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SSD history
what's the state of DWPD?
a simple list of military SSD companies
some limericks concerning SSD endurance
should we set higher expectations for memory systems?
is remanence in persistent memory a new security risk?
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"Storage doesn't just provide capacity..."
Jason Doyle, IBM in his recent linkedin blog - Think Storage First, Not Servers April 15, 2016.

Editor's comments:- I told Jason I agree with him about the relative importance and nature of storage not being commonly enough appreciated.

Like mass and energy in physics - server CPUs and SSD storage head counts are interchangeable in black box observations of apps and data.

This is a market paradigm with market disrupting effects which I called attention to in 2003 and is what I nowadays refer to as the "SSD-CPU equivalence" driver of SSD market adoption.

More recently (in 2015) the list of user value propositions for adopting SSDcentric infrasture grew to 6 core ideas with the addition of replacing swathes of enterprise DRAM with cheaper, higher density flash and other (long time emerging) alt nvms.

This DIMM wars phenomenon in some aspects looks like a new DRAM-flash equivalence proposition for latency filtered tiers within complex DRAM installations.

While this "market surge" aspect is new - its technology is rooted in classical ideas about virtualizing RAM with mixed memory and storage types with the new market twist simply being the credibility of semiconductor memory roadmaps having sufficiently distinct cost/density characteristics combined with the confidence of existing massive SSD installed infrastructures to make it worthwhile supporting multiple memory chip types with investments in software.

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when's the safest time to perform garbage collection?
SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers
Editor:- March 16, 2016 - while there's often no single correct answer to SSD design questions (see the SSD design heresies for examples) a recent blog - Poor SSD Controller Design Compromises the Best NAND Memory by Cactus Technologies reveals an interesting insight into the design philosophy of its embedded SSD lines. Among other things:-

"On-the-fly Garbage Collection many flash products do garbage collection during IDLE time to maximize performance when the device is active; however, this increase the likelihood of write abort data corruption as the host system may remove power during IDLE time while the device is still doing program/erase operations internally. Cactus Technologies industrial grade products performs on-the-fly garbage collection; while this will reduce performance slightly, it ensures that the host can safely power down the device during IDLE time."

Editor's comments:- While SSD designs still have to mitigate against unexpected sudden power loss (which like most industrial SSDs - the Cactus products do) it's interesting for system designers to know that there can be multi-layered approaches to power protection designed into some SSDs. (Instead of single shot silver bullets.)

Actually the main point of the Cactus blog is something else entirely - the difference in correctable ECC in different geometries of SLC. Nice graphs if you're interested.

Cactus isn't a fan of pSLC for industrial uses saying - "There is not substantial data to back up pSLC as any more reliable than using the full capacity of the MLC component with 2x the cells to perform wear leveling." ...read the blog


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10 years after... more word on QLC SSDs
Editor:- March 15, 2016 - Toshiba's long anticipated first generation of QLC (x4) nand flash is expected to have endurance of 500 PE cycles according to a presentation reported recently by Robin Harris in a blog on ZDNet.

Editor's comments:- Although QLC technology hit the SSD news pages 10 years ago with x4 nand technology from M-Systems winning an innovation award at the 2006 Flash Memory Summit this did not result in commercially viable products anywhere near as soon as had been expected.

In a 2007 blog - What happened to x4? by Mark Savolainen we learned that M-Systems had already been working secretly on x4 for 5 years before those optimistic (pre-)announcements.

With the benefit of hindsight the technology which could be demonstrated to work in small arrays (and large cell geometries) in 2006 - needed a mind bogglingly complicated anount of controller R/W complexity and ECC support to enable its operation across a competitively useful chip capacity built on mass producible processes.

The x4 data integrity problem still looked problematic in 2010 when I wrote about the difficulties in the context of stealth mode XLC Disk.

Part of the roadmap to truly solving this problem lay in a different technical approach to flash controller management - Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP in SSDs - which became a hot topic for the SSD industry in 2012 in the context of enhancing the reliability and speed of MLC and TLC.

And another reason for the >10 years delay in seeing QLC SSDs in the enterprise will have been the market's slowly emerging readiness for such an idea - whose friendly reception needed to be prepared in advance by the growing educationally supported comfort zones of DWPD and confidence within enterprise user segments that a latency bands approach to solid state storage could be a sustainable long term idea.


