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SSD news - January 1-14, 2013

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new! - the Top SSD Companies in Q4 2012

Editor:- January 14, 2013 - StorageSearch.com has published the 23rd quarterly edition of the Top SSD Companies List - which ranks companies based on search volume in the 4th quarter of 2012.

Skyera entered the top 5 SSD companies for the first time.


Virident's PCIe SSDs VMware Ready

Editor:- January 14, 2013 - Virident Systems today announced that its FlashMAX II family (PCIe SSDs) has achieved VMware Ready status.

See also:- Where are we now with SSD software?, SSD ASAPs


$600 for a terabyte SSD

Editor:- January 10, 2013 - Micron announced it will ship SATA SSDs with 960GB capacity priced under $600 in this quarter.

See also:- SSD cost examples in history


Consumer SSDs at CES?

Editor:- January 9, 2013 - unlike previous years when nearly every SSD launched at CES had already been preannounced in the months leading up to the event - the SSDs being launched this week for the consumer market - while being mostly predictable - could still include surprises. If you're interested in this kind of thing take a look at this SSD news feed - from Google.


BiTMICRO invites you to design SSDs and systems using its fast Talino SSD controller

Editor:- January 8, 2013 - BiTMICRO today publicly confirmed that it's offering its Talino SSD controller to other manufacturers in what the company calls the "BiTMICRO OnBoard" Program.

"It's undeniable that the solid state storage industry is growing rapidly," said Zophar Sante, VP of Marketing and Sales at BiTMICRO. "We're not only speaking with companies that want to use our SSD controller technology to develop their own solid state drive solutions, but also with companies seeking to embed solid state storage natively into their own vertical application platforms."

Editor's comments:- in my 2010 article - Imprinting the brain of the SSD - I discussed the most successful design win program in the history of the SSD controller market (so far) by SandForce (now part of LSI) whose award winning controllers are now used by more than 60 SSD companies.

One of the big differences between that original program and what BiTMICRO is doing now - is that BiTMICRO's primary business is selling complete SSDs whereas SandForce didn't sell SSDs and neatly avoided some of the conflicts of interest which LSI is seeing now with frenemmies who use the same controller but compete for some of the same design slots at the complete SSD level.

That suggests to me that potential Talino technology partners are more often going to be systems companies rather than companies which simply sell vanilla SSDs.

Getting access to the Talino SSD controller will provide systems makers with similar raw performance to what they can get from integrating current industry standard PCIe SSDs but at lower cost and in a customizable physical footprint.

Although BiTMICRO's customers will have to invest in a lot more design than if they used ready made SSDs - the scalability and flexibility of a chip family approach means that some system designs which wouldn't be viable with today's building blocks will become competitive.

Just as all PCIe SSDs aren't all exactly the same - I'm sure we'll be surprised in a year or so to see just how different some of the systems based on the Talino will be. My guess is they will span the full range of fast apps from lowly customized 2.5" PCIe SSDs upto supercomputer scale racks.

BiTMICRO hasn't published details of what its partner vetting and getting onboard process will be. They're simply asking potential partners to contact them (if you haven't done so already).


Over-provisioning flash capacity in SSDs - article by LSI

Editor:- January 8, 2013 - Understanding SSD over-provisioning - is the title of a new article published in EDN and written by Kent Smith, Sr. Director of Product Marketing at the SSD controller part of LSI.

Kent's article describes the trade-offs between performance, the percentage of over-provisioned flash capacity and the useful impact of compressible data - which inside SandForce controllers is leveraged to create additional over-provisioning. The interaction between write amplification counter-measures and the benefits of using TRIM commands on performance are also noted. ...read the article

Editor's comments:- there wasn't anything new for me in this article - which covers similar ground to my 2011 article - flash SSD capacity - the iceberg syndrome - which shows how SSD makers leverage capacity to tweak reliability and performance.

But - having said that - I learned about over-provisioning by 10 years of talking about it - with many SSD companies. And some of the things I put in my own article had been gleaned from past conversations with Kent Smith himself when he was at SandForce - as well as various other people in Violin, Texas Memory Systems and Adtron.

I'm guessing that what Kent would have liked to say on OP may have been "trimmed" by a word count limit in his latest EDN article.

So here are some other suggestions for more substantial and ideas packed articles I recommend - which Kent Smith has written in the past for other publications, and which cover SSD controllers from other angles:-


STEC's CEO reveals his thinking about the SSD business

Editor:- January 8, 2013 - STEC's definitely "interim" CEO, Mark Moshayedi, tells readers about the customers who initiated the designs of its main enterprise SSDs in an interview published today on StorageNewsletter.com - in which, on the subject of being an acquisition target, he says - "Why would Dell be interested in acquiring an SSD company? Seagate haven't contacted us. Western Digital always tries to buy things for nothing."

Editor's comments:- this is a great scoop by StorageNewsletter.com 's editor Jean-Jacques Maleval - and because the quotes are so long - you can draw your own conclusions about some of the questions discussed.

Do you remember one of my earlier home page blogs about the competitive advantage of SSD design efficiency? This is one of STEC's strengths. And here's what Mark Moshayedi has to say on this subject

"Certain companies that we compete with sometimes spend 120% of what we spend in the flash side of it. That's because of the way they do the design and the over-provisioning to meet certain customer requirements."

On the other hand STEC's corporate failure to invest adequately in sales and marketing and business intelligence resources over many years are also demonstrated in this article.

