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SSD news - March 2013

This page includes the archived SSD news from StorageSearch.com for March 2013.

Companies mentioned in SSD news this month included:- Diablo Technologies, EMC, Fusion-io, InnoDisk, LSI, Nimbus, OCZ, Pure Storage, QLogic, RunCore, Seagate, Skyera, SolidFire, STEC, Violin, WD
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RunCore closes $10 million funding

Editor:- March 29, 2013 - RunCore today announced it has closed $10 million in Series B funding led by OFC (Oriental Fortune Capital).

"The global solid state storage market is booming, so we believe that now is the best time to take on board strategic investors to more rapidly achieve our globalization plans" said Jack Wu, CEO - RunCore.


InnoDisk's upcoming 10x endurance industrial MLC SSDs

Editor:- March 28, 2013 - InnoDisk today announced it will ship industrial SATA SSDs using its iSLCT technology - in Q3.

iSLCT repurposes the 4 states of classic MLC memory into 2 virtual states (with better signal integrity) effectively emulating SLC in MLC.

This delivers 10x better endurance than MLC (30K from "3K" MLC), faster write performance (nearly 2x as fast as MLC and 85% of SLC speed - at competing geometries) and lower cost than using SLC to achieve the same capacity (in current and projected market conditions).

Editor's comments:- I mentioned this technique several years ago in a spoof SSD story - but what was once SSD fiction has become market reality due to the divergent market prices of different types of flash memory.

See also:- MLC flash lives longer in my SSD care program, industrial SSDs market, hidden aspects of the SSD capacity iceberg


STEC names new marketers

Editor:- March 26, 2013 - STEC - long criticized on these pages for its extreme frugality in marketing resource investments - today announced 2 additions to its marketing team. "Executing on a revamped go-to-market strategy doesn't happen on its own; we need a highly experienced marketing organization in place," said Ali Zadeh, CMO STEC. "Judy and Zack, individually and collectively, bring to STEC that essential experience in enterprise systems, along with a unique understanding of global marketing and business development."


Nimbus pins hundreds of flash array metrics to APIs

Editor:- March 25, 2013 - Nimbus Data Systems today announced new software APIs which support its proprietary HALO OS based family of rackmount SSDs - and report on hundreds of real-time and historical metrics such as:- flash endurance, capacity utilization, latency, power consumption, deduplication rates, and overall system health. Another new feature is that sys admins can monitor their Nimbus SSD arrays via new apps on Android / Apple phones and tablets.

Thomas Isakovich, CEO and founder of Nimbus Data said the new software framework would enable cloud architects and enterprise customers to gain greater insight into their flash storage by viewing internal aspects of their flash storage which mattered to them - rather than simply relying on benchmark indicators which have been cherry picked by vendors or reviewers


QLogic enters the enterprise SSD market - with SAN IOPS caching accelerator

Editor:- March 22, 2013 - QLogic yesterday entered the enterprise SSD market (in the PCI SSD and SSD ASAPs segments) with the launch its first product - the FabricCache 10000 Series adapter (pdf) - which provides transparent sharable and clusterable caching for FC SANs.

The 2 card set (upto 400GB flash, and 2x 8Gbps FC ports) can deliver upto 310,000 initiator IOPS and supports upto 2,048 concurrent logins.

QLogic says - FabricCache uses just a single standard adapter driver per OS, the same QLogic field-proven adapter driver stack that has shipped with more than 13 million FC ports. The FabricCache adapter appears logically to the server as a single QLogic HBA which integrates seamlessly into current enterprise server and infrastructure environments.

Editor's comments:- from the business and marketing perspective QLogic's new Mt. Rainier branded SSD is a tardy, pragmatic and cunning response to the threats and challenges posed by SSDs to traditional storage ecosystems vendors.

Tardy - because the first SSD ASAP appliances - which used SSDs to automatically and transparently accelerate access to SAN storage first shipped in 2009. And the first enterprise PCIe SSDs started shipping in 2007.

