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SSD market news in March 2014

Our new 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSD is 3x faster than 12Gbps SAS SSDs - says Samsung

Editor:- March 25, 2014 - Although Samsung's own enterprise SSD selection page doesn't list this product yet (at the time of writing this) Samsung is very much engaged in the 2.5" PCIe SSD market - and Samsung announced it is shipping a 1.6TB NVMe PCIe SSD rated at 7 DWPD for 5 years to Dell for use in its PowerEdge R920 servers.
Samsung 2.5 inch PCIe SSD image
Editor's comments:- if someone at Samsung can tell me a better way to navigate their SSD web site I'll insert a product data link - otherwise (in the best traditions of consumer SSD vendors) you'll just have to make do with a picture - and guess what happens inside.

See also:- DWPD in industry leading enterprise SSDs


Silicon Motion's FerriSSDs

Editor:- March 23, 2014 - FerriSSD (pdf) from Silicon Motion - is a PATA SSD on a chip (BGA) which I learned about from Jonathan Bruce - who suggested it for my article - Inanimate Power, Speed and Strength Metaphors in SSD brands - because - he said - the "Ferri" prefix means "strong or durable".

...Later:- March 31, 2014 - in the same product family - Silicon Motion is now sampling a high performance 6Gb/s SATA FerriSSD - the SM659 (8GB to 64GB capacity, with regular cache, 80,000 random IOPs, and 30K Program/Erase (P/E) cycles) - which fits into a 90-ball BGA package measuring just 16x20x2mm.


SAS SSDs - the stellar performers in the 2013 enterprise market

Editor:- March 20, 2014 - I asked Gregory Wong, President, Forward Insights if he could enumerate for StorageSearch.com readers what he meant by his tantalizing comment that - "within the enterprise segment, SAS SSDs stood out as the stellar performer" - which is something he said in a recent email promoting another new SSD market report.

I'm empathetic to the business pressures of those in the storage market research business - and keenly aware of the thin line which divides - on the one hand - saying too little - so that potential buyers find it hard to assess if a new report will be money well spent - and, on the other hand - saying too much - and worst of all - revealing the exact things which report buyers would happily pay to know.

That's because in 1992 when I started publishing the outputs of my own enterprise market research - I did it the hard way - as carefully formatted market reports which cost money. Luckily there was a much easier business for me - as I learned in 1996 when I went over to the dark side of a web advertising driven business model - in which content and ideas were tossed into the eco-sphere of http and it was much easier as I could save time by linking to raw content - instead of having to make it look pretty.

So what I actually said to Greg - re his SAS SSD "stellar performer" comparison was this...

"Without giving too much away... would you be prepared to illustrate that statement with a comparison or number?"

Well Greg gets a lot of email - and so do I - and sometimes they just disappear deep down the screen. But between the two of us this one has resurfaced.

So I can convey to you Gregory Wong's assessment that in 2013 - the SSD market grew 38% on unit basis and 28% on revenue basis. The corresponding growth rates for SAS SSDs were 134% and 69% respectively."

This is just one tiny snippet of data from one of his many detailed reports about the SSD market. So - if you need to more details about the plot - and have the money to buy the book - that's a useful data cavern to rummage around in.

See also:- what changed in SSD year 2013?, SSD market analysts


SSD company attitutudes can increase data recovery costs

Editor:- March 20, 2014 - Tom Coughlin, President Coughlin Associates has written a new blog - New Tools Will Reduce The Costs of SSD Data Recovery.

Commenting on the 5x higher relative cost of SSD recovery in situations where the DR company has to do in its own research to understand the distribution of the data - Tom says...

"Self-encrypted storage devices are a valuable method to protect consumer data and privacy but they can also prevent recovering that data if parts of the SSD become corrupted. There needs to be a greater degree of cooperation between the SSD manufacturers and legitimate data recovery companies to make recovering data for an SSD customer easier, while maintaining protection of SSD company intellectual property." ...read the article


the evolution of enterprise flash

Editor:- March 19, 2014 - If you follow SanDisk on twitter - @SanDiskDataCtr - you may have noticed they recently tweeted a link to one of my classic articles - the evolution of enterprise flash - a 10 year history

One thing which hasn't changed since the early days of enterprise flash - is the concept of a "naughty" type of flash memory - which sensible, cautious types point at saying - that is never going to be reliable enough.


Micron samples Marvell based M.2

Editor:- March 18, 2014 - Micron today announced it's sampling a 512GB M.2 SATA SATA SSD - the M550 (with DEVSLP and 550/500MB/s R/W speeds) - aimed at consumer markets - which is based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller.