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PrimaryIO ships applications aware FT caching
Editor:- March 8, 2016 - PrimaryIO (which changed its name from CacheBox in August 2015) today announced the general availability of its Application Performance Acceleration V1.0 (software) for VMware vSphere 6.

image shows software factory - click to see storage software directory
SSD software
PrimaryIO APA aggregates server-based flash storage across vSphere clusters as a cluster-wide resource enabling all nodes in the cluster to leverage the flash caching benefits even though a subset may already have flash deployed.

Using application awareness, PrimaryIO APA caches critical, latency-sensitive application IOs in order to boost overall application performance while enabling optimal utilization of data center server and networking resources.

PrimaryIO APA supports write-around and write-back caching with full fault-tolerance in face of node failures since writes to cache are replicated to up to 2 additional nodes.

Editor's comments:- in a technology brief (pdf) about their technology - PrimaryIO describes how they use application awareness to intercept data request streams based on its "relative value and ability to accelerate workload performance." PrimaryIO says this is more efficient in its use of flash than traditional approaches and can get good caching acceleration with a smaller amount of installed SSD capacity than other methods which don't discriminate so accurately.


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our years on the unspoilt shoreline of AFA
a nostalgic hybrid roadtrip memoir from Tegile
Editor:- March 11, 2016 - AFAs account for 30% of Tegile's business - says the company in a recent blog welcome back to the future which jibes at competitor Nimble's implied tardy upmarket conversion from the humble hybrid appliance roots which they both share thematically if not in other ways.

Tegile implies that more years of experience with "all flash" and its own claim to having paddled around this market beachhead for 4 years already make it a better dining companion or supplier for customers to depend on.

When you think about it, however, longevity in flash storage box marketing isn't the surest of clues to flash DNA blue blooded staunchness.

If it were so then Violin - which has been in the solid state storage box market nearly 9 years - would be seated closer to the head of the AFA Camelot roundtable.

Although maybe - in an alternative universe - they think they still are.

See also:- sugaring flash for the enterprise (2004 to 2016)

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Marches of yore in SSD market history
11 years ago - March 2005 - Curtis (which at that time had shipped over 15,000 accelerator SSDs worldwide) revealed that its Nitro SSDs (3.5" FC RAM SSDs) had accelerated the network infrastucture in a major phone provider in China. The customer, the GuangDong Branch of China Mobile was the biggest provincial branch in the Chinese Telecom industry, with over 30 million users.

10 years ago - March 2006 - StorageSearch.com noted that the number of SSD manufacturers listed on its SSD directory page (at that time) had grown to 35 companies.

6 years ago - March 2010 - Pliant Technology published a benchmark which showed that an array of 16x SAS SSDs could achieve similar IOPS as a proprietary architecture rackmount flash array from Texas Memory Systems, or an array of PCIe SSDs from Fusion-io.

2 years ago - March 2014 - Samsung said its new 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSD was 3x faster than 12Gbps SAS SSDs.

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Here's an example of memory to SSD business disconnect.

A crash in memory prices would be a good thing for fab independent SSD companies because lower memory costs would help them open up new markets.
an SSD guide to semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles

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Rackmount SSDs click for news and directory
rackmount SSDs ..
adaptive R/W and DSP IP in flash controllers
adaptive R/W & DSP ECC ..
pcie  SSDs - click to read article
PCIe SSDs ..
military storage directory and news
military SSDs ..

SSD news - March 2016

new funding for endurance stretching NVMdurance

Editor:- March 29 , 2016 - NVMdurance recently announced it has completed a $2.5 million Series A round of financing. Existing investors New Venture Partners, ACT Venture Capital, Enterprise Ireland and NDRC have invested bringing total funding to $2.77 million.

click image to read the article - principles of bad block management in flash SSDs
naughty flash
"This financing builds on an exceptional year from NVMdurance which saw its first customer announcement – with Altera (now part of Intel)" said Steve Socolof of New Venture Partners LLC. "The NVMdurance software increases the number of program-erase cycles in Altera's FPGA-based storage reference design by up to 7x times compared to existing NAND flash implementations."

Editor's comments:- NVMdurance says the power behind its endurance stretching IP is the use of offline machine learning software that automatically learns the optimal parameter settings for the NAND device.

See also:- VCs in SSDs, razzle dazzling flash cell care,
relating NVMdurance's machine learning to manual tuning


2 ASIC roles for PCIe based BiTMICRO SSD controllers

Editor:- March 25 , 2016 - 5 years ago when BiTMICRO unveiled an earlier generation of its high performance enterprise SSD controller architecture - it was clear that their preference was for a chipset which included 2 different types of functionality.

This kind of thinking wasn't unique at that time - as I'd seen similar things in rackmount SSD designs before but (unlike BiTMICRO) those other designs were captive and not offered as COTS SSD controllers.

