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"Re the nand shortages... I think it's probably more challenging for the technology industry to deal with the shortages than it is maybe beneficial for HDDs because of some comparison on say some 500GB drive.... It's not easy to say if it's good or bad... We've always said it's a better world if there's a lot of nand because that means people have more devices in their hands and they're creating more data."
Stephen Luczo, Chairman and CEO - Seagate in Q3 FY17 conference call - April 26, 2017.

Editor's comments:- other interesting things which Seagate mentioned in this conference call...
  • the company thinks that only 10% of its current HDD portfolio is feasibly replaceable by flash.

    That's because the company has chosen to engage in the HDD market with higher capacity hard drives, and has for years been cultivating applications such as video surveillance (which don't need high random IOPS).
  • Seagate's flash and cloud systems business grew sales 19% yoy.

    The company's assessment is that its SSD sales could have been maybe upto $50 million higher had it not been for shortages of memory.
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Rambus to coach faster DRAM
Editor:- April 20, 2017 - Back in the early 1990s it was not uncommon to hear about specialist server companies which were using peltier effect heat sinks to refrigerate the fastest workstation processors so that they could be run at higher clock speeds. But this kind of extreme approach to server acceleration only provided short term competitive gains in a single dimension.

One of the biggest bottlenecks in the past decade has been RAM architecture and DRAM implementation itself. (You can read more articles about the background to this on the DRAM resource page here on

A new angle on extending the performance of DRAM was announced recently by Rambus and Microsoft who are collaborating on the design of prototype super cooled DRAM systems to explore avenues of improvement in latency and density due to physics effects below -180 C.

A new article - Rambus, Microsoft Heat Up With Cold DRAM - by Junko Yoshida , Chief International Correspondent - EE Times - discusses these plan in more detail.

In the article - Craig Hampel, chief scientist at Rambus, told EE Times that "Microsoft isnt alone... heavy data center users like Google, Facebook and Amazon are all in search of new memory architecture. Indeed, these tech giants who have primarily grown their business via their technological prowess in software development are now finding the future of their business growth severely constrained by hardware advancements." the article

Editor's comments:- At room temperature the main problem in fast DRAM systems is that the energy required for refresh cooks the chips which means cells lose charge faster which creates data integrity risks which in turn needs more frequent refresh.

This is a limiting design factor.

It means that even if you have a miraculous packaging technique which can sandwich more chips into a box - DRAM loses out to nvm technologies which don't require refresh - when the scale of the installed capacity (and watts) in the box is high.

Because if you can't fit enough RAM into the same single box then the memory system accrues a box-hopping fabric-latency penalty which outweighs the benefits of the faster raw memory chip access times inside the original box.

If you freeze DRAM then the refresh cycle can be extended (which means you can pack more capacity in a box) but also the native transit time for data in the copper interconnects and inside the silicon gets faster too.

Although Rambus and Microsoft are pitching this a progressive research exercise I don't think that it will provide a general solution for data intensive factories.

While it's a good thing for researchers to play around and explore the limits of what can be done with all kinds of memory devices - I think that the answer to greater performance lies in new architectures rather than freezing old ones.

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How does the memory famine impact industrial SSD service values?
Editor:- April 25, 2017 - 17 years ago I wrote a guide - Why I won't publish your press release? - the first of which still applies today - it's not newsworthy.

The context which brought it to mind was a press release earlier this month from Virtium saying it was now offering 2TB (MLC) and 1TB (iMLC) in its 2.5" industrial SATA SSD range.

That kind of capacity isn't news - as we reported the first rugged TB 2.5" SSD sampling on this page more than 8 years ago - in January 2009. (And competitors in the industrial military market have been shipping 8TB 2.5" drives since 2016.)

Is there anything else you can tell me? I asked.

(Like me - readers need to have a genuine reason to be interested.)

I asked about pricing - but the company said there are too many options and didn't want to be drawn on that. I learned the SLC version is rated at 30 DWPD. But that's not a news story either.

Around about this time I was thinking about the impacts of the flash memory famine on different types of companies in the SSD supply chain. (Whether it's a good thing or bad thing - depends which company you are.)