Tegile has shipped 1,000 hybrid SSD arrays

Editor:- March 18, 2014 - Tegile Systems today announced it has shipped 1,000 of its Zebi storage arrays (hybrid SSD ASAP racks) since making the solution generally available 2 years ago.


how safe are your assumptions about SLC?

Editor:- March 18, 2014 - SLC is regarded as the "gold standard" in nand flash memory today when it comes to SSD endurance.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say - "SLC is the depleted uranium standard" when it comes to choosing ingredients for hardening the SSD data integrity sandwich.

So you can imagine my surprise- when in a recent conversation about the reliability aspects of SSDs - I was told about some unique and proprietary "brutal and awkward test patterns" - which had uncovered design flaws in a new type of SLC memory while it was being characterized for use in SSDs.

This indicated that SSDs designed using that memory in some applications could be killed in as little as 3 to 9 months of use.

This design vulnerability never showed up at all in the "standard" SSD controller test patterns which are used throughout the industry. And their application wasn't for an SSD accelerator - but for a regular speed SSD.

From the customer point of view - if you want an embedded SSD which you can rely on - it's nice to know that some people still design SSDs the old fashioned way - and test every assumption along the way.

That was just one of many new things I learned talking to Dave Merry and John Conklin co-founders of a new SSD company called FMJ Storage - which has - for the past several years been operating profitably while under the general market radar. You can see more about what we talked about in - Who's who in SSD? - FMJ


my idea of brain refreshing bliss - the 2 hour one on ones I've been having recently with the architects of SSD's future

Editor:- March 13, 2014 - Many of what used to be "1 hour conversations" with founders and the leading lights and influencers in ground breaking SSD companies - have for me - in the last week or so - often expanded into 2 hour sessions - as we all lose track of time exploring the important ideas which are really shaping this market - and none of us can think of a better place we'd rather be. (Even if it does mean - for some of my conversationalists - a rush for the plane or a dash down the garage / campus corridors to the next board meeting.)

I can't write about most of these conversations yet. And there are some I will never write about. But they do inform my thinking and my selection of topics for future SSD articles.

It's inevitable that the more time I spend talking - the less time I spend writing. But I'm selective in who I talk to - as some of your marcomms people, diary keepers and PR agencies, already know. And I type fast.

Luckily some of my articles already discuss strategic ideas which won't hit the consciousness of the populist enterprise SSD web sites - for years. So what do a a few days or so of lost trivial content coverage really matter?

Here are some brain busting articles I wrote later.


PCIe Switching - new article in EnterpriseTech.com

Editor:- March 13, 2014 - A new article in EnterpriseTech.com - PCIe Switching Takes on Ethernet, InfiniBand - reviews the antecedents and current state of the PCIe fabric market. This should be of interest to anyone thinking about the emerging architectural influences which may impact their plans within the PCIe SSD market.

One of the many vendors discussed in the article - PLX - says it's "not targeting warehouse-scale datacenters... but is rather thinking on a smaller scale, from hundreds to thousands of nodes." ...read the article

See also:- an SSD conversation with PLX about PCIe fabric


Pure Storage's rackmount SSD shipment mille-stone

Editor:- March 11, 2014 - Pure Storage today announced it has shipped over 1,000 of its Pure FlashArrays (fast enough rackmount SSDs).

Editor's comments:- in case you didn't get that "mille-stone" thing. "Mille" is an olde English prefix (from latin) meaning "thousand".

In enterprise flash array history context:- Pure Storage's shipments milestone is less signficant than IBM's 1,500 FlashSystem 840s (fast rackmount SSDs), but more significant than Tegile's 1,000 Zebi storage arrays (hybrids) - which we have also heard about in this quarter.


Coho Data now shipping 2U MicroArray hybrids

Editor:- March 6, 2014 - Coho Data today announced general availability of its first product - a 2U SSD ASAP called the DataStream (an SSDserver 4/E) - which integrates PCIe SSDs, hard drives and a server into a web scale expandable unit (using an internal 52 port 10GbE fabric switch) to implement what the company refers to as a "MicroArray" designed with the philosophy of "Turning Tiering Upside Down (pdf)" to deliver a base building block unit of 180K IOPS performance (4KB).

Editor's comments:- you may judge for yourself the lofty scale of Coho's ambitions by this market soothsayer quote which they integrated in the launch press release - "By 2017, Web-scale IT will be an architectural approach found operating in 50% of Global 2,000 enterprises."