For example - when talking about Fusion-io - Mark Moshayedi admits - "From what I understand today, Fusion-io has 180 sales people that just sell to enterprises. We have today less than 10."

Overall I think the interview will make interesting reading for STEC observers, and will confirm many things they already suspected.

When you're a stakeholder in an SSD company - the people who manage the company - and their outlook on this uncertain market - are just as important as the technology. ...read the article


OCZ's newest new PCIe SSD

Editor:- January 7, 2013 - OCZ already has several PCIe SSD families aimed at different markets. This week at CES the company will demonstrate another new range called the Vector series which is based on its Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller.


Toshiba samples encrypted SAS SSD

Editor:- January 6, 2013 - Toshiba says it's sampling a new range of 2.5" SAS MLC SSDs - with self encrypting security features and on board sanitization. The PX02SMQ/U has upto 1.6TB capacity.


Another comparison of 3 PCIe SSDs

Editor:- January 3, 2013 - Performance comparisons between PCIe SSDs from OCZ, Micron and Intel were published in a recent article by Tom's Hardware.

Editor's comments:-
You may find it interesting or entertaining, although you know you should never attach too much weight to any single list of the fastest PCIe SSDs.

An earlier part of the Tom's Hardware article - mentioned above - raised the subject of comparing the endurance in such SSDs to the cost expressed as dollars per petabytes written.

In my view "$/PB written" is another one of those spurious metrics - like IOPS / $ (see article lower left on this page) which doesn't give you a reliable indicator about which product to select.

If all you're interested in is "cost $/PB written" - then why not buy a hard drive? - because that's where this metric is pointing you. You know it's the wrong answer. It's the wrong metric and based on an incomplete understanding of what enterprise SSD users want.

In an enterprise SSD context it's more important to look at whether you get the apps performance you want (rather than the benchmark performance), whether the product is reliable enough for your own needs - and whether it has scalability in performance and in the technology roadmap. Only after all those factors is it worthwhile comparing prices. See also:- don't all PCIe SSDs look pretty much the same?


Marvell aims at SSD on a chip market

Editor:- January 2, 2013 - Marvell Technology today announced it has made a strategic investment in Memoright.

As part of the new collaborative agreements Memoright will write firmware for Marvell's eMMC controllers - which will speed Marvell's entry into the tiny SSD market for use in smartphones and tablets.


Imation acquires Nexsan

Editor:- January 2, 2013 - Imation today announced it has acquired Nexsan (which among other things is in the rackmount hybrid SSD ASAPs market) for $120 million.
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the Modern Era of SSDs
Editor:- January 2, 2013 - My recent home page blog - Strategic Transitions in SSD - mentions some of the key changes in the SSD market which took hold in recent quarters - but as we're starting another new calendar year in SSD - I want to say more about the context here.

Even in a market which appears to be so fast moving as the SSD market - where hot new SSD companies can enter the top SSD companies list (ranked by search) within weeks of exiting stealth mode, and some new SSD companies are acquired within a few quarters of launching their first product - it can still take years before new technologies which excite technologists, analysts and investors are adopted by more than 10% of SSD users.

It's those strategic multi-year big changes and transitions which are sometimes hard to pin down to a single year. For example the transition in the enterprise SSD market from RAM to 98% flash - which took 8 years.

Although it's easy to recognize the start of new technology changes - it's harder to be so precise about big market shifts - because those - by their very nature - occur only when enough people get hold of a new way of doing things and change their buying behavior.

For me looking back at the SSD market - 2013 now clearly marks the 10th anniversary of a distinct market period which I now think of as - the Modern Era of SSDs.

What do I mean by the Modern Era of SSDs?

It's when SSDs changed from being a niche tactical technology which satisfied the needs of some markets (ruggedized military / industrial storage and next generation server acceleration at any cost) to a time when the market advance of SSDs as a significant well known core market within the computer industry became a historical inevitability - and when the only serious technology which could displace an SSD from its market role was another SSD.

Although products which we would recognize as enterprise SSDs were shipping for several years before 2003 - it was in that year, 2003 - when there was enough confidence in the minds of enough people in the SSD market that the future of SSDs could be much bigger (100x bigger) and different to what had happened before.

It wasn't simply my publication of an article at the time which explained why this could happen - nor simply the immediately post publication discussions I had with SSD industry leaders at the time - nor indeed in later years when founders and managers of new SSD companies kindly told me that some of their thinking about the possibilities for the SSD market had been influenced by those earlier articles on StorageSearch.com

It's just as much the case that the alternative futures which could have knocked the SSD market off-course (such as faster CPU clock rates, faster hard drives or faster optical storage) didn't happen.

The year after year "no-shows" by SSD's past phantom demons were just as important as the new SSD technologies which did put in an appearance.

Today it's clear to anyone looking seriously at the data economy - the SSD market is here to stay and has its sights set on being at the center of your future hardware and infrastructure decision making.

lookahead to big upcoming changes in SSD market thinking?

Can I say anything at all useful at this stage about what the 2nd decade of the modern era of SSDs will be like?

I think it will be the time when a critical mass of SSD users become more sophisticated in their understanding and use of different types of SSDs - and when each part of the SSD market becomes less generalized and more focused.

It's not just about the SSD software, and iit's not just about the SSD chip technologies. These simply outline possibilities. What's important - and what will become even clearer - is the dividing lines and colors of application specific SSDs.

Application specific enterprise SSDs - is a technology trend which started shipping more than 3 years ago. But - as I said above - markets happen when enough people have decided to make them happen - and not simply because pioneering products are available.
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