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SSD market news - October 2014

SSD history / 12 key SSD ideas which changed in 2014 / endurance - the forever war
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Skyera's new skyHawk FS

Editor:- October 29, 2014 - It was with great enthusiasm last week that I looked forward to having my first conversation with Frankie Roohparvar, CEO of Skyera.

For me the interesting aspect wasn't that it was Skyera - because even though I think they are really important - I wasn't really expecting any earth shattering new announcements from them till next year. And in that respect I guessed about right. As you can see for yourself by reading their press release about the new skyHawk FS - a 1U very efficient rackmount SSD. (More of which later).

Frankie has helped to create flash history. So the first thing I said to him was that I'd really enjoyed his history of flash memory and storage (video). Which if you haven't seen it - and if your network admin permits you to watch youtube - is very worthwhile.

Here's a small spattering of what we talked about.
  • what's different about the new product?

    Skyera's new box is an incremental improvement on what they did before.

    Twice as much capacity in the same 1U space.

    A smaller number of fast 10GbE ports - replaces the old plethora of slow ports.

    Addition of another hot-swap power supply.

    Frankie said that the 2nd version of any product benefits from learning the reactions to what came before.

    So I see this version of Skyera's box as an interim marketing course correction - due to better understanding of customer needs - rather than as being a technology advance.
  • the mobile data center

    If you see someone carrying a 1U rack in a pack onto a plane - and find out later this box has 136TB of raw flash, which can do 400K IOPS on a SAN at under 1 micro-second latency - even with one power supply down - it may be Frankie - or someone else from Skyera.

    If the product is from a competitor - however - and you see just one single person carrying the same storage payload - you may want to reconsider whether it's safe to get on the plane. (Especially if their shirt looks tight and their skin color is green.)

    Size weight and power (swap) savings are some of the consequences of Skyera's relentless pursuit of the ultimate efficiency in SSD array design - which was something I wrote about last year - in my article scary Skyera.

    This acronym - swap - comes from military parlance - and marketers in various companies adorn it with their own customizations - depending on what point they're trying to emphasize. You can see how Skyera stretches this to swap4 - in the skyHawk FS briefing paper (pdf)

    Frankie said the mobile data center - such as is enabled by having hundreds of terabytes of flash in a Hummer for example - is an interesting new enterprise market segment in which Skyera's product enables entirely new types of mobile deployments.
  • re unified storage and gentlemen's clubs

    One of the dimensions in which Skyera has invested resources recently - is the population of bullet points associated with software compatibilities.

    The trick here - if you're a marketer - is to make the list so long - nobody has the time to read it. Instead if your price is attractive then people will ask you if you have what they want - and from those conversations you can decide which features should be prioritized.

    On this theme - almost a null bullet point - which I'm seeing from many flash box vendors is the phrase - "unified SAN / NAS storage".

    And unsurprisingly it's in Skyera's blurb too.

    So I said to Frankie - in some ways - by doing this (and the other compatibility stuff) - Skyera is putting a lot of effort into joining something which looks a lot like an old fashioned English gentleman's club (think- Forsyte Saga or Sherlock Holmes). But we know that the current members of the club are so old they will die soon anyway. So is it worth it?

    Frankie laughed at that.

    And that's how I raised the topic of unified storage...

    I said - When it comes to unified storage I see that Skyera has the usual 2 - (SAN + NAS) but I expect something better from Skyera than the usual 2 out of 3 which the old timers do. So... what about persistent memory?

    Surely - I said - if a customer has invested in some of your state of the art boxes (which we know inside have latency characteristics similar to the best server based accelerators) it would be reasonable for them to expect to be able to do big memory type software APIs via PCIe too - using next generation software such as SanDisk's Zetascale etc.

    If they own petabytes of flash in your (Skyera) boxes- why should they be forced to go and buy more flash from someone else (in a server box for example) - to get the job done?

    Frankie said - I wasn't the first person to have raised that issue.

    Some of Skyera's customers have mentioned those needs too.

    Skyera is thinking about it.

    So my guess is that in 2015 we can expect to see that kind of access model to the flash array - as an API supported, low latency, big memory type - via interfaces like PCIe or InfiniBand - being added to leading-edge flash storage racks.

    That will make "unified storage" a more meaningful concept.



Who Needs 10Gbps USB?