How many controller chips do you really need for a PCIe SSD?

In a new blog today BiTMICRO explains why its current generation of controllers continues using a 2 ASIC architecture with one acting as a flash array extender and the other as the main PCIe host interface controller.

Among other things the blog says "To increase flash channel bandwidth and capacity, more flash channel expander chips can be instantiated and connected to the main controller."

As noted in the SSD design heresies - SSD vendors often have different implementation architecture approaches which compete in similar application slots. When evaluating different types of offerings it can be useful to ask yourself - which direction is my own design likely to stretch in future? (Towards more performance? lower cost? bigger scale? adjacent application role? etc.) BiTMICRO's blog clarifies where they see their strengths in the market. ...read the article


Microsemi's secure SSD business to be acquired by Mercury

Editor:- March 23 , 2016 - Mercury Systems has agreed to acquire the secure SSD business of Microsemi as part of a $300 million deal which includes several other business units focused on the defense electronics market which altogether employ approximately 275 people based at facilities in Phoenix, Ariz., Camarillo, Calif., San Jose, Calif., and West Lafayette, Ind.

See also:- SSD acquisitions 2000 to 2016


Renice announces pSLC military SSD

Editor:- March 22 , 2016 - Renice Technology today announced the imminent availability of a 2TB 2.5" SATA MLC SSD family for the military market. The new X9 R-SATA uses the company's own controller. Interesting aspects of this announcment are:-
  • Renice says the drive can be used in pSLC mode - which halves the capacity but "achieves nearer SLC performance and reliability".
  • the new SSD uses rugged SATA connectors which are work more reliably in high vibration
Editor's comments:- Renice has a completely different view about the efficacy of pSLC in this type of SSD - than Cactus which dismissed the notion that it was worthwhile in a recent blog about memory geometries and ECC which you can see on the left of this page.

In this context I think the key differences in SSD design are:- adaptive versus classical flash management and also skinny versus regular RAM flash cache ratio.

As we know from SSD history - the data integrity and reliability you measure is just as dependent on the controller architecture as the intrinsic flash. So once you steer a course for your product line down these permutation avenues (due to past experience or convenient access to you own related IP) then the consequences you get - in terms of product envelope - are not necessarily reproducible by competitors who chose a different road.

On the rugged SATA connector issue:- the first time I recall seeing that being mentioned in a rugged military SSD news story was April 9, 2012.


what does Infinidat think about the SSD market?

Editor:- March 22 , 2016 - Views differ about many things in the SSD market and one of the fundamental bones of contention has always been - the pace of the (decade long predicted) race towards the solid state storage data center and how long (7 years already) there will remain a viable market for hybrid storage appliances (hybrids which include hard drives - as opposed to hybrids which consist of multiple latency adapted SSDs).

That prompted me to ask Steve Kenniston, VP Product Marketing at Infinidat (which sells multi-petabyte hybrid appliances) for his suggestions for the SSD Bookmarks series on StorageSearch.com .

You can see what Steve recommends you read today on the home page, and if you like these links and want to easily find them again later - his SSD bookmark suggestions are permalinked here.


Avere ranked #1 in Google's cloud partner search list

Editor:- March 16 , 2016 - How well does Avere Systems (and its virtual edge filer) work as a gateway to Google's cloud services? Apparently very well - as Avere today announced it had been named "Google Cloud Platform Technology Partner of the Year" for 2015.


enterprise SSD petabytes doubled in China in 2015

Editor:- March 15, 2016 - Despite all the efficiency gains (doing more with less) we've been seeing due to SSD-aware software slashing away at the waste in utilization within storage and memory virtualization stacks - the enterprise SSD market is still growing.

Gregory Wong, President, Forward Insights says that Enterprise SSD petabytes doubled YoY in the China market in 2015. While at the same time - shipments of all types of SSDs grew 3x faster in the China market than the overall worldwide market.

Editor's comments:- Greg was coy about giving me exact numbers when I asked - which is why you got ratios instead in the story above - but you will be able to find raw numbers in his new report - Opportunities in China's SSD Market - which will be published next month. Whoops - I forgot to ask the price. Most of Forward Insights' past SSD reports have been in the region from around $5K to $10K.

See also:- storage market research, this way to the petabyte SSD


image shows mouse at the one armed bandit - click to see VC funds in storage
VCs in SSDs
Pivot3 closes $55 million funding round

Editor:- March 15, 2016 - Pivot3 today announced it has closed a $55 million equity and bank financing round funded by Argonaut Private Equity and S3 Ventures.

