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90% of enterprise SSD companies have no good reasons to survive
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The Golden Age of enterprise SSDs?

"We currently forecast that ASP per GB for enterprise SSD will decline to around $0.37 over our forecast period. And global enterprise storage units will grow from 10.5 million units sold in 2014 to over 30 million devices ." (analysis of SanDisk) June 2015

see also:- market research resources

Altera launches adaptive DSP controller for PCIe SSD market and Intel's acquisition of Altera from an SSD view
Editor:- June 23, 2015 - Altera today announced availability of a new flash controller reference design for the NVMe PCIe SSD market which uses adaptive writes and DSP ECC. The Arria 10 SoC (pdf) which includes among other things an integrated dual-core ARM processor uses flash IP from Mobiveil and NAND optimization software from NVMdurance to simplify the design of gen 3 PCIe SSDs having 7x better endurance than classical non adaptive designs.

Editor's comments:- Since the market criticality of adaptive DSP flash controller techniques for enterprise SSDs started to emerge in 2011 and then clarified in a big way in 2012 - it has become an essential capability for most product lines. This standard product from Altera fills a much needed gap in their offerings.

how will Intel's acquisition of Altera affect SSD market?

Earlier this month:- Intel announced it had agreed to acquire Altera for $16.7 billion.

I don't think it will change any of the fundamental technology directions in the SSD market. But I did discuss it with some readers who asked me about related issues. Here are some extracts from what I said in various emails.

The Altera acquisition makes perfect business sense - because Intel had lost out on many big markets (such as mobile phones etc) due to its unwillingness to design custom solutions for specific systems.

Intel's inability to make that kind of business work (where the customer leads the architecture) was demonstrated back in the late 1980s with their ASIC business which was based on gate array technology which they obtained from IBM in return for rights for IBM to design custom X86 processors.

Unfortunately the IBM ASIC technology was unwieldy and less well supported by low cost EDA tools than many of the competitive offerings from pure play gate array and standard cell companies. So the ASIC technology was unattractive outside a small core customer base - and soon fizzled out. - But IBM got to keep the more valuable rights to the X86.

And like other market lessons where Intel experimented but got burned (such as the digital watch and DRAM) that lesson remained imprinted in future Intel management culture - that there are some markets which Intel should avoid participtaing in with market specific silicon products:-
  • those which have the potential to be commodities (like memory) and
  • those which require high degrees of customization and custom architecture for one specific product or customer and where Intel's architecture and legacy software ecosystems are not the central themes of the product.
Altera provides a way of market customization via a standard product.

And FPGAs from Altera and other companies are widely used within enterprise SSD systems and also within low to medium volume embedded SSD drives too.

Therefore this acquisition - which gives Intel a market leading reprogrammable controller platform - will enable marketers and technologists in Intel to stick to the comfortable concept of predictable semiconductor geometry based roadmaps - while also having an engagement within the SSD market and visibility of trends which goes much wider than their previous product lines enabled.

SSD controllers

10th annual Flash Memory Summit - diary date
Editor:- June 15, 2015 - Conference Concepts today announced registration is live for the 10th annual Flash Memory Summit, the worlds largest conference dedicated to flash memory and its applications.

Flash Memory Summit - click for more infoFlash Memory Summit 2015 showcases the latest in flash memory design with over 10 simultaneous tracks and 14 keynotes speakers.

The 2015 keynote speaker line up features the industrys flash memory leaders including Samsung, SanDisk, PMC, Toyota, Micron, Oracle, Tegile, SK Hynix, Toshiba, Kaminario, and Diablo Technologies.

Vendors interested in exhibiting, please contact Alan Land at 1.760.212.5718 or

Editor's comments:- I don't go to physical trade shows because due to the efficiencies of electronic communication and after 20 years of publishing on the web (and with the help of my readers) every day here at feels like an SSD trade show.

Nevertheless if that were not the case - and if I did have to pick one physical event at which to get immersed in current thinking about the future of enterprise SSDs - it would undoubtedly be Flash Memory Summit.

