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SSD news - February 2013

This page includes the archived SSD news from for the above period.

Companies mentioned on this page in stories include:- Crocus Technology, Everspin Technologies, Fusion-io, HGST, Hyperstone, InnoDisk , Intel, LSI, Micron, Nexenta Systems, NEVEX, OCZ, PLX Technology, Proton Digital Systems, Pure Storage, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate, Silicon Motion, Skyera, SMART, Sonnet Technologies, STEC, Violin, ViON, Virident Systems, WhipTail,
Violin migrates controller implementations to eASIC

Editor:- February 27, 2013 - Violin has selected ASICs from eASIC's Nextreme-2T range to replace high density FPGAs and implement fast flash controller functions more efficiently within its 6000 series SSD rackmounts it was announced today.

"There is tremendous innovation going on in the enterprise storage market and we are thrilled to be working with Violin, one of the fastest growing leaders in this space," said Ronnie Vasishta, President and CEO, eASIC. "OEMs need to continuously innovate and quickly ramp to volume production. We are starting to see a tipping point where FPGAs cannot be used in mission critical, power sensitive, volume applications and the ASIC alternatives do not meet the requirements. Traditional cell-based ASICs just take too long to design and ASSPs have limited flexibility for the NAND FLASH interface."

another $24 million funding for ZFS SSD ASAP ISV Nexenta

Editor:- February 27, 2013 - Nexenta Systems today announced it has secured $24 million in Series D financing.

The company's SSD ASAP software - called NexentaStor - currently supports SSDs from the following companies:- DDRdrive, HGST, InnoDisk , Intel, LSI, OCZ, SanDisk, Seagate, SMART and STEC - according to Nexenta's hardware support list (pdf).

Micron enters SAS SSD market

Editor:- February 26, 2013 - Micron today became the 19th company to enter the SAS SSD market.

The company today announced production of its new P410m SSD - a 2.5" SSD with R/W speeds upto 410MB/s and 345MB/s respectively and 50K/30K R/W IOPS for the 400GB model which uses 25nm MLC. Endurance is 10 drive fills per day for 5 years.

Editor's comments:- Micron is currently the only company manufacturing both PCIe and SAS compatible enterprise SSDs in the 2.5" form factor.

See also:- memory channel SSDs

Everspin quadruples MRAM chip R/W

Editor:- February 26, 2013 - Everspin Technologies today announced it will sample the first of a new family of MRAM chips in Q2.

The MR10Q010 (1Mb in a 16 pin SOIC) has a quad SPI serial interface instead of the single line interface offered in earlier MRAM devices. This makes it more attractive for applications which need the simplicity of no wear-out non volatile memory and fast write performance in low capacity and small footprint applications.

Skyera gets $51 million from Dell

Editor:- February 21, 2013 - Skyera today announced it has closed $51.6 million in financing led by Dell Ventures.

Skyera will use the money to accelerate its integration of the latest-generation flash technology and also to drive broader market adoption of its adaptive R/W based, big controller architecture, efficient, Skyhawk family of rackmount SSDs.

"The investment in Skyera is one example of how we are deploying our Fluid Data Storage Fund to target areas critical to the evolution of storage..."said Jim Lussier, Managing Director of Dell Ventures.

See also:- VCs in SSDs, exciting new directions in rackmount SSDs

Silicon Motion's new mobile devices TLC SSD controller

Editor:- February 21, 2013 - Silicon Motion announced imminent sampling of a new SSD controller - for consumer handheld products.

The SM2703 is a single-channel, SD 3.0 UHS-I (Ultra High Speed Phase I) card controller with superior support for the vast majority of NAND flash, including 2y-nm, 1x-nm and 1y-nm TLC and MLC which delivers up to 95MB/s and enables full HD video recording capability by digital cameras, smartphones and other mobile devices on both Class 4 and Class 6 SD flash memory cards using cost-effective TLC NAND flash.