Editor:- October 29, 2014 - SSDs are at the forefront of the thinking in a new article today - Who Really Needs USB 3.1? by Eric Esteve.

Eric's blog sketches out a 5 years into the future application picture for this new (10Gbps) iteration of the USB connected story.

See also:- storage interface chips, market research


McObject expands reach of in memory database for serious embedded apps developers

Editor:- October 28, 2014 - First 2, then 3 and finally - 4 interesting things caught my eye in news about version 6.0 of eXtremeDB - an in-memory database system from McObject
  • Data compression. This release adds data compression for both in-memory and on-disk databases. Once upon a time compression was a value add feature in some products - but now in the SSD age when compression is almost latency free - it has become a must-have on the feature list - especially for embedded systems.
  • Avionics platform support. This upgrade adds compatibility with Wind River Systems' VxWorks 653 COTS platform for delivering safety-critical, integrated modular avionics applications.
  • More flexible transaction scheduling. Applications using eXtremeDB's multiple-user, single-writer transaction manager can override the default FIFO scheduling policy within priority levels to favor either read-only or read-write transactions.
  • Distributed query processing support. eXtremeDB partitions a database and distributes query processing across multiple servers, CPUs and/or CPU cores - which can accelerate performance.
""Demand for distributed query processing cuts across market segments, but is especially relevant to the automation and control field, where eXtremeDB is historically strong" said McObject CEO and co-founder Steve Graves.

See also:- industrial SSDs, military SSDs, hybrid DIMMs


VIMMs, controllers and firmware's place in the box

Editor:- October 27, 2014 - As Violin's flash SSD controllers - VIMMs - are such an important part of their system offerings - and as they have established themselves as a de-facto proprietary standard in the enterprise (in the same way that if you ship enough quantities of anything over several memory product generations and over 6 years expanse of time it is an industry standard - despite having no ORG as custodian of the sacred pdfs)...

That was my pretext (6 months ago) for suggesting to Eric Herzog, Violin's CMO - that readers like you - might be interested to know how many VIMMs the company has shipped.

I said this would enable analysts and prospective customers to compare the installed weight of this controller architecture to other things which they can get numbers for - such as units of SAS SSDs, PCIe SSDs etc.

I don't have those VIMM shipment numbers - but I found it refreshing to see a recent blog from Violin which talks again about the hardware inside its arrays - coming as it does after a stream of announcements from Violin which have focused mostly on software compatibilities - in which almost the exact same words could have been said of other competing rackmount SSD despite them having completely different innards.

Where does firmware come from? - by Erik Ottem, Director of Product Marketing - Violin - answers this question more from a business perspective than a technical software writing angle.

Erik's point is that Violin's biggest systems competitors have made up their deficits in raw flash array architecture by buying companies or licensing 3rd party software - whereas Violin controls everything about the way that the thousands of flash memory chips in each big SSD architecture system are connected and managed. ...read the article

Editor's comments:- While nothing in Erik's blog is really new - for anyone who has known the company for a long time - I think it's a healthy restatement of what makes this company different from most of its competitors.

Having said that - owning your own controller architecture - also carries its own consequences in terms of the cost of the raw memory you have to buy too.


flash backed DIMMs - new directory on StorageSearch.com

Editor:- October 21, 2014 - Although StorageSearch.com has been writing about flash backed DRAM DIMMs since the first products appeared in the market - I didn't think that subject was important enough before to rate a specific article or market timeline page.

That's unlike - memory channel SSDs - which has become 1 of the top 10 SSD subjects viewed by readers after having had its own directory page here since April 2013.

Despite my lack of initial enthusiasm for bybrid DIMMs (or hybrid drives for that matter too) I realize that sometimes a market is defined as much by what it isn't as by what it is. Which is why I have relented.

And so - to help clarify the differences between these 2 types of similar looking storage devices (one of which I think is much more significant than the other - but both of which are important for their respective customers) I have today created a directory page for hybrid DIMMs etc - which will act as the future launch pad for related articles.

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StorageReview.com tests Fusion-io's Atomic PCIe SSD

Editor:- October 21, 2014 - Earlier this year - in June 2014 - and just weeks before SanDisk announced it was acquiring the company - Fusion-io launched a new generation of PCIe SSDs - the Atomic Series - which was an overdue catching up exercise to use cheaper 20nm flash.