I know that many leading thinkers in the industry will be polishing up all their best ideas to pack into their presentations at the show. And it's a rich resource for anyone trying to get the lie of the land in a short space of time.

But even if you don't have the inclination to drag yourself to Santa Clara in August - the FMS web site - which includes archived content from past years - is a rich resource for tapping into a wide range of SSD oriented memory thinking.

hold up capacitors in 2.5" MIL SSDs

do you really need them?
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics
0 to 3S
Editor:- I've been looking at different aspects of power hold up schemes in mission critical non volatile memory systems for over 30 years.

But every time I revisit this vast topic and compare fresh examples from the market - I learn something a little bit new.

My new blog - Zero to three seconds - demonstrates the extreme range of hold up times now in the market inside leading edge 2.5" military flash SSDs. the article

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PMC blog NVMe CPU offload compared to SATA"the transition from SATA SSDs to NVMe SSDs seems to be accelerating."
Stephen Bates, Technical Director, PMC - in his blog re PMC's Flashtec, Memblaze's PBlaze 4 and NVMe SSDs

a guide to data compression techniques and where to use them for designers of SSDs and memory systems
SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers
Inside the SSD controller brain the compressibility of data is one of the tools which can go into the mix of optimizing performance, endurance and competitive cost.

A recent paper - A Survey Of Architectural Approaches for Data Compression in Cache and Main Memory Systems by Sparsh Mittal and Jeffrey S. Vetter in IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems - reviews the published techniques available and places their relevance in the context of real and future memory types and applications.

The survey covers applications from embedded systems upto supercomputers.

In addition to being useful resource directory of related papers the article gives you a brief description of many compression techniques, where you might use them and what benefits you might expect.

See also:- list of articles and books by Sparsh Mittal which among other things covers caching techniques, reliability impacts and energy saving possibilities in a wide range of server architectures.

90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive
In one of the most highly read articles on in recent years - I looked at drivers, mechanisms and routes towards consolidation in the enterprise SSD systems market along with some other outrageous and dangerous ideas. The conclusion?

"90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive."

Before publication - I discussed these ideas with various readers for about 3 months and since publication you won't be surprised when I tell you it has been at the core of many conversations since. the article

Once upon a time it was useful for so called "startup" enterprise SSD companies to make detailed EMC bashing product comparisons with pre-existing EMC systems. What do we learn when such comparisons are made today?
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - in his blog - some random SSD thoughts about EMC

"Don't place too much credence in what SSD companies tell you about the present or the future of the SSD market."
Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs

Junes of yore in SSD market history
1 year ago - June 2014 - SanDisk announced it would acquire Fusion-io in a transaction valued at approximately $1.1 billion.

3 years ago - June 2012 - published a guide on the market readiness and likely impact of Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP in SSDs

4 years ago - June 2011 - NVSL demonstrated the world's first PCIe SSD accelerator based on PCM (phase-change memory).

5 years ago - June 2010 - Anobit announced it was sampling SSDs based on its patented Memory Signal Processing technology which could deliver 20x improvement in operational life for MLC SSDs in high IOPS server environments.

13 years ago - June 2002 - M-Systems raised the capacity of its industrial DiskOnChip SSD to 1 gigabyte.

14 years ago - June 2001 - Adtron shipped the world's highest capacity 3.5" SSD. The S35PC had 14GB capacity, could operate in rugged environments and cost $42,000.

If you could only get 3 messages to the most important people in your industry to help them understand your view of the market what would they be?
the SSD Bookmarks
image shows mouse building storage - click to see industrial SSDs article
industrial SSDs ..
SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers ..
SSD processors
CPUs in SSDs ..
pcie  SSDs - click to read article
PCIe SSDs ..

SSD news - June 2015

NexGen decouples from Fusion-io accelerator juice

Editor:- June 30, 2015 - As previously signaled - NexGen Storage has decoupled itself from relying on SanDisk's PCIe SSD product line in its hybrid storage arrays with the announcement today that NexGen has introduced NVMe readiness as an update in its software services. This paves the way for expanding the systems product line with a wider range of 3rd party internal SSD accelerators with different price and workload capabilities.