"We've already had tremendous success in the UHS-I market since we introduced our first UHS-I controller 2 years ago - which was used by most of the world's leading flash card brands" said Wallace Kou, President and CEO of Silicon Motion. "Our solution was widely adopted because it was high performance, cost-effective, and supported the vast majority of available NAND components. Our new 55nm based SM2703 controller is firmware compatible and is a cost-effective, flexible quick way to market for customers who want to use the latest MLC and TLC NAND flash."

WhipTail outgrows in-house manufacturing

Editor:- February 21, 2013 - WhipTail today announced that it has outsourced manufacturing its full range of rackmount SSDs to NEI.

"When we were a small company, we could handle our own manufacturing, but that's not the case anymore" said Dan Crain, CEO WhipTail.

Crocus steers R&D efforts to simplify and accelerate adoption of magnetically enhanced semiconductors

Editor:- February 21, 2013 - Crocus Technology today announced the appointment of Dr. Ken Mackay as VP of technology development in which role he will manage and overview nano-magnetic materials research and CMOS teams - within the company and in partner organizations - towards the goal of fully integrating Crocus' magnetically enhanced semiconductor technology to the needs of industrial markets.

Virident betas remote PCIe SSD sharing

Editor:- February 21, 2013 - Virident Systems recently announced beta availability of a new software suite - called FlashMAX Connect - which enables low latency shared server-side storage and high availability when used with the company's range of PCIe SSDs.

New functionality includes:-
  • fast / low-latency synchronous mirroring that replicates writes from one server to another, providing storage node or server failover without affecting application and data availability.
  • shared storage management in remote PCIe SSDs. This allows customers to share the storage residing on remote servers and thereby scale PCIe flash capacity independent of compute. For example - a single PCIe flash card can service multiple servers.
  • Easily managed controllability of cache policies within installed PCIe SSDs:- write-back, write-through and write-around cache so that users can choose cache modes which provide better fit to their performance and infrastructure needs.
"We're entering the era of 'pervasive flash' in the web and enterprise data centers. However, until today, such a transformation was not possible due to the lack of availability of critical software features," said Mike Gustafson, CEO of Virident. "...The FlashMAX Connect suite is a significant initial step in actualizing the Virident vision - to enable pervasive flash and performance storage on the server side."

Editor's comments:- it's long been known within the SSD industry that these features have been in the pipeline - because they're based on support at the PCIe switch chip level.

For an overview of this architecture enabling chip level support and how it offers flexibility in servers and SSDs - take a look at this video - PCIe in enterprise SSD designs by PLX.
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updated SSD controller line from Hyperstone

Editor:- February 21, 2013 - Hyperstone is presenting their updated line-up of low power consumption high reliability NAND Flash controllers at the Embedded World trade show next week in Nuremberg, Germany.

PernixData announces Flash Virtualization Platform

Editor:- February 20, 2013 - "PernixData has done for server flash what VMware did for CPU and memory" - said Poojan Kumar, CEO and co-founder of PernixData - at the launch of the company's Flash Virtualization Platform today as the company exited stealth mode.

PernixData says it's working with a select number of companies as part of its early access program.

new report on embedded flash drives market

Editor:- February 20, 2013 - Web-Feet Research expects revenue in the embedded flash drive market to reach $15 billion in 2017 - "driven heavily by mobile handsets, tablets, portable media players, digital camcorders, GPS, digital radio along with the adoption of flash cache in notebook and desktop PCs."

In this context EFDs and cards are defined as sub-systems of solid state storage ranked below SSD.

The company recently published a new report Embedded Flash Drives, eMMC and emNAND: 2010-2017 (134 pages, $5.5K) which includes forecasts for EFD applications and related markets.

OCZ's SATA SSDs advance to 20nm

Editor:- February 19, 2013 - OCZ today announced imminent availability of 20nm flash technology 2.5" SATA SSDs - based on LSI's SandForce SF-2200 SSD controllers - as extensions to OCZ's popular Vertex 3 SSD Series.

