC within SSDs.
  • SanDisk said the integration of SSD software within their enterprise SSD business - which came from the acquisitions of Schooner Technology and FlashSoft - is going well and is expected to add value. (This is particularly important for the products they have in the PCIe SSD and SAS SSD markets.)
If I extrapolate the clues from this quarter then SanDisk's SSD revenue run rate has already passed $0.5 billion / year. So - unless something unexpectedly bad happens with their enterprise SSD business - I wouldn't be surprised to see a low end estimate of their total SSD revenue in calendar 2013 be in the range of $600 to $700 million.

See also:- adaptive R/W flash (and TLC), SSD efficiency


the next SSD IPO? - $Valuing $Violin

Editor:- October 17, 2012 - today an article in Bloomberg speculates that an upcoming IPO by Violin could possibly value the company in the region of $2 billion.


consumer SSD priceline on dealnews.com

Editor:- October 16, 2012 - The cost per GB of consumer SATA SSDs (64GB to 256GB) has approximately halved in the past year to under $0.50/GB according to an article on dealnews.com

That's 60x lower than prices were at the start of the consumer SSD market 6 years ago.


inside each U of Skyhawk live 3,000 Micron flash chips and a lot of software

Editor:- October 16, 2012 - Skyera today revealed a few more features of the software which supports its recently launched rackmount SSDs - along with an overview and some pretty pictures. Among other things - which were new to me - administrators can allocate LUNs according to 3 different classes of SLA for capacity and performance.

"A true solid-stage storage solution must be more than simply sticking flash media and controllers in a box" said Skyera's founder and CEO Rado Danilak.

Editor's comments:- as I said in the enterprise SSD survivor's guide - "Software used to be SSD's enemy. Now it can be SSD's best friend."

Another friend of Skyera appears to be Micron - which today announced that more than 3,000 of their 20nm, 128Gb MLC chips go into making a fully loaded (44TB) 1U Skyhawk.

See also:- SSD software, SSD design efficiency, rackmount SSDs
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"We'd probably buy EMC first..."
Rick White, CMO, Fusion-io

(email to the editor - October 29, 2012)

correcting the story

FIO acquires Microsloft's server business

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