At the time the headline product specifications seemed to me to be adequate - rather than spectacular.

It's probably safe to assume they were intended to restore the competitiveness of Fusion-io's products rather than push performance boundaries.

But what are they like? And how do they compare?

A new article - Fusion ioMemory PX600 Review - published in StorageReview.com provides the answers to how it performs and how it compares on popular OS platforms and benchmarks. ...read the article

See also:- how fast can your SSD run backwards?, SSD testing & analyzer news


HP plus EMC? - the SSD DNA mix from Jurassic Park

Editor:- October 20, 2014 - I'm still here. I've been working on a new article (see above).

PS - I didn't think it was worth commenting here earlier about that EMC / HP merger story - which is covered in many other places such as BusinessInsider.com

My reasoning was this.

No matter how you mix the DNA from 2 dinosaurs - the result is unlikely to be a mammal.

See also:- animal brands and metaphors in the storage market and animal brands in the SSD market


SSDs are made of this

Editor:- October 14, 2014 - Without memory - there would be no SSDs.

And while naturally the emphasis in SSD thinking is mostly on - how can we do useful and affordable things with SSDs? - despite how terribly flawed the raw material is which we have to work with (which leads you to architecture, controllers, data integroty and software) - it can nevertheless be strategically useful for SSD specifiers to sometimes brace themselves for a deep dive down into the cold details of how much better (or worse) those raw memory characteristics are going to get - so you can anticipate future developments.

This week the best place to look is MemCon.

Here's the agenda page.


HA SSD arrays - are now mainstream

Editor:- October 13, 2014 - I've long had an abiding interest in the architecture of fault tolerant / high availability electronic systems - ever since learning that such concepts existed - when (in about 1976) our digital systems design lecturer Dr R G 'Ben' Bennetts at Southampton University suggested we should read a paper about how NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs used triple modular redundancy.

(I can't remember the details of that paper - but the JPL people and their collaborators and descendants have never stopped inspiring and writing a rich literature about the design aspects of computer systems which operate a long way from a service engineer.)

In the early part of my career - such ideas were good to know about - but far too exotic and expensive to incorporate into most products. But I was reminded about them in the 1990s - when in the publication which preceded StorageSearch.com - some of my customers were advertising their FT/ HA SPARC servers for the telco market.

The more you investigate the architecture of FT/ HA computer systems the more you realize it's a philosophy rather than a technology which you can implement as a plug and play inconsequentially within the cost goals of mere mortals.

The results are always compromises - which balance reliability (aka functionable survivability) against other tradeoffs - such as performance. (And performance itself has many internal dimensions of fault tolerance too.)

Violin's 6000 SSD and HA

3 years ago (in September 2011) when I was talking to Violin's CEO (at that time) Don Basile about the launch of Violin's first 6000 series (the first no single point of failure, competitively priced, fast flash rackmount SSD) he expressed some concern about how I would tell you (my readers) what was unique about this product and signal whether it was relevant to you or not - as it was competing for attention with thousands of other SSD stories for applications ranging from phones to drones.

I didn't see that as a problem - because my readers are smart - and I had been publishing a directory page dedicated to SSD Reliability since 2008.

But just to make sure that the systems embodiments of FT/HA/SSD architecture from a growing base of competitors didn't get washed away by other stories - I launched a dedicated ft/HA enterprise SSD directory in January 2012 - to serve an emerging base of reliability focused readers - which in those days measured around 10,000 readers / year in that niche topic. (Until recently HA SSDs have rarely entered the top 30 SSD articles viewed by my readers.)

But something in the market has changed.

I noticed this week that the topic of HA/FT SSDs has risen to be 1 of the top 10 topics that you've been looking at this month. Which means it's mainstream.

Looking back at other past niche topics...

10 years ago I didn't think that more than a few hundred people would be interested in the intricacies of flash endurance. And to begin with - SSD vendors were nervous about even acknowledging that there was such a thing as SSD wear out. Now you can't shut them up. They all want to show you how clever they are at handling it

The different types of flash memory and different generations of arcane flash care schemes spawned a huge industry literature of understanding and misunderstanding - so I wouldn't be surprised if the enterprise FT/HA flash array market now started to do something similar.

PS - After a communications gap of 37 years - I exchanged some emails with my old university lecturer - Ben Bennetts while writing this - to see if I had remembered things correctly.

