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The SSD market during its short history (spanning only 40 years) has managed to accrue an imaginative body of literature which includes truths, half truths, mysticism, misunderstandings. myths, legends - and in some cases - downright balderdash - when it comes to the subject of SSD costs, pricing and justifications.
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing

click here to see our directory of SSD market analysts
SSD market analysts

stories from SSD news in May months gone by

2012 - Buffalo puts MRAM into SSD cache
2011 - SanDisk acquires Pliant (a SAS SSD company)
2010 - SandForce launches branding program
2009 - Unity Semi says CMOx will replace nand flash
2008 - Mtron supplies NASA first terabyte SSD in Space
2006 - Samsung unveils world's first hybrid for notebooks
2004 - RamSan rackmount SSD is IBM TotalStorage Proven

see more in SSD history

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"The Chinese companies giants are amazingly diverse, even within one datacenter, and arguments on architectural direction are raging within these Internet giants it's healthy and exciting.."
Restructuring the datacenter ecosystem: - episode #3 - by Rob Ober, LSI

SSD silos article
datacenter SSD silos

"One of the potential issues I could see with one of the vendors I interviewed with was their plan for scalability."
Why I Joined a Scale Out Storage Company - by Christopher Wells, Coho Data

image shows software factory - click to see storage software directory
SSD software

One of the more fascinating stories to me in the last two years has been the rapid adoption of the phrase: "software defined storage."
IBM V840 - the way "Software Defined Storage" should be done - by Woody Hutsell, IBM

Rackmount SSDs click for news and directory
rackmount SSDs

"That step in improved utilization means that when users make the switch to the newer software - not only do they need less servers - but they don't need as many SSDs either."
meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon

image shows mouse at the one armed bandit - click to see VC funds in storage
3 easy ways to enter the SSD market

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click to see directory of SAS SSD companies

Popular white papers and PDFs in April 2014
Editor:- April 10, 2014 - I'm not a great fan of PDFs - but there are some on the mouse site.

Here are some of the most popular PDFs which readers have been seeing this month (so far).

SSD symmetries article
SSD symmetries

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Hi Zsolt,

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

PCIe SSDs for use in enterprise server acceleration have been shipping in the market since 2007. It's one of the most popular SSD subjects pursued by our readers (and has been since 2009).

With over 100 million enterprise PCIe ports already shipped - the converging PCIe SSD / server market is well positioned to expand into new applications.
the PCIe SSD directory on

"The winners in SSD software could be as important for infrastructure as Microsoft was for PCs, or Oracle was for databases, or Google was for search."
get ready for a new world in which
all enterprise data touches SSDs

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 (in a conversation with David Davis

In a really non technical way (which even a VC or lawyer can understand) Frankie Roohparvar 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 Roohparvar 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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"SSD efficiency is a very powerful differentiator in technology and I think it will also be very important in influencing business success too."
Efficiency - making the same SSD - with less flash

a classic ad from SSD market history
Curtis solid state disks
Clipper II
5 1/4" SCSI Solid State Disks
from Curtis

(ad appeared on
in January 2000)

nice flash vs naughty flash
Sugaring flash for the enterprise
how the market changed from 2004 to 2013


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SSD news - May 2014

Kaminario guarantees amplified usable capacity

Editor:- May 20, 2014 - When I saw yesterday that Kaminario would be talking about a cost of around $2,000 per usable terabyte of SSD storage in its new 5th generation K2 enterprise rackmount launched today - my gut feel was - this price metric must be based on some kind of SSD utilization amplified capacity figure - rather than the conventionally discounted raw storage capacity - because I know that Kaminario isn't in the deep flash IP controller business - and unless I've been asleep and missed something - this kind of headline figure isn't coming from arrays of COTS flash drives.

So I asked the company about it - and was told that the "average $2/GB usable cost includes data reduction with Kaminario's guaranteed effective capacity offering (meaning they will provide customers with incremental free hardware if their original capacity needs aren't met)."

And when I probed again - does it apply to channel sales and well as direct sales - I got confirmation that it does.

I think this is very significant.

Because guarantees are the way to add weight to an SSD vendor's convictions that they are confident about what they're claiming.

9 years ago in the enterprise SSD market - we saw the world's first performance guarantees being given - about raw speed claims.