See also:- SSD empowered cloud


VMware enters the SSD market

Editor:- March 6, 2014 - With the launch of its Virtual SAN - VMware has at last joined the crowding SSD software ecosystem as a lead SSD player rather than (as before) in a subordinate role (as the legacy software dancing partner - a bit like dancing with your uncle or aunt at the wedding disco) which was the case before in hundreds of acceleration compatibility stories narrated by other SSD companies.

VSAN version 1.0 is an SSD ASAP (hybrid virtualizing appliance) - which supports 3-8 server nodes. The company says that "support for more than 8 will come later." ...read the details.

Editor's comments:- first impressions? It's late and doesn't look great (in features). But it will probably be deemed adequate for many users starting down this road.

Before dismissing it entirely (as some commentators and competitors have already done) let's remember that when LSI entered the SSD market in January 2010 - it was the "163rd company to enter the SSD market". And look where they are now.

Being late to market doesn't count as a mortal sin in the SSD marketing lexicon right now because first mover advantage (pdf) assumptions aren't valid in this phase of the market's development.

more comments re VSAN

"Our customers who had the opportunity to participate in the VSAN beta told us that in most cases, (our) Maxta MxSP performs better" - said competitor Yoram Novick, founder Maxta in his blog - Software-Defined Storage – the Devil is in the Details

"I'm especially proud of how the team has outperformed expectations. Today we're announcing GA support for 32 nodes. That means that Virtual SAN can now scale from a modest 3 node remote office, to a multi-petabyte, mega-IOPS monster — just by adding more server resources... and ...VSAN isn't bolted on, it's built in." - says Ben Fathi, CTO VMware - in his blog - Virtual SAN: Powerfully Simple and Simply Powerful


Fusion-io accelerates Yelp

Editor:- March 5, 2014 - Fusion-io today published an applications story about the use of its SSDs to accelerate the MySQL database infrastructure of Yelp while also extending the viable longevity of its existing datacenter boxes.


new CMO at Violin

Editor:- March 4, 2014 - Violin today announced it had recruited a new CMO - Eric Herzog.

Editor's comments:- it's often the case that when business doesn't go the way that investors would like - they blame/change the marketing.

I had identifed weaknesses in Violin's marketing on this site even when they were on the upward ride. Doesn't mean to say I would know how to fix them in today's much more complicated enterprise market.

There are no easy SSD business options. But getting a new marketing brain - when you have SSD business headaches is a no-brainer.

...Later:-

I had many conversations with Eric while he was at Violin about enterprise SSD marketing.

Most useful was his response to my comment about the fractionalization of market reach with successive software-rich boxes from the company. He agreed. But had a good answer. See this article new SSD racks announced (and unannounced) by Violin - from June 2014.


OCZ launches Z-Drive 4500 - 19nm enterprise PCIe SSD

picture of Z drive 4500 PCIe SSD from OCZEditor:- March 4, 2014 - OCZ is still using LSI's SandForce SSD controllers (8x SF-2582 enterprise SATA (pdf)) in its newest PCIe SSD - the Z-Drive 4500 Series - launched today - which has upto 3.2TB of usable 19nm flash, R/W bandwidth of 2.9GB/s and 2.2 GB/s respectively, and 252K / 76 K R/W IOPS (4KB) in a FHHL form factor and is integrated with Windows WXL and OCZ's VXL caching software.

Being physically smaller than OCZ's legacy Z-Drive R4 - the new 4500 will be compatible with more server platforms.

The embedded controllers operate thermal-throttling - which means that if the drive gets hot - the performance is reduced to avoid runaway overheating.

The Z-Drive 4500 comes with integrated Windows Accelerator (WXL) Software - and is also fully compatible with OCZ's legacy VXL virtualization and caching software.

Like previous generations of PCIe SSDs from OCZ - the Z-Drive 4500 is bootable.

OCZ positions the Z-Drive 4500 as its best yet enterprise PCIe SSD family which "advances the Z-Drive Series feature-set by supporting higher performance and a more robust architecture."

See also:- ...Z-Drive 4500 briefing notes (pdf)

Editor's comments:- OCZ's VXL bundles have been very successful in small to medium scale enterprise deployments.

The evolution of this product line - supporting as it does another new generation of (lower cost) memory - will further extend its reach.


what's in a number?

Editor:- March 4, 2014 - SSDserver rank is a latency based configuration metric - proposed as a new standard by StorageSearch.com - which can tersely classify any enterprise server - as seen from an SSD software perspective - by a single lean number rating from 0 to 7. ...read the article


Micron taps enterprise market to head storage business

Editor:- March 3, 2014 - Micron today announced that Darren Thomas has been named as VP of Micron's storage business unit.