Among other things Pivot3 will use the funding to integrate the NexGen QoS capabilities with Pivot3's leading hyper-converged, highly usable capacity, fault tolerant solutions.


PCIe 4.0 chips milestone

Editor:- March 14, 2016 - Signs of onwards and upwards progress towards future PCIe SSD speeds emerged today in an announcement that Cadence and Mellanox have demonstrated electrical interoperability for PCIe 4.0 with "robust signal integrity" (BER below 10-15) at 16Gbps with 4 lanes running traffic concurrently.


revenue depleted Violin says it will keep on trekking

Editor:- March 11, 2016 - No one looking ahead to the revenue etc reported yesterday by Violin Memory could reasonably have expected to hear uplifting results and so I doubt if many were surprised by the tone of the announcement. Revenue for the quarter ended January 31, 2016 was $10.9 million - 47% lower than the year ago period.

high availabaility SSD arrays
fault tolerant SSDs
In a related webcast Violin said that it had embarked on several strategic relationships with vendors which had been approached as part of the (now abandoned) process of finding a buyer for the company as its primary way of going forward.

Violin says it is still hopeful that evaluations of its new systems and software which are now in progress by over 40 significant customers could result in future sales which bring the company towards a sustainable customer funded operating position.

Violin also said that despite many industry announcements from other directions it remains convinced that it still has technology leadership in its newest product lines.

Editor's comments:- the competitive challenge for all rackmount SSD companies (not just Violin) is how convincingly (to their customers not to themselves) they can reposition themselves in the roadmap towards future enterprise storage box consolidation in which a much smaller set of standard platforms will account for nearly all the storage boxes which are bought.

Violin's current puny revenue places it at a severe competitive disadvantage compared to those other competitors which have their own proprietary big controller SSD architecture (which were developed in small companies but which are now owned by IBM, EMC, WDC, SanDisk etc).

On the other hand no AFA vendor - which doesn't use proprietary hardware - can feel relaxed just because it's assembled from standard COTS drives either. Because in the case of such vendors as Pure, Tegile, Kaminario, HP etc their challenge is to win the battles of dominance in software platforms or place (marketing strength in channels, brand, services etc).

Having said that (and despite its past waste on vanity marketing) the huge development cost (just ask Violin's past investors how much) of Violin's fast, fault tolerant storage boxes does still buy them a place in conversations which begin with - if we don't want to risk being held to ransom by those other big guys - is there another way of doing this reliable flash array stuff today? (Even though we know that everything is changing again.)


HP offers up front guarantees on usable capacity in flash hybrids

Editor:- March 10, 2016 - Taking the guesswork out of the costs of flash array utilization was one of the new pricing trends I wrote about 2 years ago in my article - Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.

HP has aligned itself with this trend in a product announcement about high availability updates to its hybrid array family - 3PAR 20840.

Among other things HP says - "The new HPE Get Thinner Guarantee program offers a free, up-front workload assessment and a written assurance of as much as 75% capacity savings that removes guesswork in migrating from legacy storage onto all-flash HPE 3PAR arrays. The program, which now includes savings from 3PAR Thin Deduplication, uses specialized, big data assessment tools to determine the amount of capacity reduction that a customer can expect to see by migrating to a 3PAR all-flash array. The program uses these results to offer an individualized, written guarantee of customer capacity savings. With this program, HPE offers the strongest assurance of capacity reduction on the market, backed by a written contract."


Seagate promises faster PCIe SSDs

Editor:- March 8, 2016 - Seagate today announced it will ship a 16 lane NVMe PCIe SSD with 10GB/S throughput in the summer. No further details are available at this time.

Editor's comments:- in 2015 the fastest production PCIe SSDs were probably the Flashtec NVRAM from Microsemi and the MX6300 from Mangstor.

In 2016 the fastest motherboard SSDs will be memory channel SSDs rather than PCIe SSDs - which potentially will be able to deliver twice the performance of 16 lane PCIe SSDs - but which are more limited in capacity and fault tolerance.


Pure says - revenue grew because customers like us and BTW we expect to get more business in the cloud

Editor:- March 3, 2016 - Pure Storage reported it has more than doubled its revenue for the quarter ended January 31, 2016 compared to the year ago period. Revenue was $150 million for the recent quarter and $440 million for the full year.

In a related earnings conference Pure indicated that one dimension of its revenue growth came from repeat business within the customer base saying - "For each initial $1 purchase, our top 25 cohort purchased greater than $12 more of Pure Storage within their first 18 months."