He said - "Yes, that was me. I lectured on fault-tolerant systems and JPLs Self-Test And Repair, STAR, computer, based on triple modular redundancy, used to feature in my presentations."

So that enables me to pin point the original source of that inspirational IEEE Transactions paper about fault tolerant computing - which I remember having read in 1976 (although I haven't read it since) to Prof. Algirdas Antanas Avižienis - whose visionary work on - what is today called - "Dependable Computing and Fault-Tolerant Systems" - continues today.


Samsung versus Samsung

3D MLC v 2D TLC (wrapped in a SATA SSD)


Editor:- October 10, 2014 - What are the differences seen at the SSD level when you compare Samsung's 3D nand (32 cells stacked vertically in the chip MLC - with 2 bits per cell discrimination) with 2D (planar) TLC (1 cell high fabrication but 3 bits per cell discrimination)?

3D versus TLC are different memory manufacturing techniques with different technology roadmaps - but both are out in the wild of the market in SATA SSDs at the present time.

Jim Handy - the SSD Guy - has published a new blog - Comparing Samsung's V-NAND and Planar SSDs which compares the possible differences in performance and power consumption as viewed in the context of 2 SATA SSDs - the 850 and 840 respectively - which use the same controller.

Re IOPS - Jim says "the 850 performs consistently better than the 840 at all block sizes for constant streams of writes and for a 65:35 read/write mix. At the 100% read workload the performance of the two SSDs is roughly equivalent."

Editor's comments:- Although small superficial differences emerge in the benchmarks - I don't think they're significant.

Because even if you introduced 2 SSDs using the same memory technology at different dates for the consumer market - you might - as a product marketing decision - choose to tweak the controller biases a different way.

Instead what I find more interesting is how closely Samsung was able to match 2 SSD characteristics using different memories. This is a shrewd strategic signal to their oem customers that they know enough about the internals to deliver a consumer SSD with a given set of characteristics regardless of what is the most convenient memory technology to take from their fab.

In other markets - such as embedded / industrial SSDs - being able to retain and deliver precisely the same SSD power and performance envelope - despite using different types and generations of raw flash over a 7 year or so market period - has developed into a more refined artform.


Netlist asks court to shut down SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM production and recall units already sold

storage patent disuputeEditor:- October 10, 2014 - Netlist recently announced it has filed a motion for preliminary injunction which seems to be intended to restrain Diablo and its flash-side SSD integration partner SanDisk from any further manufacture or sale of the ULLtraDIMM (memory channel SSDs).

The Court has set a tentative date of December 2, 2014, for a hearing on Netlist's motion. If granted this would immediately shut down any further manufacture and sale of the ULLtraDIMM. Netlist has further asked the Court to order the recall of any ULLtraDIMM products previously sold.

Editor's comments:- This series of legal disputes has been going on since last year. If you haven't read those stories - the essential story is something like this.

At some time in the past Netlist and Diablo had a technology supplier agreement - as a result of which - Diablo had access to Netlist's IP related to minimizing the capacitive load of complex circuits susch as controllers when they sit on a DRAM style of bus. Netlist doesn't have any products which are similar to SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM - but Netlist claims that the ULLtraDIMM design has used its patented interface technology without a license. Countering that - Diablo says it did get the rights to use some of the DRAM load interface technology - and that in any case - this aspect of the design is not the essential defining characteristic of their flash SSD architecture.

Yesterday Diablo's CEO - Riccardo Badalone retorted to Netlist's latest legal move saying this - "After a year of court proceedings and months of discovery, Netlist still cannot decipher how Memory Channel Storage works, much less substantiate that it infringes on any of their IP."


Efficiency is important for web scale users - says Coho

Editor:- October 9, 2014 - Facebook as a file system - a web scale case study - a new blog by Andy Warfield , cofounder and CTO - Coho Data - made very interesting reading for me - as much for revealing the authoritative approach taken in Andy's systematic analysis - as for the object of his discussion (Facebook's storage architecture).

It reveals useful insights into the architectural thinking and value judgments of Coho's technology - and is not simply another retelling of the Facebook infrastructure story.