Software-Defined Flash - new efficiency gains revealed by Baidu

Editor:- March 2, 2014 - a new research paper by Baidu - SDF: Software-Defined Flash for Web-Scale Internet Storage Systems (pdf) - shows that by modifying standard SSDs to be compatible with its workload optimized SDF (which has access into the controller and changes some of the management assumptions) the result is 2x the usable flash capacity and 3x the I/O bandwidth.

Some of the things changed were:-
  • force explicit erase at write, and
  • remove parity coding across flash channels in the drive and instead rely on cloud level copies to restore any lost data
Why would SSD makers modify their firmware for a single customer?

Baidu had already deployed over 300,000 SSDs in its server infrastructure upto the end of 2013 - and is a million scale SSD user.

See also:- SSD utilization and the software event horizon, SSD controllers
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Skyera's history of flash memory and storage video
Editor:- March 27, 2014 - I was a few weeks late in discovering this talking heads SSD video...

But I don't think 2 weeks matters too much when the subject is the history of flash memory and storage (video) - and the main speaker is Frankie Roohparvar, COO - Skyera - who's been in the non volatile memory business for 30 years and has over 480 patents. (Launching the video and facilitating the content is David Davis EnterpriseStorageGuide.com.)

In a really non technical way (which even a VC or lawyer can understand) Frankie covers the ground from the earliest nvm (cavemen making marks), lists the iconic use cases for flash based products like ipods and cameras - which kept this market alive and innovating - and brings things right up to date with the business thinking inside Skyera's petabyte scale SSDs.
Skyera talks about histroy of flash memory
If your education didn't include semiconductor physics - and you're still struggling with imagining how MLC differs from SLC and eMLC, and how endurance, adaptive R/W controllers and all those electrons (locked in leaky cells) inter-relate to each other - Frankie's verbal explanation will make it all fit into place.

On the business case for Skyera's approach - Frankie reaffirmed something which I think the company has always been clear about - "When 90% of the system cost is flash you really need to understand the internal workings of flash (to drive the cost down to a new lowest level)." ...listen to the video

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"In modern petabyte scale-out storage systems the focus must be on the architectural organizations of the entire system and all related performance dimensions.

The storage node must be considered the building block of a complex ecosystem where the interconnection plays a strategic role.

Architecturally the storage node becomes the equivalent of an HDD in the old storage architecture - but must provide more complex functions."
Emilio Billi, Founder - A3CUBE in his paper - Architecting a Massively Parallel Data Processor Platform for Analytics (pdf) (March 2014)


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Hi Zsolt,

Have to thank you for all the good work on storagesearch.com. I have been following it for about the past year.
Bob Pearson, Principal Engineer - Cray
(email to the editor - March 25, 2014)


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"Is PCI Express destined to become a rival to interconnect systems such as Ethernet and InfiniBand? That, anyway, is the intent of 2 US companies, PLX Technology and A3Cube, both of whom are preparing extensions to point-to-point PCIe links that would extend the interface to data exchanges between servers..."
Stéphane Bihan, Executive Editor, HPC magazine - in his blog - Will PCI Express replace Ethernet and InfiniBand? (March 24, 2014)


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the new enterprise aristocrats of SSD
Editor:- March 14, 2014 - 7 years is the standard expected service life for a good industrial SSD - but in the enterprise SSD market 4 years may be long enough to earn a company its place for elevation into the elite ranks of the aristocracy - for class-act companies which have been seen regularly in all the right places - such as the Top SSD Companies Lists.

I didn't realize I was already unconsciously thinking this way - but the thought sprang into my frontal lobes in response to a short email from Bill Bodei - who is Senior Director of North American Channels at Kaminario.

Bill said - Big fan of your writings.... (on StorageSearch.com)

I said - Kaminario sure gave me some interesting things to write about for a while. Now everyones a born again SSD server genius just because they can write the cloud version of hello SSD world. But the more you engage with customers the more you learn. So there are still some advantages for the enterprise SSD aristocrats like Kaminario - of having been engaged in the market for more than a few quarters.

Bill replied - Yes it sure has become a crowded market quickly. We're busy here, heads down, working towards a milestone that promises to give you more to write about, while doing our part to disrupt and leapfrog this nascent market of ours as we evolve into adolescence. :)


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DCIG ranks top rackmount SSD vendors
Editor:- March 31, 2014 - If you're interested in rackmount SSDs then DCIG has published the DCIG 2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer's Guide (free sign-up page) - which provides detailed comments on the strengths and weaknesses of rackmount SSD systems from 20 different vendors - which are currently available in the market today (includes list prices).