Swissbit samples new range of rugged mSATA (MO-300A) SSDs

Editor:- June 29, 2015 - It's been over 4 years since I last heard from Swissbit - but this week the company announced it is sampling a new range of mSATA industrial SSDs - the X-60m Series with random R/W performance of up to 75,000 IOPS (4KB). These rugged SSDs (shock / vibration rating of 2000G / 20G as per MIL-STD810) use 15nm MLC from Toshiba and are available with capacities from 8GB to 480GB.

what does Tegile's customer survey tell us?

Tegile survey re enterprise customersEditor:- June 25, 2015 - A recently published survey conducted among customers of Tegile reveals some interesting insights into the demographics of Tegile's business but also - just as interesting - provides a spectrum of weighted answers about why people bought enterprise flash arrays and the perceived benefits.

Among the many results - the most interesting for me were:-
  • "36% plan to use their Tegile storage to accelerate the development of new products and services. Customers can create read/write clones of production databases. This enables them to get new applications into production faster without consuming a lot of storage space."

    Editor's comments:- that's a classic enterprise SSD advantage related to a pain point which I was discussing with users over 10 years ago.

    Users who don't have the performance freedom which SSDs deliver - but who struggle even to keep their legacy platforms running sluggishly - know there must be better things they can do with their raw business intelligence - but are too scared to interact with the production data. And designing new systems based on sampling - doesn't give the full picture.
  • Tegile says "51% of customers expect to see an ROI in 12 months or less."

    Editor's comments:- that's confirmation of something I said in my article - year of the enterprise SSD goldrush?

    "what's driving this confidence is that their customers have done the pilots- they've done the product tweaks - the biggest customers have finished their cautious rollouts - and they're coming back asking for more than more. The user mood is changing from - can I afford to use SSDs? - to a realization that - I can't afford not to use SSDs." (October 2011)

    What Tegile's survey confirms is that the same advantages which were first experienced by early adopters do indeed trickle down and deliver similar impacts to mainstream users (if the products are priced in a way which is attractive enough to tempt new customers to experiment.
The survey findings which I've commented on above - probably apply to any leading AFA vendor and not just Tegile.

Here are some interesting results which are specific to Tegile's business.
  • Re the importance of offering "unified" connectivity (FC+IP) - "over half (53%) were using more than one storage protocol with their Tegile arrays."

    Editor's comments:- that's a higher proportion than I had assumed. Which also is consistent with the broad spectrum of traditional storage suppliers that Tegile has been displacing (another aspect shown in the survey).
  • Re customer satisfaction? - 92% of responders said that they'd recommend Tegile.

    Editor's comments:- that's a good story for a company whose business model has been so reliant on external funding to sustain its growth.

    But how sticky is brand loyalty in the enterprise flash market? Especially when we're entering a period where I predict that over 90% of enterprise SSD brands will disappear?

    Let's just say that high customer satisfaction is an excellent achievement but that a customer who has switched once because they saw a good reason to do so - is a customer who could easily switch again. While Tegile has some sticky service and software solutions in its product delivery - don't be beguiled by statements like the above - if and when you consider the IPO.

    And - on the perils of extrapolating inferences from surveys - 96 users - the customers who took part in the survey - aren't the whole market. the article - Why do people use Tegile Flash Storage?

SSD market slowing down?

Editor:- June 22, 2015 - In a new observation on the state of the SSD market - SSD Insights Q2/15: Slowing Down - Gregory Wong, President, Forward Insights said - "The weak PC market and tepid datacenter demand affected shipments of SATA SSDs in Q1/15. This was offset by strong shipments of SAS SSDs and SSDs into the channel which benefited from aggressive pricing, particularly in Asia."

bath tub curve is not the most useful way of thinking about PCIe SSD failures - according to a large scale study within Facebook

Editor:- June 15, 2015 - A recently published research study - Large-Scale Study of Flash Memory Failures in the Field (pdf) - which analyzed failure rates of PCIe SSDs used in Facebook's infrastructure over a 4 year period - yields some very useful insights into the user experience of large populations of enterprise flash.