SSD Review exposes how rebranded memory can adulterate consumer SSDs

Editor:- February 18, 2013 - the SSD Review recently published an in-depth article which shows how the memory chips in consumer SSDs - which appear to come from one source - may actually have come from somewhere else.

The article - by Les Tokar, Editor-in-Chief of the SSD Review - reads at times like a gripping detective story - and looks into the murky topic of remarking and rebranding flash chips - which can lead to adulteration and quality problems in the memory supply chain - all in pursuit of getting the lowest manufacturing cost.

These problems and risks have been well known in expert SSD circles but Les Tokar's new exposé brings this shadow world into vivid focus. the article

See also:- my (2009 article) - Why can consumers expect to see more flaky flash SSDs?, WARNING! - CONSUMER SSD - contents liable to change without notice

2017 could be 1st billion dollar year for non-flash nvm

Editor:- February 18, 2013 - Yole Developments recently published a new market report - Emerging Non-Volatile Memories (5,990 euros) which describes why and how emerging alternative NVM (FRAM, MRAM/STTMRAM, PCM, RRAM) could grow from $209 million revenue in 2012 to $2 billion in 2018.

Among other things - the report says 3D RRAM could start to be used in SSDs in 2017-2018, when 3D NAND's scalability prospects are anticipated to worsen.

Steve Picot joins ViON as VP of Federal Sales

Editor:- February 18, 2013 - ViON today announced that Steve Picot has recently joined the company as VP Federal Sales.

Sonnet launches bootable PCIe SSD for desktops

Editor:- February 13, 2013 - Sonnet Technologies today launched a bootable PCIe SSD aimed at PCs and MACs.

The Tempo PCIe SSD product is a nearly fast enough base card onto which users can install standard 2.5" SATA SSDs.

Another reason to look again at Intel SSDs

Editor:- February 13, 2013 - Intel yesterday announced that in the next 30 days it will ship a Linux version of the SSD caching software - based on IP from its acquisition of NEVEX last August. The products have been rebranded as Intel® CAS (Cache Acceleration Software).

Editor's comments:- I would categorize Intel's current generation of enterprise SSD solutions (which includes the same old indifferent SSDs working with the new CAS software) as being in the medium to fast-enough performance range.

Suitable customers might be end users who have never used SSD acceleration before - or users with apps which don't need the higher speeds offered by competing SSD bundled drive / module packages from Fusion-io, SanDisk and OCZ - and customers who don't want to do their caching via dedicated rackmount based products from the dozens of other vendors listed in the SSD ASAPs directory.

The market segment addressed by these new Intel products is the early majority of enterprise SSD adopters - who will be reassured by the perceived safety of buying into the dangerous world of solid state storage acceleration from a value based brand.

I spoke about the new CAS software to Intel product manager Andrew Flint who cofounded NEVEX and I learned some useful things about the product.

The first question I asked was - how many PCIe SSDs can the CAS product support in a single server? And were there any graphs showing how performance drops off or is maintained when you do that.

The answer was - this info isn't publicly available right now. Although it may be in the future.

That's when I concluded that Intel CAS (married to current generation Intel SSDs) isn't a fast product - and is not in the kind of performance league where a user would seriously worry about this type of scalability problem.

Intel's ideal end-user customers right now for CAS are people who have been using no SSD acceleration at all coupled with hard drive arrays. That performance silo could change - with faster Intel SSDs in the future - and isn't due to limiting characteristics in the software.

I asked - Does it support 3rd party SSDs?

I was told - the standard release only supports Intel SSDs. But there's nothing in principle to prevent it being used with other SSDs using the open source release of the software.

The product is a read cache. I was told that it makes very good use of whatever RAM is in the server to optimize both read and write performance. However, my view is that as Intel SSDs aren't fast - this is somewhat academic.