When you read it you may get different things out of it - because it's rich in raw enterprise ideas related to architecture, software, and dark matter users. All of which makes it hard to pick out any single quote. But here are 2.
  • re - the miss match between enterprise products and user needs

    Andy Warfield says - "In the past, enterprise hardware has had a pretty hands-off relationship with the vendor that sells it and the development team that builds it once it's been sold. The result is that systems evolve slowly, and must be built for the general case, with little understanding of the actual workloads that run on them."
  • re efficiency and utilization

    Andy Warfield says - "Efficiency is important. As a rough approximation, a server in your datacenter costs as much to power and cool over 3 years as it does to buy up front. It is important to get every ounce of utility that you can out of it while it is in production."
There are many more I could have chosen. ... read the article


You don't need to worry about the endurance of our FlashSystems - says IBM

Editor:- October 7, 2014 - Worried about endurance?

"None of the thousands of FlashSystem products (fast rackmount SSDs) which IBM has shipped has ever worn out yet! - says Erik Eyberg, Flash Strategy & Business Development at IBM - in his new blog - Flash storage reliability: Aligning technology and marketing. "And our metrics suggest that will remain true in almost all cases for many, many years (certainly well beyond any normal and expected data center life cycle)"

Erik goes on to explain that's the reason IBM can now officially cover flash storage media wear-out as part of its standard IBM FlashSystem warranty and maintenance policies - without changing the prices for these services.

And his blog has a link to a white paper about the reliability architecture underlying this product (although it's behind a sign-up wall - which seems counter productive to me.)

Editor's comments:- Don't expect all other flash array vendors to follow suit (with no cost endurance guarantees) - because this product range from IBM is based on design rules and memory reliability architectures experience in FC SAN compatible enterprise SSD racks which have evolved since the 1st generation RamSan from TMS (in 2000). And for more than a decade before that using other popular enterprise storage interfaces.

Holly Frost - who founded Texas Memory Systems - and who was the CEO when TMS was acquired - told me a revealing story about TMS's policies concerning the reliability of their SSD systems and customer care procedures.

This conversation took place in December 2011 - when the company was launching its first high availability SSD - which became the basis of IBM's FlashSystem.

It still makes interesting reading today. You can see it in this article - in the right hand column - scroll down to the box titled - "no single point of failure - except..."

See also:- high availability enterprise SSDs


Toshiba orders 1 million SSD controllers this quarter from Phison

Editor:- October 7, 2014 - A report on Digitimes says that Toshiba has ordered "about one million" SSD controllers from Phison for delivery in the current quarter.

Editor's comments:- You can get an idea of who else uses Phison's controllers (Corsair, Kingston etc) - and for what purposes - on Phison's news page.


SolidFire gets another $82 million funding

Editor:- October 7, 2014 - SolidFire today announced it has closed an $82 million Series D round of funding, bringing its total funding to $150 million.

New investor Greenspring Associates led the round along with a major sovereign wealth fund, with participation from current investors NEA, Novak Biddle, Samsung Ventures and Valhalla Partners. SolidFire will use the additional funds to extend its global reach.

Editor's comments:- The basic building blocks of SolidFire's SSD systems are 1U iSCSI rackmount SSDs which include 10x 2.5" SSDs. At that level it's the same as 100 or so other competing systems.

If you want fibre channel access - you add a special 1U adapter rack to the native IP array. So it's expensive - but keeps the unit costs of the most common building blocks down - compared to including native unified storage in each rack. So in the case of a big installation - it's a reasonable cost optimization tradeoff.

A key difference is SolidFire's software architecture and the fact they use a big controller architecture type of RAID - which they call "no-RAID".

In SolidFire's no-RAID (which is really big RAID) - the data is more widely dispersed across the drive population than in classical (small architecture) RAID.

The effect is much less disruption to data access and consistent performance when a drive fails - because SolidFire's software can manage upto about 100 racks as a raw storage resource (1,000 SSD drives) - so the impact of a single drive down is small. Users also have a high degree of flexibility as to how they micro manage different virtualized segments of storage to meet their different QoS goals.

See also:- VCs and SSDs


We need new software abstractions to efficiently handle all the different emerging flavors of persistent enterprise memory - says SanDisk

Editor:- October 3, 2014 - New enterprise software abstractions are needed in order to efficiently utilize all those unruly developments in flash, tiered flash-DRAM architecture and NVDIMMs.

