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SSD market news - October 15 - 21, 2013

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Toshiba will design new SSDs using DensBits' adaptive flash controller IP

Editor:- October 21, 2013 - DensBits today announced that it has licensed its advanced Memory Modem technology (a variety of adaptive R/W and DSP flash controller IP) to Toshiba for use in new designs of SSDs.

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the SSD IPO saga turns to Nimble

Editor:- October 18, 2013 - Nimble Storage has filed its FORM S-1 documents for an IPO from which we learn the following things.
  • Nimble has 1,750 end-customers
  • Nimble had $50 million revenue in the 6 months ending July 31 - at which time it also had 464 employees
Editor's comments:- unlike Violin which IPOed recently, Nimble's rackmount systems are primarily caching hybrid arrays. Although this is another very crowded market segment within the enterprise SSD product continuum - Nimble has a clear postioning message which is...

"Our mission is to provide our customers with the industry's most efficient storage platform."

I like that wording - because exactly a year ago in my home page blog here on - my theme was Efficiency as internecine SSD competitive advantage.

PS - If you're researching Nimble (Storage) then please be careful not to get them mixed up with Nimbus (Data).

Nimbus's CEO told me recently he'd prefer it if I always expanded "Nimbus" to "Nimbus Data" - so that people don't get Nimbus confused with Nimble.

This malapropism isn't something which I had considered before.

I replied that in the unlikely event that serious customers (as opposed to casual readers) ever did get confused - the solution would be for one of the companies involved to change their name. See also:- SSD branding strategies

Virident acquisition completed

Editor:- October 17, 2013 - Western Digital announced it has completed the acquisition of Virident Systems - which will be integrated along with other recent enterprise SSD acquisitions into HGST.

Editor's comments:- this has already been much analyzed before so I won't go over that old ground here. But one question which it's interesting to think about with respect to future acquisitions is how far up the SSD software stack can enterprise component companies like WD credibly aspire to go - before they risk either losing the plot or losing oem customers?

It's different in cases where the wouldbe acquirer already is a systems company - and where the primary driver behind the acquisition - may in fact be to get the SSD software - as was undoubtedly the case with Cisco and Whiptail.

But the daunting challenges of managing software lifecycles may set a ceiling or boundary to the nature of some of these activities for other companies. The exception is SSD software which already fits into a recognized product category - such as caching.

How do I reconcile that idea with another of WD's recent acquisitions - Stec - which had launched its own rackmount SSD in the days leading upto that acquisition announcement?

In my view Stec's iSCSI box wasn't a real product which had any lasting value. Anyone can stick some drives into a box. (As EMC discovered when they did that themselves back in January 2008 as a quick and dirty way of entering the SSD market.) No one is very impressed - or fooled - when they see vendors do that. (Unless they're not in the market - in which it doesn't matter what they think.) And the rackmount SSD market today is very much more sophisticated and demanding today compared to 5-6 years ago.

If SSD systems vendors don't know at the outset what they're aiming to be best at - they shouldn't even reach for the screwdrivers.

See also:- SSD acquisitions since 2000, PCIe SSDs

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OCZ back to NASDAQ compliance

Editor:- October 16, 2013 - OCZ today announced it has received notice from NASDAQ saying that the company is now current in its SEC filing obligations.

New report from the Spur Group tracks "share of voice" in rackmount SSD market

Editor:- October 16, 2013 - The Spur Group recently launched a new market report service - Share of Partner Voice: Storage and SSD ($4,995) which compare the sales channels for 4 encumbant rackmount storage platform vendors: EMC, NetApp, Oracle and Dell against the channel efforts of selected rackmount SSD suppliers including:- Fusion-io X-IO, Violin Memory, Skyera, Whiptail and others.

The Spur Group says its "Share of Partner Voice" web based methodology is rooted in "extracting website content from over 76,000 technology service providers, hosting companies, software developers and other customer facing technology suppliers through a proprietary crawler."

Ross Brown, senior principal and the lead author of the report, said - "Our approach to measuring Share of Partner Voice® shows that Violin Memory is outpacing the market, with more than twice the brand presence of its nearest competitor. The report also highlights why the market for acquiring these companies is accelerating, as the channel adoption is happening very quickly and often at the expense of incumbent platforms."