Among the many findings:-
  • Read disturbance errors - seem to very well managed in the enterprise SSDs studied.

    The authors said they "did not observe a statistically significant difference in the failure rate between SSDs that have read the most amount of data versus those that have read the least amount of data."
  • Higher operational temperatures mostly led to increased failure rates, but the effect was more pronounced for SSDs which didn't use aggressive data throttling techniques - which could prevent runaway temperatures due to throttling back their write performance.
  • More data written by the hosts to the SSDs over time - mostly resulted in more failures - but the authors noted that in some of the platforms studied - more data written resulted in lower failure rates.

    This was attributed to the fact some SSD software implementations work better at reducing write amplification when they are exposed to more workload patterns.
  • Unlike the classic bathtub curve failure model which applies to hard drives - SSDs can be characterized as having early an warning phase - which comes before an early failure weed out phase of the worst drives in the population and which precedes the onset of predicted endurance based wearout.

    In this aspect - a small percentage of rogue SSDs account for a disproportionately high percentage of the total data errors in the population.
enterprise array reliability study in Facebook
The report contains plenty of raw data and graphs which can be a valuable resource for SSD designers and software writers to help them understand how they can tailor their efforts towards achieving more reliable operation. the article (pdf)

See also:- SSD Reliability

Let's hope Chris McCall at NexGen is wrong - when he says

PCIe - the Next Infiniband?

Editor:- June 10, 2015 - Don't let the title of this blog - PCIe - the Next Infiniband? - by Chris McCall, SVP Marketing - NexGen- deter you from taking a look at it.

InfiniBand SSDs and storage
PCIe SSD evangelists like me sincerely hope that PCIe won't fare like Infiniband - which - after a promising birth in 2000 - and IDC's woefully rash celebratory plaudit prediction that "more than 75% of all servers shipped in 2004 would be shipped with InfiniBand connectivity" - became sidelined by other technologies and lives on mostly as a trusted RDMA veteran in HPC and consults sometimes as a plush prototyping technology in risk averse SSD clustering concept proof demonstrators.

No I hope that PCIe as a fabric will do very much better than IB.

I suppose you could say that NexGen (the foundling iSCSI hybrid rackmount company discovered in the customer printout and adopted by Fusion-io but then later placed back on the pavement outside the car park by SanDisk - which didn't want rusty magneto storage sullying its own visions of rackmount SSD purity) has had some skin in the game although more as a systems integrator of PCIe SSDs than as an incubator.

And for those reasons Chris's blog provides a clear angst free mini modern survey of the state of the market ideas about PCIe fabric and lists some useful resources. the article

< 10% of FC SAN sites rely on 3rd party benchmarks

Editor:- June 9, 2015 - Load DynamiX (a storage performance testing and validation company) recently released the results of a survey (pdf) characterized by heavy users of FC SANs (71%) and 2PB or more of data (76%).
storage test equipment and analyzers news and directory
testing & validation

Among the findings in this set of 115 participants:-
  • over half (54%) planned to add all flash arrays to their storage assets in the next year
  • one third (34%) used custom performance scripts as part of their pre purchase and deployment evaluations
  • users were heavily reliant on their current and potential vendors for news about new products and technologies - and nearly twice as likely (83%) to rely on news from vendors compared to online magazines (44%)
  • 36% said they know and understand the I/O profiles of their currently deployed tier 1 apps
survey results - click to read more
Editor's comments:- Having reported on the FC SAN market for 21 years - I'm not surprised that enterprise users with these assets have a healthy skepticism about the value of artificial benchmarks when it comes to evaluating the performance of potential new systems.

One of the findings in Load DynamiX's survey - that only 36% in this highly technical group say they know and understand their I/O profiles is interesting.