And similar to that in historic significance - I think that Kaminario's K2 v5 product launch will be remembered - not for the product specifications - but for ushering in a new era in enterprise SSD marketing - in which the increased utilization from software - stops being a wishy washy averaged (sometimes you might get it, but other times you won't) concept which sounds good in a news headline - of the type we've seen from a lot of other vendors in recent years - and instead becomes a guaranteed figure - like endurance - which users can learn to trust.

If Kaminario can stand behind its usable capacity amplification claims - then other vendors should do the same - or stop talking about promises they're not confident enough to stand behind.

And if some vendors say - we don't know the workload - so how can we provide a guarantee? I'd say - get to know your customers better - or risk losing a lot of business because the alternatives are offering over specified, over priced systems - which work - or under-specified, under-priced systems which might fail early.

is life really better with Plextor?

Editor:- May 20, 2014 - The paucity of serious marketing ideas in the consumer SSD market nowadays can be judged by the fact that Plextor America today launched a marketing program - "Life Is Better With Plextor" - which involves consumers signing up for a weekly lottery in which one person each week can win a free SSD.

Editor's comments:- I only mentioned it here because it can be amusing to witness the silliness of technical companies when they're engaged in consumer markets.

Nimble says 200 customers have used its bundled stack

Editor:- May 19, 2014 - Nimble Storage today announced that over 200 enterprise customers have used its SmartStack (pre-validated reference architecture) which is centered around the company's hybrid storage arrays.

See also:- hybrid array news, rackmount SSDs

PMC blog discusses latency implications of DSP ECC IP in SSD controllers

Editor:- May 15, 2014 - Latency in LDPC-based Next-Generation SSD Controllers is a new blog by Stephen Bates, Technical Director, PMC who says - "The variability of the LDPC decode time is a function of how many iterations it takes to decode the data from the flash."

In his article Stephen says that the minimum number of iterations is 1, typical is 4 and maximum is 20.

To relate that to latency - he says assume for sake of illustration that each iteration takes a microsecond.

Editor's comments:- you can see how those numbers can start to stack up and make inroads into the design of fast SSD controllers.

That's one of the reasons you've got so many different generations of flash memory circulating in the same market today.

The higher the capacity of the SSD - the greater the economic incentive to use newer smaller flash geometries. But those require more complex controller management (to guarantee data integrity) so that incurs greater design complexity and NRE.

PMC's market is the enterprise - but these DSP flash concepts are used in industrial markets too. In fact that's where they originated. Bu in industrial SSDs it can still be sometimes cheaper to deploy more expensive SLC memory in low capacity designs - due to the simpler requirements of the associated controller technology and therefore also lower demands for power hold up time too.

PS - in an earlier blog in this series - Stephen Bates (whose PhD was in signal processing) - revisits the reasons why the SSD market needs to consider the design freedoms which come from using complex DSP flash IP - and he gives examples of the tradeoffs. Such as 50% better endurance with LDPC codes using identical flash - or gaining usable capacity by using weaker codes.

BTW the industry changing possibilities of these technologies for reshaping the economies of SSDs were reviewed in my 2012 article - Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP in SSDs What is it? Who does it? and why?

Oracle acquires GreenBytes

Editor:- May 15, 2014 - Oracle today announced it will acquire GreenBytes.

See also:- SSD software, hybrid appliances, acquired SSD companies from 2000 to the present day

Virtium promises 4 years "no requals"

Editor:- May 14, 2014 -Virtium today announced that its new 2nd generation industrial SSDs (SATA 3 compatible) can deliver upto 4x the read performance of its 1st generation StorFly models.

They're available in in 2.5", 1.8", M.2, mSATA, Slim SATA, and CFast form factors.

Commenting on the high amortized cost per unit of requalifying SSDs in embedded industrial markets Scott Phillips, director of marketing at Virtium (who recently joined the company from HGST) said about the issue - "With its 2nd generation StorFly SATA SSDs, Virtium is able to guarantee that its SLC-based StorFly PE class products will not cause a requal for at least 4 years."
SSD news image - Storfly form factors
Editor's comments:- Because Virtium did such a good job a few years ago explaining to me how it was adapting its technology roadmaps to deal with MLC - I mistakenly assumed for a while that all the StorFly SSDs were only available with MLC inside. But I was wrong. The new models are available with either MLC or SLC.

new report on the costs to 3D nand flash manufacturability

Editor:- May 14, 2014 - Sometimes a good question can reveal as much about the state of the SSD market as the answer.