In the 1970s and 80s chip supply volatility due to semiconductor company book to bill ratios thrashing about all all over the place was a constant reality of being in the electronics business. In recent years we had the illusion that the boom to bust days of memory were over - due to better business management and better prediction systems. So when memory prices increased and supply dates went into "unknown" that was a shock to many people.

Continuity of supply and pricing expectations are just as important for industrial equipment makers as avoiding EOL shock and having stable BOMs.

Tactical stories about memory supply and logistics had come up in some recent conversations I had with industrial SSD makers Wilk Elektronik in Poland and Longsys in China.

So I asked this...

Does Virtium (which is headquartered in the USA) get involved in giving price projection promises to its contract system customers?

Scott Phillips, VP of marketing - Virtium told me ""While we can't 'promise' specific pricing into future quarters, we can provide supply-chain and associated pricing visibility to strategic customers up to one to two quarters out, based on NAND flash allocations, associated pricing and cost averaging of materials.

This at least helps customers plan. In other words, even though we are direct with suppliers, it does not completely insulate us from cost increases should suppliers decide to raise prices, but we can somewhat mitigate pricing volatility like what is found in the distribution channel currently."

There you go. Is that more interesting than just another 2.5" TB SSD story? I hope so.

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SSD news - April 2017

popular articles / SSD history / top SSD companies

Sampling the engineering temperature in Toshiba's never never land
Editor:- April 30, 2017 - Speculation about who might become next owner of Toshiba's SSD and memory business continues... As I told you earlier this year I didn't expect this to be a short story, due to monopoly and other strategic interests.

The latest chapter in this flash novella comes as the number of buccaneers circling around the foundering wreck of Toshiba's corporate galleon and hoping to pluck the semiconductor gold IP fabs from its belly has reduced to 4.

A new blog - Politics Muddy Toshiba Bidding by Junko Yoshida , Chief International Correspondent - EE Times - takes an engineering view of who would be the best or worst of the bidders and asks...

"Are Toshiba's semiconductor engineers angry? Are they discouraged?" the article

See also:- Selling Toshiba's memory business - collected news coverage

SMART HRS announces 8TB 2.5" SATA SSDs for aerospace roles

Editor:- April 25, 2017 - SMART High Reliability Solutions today announced new higher capacity models in its HRS-M1HC family of aerospace targeted 2.5" SATA MLC SSDs.
  • 8TB capacity in 9.5 mm height
  • 1, 2 and 4TB drives in 7.0 mm
  • operates at altitudes of up to 100,000 ft
  • designed to withstand shock and vibration up to 1000g
  • R/W speeds are 520GB/s and 500MB/s respectively
"The HRS-M1HC extends our M-Series product line giving our customers in the military and industrial markets a cost effective, high-density option for specialized applications." said Michael Guzzo, GM of SMART HRS. "The M1HC is one of the most comprehensive, security-laden SSDs available from SMART HRS. The fact that we provide it in an MLC based drive gives customers additional flexibility when choosing a solution that best fits their need."

Editor's comments:- This family is also supported by an impressive arsenal of triggerable military erase sequences as order options.

see Swissbit in Vegas

Editor:- April 25, 2017 - When you've got the name of a country in the name of your company does that set expectations about where your natural markets are?

So you might think that Swissbit is stuck in Europe - but the company (which offers COTS and custom memory systems) has been selling SSDs into North America for over 6 years.

If you haven't seen them yet - Swissbit says it will showcase its high-end memory and storage products for industrial and NetCom applications at the EDS Summit in Las Vegas next month.

You might not see many other SSD companies there though. I had a quick glance through the 200+ list of associated companies at this event and could only recognize about 3 others.

Soros acquires Violin

Editor:- April 24, 2017 - Violin Memory - which had gone into Chaper 11 in December 2016 - today announced it has been acquired by Quantum Partners LP ("Soros"), a private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC ("SFM").

One of Violin's customers was quoted as saying "Throughout the reorganization process, Violin continued its enterprise-level customer support..."

now Cinderella industrial systems with "no-CPU" budgets and light wattage footprints can go to the NVMe speed-dating ball

Editor:- April 19, 2017 - A dilemma for designers of embedded systems which require high SSD performance is how can you get the benefits of enterprise class NVMe SSDs for simple applications - which integrate video for example - without at the same time escalating the wattage footprint of the entire attached micro server?