Pragmatic - for a bunch of reasons
  • Pragmatic - because QLogic's new products provide a credible way for the company to participate and get customer experience in the crowded high value PCIe SSD market - by recycling IP from (what would otherwise soon be downgraded to) a commodity IP base (FC SAN physical adapters).

    In my 2011 article - don't all PCIe SSDs look pretty much the same? - SSD ASAPs (like QLogic's FabricCache ) were discussed as one of the many options for market differentiation.
  • Pragmatic - for another reason too - because with 50 or more different flavors of auto-caching/tiering software schemes already in the market - QLogic has neatly side-stepped the issue of participating as yet another new SSD software company which user have got to learn about - and instead has cleverly positioned its product as needing no new software. (The FabricCache adapters learn everything they need to know from being acticated by standard FC HBA drivers.)
Cunning - because the implied message to users here is:- "if you want to fool around with SSD auto-accelerating your SAN storage - you can do it without haveing to learn about new software. - All the software you need to know about is already running your interface HBAs."

This is kind of sneaky - because in reality - if users are investing in this product - they will soon start to care about the internals of the software - and to ponder on the ability of QLogic to continue delivering good market roadmap symmetry across upcoming new generations of back end SAN storage systems as these SAN racks themselves change their internal make-up from hard drives to flash.

Another consideration is that - accelerating data I/O between a traditional server SAN stack and storage on the SAN - may give better results than without any flash - but may not be as good an ROI as the competing alternative of accelerating apps performance using similar flash capacity but with an interface agnostic bunch of algorithms.

Nevertheless - QLogic's new SSDs provide a "low perceived risk" way for users - who don't want to plunge deeply into the mystical and changeable details of SSD acceleration - to experiment and fool around with the benefits of SSD SAN acceleration.

Before I get any emails from investors asking - is this good for QLogic? or - is it bad for Fusion-io (or Virident)? Here are my thoughts.

Companies in the server SAN infrastructure market have no future without an SSD core. So having a plausible SSD product - even at this late stage of the enterprise SSD market development game- upgrades QLogic from a future as a mere commodity interface chip supplier to a plausible player.

I doubt if any PCIe SSD makers feel in any way threatened by QLogic's new product.

See also:- QLogic's informative white paper - QLogic Mt. Rainier Integrates SSDs with SAN Connectivity (pdf)



more money for Diablo

Editor:- March 19, 2013 - It's not unusual in the current SSD market for some companies to have oversubscribed investor funding rounds - and that was the case recently with Diablo Technologies which today announced it has closed an additional $7.5 million of funding, increasing the total equity investment of its most recent round to $36 million. USVP joins previously announced investors.

Editor's comments:- Diablo describes its product as being these categories:- "soon-to-be-announced" and "disruptive".

If you're already interested in PCIe SSDs, InfiniBand or SSDs in RAM module form factors (but which unlike the flash DIMMs from memory makers - might actually emerge from stealth mode attached with a software model) then what Diablo does do with its Memory Channel Storage may impact some of your future long range plans.

Like you - I'm guessing of course. Diablo hasn't ordered any SSD ads yet - although that $7.5 million would come in handy.


Fusion-io acquires SCSI target IP team

Editor:- March 18, 2013 - Fusion-io announced today that it has acquired another storage software company - ID7 - which had been collaborating on the development of FIO's ION data accelerator software.

ID7 was the primary developer of the SCST (SCSI target subsystem for Linux) that enables replication, thin provisioning, deduplication, high availability, and automatic backup on any Linux server or appliance.

"We had an opportunity to work with Fusion-io on the development of the ION Data Accelerator..." said Mark Klarzynski, Founder and CTO of ID7 (who blogged today about the acquisition).. "We're excited to join the Fusion-io team... to work together on open, software defined solutions to today's most challenging data demands."


SSD performance characteristics and limitations

Editor:- March 15, 2013 - published today - the new home page blog on StorageSearch.com is - a toolkit for understanding flash SSD performance characteristics and limitations.

It brings together in one place many of the tools I use every day when thinking about and assessing SSDs.


