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SSD news - September 1-14, 2012

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estimating future SSD capacity ratios in the server, SAN and archive

Editor:- September 14, 2012 - Have you ever wondered... how much SSD storage should sit inside servers compared to being located on the SAN?

Obviously the exact ratio depends on the diverse spread of your data processing activities and the type of business you're engaged in.

At the extreme boundary cases the answer will be different if you're Google (say) compared to if you're an international bank.

For most enterprises the ratio will be something in between.

But if you're looking for an ideal magic number - I think an interesting debating point is to look at what people already do in HPC (high performance computing) apps.

In these situations users have already tried to optimize performance and the inevitable constraint of cost - but the starting premise is to place weight on performance.

The storage ratios which emerged from a recently published HPC survey by Intersect360 Research were
  • 36% of storage in compute servers
  • 63% of storage at the site level (NAS or SAN)
Now I have to remind you that those numbers were for storage and not for SSDs. But in not too many years from now when all enterprise storage will be solid state - the SSDs will still follow application and performance heirarchies too - and I think the split shown in that report is a reasonable analog to describe enterprise SSDs in the silos from the ultrafast through to the fast-enough.

But what about bulk archive storage?

That will be SSD too - it almost goes without saying - but if you try to estimate how much SSD storage will be bulk archive (performing similar roles to old style tape libraries and VTLs) compared to active SSD storage - during the next decade - some curious factors creep in.

Today - in legacy storage systems - archive backups and storage are high multiples (in capacity terms) of active working / online storage. You need copies of stuff for legal and compliance reasons, for backup, disaster recovery etc. And in the next 5 years or so that may continue to be the case - because it takes a long time for enterprise architectures to change.

But as we move towards the pure SSD driven economy - most enterprises will be creating new data faster than they ever did before (1 month of new date could be more than the whole year before) and at the same time the inefficiency of architectures like RAID will be replaced by the new efficiencies of large controller architectures - like XtremIO and Skyera. I'm tempted to say cloud -like - but that would be inaccurate - because in raw implementation - there are both very efficient and some inefficient clouds too.

I'm tempted to think that the combined result of these 2 factors coming together will be to shrink down the ratio of raw online to bulk archive storage to one - in best of breed enterprises - (or maybe even less than one - because of dedupe, compression etc).

Are there any useful consequences of any of these insights?

It can be useful for sizing markets.

One example came up on the same day I was writing this article - related to the possible cannibalization of 2.5" PCIe SSDs (including 2.5" SCSIe SSDs) relative to SAS. But there are many others too.

Related articles:-

an introduction to enterprise SSD silos
if Fusion-io sells more (PCIe SSDs) does that mean Violin and others (list) will sell less (rackmount SSDs)?
the New Business Case for SSD ASAPs (Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage)

BiTMICRO's new TALINO based SSDs in Beta

Editor:- September 12, 2012 - I noticed today that some new pages have appeared on BiTMICRO's website which unveil and outline a range - called maxIO - of enterprise SSDs (SATA, SAS and PCIe) which use the company's new TALINO SSD controller and hint at "100K to 400K IOPS (4KB) performance" - depending on which model you look at. The company is offering beta test samples to suitable people who sign an NDA.

Virtium asks - can you really afford to waste money on "general purpose" rather than "environmentally optimized" industrial SSDs?

Editor:- September 12, 2012 - Virtium today launched a new line of SSDs for the industrial market. The StorFly range includes 1.8", 2.5", Slim SATA, mSATA and CFast form factors that are specifically designed for embedded systems that have unique capacity and workload requirements.

Editor's comments:- In a recent conversation with Gary Drossel, VP of product strategy at Virtium - I learned that the company is taking some new approaches to the age old problems faced by equipment and systems designers who need high reliability at industrial temperatures, but who also need to be able to maintain exact functional replacements - without redesign over a multi-year single system life which will represent many memory chip product generations.

There are several prongs in Virtium's new SSD design fork. And it's when you add them all up that they can make a big cost difference to the customer - who otherwise may have to over-specify product parameters in so called "general purpose industrial SSDs" to be sure of being safe in the parameters which actually matter in their particular application design.
  • temperature characterization:- Virtium has a pro-active program of characterizing flash memory at different operating temperatures in the industrial range. Therefore if you've got an application which you know is going to spend most of its life running at -10°C, or at +80°C - for example - then instead of having to guess and extrapolate how much raw endurance you might need - based on a headline datasheet number - you can have an SSD which reliably meets your precise needs without having to overspecify a high safety margin (on overprisioning or memory type) - with the additional cost that entails.
  • continuity of BOM:- the traditional way to ensure long term functional fit of SSDs in equipment used to be via memory process roadmaps coupled with stockpiling devices from obsolete memory product generations.