I asked about the time constants which are analyzed by the caching software - and learned that - depending on the app - the data usage period which is analyzed goes up to days. (Generally in this type of product longer is better - and when you go up from milli-seconds and seconds to minutes, hours and days - you have the potential to get better caching results.)

I learned that Intel CAS isn't written around the data structure or interface - and is hardware agnostic. Users can tell the software which apps they want to cache - via a control panel. This is very useful in environments where a single server is running a mix of apps - some of which are critical (in performance needs) while others are not.

I asked - does the CAS have to have advance knowledge of the app? - Is it optimized for a preset list of apps?

I was told - No. It will work just as well for - what I called - dark matter software- which might be a proprietary app which no one else knew about.

I asked if Intel collects stats from the general population of installed servers which use the software? - in order to improve tuning algorithms...

I was told - No. The optimizations (data eviction probability rates) are done based on what is learned on the customer's own server and private data - and the factory shipped software. There isn't a wider intelligence learning or gathering or snooping function.

I learned that a special feature of this Intel CAS release is the ability to share cache resources with a remote SSD. The data stays hot and doesn't have to be recreated when different virtual machines are accessing this type of resource.

Overall I came away with a good impression of the CAS software and how well the NEVEX technology idea has been assimilated into Intel's SSD business.

It will undoubtedly help Intel sell more SSDs to people who have never used enterprise SSDs before - and maybe also to people with low end apps who have used SSD acceleration before but whose first choice of SSDs wouldn't otherwise have been Intel.

See also:- SSD software, SSD ASAPs, the case for auto-caching SSDs

STEC resists pressure to replace board

Editor:- February 12, 2013 - STEC's management team has responded to the demands of a special interest group of shareholders' who want to replace the entire board of 7 directors. STEC's CEO offered to interview 4 of the shareholder nominated replacements and offer 2 up for election.

Can you trust SSD market data?

Editor:- February 12, 2013 - today published a new SSD home page blog - Can you trust SSD market data?

Can you trust market reports and the handed down wisdom from analysts, bloggers and so-called "industry experts" any more than you can trust SSD benchmarks to tell you which product is best? the article

Proton gets funds to rejuvenate flash

Editor:- February 7, 2013 - Proton Digital Systems today announced the completion of its $2 million seed round to support continued development and expansion of its LDPC-based flash read channel IP products that increase the endurance and longevity of flash memory.

Proton's IP is currently licensed for enterprise and consumer applications and has already been adopted by some of the world's largest flash memory companies.

See also:- adaptive R/W and DSP IP in SSDs, SSD controllers, how to market flash management care schemes for SSDs

aligning database block sizes with SSDs

Editor:- February 5, 2013 - I often hear from readers designing software for SSDs who - having researched the subject of flash etc - have spent too much time over-worrying about internal SSD hardware details that they really shouldn't be worrying about. Because by the time they learn about such things - that type of hardware anxiety is ancient history.

Today I came across a recent blog by Chas. Dye at Pure Storage called Please DON'T Fiddle with Your Database Block Size! - which also warns about this very issue.

Chas says - "At Pure Storage, we believe that a factor that should never influence the block size decision is your storage subsystem."

Editor's comments:- I'd certainly agree that trying to slavishly make your data structures look like something you've read about which might be inside an SSD controller is probably a waste of time - because unless you know the SSD designer you don't really know what's going on - and the abstraction you read about in some web site is only a small part of the picture.

If an SSD is so sensitive to the data you hit it with - it's not the SSD you should have bought in the first place.

Samsung allocates $1 billion to clarify visibility in big data

Editor:- February 4, 2013 - Samsung today announced it has allocated over $1 billion to invest in big data related business ventures.

Editor's comments:- to you and me - $1 billion sounds like a lot of money - but for Samsung? - really it's small change.