The obverse - that most enterprise users don't know what their I/O workloads are or how they will change after new purchases - was the catalyst behind the rackmount flash industry's innovative marketing switch towards risk reducing pricing models (decoupled from hard and fast analytic performance justifications) which I discussed in Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing

Nantero gets $31 million funding for 300º C retention nvram

Editor:- June 2, 2015 - Nantero today announced a $31 million Series E financing round for its NRAM technology which the company says is scalable to below 5nm and which has >1,000 years retention at 85º C or more than 10 years at 300º C.

Editor's comments:- Nantero was founded 14 years ago, and the last time I wrote about them was in 2006.

But the size and educational sophistication of the SSD ecosystem today means that designers (and investors) can appreciate the nuances of difference which might be useful in extreme boundary applications.

Offering a scalability roadmap below the current commercial limits of flash, and ruggedness way beyond flash - Nantero's technology has attractive features which might lure SSD designers out of their 40 year comfort zone of trapped charges in semiconductor cells.

SAS SSD market shipments beefed up by DWPD-lite models

Editor:- June 2, 2015 - Commenting on the SAS SSD market - Don Jeanette, VP - TrendFocus says in his new blog - SAS SSDs continue to show strength in an ever increasing competitive market - "SAS SSDs are not getting squeezed out by the incursion of SATA on the low end and PCIe on the high end as many have thought would happen."

SAS SSD growth Don explains that SAS SSD makers have populated their product lines with value models which have much lower DWPD ratings than the headline performers - which can go some way towards cost competing with SATA SSDs while at the same time validating the higher prices of 25 DWPD etc models. the article

Editor's comments:- Rackmount SSD users don't have to compromise reliability when they choose SATA SSDs in their value engineered arrays.

In a conversation with Andy Lee, Marketing Director - EchoStreams (a whitebox storage company) - in January 2015 - I learned that one of the design elements in their 20 bay 1U and 48 bay 2U systems - for their customers who want to build high density flash arrays using COTS SSDs - is that EchoStreams have deployed interposers on their drive bays which allow COTS SATA SSDs to be used in the same way as dual ported SAS but at lower system cost.

Micron in production with 2D 3 bits per cell 16nm nand flash

Editor:- June 2, 2015 - 2 years after sampling its first 16nm nand flash - which was 2D with MLC nodes (2 bits per cell) - Micron today announced it has progressed to the next evolutionary step and is now shipping 16nm (which is still 2D) but is now 3 bits per cell (TLC).

In both cases the products were 16GB memory chips.

Micron says it believes that TLC will account for almost 50% of the total NAND gigabytes shipped in 2015.

See also:- Technology Roadmap for NAND Flash (a classic article) by Tech Insights

Violin's revenue continues to slide

Editor:- June 2, 2015 - Violin Memory today reported that revenue for the recent quarter ended April 30, 2015 had declined 33% yoy to $12 million and was 41% less sequentially compared to the previous quarter.

Editor's comments:- part of the tragedy of the Violin story is that so many great things were once expected of it - as you can see by this news coverage - 4 years ago - about a $40 million funding round and aspirations to become the "the fastest growing storage company in the decade".

Violin's illusory expectations owed much to its emergence in the market in 2007 when the rackmount SSD market was at the tail end of the RAM SSD dominant era and about to make the fateful transition to the dominance of flash.

When Violin did launch its first flash array in 2008 it was a year behind the rackmount flash SSD market leader in shipments - but that didn't appear to matter so much in a market where there were so few competing suppliers. At that time Violin was one of just two leading well recognized flash array suppliers in the early fast rackmount flash SSD accelerator market.

But the market didn't remain simple. It grew through 2009 (year of SSD market confusion), evolved into 2010 (year of the enterprise flash bubble) and then swiftly therafter in many stages became really complicated.

As all that was happening - Violin's inability to redeploy its controller technology to lower performance applications and its unwillingness to focus on a smaller number of winnable segments - led the company in later years to dissipate its marketing resources in many unproductive directions - precisely when - due to the growing number of hundreds of viable competitors - a more focused strategy might have been better.