There isn't always a pre-packaged answer to many of the questions I get from thoughtful readers. And investing the time to understand why that is so - when the question is good one - and there should be an answer often leads to me writing new articles.

But you'll be pleased to know that there is a packaged answer to this question posed by Gregory Wong, President, Forward Insights who asks...

"What is the incremental investment required to transition a 32 layer 3D NAND fab to 64 layers? What is the impact on fab cycle time and manufacturing capacity?"

But you'll have to buy his latest report - Cost and Investment Implications of 3D NAND (overview pdf) - to find out what it is.

See also:- Forward Insights - SSD and nvm reports overview

is it time for enterprise SSD designers to reconsider RapidIO?

Editor:- May 14, 2014 - You'd think that with all the interfaces already in use within the enterprise SSD market - there wouldn't be enough of a market gap to justify introducing yet another one. - Particularly when that interface strays across low latency server-storage territory which is dominated by PCIe SSDs, under attack by memory channel SSDs and has been flanked historically by InfiniBand.

I thought so too.

But in a recent article - Do You Really Know RapidIO? - by Eric Esteve , founder of IPnest says - "Maybe it's time for the server/storage industry to give a second chance for the RapidIO protocol."

Editor's comments:- That's a bold statement - coming as it does from someone who was involved in designing one of the first generation PCIe controllers 10 years ago. Eric argues that the intrinsic fabric architecture and routing support in RapidIO - would make many of the things which architects are trying to do today - such as interconnecting large numbers of servers and SSDs for example - easier and faster.

SanDisk and Toshiba collaborate on 3D nand fab

Editor:- May 13, 2014 - SanDisk and Toshiba today announced that they have begun work on demolishing and converting a 2D NAND fab at Yokkaichi Operations, in Mie prefecture, Japan over to 3D capability with a view to enabling 3D output in 2016. See also:- flash memory

a new CMO for Fusion-io

Editor:- May 12, 2014 - Fusion-io today announced that Michael Mendenhall (who from 2007 to 2011 was CMO at HP) has joined Fusion-io as executive VP and CMO.

Editor's comments:- this fills a long standing vacuum in FIO's marketing - initially created by the management changes a year ago.

Being CMO at Fusion-io is one of the most important marketing positions in the SSD industry. The whole industry looks towards Fusion-io as an indicator of future directions in the enterprise - even its competitors.

TrendFocus reports SSD shipments in Q1 2014

Editor:- May 10, 2014 - According to a research report by TrendFocus - the top 2 SSD companies (based on the number of drives shipped in Q1 2014) were Samsung and SanDisk with 32% of the market and 26% respectively.

You can see a table listing the other top companies in the report summary by here.

Samsung starts 3D nand production at new fab in China

Editor:- May 9, 2014 - Samsung announced that its new memory fabrication line in Xi'an China - which will make 3D V-NAND - has begun full-scale manufacturing operations.

"SATA inside" SanDisk's ULLtraDIMMs

Editor:- May 8, 2014 - Today I learned some new details about the architecture in SanDisk's implementation of memory channel SSDs by watching a video - SanDisk ULLtraDIMM Architecture and Design Technology - which was recorded at the recent Storage Field Day event (April 25, 2014).

Inside each flash DIMM are 2x SATA CloudSpeed SSDs which connect to the DDR3 interface via a Diablo designed bridge chip which has something on the order of "megabytes" of buffer memory inside.

That gives a much better basis for understanding the performance limits of these devices.

And it confirms why you only start to see noteworthy performance from them after installing 3, 4 or more modules.

inside  ultradimm - architecture video

However - despite the "SATA inside" limited nature of this 1st generation memory channel storage design - the performance - aggregated at a block level - results in a usable write latency envelope which IBM has verified to be in a consistently lower latency category than most leading PCIe SSDs.

So - if you're thinking long term - and roadmaps - it's reasonable to assume that if a 2nd or 3rd generation of MCS flash DIMM SSD could abandon the "SATA inside" and use instead a large architecture flash controller with a native memory array optimized type of bridge interface - then the gaps between what MCS can offer - compared to PCIe latency - could widen.

By the way in this 52 minute video I also learned 2 interesting details about SanDisk's CloudSpeed SSDs which I didn't know before:-
  • SanDisk's Guardian technology doesn't perform scheduled data integrity checks to detect silent errors for data at rest.