    Gary told me that one of the fundamental assumptions which has changed in the SSD market is that with SLC becoming a much smaller part of the world memory mix - no-one can be sure that anyone will still be making merchant market SLC in the future just because they have been the same memories in the past. Instead the flash market is predominantly MLC. Recent history has shown that entire flash product lines can disappear without notice due to changing market conditions.

    Virtium's strategy is to design SSD families which can adapt to use whatever popular type of MLC is in the market - while still presenting exact compatibility at the driver, interface, form factor, power consumption, reliability and performance level.

    That's a much more realistic option - Gary said - than pretending that the needs of niche industrial SSD suppliers will somehow be maintained and protected by memory companies who will be focused even more than ever on the high volume markets for SSD (consumer and enterprise).
  • investing in the driver firmware:- Gary said that many industrial SSDs in the market today include design features which have been optimized to make them look good in benchmarks for other markets - due to the design DNA of other products made by those SSD oems.

    Yet when Virtium asked its customers what OS they were using in their embedded designs - most of them weren't using the OS or software which looked anything like what competing general purpose industrial SSDs had been polished for.

    Virtium's strategy at the driver and firmware level is to optimize performance and reliability with the kind of workload which more typically represents the embedded code of its customers. That provides better multi-generation compatibility, better efficiency (in terms of memory chips), lower power consumption and also better reliability.
Virtium's (complex when you first hear it) value proposition for designers who use SSDs in industrial apps is that if they know enough about how and where their SSDs will be used - they don't need to waste money by overspecifying general purpose SSDs to get the set of characteristics which matter to them. And at the same time they can be more confident about the long term reliability of what they're getting too.

WD announces CEO succession plan

Editor:- September 10, 2012 - Steve Milligan (former President and CEO of HGST until its acquisition 6 months ago by WD) will step up from his current position as President of WD to become CEO next January - succeeding the retiring CEO, John Coyne - it was announced today.

Macrotron's eMars - Marvell based - 2.5" SATA SSDs

Editor:- September 7, 2012 - Macrotron Systems launched its eMars series - which are fast Marvell controller based 2.5" SATA SSDs. eMars uses the 88SS9187 SSD controller - launched in March 2012 - which supports a DDR3 DRAM cache.

QLogic signals intention to enter SSD ASAP market

Editor:- September 7, 2012 - QLogic yesterday announced its intention to enter the SSD ASAP market.

The company says its so called Mt. Rainier technology will support industry standard PCIe SSDs and SAS SSDs - and will connect via the company's HBAs and drivers.

The 1st product in this family will connect via traditional Fibre Channel HBA. Details released so far are too vague to make an assessment of how useful or competitive this product will be when it sees the light of day.

STEC will run PCIe SSD bootstorm demo at IDF

Editor:- September 6, 2012 - STEC says it will demonstrate its new PCIe SSD - model 1120 does 55,000 random IOPS (70:30 R/W 8KB) - booting 100 virtual desktops in under 4 minutes - at next week's IDF in San Francisco.

Editor's comments:- the VDI bootstorm demo path has already been well trodden by longer established PCIe SSD vendors such as Fusion-io and OCZ in the past year or so. (And by most serious rackmount SSD oems too.)

This press release is another sign that that the born again (we really do want your business now) STEC wants to be recognized for what it can do in the enterprise - rather than simply tossing its SSD technology over the wall and hoping that its oem partners will pick some of it up.

AMD will rebrand Dataram's RAMDisk software

Editor:- September 6, 2012 - Dataram today announced it will develop a version of its RAMDisk software which will be rebranded by AMD in Q4 under the name of Radeon RAMDisk and will target Windows market gaming enthusiasts seeking (upto 5x) faster performance when used with enough memory. See also:- RAM SSDs, SSD software

OCZ revenue damped by supply shortages

Editor:- September 5, 2012 - OCZ cited "significant shortage on certain NAND flash components (2xnm MLC NAND)" as a reason why it had revised its revenue guidance for the current quarter downwards by about 15%.

enterprise SSDs - exploring the limits of the market in your head

Editor:- September 4, 2012 - Are you interested in the future of the SSD market?

How easy is it to predict what might happen?

I've been making a living doing that for over 10 years. There's a very simple technique which I find useful that I've written about in this month's home page blog. Now you can become your own SSD futurologist. It's easy and fun. Find out more in an introduction to SSD market boundaries analysis.
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Oracle users evenly split between server and SAN when it comes to SSD speedup
Editor:- October 11, 2012 - Among other findings in a survey of 400 attendees which was run by Kaminario at the recent Oracle OpenWorld event - it was found that among the 30% of those who had already used flash SSD acceleration - the use of internal (server based) and external (SAN rack based) SSDs was split nearly evenly - 48% and 52% respectively.
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