And laying the educational framework for those ideas - along with some practical suggestions for where applicable solutions might be coming from - is the theme of a recent blog - the Emergence of Software-Defined Memory - written by Nisha Talagala, Fellow at SanDisk & Fusion-io - who (among other things) says:-

"We're seeing excitement build for a new class of memory:- persistent memory - which has the persistence capabilities of storage and access performance similar to memory.

"Given this richness of media technologies, we now have the ability to create systems and data center solutions which combine a variety of memory types to accelerate applications, reduce power, improve server consolidation, and more.

"We believe these trends will drive a new set of software abstractions for these systems which will emerge as software-defined memory – a software driven approach to optimizing memory of all types in the data center." ...read the article

See also:- are you ready to rethink enterprise DRAM architecture?


NetApp says - the time for taking risks with enterprise flash startups is over

Editor:- October 1, 2014 - Demise of the flash startups is the provocative title of a recent blog by Craig Alger at NetApp - who asserts that the "brief window of time where fast and agile (enterprise SSD) startups can get the jump on large, slow manufacturers" has now ended.

Craig questions how startups like Pure and Tegile can expect to compete now that "titans of the industry" such as NetApp, and EMC (and by implication IBM, Dell, and HP too) have gotten their flash toys acquired, oemed, licensed and integrated neatly within vast product catalogs?

Editor's comments:- If you agree with Craig's premise - that all the disruptive innovation is now over - then you'd probably also agree that it's not worth taking risks with new enterprise SSD startups. Just stick with the big safe vendors and you'll be OK.

You won't be surprised to learn I disagree.

This is what I said to Craig (by email) yesterday...

"Hi Craig,

I saw your blog - Demise of the Flash startups - and might comment / post about it. Liked the middle but disagree about the conclusion.

I would agree - if the pace of disruptive change in enterprise SSD architecture had slowed down and if it already did solve most problems.

"But with a lot of very big changes in utilization still to come - the potential market size for genuinely innovative enterprise SSD startups (drives, systems and software) is bigger than it was before.

"So there will more startup companies to acquire, license from and compete with. No one's got a whole stable solution architecture and credible roadmap yet. At best current flash systems are stepping stones to somewhere else."

Oh - and if you're wondering - which is the part of Craig's blog I liked the most (apart from the cleverly provocative title) it was where he says "...those SSDs aren't as expensive as they used to be." ...read Craig's article
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why did Memblaze launch its new 14µS latency PCIe SSDs in Europe before US?
Editor:- October 31, 2014 - Something I saw in a press release this week by Memblaze Technology made me think I'd better pause to check the significance behind the words before mentioning it here.

The story - from their PR agency - A3 Communications - was about the launch of a new PCIe SSD - the EBlaze3 - in Europe - which contained the phrase.

"This will be the first time the technology is available outside China."

I wondered if - behind that statement - there might have been an implied message that the new product will be sold preferentially in Europe - rather than the US - as we have seen evolving in stories about one of the world's biggest enterprise companies - to have emerged from China - Huawei.

Or was this wording - and the showing of Memblaze's EBlaze3 at a trade show this week in Germany - simply due to the timing of having booked booths at trade shows and the availability of the new product - rather than an expression of preference about which market - the US or EU - is more important for their new enterprise SSD to be seen in?

So I asked Ron MacLeod - who is VP of marketing for Memblaze in Europe - to clarify.

Ron said - "The product will be available in the US in the same way it is available in Europe. And with regard to timing indeed it was just coincidence that the Powering the Cloud event was running and at which was the first time Memblaze was public in Europe. There is no favouritism over markets except the US is potentially larger - so no hidden messaging. We value the European business and other potential global partners equally."

Editor's comments:- That's good to know. So - my apologies to readers for having sat on this story for a few days longer than was necessary.

FYI - The Memblaze EBlaze3 (upto 2.4TB in HHHL and 4.8TB in FHHL single slot) is a new version of the PBlaze3 card - which is aimed at, Hyperscale and OCP (Open Compute Project market).

It offers an ultra-low latency of 14µs and enables customers to define and alter key settings to ensure optimum performance in their specific applications and platforms.