STEC's revenue dips below 4 years ago figure

Editor:- March 14, 2013 - STEC today reported that revenue for its FY ended December 31, 2012 was $168 million - having declined over 40% from the year before figure of $308 million. Revenue in the most recent 4th quarter was on a downward slope too - about 17% less than the 3rd quarter.

Editor's comments:- STEC's revenue in 2012 was 26% lower than it was 4 years earlier in 2008 ($227 million) when there were already 100 companies competing in the SSD market - but STEC was the leading flash SSD company measured by revenue.


new LSI blog on the value of enterprise flash

Editor:- March 14, 2013 - You won't be surprised to see me mentioning a recently published blog by Robert Ober, System and Processor Architect, LSI - about the value of PCIe SSDs in big datacenters - which includes these statements:-
  • "Work/$ is the correct metric (and not crazy expensive $/bit)."
  • "when users say... $8k PCIe card in a $4k server – really? - I am always stunned by this"
I'm guessing that the title of Robert's blog - What are the driving forces behind going diskless? Will 100% flash storage make sense in enterprise? - was either inspired by SEO considerations (stuffing the title with value-loaded words for search-engines) or was predetermined before the blog was written.

I prefer this alternative title - suggested by a banner graphic in the blog itself - An $8K PCIe card in an $4k server - huh!?!

See also:- User Value Propositions for buying SSDs, SSD silos in the enterprise


Addonics has new adapter to build 1.8" removable SSDs

Editor:- March 13, 2013 - Addonics today launched a new adapter which lets designers use mSATA or CFast flash cards as removable 1.8" USB SSDs. MSRP starts at $55.


WD invests in Skyera

Editor:- March 12, 2013 - WD was one of the recent investors in Skyera - it was announced today.

"We see companies like Skyera as offering a dramatic improvement over traditional approaches to emerging storage challenges" said Steve Milligan, president and CEO, Western Digital.


OCZ going forward with new credit

Editor:- March 12, 2013 - OCZ today announced it has secured new credit lines:- a $15 million term loan and a $15 million revolving loan facility.

"Obtaining this new credit facility is the first step in providing OCZ with a complete capital structure going forward. This capital will be used to strengthen the business, fund future growth, and support emerging enterprise opportunities," said Ralph Schmitt, CEO of OCZ.


We're #1 in SSD revenue - says Micron

Editor:- March 7, 2013 - Micron sees itself as the biggest SSD company - in terms of revenue, with about 6% market share in enterprise SSD - according to Kipp A. Bedard, VP Investor Relations - at a recent investors conference - transcribed in an article on SeekingAlpha.com

"In terms of SSDs, if we specifically broke out our SSD revenues, we'd probably be the largest SSD public company today. If I had to guess, we're probably running on a revenue basis somewhere around 80%, 85% client, 15% to 20% enterprise"

Other interesting observations in this presentation.

"The average smartphone includes 30GB flash."

"We believe the client SSD market is growing about 20% units q-over-q." ...read the article

Thanks to Tony - a reader - who alerted me about this.


NetApp and LSI do that luvvy-duvvy thing

Editor:- March 6, 2013 - LSI today announced that its Nytro WarpDrive (PCIe SSDs) have been validated for use with NetApp's Flash Accel (SSD ASAP) software.

Editor's comments:- According to NetApp's pdf - "Flash Accel has the ability to keep the cache warm and coherent in the event of disruptive operations and restart caching from the reboot/crash point, rather than restarting from a cold cache."

But it's not as unique in these respects as their document would have you believe - although this suggestion is probably because of when the document was written.

LSI says in its press release that its "advanced off-loaded multiprocessor architecture uses up to 4x less CPU and memory resources than competing solutions".

Now when you see that phrase - off-loaded - in this kind of context - you can be sure that it's a dig at Fusion-io.

The pros and cons - in architectural efficiency and performance - aren't as straightforward as they appear from this subliminal value-loaded phrasing. I discussed these issues a few years ago in an article in FIO's product page here on the mouse site.

The motivational reasons you might choose LSI rather than FIO (or the other way around) probably have less to do with whether you understand or like the way they design SSD controllers (which are evidence rather than motivations of what lies behind their SSD architecture thinking) and instead I think the reasons you might prefer one or other as a strategic supplier would have rather more to do with whether you're comfortable with their different philosophies about the best routes to the future of enterprise storage and, in particular, whether you agree with their speculation of what the destination looks like.