Strongly hinting that its systems remained competitively priced Pure said that a quarter of its business (upto that time) had come cloud customers.

image shows megabyte waving the winners trophy - there are over 200 SSD oems - which ones matter? - click to read article
top SSD companies
Answering a question about how much future cloud market business might be accessible to external systems suppliers like Pure compared to custom "do-it-yourselfers like Amazon and Google who build their own storage" Pure's CEO Scott Dietzen relayed thinking from IDC that by 2019, 80% of that cloud market would remain non-captive and accessible to vendors like Pure.

Editor's comments:- The bigger problem for all such companies (not just Pure) in the 2019 timeframe is not the scale of non-captive TAM but how they reposition themselves within a future rackmount SSD market which will be dominated by a much smaller number of distinct standardized platform types than today.

Although there will always be niches for proprietary systems - Pure and others will have to decide - are they the ones setting the new commodity standards? - or will they have to realign their offerings to work with the standards set by others?


Apple and FBI case demonstrate difficulties of SSD data recovery

broken barrel image - click to see the SSD data recovery directory
SSD data recovery
Editor:- March 3, 2016 - If anyone still had doubts about how difficult it is to recover data from an encrypted SSD in the absence of a universal back-door key - the proposition has been lent weight by the recent story rippling around the world's news media about the FBI's efforts to force Apple to assist in unlocking iphones. In the unlikely event you don't know what I'm talking about - click here to see summaries of the unfolding story.

Data recovery techniques have multiple uses and many of them originated as part of intelligence and law enforcement data gathering activities.

Defeating data recoverability is a primary objective of security and autonomous data destruction design techniques used in many military SSDs.
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What happened before?
.. SSD ad - click for more info
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Compared to earlier phases in the SSD market more is changing... No wonder no one's got a clear picture. It's a mess.
the SSD bookmarks
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AccelStor NeoSapphire  all-flash array
1U enterprise flash arrays
InfiniBand or 10GbE iSCSI or 16G FC
NeoSapphire series - from AccelStor

related guides

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In this quarter during the long waiting period between the announcement and completion of yet another SSD company (SanDisk) by its parent WDC - HGST was so silent in the flash airwaves it almost seemed as if all those previous SSD companies which had got sucked into the recycling vortex hadn't happened.
the Top SSD Companies - Q1 2016

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LSI SandForce SSD processors - click for more info
the awards winning silicon
accelerating world's leading SSDs
from Seagate

related guides

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military SSD from Waitan
military SSD drives with secure erase
encryption and self-destruct
from Waitan
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related guides
Your mission - should you decide to accept it - is to compile a simple list of military SSD manufacturers. That sounds easy - I thought. How hard can that be?
How hard was it?

See the new blog on StorageSearch.com
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industrial mSATA SSD
industrial grade mSATA SSDs
>2 million write cycles per logical block.
from Cactus Technologies

related guides

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Software is the data heat pump which can transform the entropy of flash memory arrays from mere storage systems into higher value random access memory.
Where are we heading with memory systems and software?

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Targa Series 4 - 2.5 inch SCSI flash disk
2.5" removable military SSDs
for airborne apps - GbE / SATA / USB
from Targa Systems
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related guides

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Why can't SSD's most ardent believers agree on a single shared vision for the future of solid state storage?
the SSD Heresies

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DRAM's indeterminate latencies
and the virtual memory mix slider
Editor:- March 2, 2016 - in a new blog on StorageSearch.com - latency loving reasons for fading out DRAM in the virtual memory slider mix - I cast an eye on the latency specific defects in DRAM system behavior which are among the many technology enablers of the emerging tiered memory / flash as RAM market.

We've been accustomed to think of DRAM as the simple predictable latency memory (compared to flash). But server motherboard memory system latency hasn't improved for over 10 years. Memory systems got bigger and bandwidth got faster but worst case latencies can sometimes be worse than they used to be - due to interference effects caused by complex data queuing patterns.

If you haven't noticed these problems - congratulations!

It means you might not notice (or care) when the virtual memory slider moves in the cheaper direction towards memories like flash. ...read the article




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Who's got all the answers to help understand how all the changes in the SSD market are coming together?

The answer is - no one and everyone and you too.
the SSD Bookmarks




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SSD history - how did the market get here?

SSD #software\!/ - why's it such a mess?

Why buy SSDs? - 6 user value propositions

the enterprise story - could the plot have been simplified - and if so when?

The SSD Heresies - Why can't SSD's most ardent believers agree on a single shared vision for the future of solid state storage?
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