From my past conversations with people in the company who think about acquisitions and strategic stuff - I'm left with the impression of a company which invests a lot of talent trying to understand what's going on out there and to analyze what macro market factors and changes will impact its semiconductor fabs.

Samsung was actually the first multi-billion dollar scale company to publicly recognize the strategic importance of the SSD market (2005). But replacing past memory business with new SSD business for many years was a problem on the scale of bailing out water from the Titanic with bathtub size pots.

Like other big interested entities - Samsung could do little more than satisfice its engagements in SSD while waiting for the whole SSD market to get bigger, and the trends to get clearer. Along the way it has invested in some SSD IP companies - such as Fusion-io, acquired others like NVELO, and tried but failed to acquire SanDisk (2008).

Rather than simply being seen as traditional return on investments - this type of activity by Samsung and other semico companies like Intel - is a way of ensuring strategic forward visibility into new seedlings in the ecosystems which surround their core businesses.

PCIe everywhere?

Editor:- February 1, 2013 - Is PCIe the Natural Next-Generation Data Center Fabric?

That's what Larry Chisvin, VP of strategic initiatives PLX Technology believes and he'll try to convert you to his way of thinking next week at the Linley Tech Data Center Conference in Santa Clara. PLX is the worldwide market leader in PCIe switch products.

See also:- enterprise SSD silos, PCIe SSDs, SSD glue chips.

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now where was I?

before I was so rudely interrupted
Editor:- February 21, 2013 - WD has recently published a new white paper - the Art of SSD Power Fail Protection (pdf)

If you've read up on the subject of Surviving SSD sudden power loss you may already be aware that the WD team has been working on this theme for over 9 years - and even promoted educational whitepapers on this subject using banner ads in 2005.

In 2004 I was told that getting the SSD data integrity to work reliably even when the SSD is subject to unexpected rapid power rail disturbances was one of the starting points of the original SiliconDrive designers - due to one of the founders having had a bad experience with an earlier prototype flash drive failing such a test at an oem presentation while at another company.

So what can WD tell us about this subject that's new?

Well - without mentioning names - there have been many examples of other SSD companies who have got this factor wrong - and some of the reasons why simplistic power protection schemes fail are mentioned in this paper.

The key to validating a reliable SSD design is testing:- with variable types of applied power line disruptions which are applied at any time in the SSD software.

WD aren't going to reveal all their hard won patented design secrets in this white paper - but you can learn a lot from it which may help you better evaluate other products too. the article (pdf)
"Across the whole enterprise - a single petabyte of SSD with new software could replace 10 to 50 petabytes of raw legacy HDD storage and still enable all the apps to run much faster..."
the enterprise SSD software event horizon
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
SSDs are complex devices and there's a lot of mysterious behavior which isn't fully revealed by benchmarks and vendor's product datasheets and whitepapers. Underlying all the important aspects of SSD behavior are asymmetries which arise from the intrinsic technologies and architecture inside the SSD.

Which symmetries are most important in an SSD?

That depends on your application. But knowing that these symmetries exist, what they are, and judging how your selected SSD compares will give you new insights into SSD performance, cost and reliability.
SSD symmetries article There's no such thing as - the perfect SSD - existing in the market today - but the SSD symmetry list helps you to understand where any SSD in any memory technology stands relative to the ideal. And it explains why deviations from the ideal can matter. to read the article

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The more you study the characteristics of different SSDs - the quicker and more easily you will start to anticipate useful behavioral characteristics of any new SSD - and assimilate new SSDs in your plans.

And you'll start to recognize symptoms of "missing technical information" too.

These are things which it's important for you to know - but which don't appear in the initial info you see about the new SSD.

In some cases you can get this missing info by asking the vendor.

In other cases -when they don't understand your questions - or aren't willing to co-operate without an NDA - you may still be able to infer or deduce the missing data aspects from other things you already know.
understanding flash SSD performance characteristics and limitations - a toolkit

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