Hedvig has $30 million to fix broken SDS market

Editor:- June 1, 2015 - Hedvig - which operates in the SDS market - today announced an $18 million Series B funding round (bringing the company's total funding to date upto $30 million).
image shows software factory - click to see storage software directory
SSD software

Hedvig's founder - Avinash Lakshman - who is credited with building some of the most successful distributed systems in the world, including Amazon Dynamo, the foundation of the NoSQL movement, and Apache Cassandra for Facebook said - "We've identified the potential in a broken and fragmented storage market, and are not only looking to bring software-defined storage mainstream, but fundamentally change how companies store and manage data."

Editor's comments:- I was curious about the origin of the company's name (because I am interested in such things) so I asked if the company name "Hedvig" had anything to do with Harry Potter's owl - Hedwig (spelled differently but sounds similar).

Instead it seems the name is an "acronym for Hyperscale Elastic Distributed Virtual Integral Granular – all qualities Hedvig was designed around."

Ah well. Perhaps I should have guessed.

But I had missed Hedvig's emergence from stealth in March 2015.

So - what is Hedvig about? And should you care?

As is the case for nearly every enterprise software company nowadays - SSDs are essential enablers of what Hedvig does but Hedvig is an SSD-ecosystem company rather than an SSD-inside company.

Nevertheless - digging around for the best single document which describes what they do in an SSD context I found this - Why scale-out big data apps need new scale-out storage (pdf) - which among other things shows where they think their kind of solution fits into the current sprawl of generationally overlapping and mixed heritage, datacenter architectures.
Hedvig SDS context paper
It's a valuable guide to this flavor of SDS thinking even if it's not in your immediate plans - because this kind of philosophy - which we've been seeing coming from many other webscale sources in recent years - will have a trickle down effect and influence the design of other types of products too.
  • Less than 9% said that flash already acccounts for 40% or more of their storage. And nearly half of all participants said that flash is less than 10% of their storage capacity.
  • Over 70% have flash in their budget in 2015.
  • 16% of those who had used flash felt they hadn't got the apps acceleration they expected.
  • 19% said that storage failures had caused unforeseen outages.
Editor's comments:- You can interpret these results in different ways. I see it as showing that there's still a many times bigger future market for enterprise flash compared to what has already been installed.

What happened before? - See the SSD news archive
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Why can't SSD's true believers agree on a single shared vision?
the SSD Heresies

AccelStor NeoSapphire  all-flash array
1U enterprise flash arrays
InfiniBand or 10GbE iSCSI
NeoSapphire series - from AccelStor

related guides

High Availability Thinking in Pure's Flash Arrays
Editor:- June 7, 2015 - Purity: Building Fast, Highly-Available Enterprise Flash Storage from Commodity Components (pdf) by authors at Pure Storage describes several interesting aspects of Pure's flash arrays which internally use consumer grade SSDs.

The paper presented at SIGMOD 2015 says among other things-
  • Purity can tolerate the loss of 2 SSDs without losing availability. Pure encourages potential customers to pull drives and unplug controllers as part of their evaluation.
  • Due to efficiencies in deduplication Pure's customers on average provision approximately 12x more virtual space than physical storage.
  • Commenting on the differences in capability between flash management which is possible seen from a single drive level and a global array level the authors say - Pure's controller has a global view of the workload and much more computational power than the SSD FTL, allowing it to apply optimizations and make global decisions that the drives are incapable of.

    Pure says that "improvements" in consumer solo drive benchmarks do not always follow through to deliver better performance in the managed enterprise array context. Sometimes the optimized drives perform worse in a Pure array.
  • Re quality of service Pure says that to avoid application failures during controller failure, they have to guarantee that recovery will complete in under 30 seconds. the article (pdf)

See also:- high availability enterprise SSDs

industrial mSATA SSD
industrial grade mSATA SSDs
>2 million write cycles per logical block.
from Cactus Technologies

related guides

military SSD from Waitan
military SSD drives with secure erase
encryption and self-destruct
from Waitan

related guides

SSD jargon

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

This important design feature has a strong impact on SSD data integrity and operational reliability.
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

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