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It's not worth paying more for SLC reliability in PCIe SSDs says Google field study
editor:- February 26, 2016, 2016 - A 6 year study of PCIe SSDs used by Google (spanning millions of drive days and chips from 4 different flash vendors) concluded that SLC drives were not more reliable than MLC.

An important conclusion re RAS is the importance of being able to map out bad chips within the SSD architecture. This is because somewhere between 2% to 7% of enterprise PCIe SSDs (depending on where they were used) developed at least bad chip during the first 4 years in the field - which without such remapping would necessitate replacing the failed SSD.

The source is - Flash Reliability in Production: the Expected and the Unexpected (pdf) - by Bianca Schroeder University of Toronto, Raghav Lagisetty and Arif Merchant, Google.

This is just one of a set of papers which was presented February 22 - 25 , 2016 at the 14th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies.

Editor's comments:- For more like this see the news archive - June 2015 which had a story about a large scale study of PCIe SSD failures within Facebook.

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new tool estimates data shelf life in cooked SSDs
Editor:- February 22, 2016 - Nowadays when I roast a chicken (as I did last night) I like to check the meat temperature with a probe before doing the gravy etc. I didn't always do this. For many years I relied on visual clues and dead reckoning based on the weight of the bird and my oven temperature and experience.

The thing which changed this for me was cooking a turkey a few years ago in my mother's kitchen when things seemed to be going really slowly and I deduced her oven was operating at about 20 degrees C (36 F) below the temperature shown on the dial. (In all other respects it worked OK.) We got our meal eventually but that made me realize that my own oven could one day develop a fault and if I just went by the elapsed time and number on the dial I could one day start plating up raw chicken.

The difference between expectations and reality is the main reason that for over 10 years industrial SSD companies have been providing software tools which enable designers to predict how long their SSDs will last leveraging the SMART logs in the SSDs.

Early versions of such tools (such as SiSMART - launched in Jan 2006) were focused on R/W activity and flash endurance.

A recent advance in thinking about using such capturable internal parameters came in news this month from Virtium.

Their new software tool - vtView - adds temperature-based SSD usage information to the traditional R/W endurance mix which they combine with other data to estimate power-off data retention - which they say is an industry first.

The new software operates with most of the company's current range of industrial grade USB, SATA and PCIe SSDs and runs on a wide range of OS's including several flavors of Linux.

If your SSD spends most of its life in the powered up state you ask - why's data retention important?

In a white paper (pdf) from Virtium (which I mentioned in news in October 2014 linking retention (in days) with DWPD and temperature) I saw this interesting observation...

Virtium said - "Many oems are concerned with initial or early stage power-off data retention. This is because they may configure and test their systems at their manufacturing facility and then it could sit for months on the shelf prior to being deployed. They are concerned that firmware, OS and other configuration data could be lost before the system is deployed."

Anyway it's another part of the SSD reliability mix in which systems designers can now replace guesswork with scientifically based data.
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Schneider adopts Everspin's MRAM
Editor:- February 18, 2016 - my inbox this morning included a press release from Schneider Electric (not a name anyone would associate with the SSD market) - but a nagging voice in my head said - it might be worth opening.

Sure enough a quick check on google confirmed my guess. Isn't that the name of the company which acquired a company I worked at a long time ago? (In 1980 I had an actual phy (non virtual) job in the programmable controller design group at a company called Square D.)

Back in the 1970s and early 80s industrial controller companies were at the forefront of figuring out ways to design reliable digital systems using whatever fancy new chips the semiconductor market was happy to toss at the world. (That was before the chip companies got seduced by the PC market - after which they cared even less about industrial applications.)

From what I can remember of those days (and wavering the warranty on my mushy organic carbon memory ECC) there seemed to be many examples of devices and circuit design techniques which worked perfectly OK in a computer - but which would die a swift death in a harsh industrial environment. And unlike the military market (which had similar environmental constraints) industrial equipment designers had to make things work within much smaller budgets.

Anyway - back to the present.

Everspin's MRAM is being included in a new generation of Modicon controllers. I find this interesting as it provides a vote of confidence in the rugged operational integrity of this newly viable memory technology.

See also:- 13 years of progress on "MRAM will soon replace flash", industrial SSDs, military SSDs


What's the relationship between the memory market and the SSD market? The relationship between the SSD market and raw memory market has changed over time and will change significantly again.
an SSD guide to semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles

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SSD news - February 2016

TrendFocus says all enterprise SSD interface types enjoyed double digit market growth in Q4 2015

Editor:- February 22, 2016 - Unit shipments in the enterprise PCIe SSD market increased 20% in Q4 2015 compared to Q3 according to a quarterly report today from TrendFocus.

IT Brand Pulse reports networked storage brand leaders

Editor:- February 22, 2016 - IT Brand Pulse recently announced the results of its survey of perceived brand leaders in various categories networked rotating storage products. the article

AccelStor's new 2U FT GbE AFA can do 600K iSCSI IOPS

Editor:- February 17, 2016 - AccelStor today launched a 2U high end model in its NeoSapphire (rackmount SSD) product line.