    The stated reason being that this would eat into endurance. - And the implied assumption being that SanDisk thinks this type of activity is best determined by the system designer. So - if you design these SATA SSDs into a storage array - then you'll have to take responsibility for that aspect of long term data health in your own software.
See also:- memory channel SSD news and articles

Intel invests in Maxta

Editor:- May 7, 2014 - Intel Capital was one of the leading investors in a $25 million series B investment in Maxta which was announced today. Other investors included Tenaya Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

Editor's comments:- these investors aren't the only ones who believe Yoram Novick's claim that the company he founded is markedly different to the other 95% or so of SSD software startups. A lot of you were sufficiently curious too - which elevated Maxta into the Top SSD Companies list in Q1 2014.

See also:- Maxta case studies and white papers, new trends in SSD boxes, VCs in SSDs and storage

Avago completes acquisition of LSI

Editor:- May 6, 2014 - Avago Technologies Limited today announced it has completed its acquisition of LSI an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $6.6 billion.

The acquisition creates a highly diversified semiconductor market leader with approximately $5 billion in projected annual revenues.

Avago believes the acquisition of LSI repositions Avago as a leader in the enterprise storage market. The acquisition also expands Avago's product offerings and brings system-level expertise in its wired infrastructure market.

LSI will operate as a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of Avago and will continue to conduct business under the LSI name.

Editor's comments:- A quick way to graps what Avago is all about is to view their news page.

Although LSI's SSDs and controllers already operate in more markets than you can easily count - it's interesting to speculate what integrating Avago's connectivity technologies with LSI's enterprise flash controller SSD expertise will do for the SSD market.

My guess is that it will become easier, cheaper and less risky for systems designers to place SSD functionality anywhere they like without having to dive deeply into the interface details.

EMC acquires memory channel SSD in a box company DSSD

Editor:- May 5, 2014 - EMC has acquired a stealth mode rackmount SSD company - DSSD - it was announced today.

Products based on the new DSSD architecture are expected to be available in 2015.

Editor's comments:- an informative and entertaining article about this can be seen on

It sounds like the DSSD product will implement a large directly addressable (by PCIe) memory space - based on a transparent RAM cache flash memory tiering scheme and will offer latencies similar to memory channel SSDs - but with the capacity difference being that you can pack more capacity into a box than in a bunch of DDR3 DIMMs.

It hearkens back to the original big shared memory in a box connected by PCIe of Violin's first product - the Violin 1010 Memory Appliance - which was launched back in 2007.

Although that was pure RAM - and expensive. And enterprise users in those days weren't as educated as they are today. That meant Violin had to go back and redesign the product to include a fibre-channel front end - to make it fit in with the market idea of what an enterprise SSD box should really look like. And that product also came in at the tail end of the RAM SSD market - in the year before new flash controller architectures enabled SSD makers (including Violin) to displace low to mid range SSD boxes with pure flash.

And before Violin's product - in 1994 - Texas Memory Systems was shipping a product called the SAM-2000 (Shared Access Memory) - which enabled a bunch of different computers (even with different OS and internal busses) to share the same memory at low microsend latencies and bus throughputs.

There's an argument for saying that Violin already offers something similar now to what EMC hopes to ship next year - in the shape of Violin's Windows Flash Array (WFA). Except that the 1st generation WFA uses GbE as the server clustering fabric. But my guess is that it would be easy for Violin to offer other variations with lower internal latency - to connect the CPUs to its VIMMs - if they thought enough customers would buy it.

And IBM can already do something similar (to Violin) with its X6 architecture.

The limitations in IBM's technology are that the 1st generation of eXFlash DIMMs (designed by SanDisk and Diablo) are greedy when it comes to power consumption. That means legacy server motherboards don't have enough current capacity routed to the DIMMs to enable you to fill them all with these modules. That's easy to change, however by adding more copper in the motherboards and increasing the air flow in the box.

If EMC offers the DSSD as a product which is unbundled from the brand of server - then it might find a niche market for it.

But there are so many different ways of tackling the same problem (such as enabling PCIe SSD fabric from PLX and A3CUBE, and software defined storage, not to mention what's the PCIe interface for in Skyera's new box) that it may already be a crowded market by the time EMC has anything to ship.

See also:- Are you ready to rethink enterprise RAM?