Editor's comments:- As you know I'm a great believer in the value of using raw web data to get insights into fast changing emerging markets - which is why I launched the Top SSD Companies series - 6½ years ago.

The raw data types and methodologies which The Spur Group use are completely different to ours. They look at different types of web activity and are based on different population samples - so the results and inferences are going to have different use cases too.

The growing ecosystem for storage and SSD market data companies is a healthy sign that more economic activity in future will become SSD-centric.

But a bigger SSD market means bigger risks too.

This is a complex and innovative market - so it's very easy to miss key products, companies and trends in the SSD market compared to the comparative ease with which you can assess what's happening in the "no great surprises here" technology museum segments elsewhere in the enterprise.

the Top SSD Companies in Q3 2013

Editor:- October 15, 2013 - the new edition of the Top SSD Companies - the 26th in this series - based on metrics in the 3rd quarter of 2013 - was published today on

3 companies entered these lists for the first time:- HGST, Diablo Technologies and Tegile Systems. the article

OCZ 's delicate balancing act with good and naughty SSD market revenue

Editor:- October 15, 2013 - OCZ reported results for the quarter ended on August 31. Revenue was $33.5 million compared to $55 million in the preceding quarter and had declined 62% compared to the year ago period.

Ralph Schmitt, CEO of OCZ said - "This has been a difficult quarter as demand for our products continues to be greater than our ability to supply, given our capital constraints."

Editor's comments:- this situation has been well analyzed by the financial press - so I won't repeat what they say here. But for the non financial techies out there - here's my summary...

Just as you know there's good flash and naughty flash - so too in the SSD market of recent times you could say that there has been 2 types of SSD revenue too:-
  • good SSD revenue (the enterprise kind) and
  • naughty SSD revenue (the consumer kind).
Most companies - if they have the choice - are trying to shift the balance of their SSD revenues over to the good kind - where they lose less money.

In this difficult rebalancing act - OCZ had got to the point in the prior quarter where the good revenue (enterprise) was 60%. Now it's dipped back down to 50%.

Cherry picking products aside - ideally OCZ would find a way to extricate itself cleanly from the consumer SSD market - and focus entirely on the enterprise markets. And this is a topic which has fed the rumor mill again recently.

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do more tiers reduce waste?
Editor:- October 15, 2013 - The wastefulness of conventional storage tiering is discussed in a recent blog - Moving On From Storage Tiering - by Chris M Evans, publisher of Architecting IT - who advocates the concept of having an infinite number of tiers so that - "each server will be closer to receiving the performance level they need."

He goes on to say - "If we can deliver that, move the data between tiers dynamically and fix the wasted capacity issue within each tier, then we have our ultimate storage device." the article

Editor's comments:- The problem with implementing this is that the most economical way to design storage systems is still dependent on the likely speed and capacity characteristics.

People buy products and they have to understand the differences between the products they see in the market. (That job of segmentation is just as important for marketers to implement precisely as the easier bits they spend more time and money on.)

When I analyzed all the different types of SSDs you need in the datacenter - from the architecture and use cases point of view - I got to about 7 different types - which are distinctly different - as described in my SSD silos model - which covers the spectrum from ultrafast RAM to archive solid state storage.

An SSD product which has been optimized for any one of these distinct uses will be uneconomic or less competitive for the other uses.

Therefore I think infinite tiers - as proposed in Chris Evans's blog - can exist OK as logical concepts in software - but these infinite tiers will still have to map onto a distinct set of no more than maybe 3 to 4 different physical SSD tiers in most customer sites. Otherwise they will be wasteful and too expensive.

In the currently forseeable state of semiconductor technology - the bounds of physics and SSD controller architecture favor designs in which you know in advance what kind of use the memory cell population in each part of your SSD is being optimized for.

Training for a sprint requires a different care conditioning regime to training for a marathon.

Although you can switch streams and repurpose cells dynamically - which is what adaptive R/W is all about - this is done within the context of knowing which kind of race the SSD is in from the outset. Running half a marathon fast and then dying due to dehydration is not an attractive product option.

See also:- auto-tiering / caching / SSD ASAPs, marketing SSD care schemes, inside SSD pricing.




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