DCIG have created their own multi-dimensional scoring system in which they look at component features such as density (TB/U), software compatibility (for example ease of integration with VMware), and management functions (dedupe, tiering, snapshots etc). DCIG has ranked these systems overall - and compared many of them to others in the same price band. Another useful feature of the report is a background story about the design heritage or market history of each product.

Editor's comments:- I've read the report and think it's a good read with respect to the raw data and detailed observations about many of the systems listed.

As to the product rankings?

I think whether you agree or not - depends on whether you would assign the same weights to each constituent in the confidential matrix of factors which DCIG have devised.

For some users it will reflect your own priorities - for others - the scoring outcome would be entirely different.

Among the SSD vendors listed in the report - the happiest will be Nimbus (who have been crowing today about being #1) - and happy too should be HP (which is #2).

Some vendors - whose products are best in class in a particular dimension - don't score highly in the main list because they lose out on the "sum of all things which DCIG think you might need" - which is an application dependent judgement - rather than being a universal "goodness" attribute.

The only company which is conspicuously absent from DCIG's list (at any rank) is Fusion-io. Does DCIG know something we don't? That's very odd.related articles:-


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SSDs need Data need SSDs
Editor:- March 21, 2014 - Recently I went to an informal pub reunion with some schoolfriends that I haven't seen for 40 years.

One of them who manages databases at a telco said - I've read some of your SSD stuff Zsolt, but for people like me the real problem is not just making things go faster - it's keeping the data alive and usable. What can SSDs do to help enable better information architecture?

I've been thinking about that for nearly 30 years... so we had an interesting conversation.

It's fair to say that without data you wouldn't need SSDs.

But it's also the case that - with enough SSDs in the right places - you can invent new data which didn't exist before.

Anyway - on that theme - and to even up the article mix a bit - take a look at - Are You Making the Most of Your Dark Data? - a new article by Timo Elliott

See also:- SSD software, The big market impact of SSD dark matter


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In line with the trend of DRAM shrinking into nanometerland where nand flash has already gone before - Samsung recently announced volume production of 20nm 4Gb DDR3
Editor:- March 11, 2014 - 40 years ago in the early days of MOS LSI - whenever semiconductor companies like Intel wanted to characterize a new semiconductor production process and establish the "safe" design rules for manufacturability at ever smaller chip geometries (by doing a "shrink") the circuit and product of choice for the fab architects was memory - even if the eventual product for the wafer fab was going to be a microprocessor.

That's no longer true.

And so - more recently - in the past few years - if you've been looking at all those "nm" (nanometer) numbers in the news stories about IT related chips you can hardly fail to have noticed that it's been the flash memory devices which have been at the leading edge of the shrinking nanometer numbers.

And when looking at production devices - flash has been about 2 years in advance of DRAM and server CPUs.

You've often heard on these pages that it's only by breaking the safe design rules used in preceding generations that interesting new SSDs come to market.

And a big part of the to-do list for any SSD controllers is to cope with a predictable scale and style of expected memory defects and virtualize them away - creating a usable base level storage device.

Fitting in line with this trend (of DRAM going into tiny spaces where nand flash has already been) Samsung today announced it's using 20nm technology in the production of new 4Gb DDR3 DRAM.

As comparison points:
  • Samsung was doing volume production of 10nm flash (used in consumer eMMC SSDs for mobile phones) in November 2012.
The way this pattern has been going in recent years is that the first volume uses of new silicon geometries go into consumer markets - where if there's a data upset - you can see something wrong happening (blue screen or freeze and some lost data) - but never mind - turn the power off and try to resume where you left off before.

After several quarters of doing this - the chip bakeries have finely tuned their recipes and are ready to guarantee a less crumbly dough mixture for use in the enterprise.

But if these concepts are new to you - it's not worthwhile memorizing them. Because 3D nand flash changes the priority of future enhancements towards a preference for building upwards in more layers instead of merely thinning sideways.


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LSI blog discusses customer driven technology changes in the hyperscale datacenter
Editor:- March 4, 2014 - "It's no longer enough to follow Intel's ticktock product roadmap" - says Rob Ober, Processor and System Architect LSI - in his new blog about Restructuring the datacenter ecosystem - in which he goes on to say...

"Development cycles for datacenter solutions used to be 3 to 5 years. But these cycles are becoming shorter."

And when talking about rack scale architectures - Rob says "Traditionally new architectures were driven by OEMs, but that's not so true anymore." ...read the article