The 13TB NeoSapphire 3413 (which includes 24 hot-swap SSDs including 2 spares) achieves 600K IOPS for 4KB random writes with iSCSI over its 4 port 10GbE connectivity.

Re fault tolerance - AccelStor says its automatic data reconstruction makes it easy to replace drives on the fly and without a performance penalty.

ATP spins motoring flash

Editor:- February 15, 2016 - ATP today said it will show its automotive market focused SSD capabilities (pdf) at Embedded World this month in Nuremberg. Among other things this includes:-
  • production level burn-in tests
  • waterproof and dustproof SD cards
  • data retention protection with AutoScan

DRAM revenue declined sequentially in Q4 2015

Editor:- February 15, 2016 - DRAMeXchange today listed the top 6 DRAM brands in a blog reporting that the global DRAM industry posted approximately $10 billion revenue in Q4 2015 - about 9% down from the prior quarter.

See also:- RAM news, who does storage market research?
an SSD guide to semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles

Hyperstone samples new industrial USB SSD controller

Editor:- February 15, 2016 - Hyperstone is sampling a new USB 3.1 flash memory controller - the U9 - in a TFBGA-124 package - for industrial applications.

Among other things the ECC engine can correct up to 96-Bit/1KB. Power management features include automatic power-down during wait periods for host data or flash memory operation completion and automatic sleep mode during host inactivity periods.

Editor's comments:- As you'd expect from a USB device it's not intended for heavy write applications - and although some of the data integrity features are suggested to be enterprise compatible - the sustained random write speed for 4KB is 5MB/s (30x slower than the peak sequential write.)

Nevertheless - given the portability of strategic applications and system software between form factors and the convenience of DWPD as a way of grouping SSDs for different roles I asked Hyperstone if they can supply an indicative range of DWPD for the new USB controller (when used with various classes of memory and DRAM size). I got this answer from Axel Mehnert VP Marketing who said this.

"Yes, we can give you such ratings… Hyperstone has a web based lifetime estimation tool which can be accessed by registered users of our site. There you can play with several settings and Flash configurations in order to get DWPD data also correlating to several different access patterns."

Shannon indicates sales of enterprise PCIe SSDs doubled

Editor:- February 12, 2016 - Apparently Shannon Systems is seeing high growth in the PCIe SSD market and has been saying that its sales in this category nearly doubled in the recent quarter. This was learned in a recent review of its Direct-IO range by Tom's IT Pro.

"We agree on nothing..."

Editor:- February 9, 2016 - In a new blog - Why Storage Switzerland? - W. Curtis Preston (who founded Truth in IT) uses some thought provoking examples from the tv series The West Wing to describe how he resolved anticipated differences and made the big step of joining the writing team and storage analysts at Storage Switzerland.

Kingston toughens up USB offerings with IronKey

editor:- February 8, 2016 - Kingston today announced it has acquired the USB technology and assets of IronKey from Imation.

Tegile trims fat in Europe

Editor:- February 8, 2016 - Tegile's headcount and costs in Europe were disproportionately high compared to revenue - according to a story in SiliconANGLE - Tegile slashes global headcount in pre-IPO cost cutting - which discusses layoffs by the company to improve its business efficiency.

Implementing XTS-AES for SSDs on Xtensa Processors

storage security articles and news
SSD security
Editor:- February 5, 2016 - "An XTS-AES engine based on the Xtensa processor can provide performance that rivals most hardware solutions, but retains the ease of design and flexibility found in software based solutions."

That's the summary of a paper - Implementing the XTS-AES Standard on Xtensa Processors (pdf) - which is one of several resources recommended in a new set of the SSD Bookmarks today on the home page of

The new bookmarks were suggested by Neil Robinson who is Product Marketing Director, Tensilica Processor IP, Cadence. ...see the suggested links

top storage companies in 2015

editor:- February 5, 2016 - StorageNewsletter recently compiled a list of the Top 12 Storage Companies in 2015 (ranked by revenue).

This isn't the same as top SSD companies (by revenue or search volume) but there will be a degree of convergence between the 2 during the next 5 years.

market research
market research
Back in January 2001 I launched a series called the The 10 biggest storage companies - in which I tried to predict 2 years in advance who the top 10 would be (based on revenue).

That worked surprisingly well - but I EOLed the series when my primary focus became SSDs.

Interesting from today's perspective that in 2001 Dell wasn't regarded as a serious storage company - and including them in my list stirred the enterprise pot.

never fear 15nm TLC is here

with consumer facing DWPD ratings

Editor:- February 3, 2016 - TLC was originally intended as a consumer SSD technology (not that you'd realize this from reading about all the enterprise arrays which have assimilated it).