If you're going to be in the same waggon train for 2-3 years - bumping along comfortably together is what's important.


9 million IOPS in a single PCIe SSD

Editor:- March 5, 2013 - Fusion-io today announced it has achieved 9.6 million IOPS (64 byte) from a single 365GB MLC ioDrive2 (PCIe SSD).

This performance is made possible using APIs in Fusion-io's ioMemory SDK (such as Auto-Commit Memory) that integrate flash into host systems, allowing data to bypass normal bottlenecks in the operating system.

FIO says its APIs have been embraced by dozens of industry-leading software companies to enhance their applications.


OCZ releases fault tolerant SSD caching software

Editor:- March 5, 2013 - OCZ today announced the general availability of VXL 1.3 (SSD software) - which enables PCIe SSD flash volumes (on the company's Z-Drive R4) to be virtualized and synchronously mirrored, so they are continuously available to support HA and FT services from within the virtualized host without the need for any back-end SAN or storage appliance. This easy to manage approach yields no data loss and no VM downtime even during complete server failures.

Another new feature - related to enterprise caching- is a 'business-rule' pre-warming cache engine that adapts the flash cache to the activity cycles in the data center to determine peak I/O performance needs at certain times.


EMC samples XtremIO flash arrays

Editor:- March 5, 2013 - EMC today announced new models of PCIe SSDs which the company claims offer nearly 60% better TCO than (unnamed competitors) due to new levels of efficiency.

EMC's XtremSF half - height, half - length PCIe SSDs are currently available in eMLC upto 2.2TB, while SLC models upto 1.4TB will ship in the 2nd quarter.

EMC also said it's sampling flash arrays which are designed and managed using the big SSD controller architecture based on leveraging IP from its acquisition of XtremIO.

Editor's comments:- the industry has been anticipating flash SSDs which use XtremIO's RAID busting architecture.

Details are sketchy right now - but the efficiency gains from throwing away the old drive array design rulebook and starting again with a flash foundation while at the same time having control of the complete SSD software stack can be impressive - as I learned last year talking to Rado Danilak CEO of another leading company taking this approach - Skyera.

Can we expect EMC's flash array pricing to plunge down to Skyera levels?

That will never happen - because EMC's business carries the legacy burden of too many hard drives and too many old suits.

But what we could see instead - is EMC's flash arrays coming down to a price point where the customer pain is low enough to delay many of them from switching away to other flash. Which means EMC could still have a future in the solid state storage business.


How "solid" is an SSHD? - when less than 2% of the capacity is solid state

Editor:- March 5, 2013 - Seagate would like you to believe that the best way to make a consumer SSD better (more affordable) is to put it in a hard drive.

The company describes this as "SSD + HDD = the best of both worlds."

Seagate's latest offerings at the hybrid drive altar - Seagate SSHDs (Solid State Hybrid Drives) - which are designed to deliver "SSD-like response from your favorite applications and files" are now shipping in 2 main wrapper styles:-
  • Seagate Desktop SSHDs - are similar to the notebook drives and have upto 2TB magnetic capacity in a higher package (26mm rather than 9.5mm).
"Seagate's engineers have really out done themselves this time" said Scott Horn, Seagate's VP of marketing in a press release today.

"Our new SSHDs serve up your favorite content with the lightning-fast performance you have to experience to believe. With these new drives it's like adding a turbo-charge to your PC, without having to sacrifice capacity, at a price that's easy on your wallet. Now consumers can create, store and consume digital content like a pro without having to spend like one."

Editor's comments:- Hybrid drives like this are aimed at the benchmark experience. Seagate says they'll boot 5x faster than a 5,400 RPM HDD based notebook. But will that translate into the kind of product which users will rave about?

Ask yourself this question.... If this kind of flash to HDD caching ratio (125 to 1) works so well - how come the enterprise rackmount storage market isn't dominated by racks stuffed full of Seagate hybrids - using an enterprise-adapted version of Seagate's Adaptive Memory Technology?