See later:- NVMe controllers inside EMC's DSSD
2014 - key changes in the SSD market, SSD market history - all

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In 1998 - began publishing a daily updated online directory of solid state disk vendors - in which Megabyte the mouse was depicted chipping away at a rock to reveal a barrel - which is still the site icon for SSD news.
new whitepaper from Diablo looks at the "drawbacks of traditional PCIe SSDs"
Editor:- April 22, 2014 - Diablo Technologies today published a white paper Enterprise Storage Performance: it's all about the Architecture (and not just the interface) (pdf)
graph from the white paper
This paper presents Diablo's perspective - as the creator of Memory Channel Storage (an architecture which supports terabyte class flash SSDs in unmodifed DDR-3 DRAM DIMM sockets and runs within those safe operating electrical power envelopes).

The article looks at the measured performance weaknesses of some specific (but unnamed) PCIe SSDs with respect to their measured performance asymmetries under various loads and then attempts to generalize those weaknesses as part of an argument that MCS is a better solution than PCIe SSDs - because MCS is more scalabe and doesn't suffer from the same kind of architectural bottlenecks.

Editor's comments:- This paper from Diablo reminds me of the type of comparisons between different types of PCIe SSDs (and their sensitivities to different workloads) which was one of the pivotal marketing points of difference which Virident used to hang their reputation on in the years leading up to its acquisition by HGST. (Although as I often reminded readers at the time - Virident wasn't the only company with that kind of array scalability or no-compromise performance.)

Going back to Diablo's white paper - for me - like many vendors written papers - it's good and bad in different parts.

The best bit is the middle - in which you get a reminder - from measured results that fast SSDs with similar capacities can behave differently.

The worst part in my view is the attempt to link these comparison results to a general conclusion about the merits of MCS versus PCIe SSDs.

Because I think the architecture of the controllers on the flash side of the SSDs plays such an important part as too does the software. And that's still just a small part of the picture.

My considered view is that Diablo's extrapolation towards a general market conclusion from one selected comparison example is not merited by the evidence presented in this article.

And while I am convinced of the benefits of Diablo's MCS architecture - and what it can do differently and better compared to PCIe SSDs - I think this particular paper isn't the best case they could argue.

related articles

memory channel storage
memory channel SSDs

SSDs are changing a market (data processing) which was designed without any original conception of SSDs being there in the first place.
why's the enterprise flash plot so complicated?

image shows megabyte waving the winners trophy - there are over 200 SSD oems - which ones matter? - click to read article
top SSD companies

"...My advice re SSDs for database acceleration has always been - try before you buy. That's because the performance model which you have in your head may not be the same performance model which is at work inside your system."
...Editor (in many conversations) about the interplay of enterprise software with SSDs in database apps.

SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers

Surviving SSD sudden power loss
Why should you care what happens in an SSD when the power goes down?

This important design feature - which barely rates a mention in most SSD datasheets and press releases - has a strong impact on SSD data integrity and operational reliability.

This article will help you understand why some SSDs which (work perfectly well in one type of application) might fail in others... even when the changes in the operational environment appear to be negligible.
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics If you thought endurance was the end of the SSD reliability story - think again. the article

This article proposes a simple scheme which enables the essential characteristics of an SSD enhanced server to be communicated by a single number which tells you all you need to know about the latency and likely performance from an SDS viewpoint.
SSDserver rank 0 to 7

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Another petabytes shipment snapshot of enterprise flash
Editor:- May 9, 2014 - A recent blog - in ArchitectingIT - says that 3 leading vendors shipped a sum total of over 50PB of rackmount SSDs in Q1 2014 - with HDS - apparently having shipped more flash capacity than either EMC or Pure Storage according to estimates by the blog's author Chris Evans.

Editor's comments:- How does this compare to other vendors? and to other times?

See Petabyte SSD Milestones from Storage History.

Another context is this.

If and when Skyera ships just 40U of its fully populated upcoming skyEagle (in a single quarter later this year) that would be more flash capacity than anyone in the above list. (Although they should all be shipping more too if you believe market forecasts.)

Enterprise flash capacity - on its own - is a crude and meaningless measure. (Unless - I suppose - you're the company which sold the chips or the boxes.)

The true business value of enterprise flash depends on how fast it is, where it's located in the datacenter architecture and how well it has been integrated to leverage the application architecture.