OCZ recently announced availability of a 15nm TLC based consumer range of 2.5" SATA SSDs - the Trion 150.

One of the interesting things about how the marketing of consumer SSDs has evolved is that these new SSDs come with DWPD guidance ratings which are 0.25 DWPD.

Be aware, however, when comparing DWPD ratings for consumer, enterprise and industrial SSDs that the warranty periods for these different classes of drives - are different.

The Trion 150 warranty is 3 years - which is typical for client SSDs - rather than 5 years (as for enterprise drives).

Endurance related marketing messages have come a long way in the past 12 years or so.

In October 2014 IBM said (in effect) "You don't need to worry about the endurance of our FlashSystems." That was my summary of an IBM blog at the time.

Nowadays OCZ says this about their Trion SSDs...

"Never Fear, OCZ Endurance is Here."

In one way I've got to admire the reckless implied simplicity of OCZ's endurance message. But I also groan in anticipation of how other vendors will retaliate with similar endurance messages of their own.

I think OCZ's "never fear" tagline may have been around since last summer (for the earlier Trion 100 - which OCZ says "quickly became a top seller for us") but as I don't visit consumer SSD pages any more than I have to (even my own) I didn't see it until today.

See also:- Branding Strategies in the SSD Market, razzle dazzling SSD care claims
What happened before?
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Xitore decloaks into SSD DIMM wars market
Editor:- February 1, 2016 - Another new name coming into in the SSD DIMM wars saga is Xitore which exited stealth mode today with an announcement about their NVM-X technology - which promises "sub-2 microsecond latency" and 25GB/s bandwidth.

Editor's comments:- Xitore's web site currently has almost no information about its product details beyond the headline claims.

The company, founded in 2014, and whose management team includes experience in SSD companies related to enterprise acceleration (including STEC and Netlist), says it's looking for first-round funding.

In outline Xitore's technology mix sounds similar to Diablo - but with these apparent differences:-
  • shipping sampling status - Diablo has been shipping and sampling products, whereas Xitore doesn't say anything about that yet
  • form factor for end product - Diablo's form factor ambitions start and end in DIMMs. Xitore's web site implies that it is aiming to provide storage in a box - which sounds like an SDS box in which the RAM tiering is the key element but not the whole solution. (Maybe the flash is implemented by COTS SSDs.)
We'll have to wait for more details to emerge.

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accelerating world's leading SSDs
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Avalanche Tech completes $23 million funding round
Editor:- February 2, 2016 - Avalanche Technology today announced it has completed a $23 million funding round which will enable the companys transition from R&D to commercialization and production of patent-backed discrete and embedded non-volatile memory products based on STT-MRAM.

Editor's comments:- Avalanche has raised more than $80 million of funding since being founded in 2006 (see ChruchBase for summary).

Flash Memory
flash & SSD nvms
In past years Avalanche has made some immoderate claims about the future storage market potential for its technology - which in my view were not sufficiently tempered by adequate competitive market knowledge of the complex RAM, enterprise SSD and DIMM wars ecosystem in which it finds itself today.

Avalanche's recent showcase product has been a 32Mb NVRAM based on STT-MRAM Technology. Key features are:- 50nS, no wait writes, low standby current, 1 Trillion R/W cycles endurance, > 10 years data retention: @ 85C.

Avalanche has recently positioned its AvRAM as occupying a memory role for SoC designs which combines several desirable aspects of SRAM and traditional nvm in a single technology.

worst case response times in DRAM arrays
Editor:- Do you know what the worst-case real-time response of your electonic system is?

One of the interesting trends in the computer market in the past 20 years is that although general purpose enterprise servers have got better in terms of throughput - most of them are now worse when it comes to latency.

It's easy to blame the processor designers and the storage systems and those well known problems helped the SSD accelerator market grow to the level where things like PCIe SSDs and hybrid DIMMs have become part of the standard server toolset. But what about the memory?

Server memory based on DRAM isn't as good as it used to be. The details are documented in a set of papers in my blog - latency loving reasons for fading out DRAM in the virtual memory slider mix.

AccelStor NeoSapphire  all-flash array
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Februaries of yore in SSD market history
1 year ago - February 2015 - FalconStor announced a new SSDcentric storage pool redeployment and management platform called FreeStor - which enabled users to support many different flash array brands using a single set of abstraction tools.

3 years ago - February 2013 - Micron became the 19th company to enter the SAS SSD market.

4 years ago - February 2012 - EMC and Intel joined the SandForce-inside crowd.

6 years ago - February 2010 - Silicon Motion said that its SSD controllers were ready for the 20nm flash expected later that year.

7 years ago - February 2009 - Steve Wozniak became Chief Scientist at Fusion-io.

13 years ago - February 2003 - 2 competing SSD companies announced the world's first terabyte class FC SAN SSD systems.

16 years ago - February 2000 - BiTMICRO unveiled a 3.5" PATA SSD with 19GB capacity and 9MB/s R/W.
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