What are all the clever people in the enterprise storage market doing wrong? - with their different ways of doing Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage?

That's the question I asked myself about the viability of hybrid drives on these pages back in 2005 - when the hybrid drive market began. And I concluded that - if as a user you want better performance - you will generally get better results and economics by using vanilla HDDs in your HDD+SSD mix.

That doesn't mean to say that millions of people won't buy hybrid based PCs. The question is - would they choose to buy the same product again? And would they recommend it to their friends?

If you really want park bench performance in the PC experience- rather than benchmark experience - here's 2 ways to dissect and improve the Seagate SSHD.
  • lose the SATA interface
  • lose the hard drive



Violin enters the PCIe SSD market

Editor:- March 4, 2013 - Violin is entering the market for PCIe SSDs. Its new Velocity PCIe Memory Cards range have regular RAM caches and are available in 3 physical sizes.
  • Low profile - 1.37TB raw capacity, 110K IOPS (70:30 R/W)
  • Full height, half length - upto 5.5TB raw capacity, upto 250K IOPS
  • Full height - upto 11TB raw (8TB usable) capacity, upto 500K IOPS
Editor's comments:- in October 2012 - I wrote that Violin's lack of a PCIe SSD card product line was a serious business weakness - which limited their accessible revenue in the enterprise SSD market.

This product gap would have been an important scoring factor in any potential company assessing Violin's value as an acquisition.

It was one of several significant reasons why Texas Memory Systems (acquired by IBM) looked like a much more attractive acquisition candidate in the early part of last year than Violin - even though both companies had market-leading big controller SSD architectures - and despite Violin having sought acquisition much longer.

Violin's lack of a PCIe SSD product line till now was a serious misjudgement of the opportunities for its technology in the enterprise SSD market and not due to any technical defficiencies. The company's first SSD racks launched in August 2007 (the Violin 1010 Memory Appliance) had - in fact - been launched with PCIe interfaces.

How will Violin's late entry into the PCIe SSD card / module market impact competitors?

The established leaders in this market space are:- Fusion-io, Texas Memory Systems, Virident and OCZ (and another 35 or so companies are listed on our PCIe SSD page). One more company in this market mix won't make any material difference to sales forecasts - even if that newcomer is Violin. Instead it will mean that the fuzzy edge of users' vendor shortlists will appear sharper - and companies which shouldn't have been in these lists in the first place will drop out. (But they wouldn't have been the ones who got the business anyway. There are a lot of different specialized types of PCIe SSDs - and just because they may look the same on the outside - doesn't mean they compete equally for the same apps slots.)

My guess is that Violin's new products will be most attractive to companies which already like its rackmounts - and who were already looking for a more complete single supplier solution around which to hang their software.

So I anticipate that customers in the big web economy and SSD dark matter users will predominate early demand for these new products. And - for any server companies which haven't yet acquired their own enterprise SSD IP - Violin (the company) will now look more attractive too.

In a press release later today:- we learned that the final stimulus which nudged Violin tipping into the PCIe SSD market may have been:- hints, inducements and probably pressure from investor, memory supplier and wannabe-bigger-in-SSD partner - Toshiba.

See also:- my classic article - if Fusion-io sells more - does that mean Violin will sell less?
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"The performance impact from RAID rebuilds becomes compounded with long rebuild times incurred by mutli-terabyte drives. Since traditional RAID rebuilds entirely into a new spare drive, there is a massive bottleneck of the write speed of that single drive combined with the read bottleneck of the few other drives in the RAID set."
Dave Wright, CEO - SolidFire - in his recent blog - Say farewell to RAID storage (March 14, 2013).

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"When a larger, incumbent vendor is behind, a classic marketing maneuver is to attempt to freeze the market by marketing the future. If the vendor can only buy enough time by stalling customers, theory goes, they can catch-up and have a viable product before customers leave them. "
Matt Kixmoeller, VP, Products - Pure Storage - in his recent blog attacking EMC's marketing pitch re the status of XtremIO flash (March 6, 2013)

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