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As little as 2 days retention after 0.4 hot DWPD for 5 years in modern MLC nand and some other things worth knowing about emdedded SSDs
Editor:- October 23, 2014 - When choosing an SSD form factor and interface for a new embedded / industrial project - in most cases that determination will be obvious - and driven by considerations such as:-
  • is the new project like something you did before?
  • and what would you like to change based on what you learned from that?
  • or the availability of new smaller sizes or lower power SSDs or faster SSDs or denser (more efficient) SSDs which in themselves can make new application directions feasible.
Today I read a tour guide of the range of sizes and interfaces available in small embedded SSDs (pdf) - from Virtium - which says among other things...

"the 10-pin embedded USB module is not officially regulated by any industry standards body, but thanks to industry R&D in this case, "rip-off and duplicate" - OEMs can source mechanically equivalent modules from multiple sources."

The above paper is several years old old - but still contains many relevant ideas. And the reason I noticed it now was because it was easier to find than it had been before - as it's one of a group of papers on the theme of selecting embedded SSDs according to design and environmental considerations which Virtium has collected together in a new resource page this week.

how does DWPD and retention come into this?

Within this set - a more recent paper - temperature considerations in SSDs (pdf) includes some stark graphs and observations about data retention - which you should be aware of - even if you're not in the industrial market.

"This shows the dramatic effects that temperature has on data retention for given workloads. For the same 750 full drive writes (0.4 drive writes per day for 5 years), SSDs operated and stored at 85C will only have 2 days of data retention, whereas those drives at 40C will have 1 year and those at room temperature 25C will exhibit characteristics of nearly 8 years of data retention." ...read the article (pdf)


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DRAM SSD interfaces and PCIe fabrics are hotting up the top storage searches
Editor:- October 1, 2014 - Total SSD article views on StorageSearch.com grew 5% year on year in September 2014- despite all the changes in Google algorithms and increased competition in the SSD market reporting space.

But what have readers actually been looking at?

I'll be reporting on the 30th quarterly Top SSD Companies later this month. That involves a lot of work, cross checking and writing associated articles. All of which takes time. But what I can reveal today are these observations - based on reader metrics.
  • In Q3 2014 - Memory Channel SSDs became the 2nd most popular SSD form factor which readers followed up in articles and news stories. (#1 - in case you can't remember - has been - since 2009 - PCIe SSDs)
  • In September 2014 - the 3 SSD related companies which our readers were reading about most were:-

    #1 - Diablo (DDR3/4 flash technology)
    #2 - A3CUBE (PCIe memory fabric) and
    #3 - Fusion-io (no introduction required)
What does that signify?

It won't come any surprise to long term readers that there are still significant changes coming in SSD enabled data server architecture.

Having become accustomed to the idea that low latency flash inside servers has become an essential part of the job description of any multi-user enterprise server - and being offered a rich variety of competing alternative ways to bind CPUs and storage with SSDs by the SSD software market - the next natural questions for users and applications developers to ask are these:-
  • why do we have such low limits being set in directly addressible low latency memory capacity?
  • why should the performance in a single server box still dictate the ultimate bottleneck perfomance limits for critical data integrity and synchonization house keeping tasks in strategic applications - when we have access to thousands of servers?
  • why are our most expensive and fastest SSD enabled servers and storage systems being forced to use different software to the cheaper ones we use in other locations?
The roadmap vision I'm seeing emerge from enterprise SSD developments in 2014 - is that while oems and users are being offered more choices in form factors and flash memory types - each of which adds to the raw confusion of which one is best to use - the mission statement for the software developers and fabric enablers - or those who want to please their investors - will be to create SSDcentric platforms which enable these disparate pieces to be seen as interoperable subsets of a bigger continuum architecture - in which users can move freely across wide cost/performance boundaries without hitting walls which restrict their freedom to expand in any direction they want to go.

But it will get more complicated than that.

Just as early modern SSDs had to interoperate with legacy software and data storage in order to justify their costs - future SSD software developers will have to look at the messy patchwork of SSD accelerated servers and SSD SAN storage which are being installed today as part of their future "legacy problem".

Seen from that angle - some solutions in the enterprise SSD jigsaw puzzle box today - already seem to have better longevity prospects and opportunities for future upcycling than others.


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hybrid DIMMs
hybrid DIMMs


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2014 has been the start of a new phase of creativity in the enterprise SSD market on the subject of pricing and affordability
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing


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high availabaility SSD arrays
HA SSDs


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SSD ad - click for more info


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In October 2011 - Viking shipped the industry's 1st flash backed hybrid DRAM DIMMs.
SSD market history


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