A new paper published today by IP-Maker - Allowing server-class storage in embedded applications (pdf) discusses the problem and how their new FPGA based IP enables any NVMe PCIe SSD to be used in embedded systems to provide sub-microsecond latency using "20x better power efficiency, and 20x lower cost compared to a CPU-based system."

image shows where the FPGA IP fits in the context of an embedded low power system using fast NVMe SSDs

The company says the NVMe host IP - which is now available - can be used in an FPGA connected between the PCIe root port and the cache memory, internal SRAM or external DRAM. It fully controls the NVMe protocol by setting and managing the NVMe commands. No CPU is required. It supports PCIe gen 3 x 8 interface.

Michael Guyard, Marketing Director said that - among other things - applications include:-
  • military recorders
  • portable medical imaging
  • mobile vision products - in robots and drones the article (pdf)

Editor's comments:- Now Cinderella embedded systems with low cost budgets and low wattage footprints can go to the enterprise NVMe performance ball. The new magic - in the form of the FPGA IP released today by IP Maker - has the potential to transform the demographics and class of SSDs seen in future industrial systems.

See also:- optimizing CPUs for use with SSDs, SSD glue chips

low yield at sub 20nm is root of DDR4 shortage says DRAMeXchange

Editor:- April 14, 2017 - Quality problems in DRAMs which have been sampling this year at the new sub 20nm generation from major suppliers is at the heart of the issues discussed in a new - market view blog by DRAMeXchange - which concludes that the contract prrice of 4GB DDR4 DRAM modules will rise 12.5% entering 2Q17.

Avril Wu, research director of DRAMeXchange said - "PC-OEMs that have been negotiating their second-quarter memory contracts initially expected the market supply to expand because Samsung and Micron have begun to produce on the 18nm and the 17nm processes, respectively. However both Samsung and Micron have encountered setbacks related to sampling and yield, so the supply situation remains tight..." the article

See also:- inside SSD pricing, storage market research companies

2017 will be crossover revenue year for DDR4 says IC Insights

Editor:- April 13, 2017 - A new report about the DRAM market by IC Insights says:-
  • DDR4 prices in 2016 fell to nearly the same ASP as DDR3 DRAMsAs a result, IC Insights expects DDR4 to become the dominant DRAM generation in 2017 with 58% market share versus 39% for DDR3.
  • Following a year of extraordinary gains in pricing, a boost to DRAM supply in the second half of 2017 could lead to reduced ASPs and the inevitable start of a cyclical slowdown in the DRAM market. the article

the HDD software exorcism - a blog from Pure Storage

Editor:- April 12, 2017 - In various articles in the past I have written about the potential upside for utilization and performance in enterprise SSD systems which would be enabled by new architecture introduced withing new software. Among these was my (2013) blog - which looked at utilization and performance multipliers from the "SSD software event horizon"

I was reminded of those by seeing a blog from Pure Storage - DirectFlash – Enabling Software and Flash to Speak which sets the scene for many of the SSD software improvements we have seen in recent years like this...

"...your AFA likely has a little secret it doesn't like to admit – there's still a lot of disk inside! Smart array software is forced to talk to flash by speaking disk protocols like SCSI over disk interfaces like SAS and SATA and when it finally talks to the flash it has to pretend the flash is a hard drive and circumnavigate layers of complex software inside the SSD. Why?!!?!"

Pure says that their DirectFlash architecture was born from the ambition of avoiding such torture. the article

Tegile gets another $33 million funding

Editor:- April 11, 2017 - Tegile today announced $33 million in additional funding which was led by Western Digital and current investors such as Meritech Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, and Cross Creek Capital. With this financing, Tegile has raised a total of $178 million to date.

See also:- rackmount SSDs, hybrid storage arrays, VCs in SSDs

Tachyum promises 10x faster CPUs soon

Editor:- April 7, 2017 - I was fortunate enough to have had close relationships with technologists and marketers of high end server CPUs in the 1990s who explained to me in detail the peformance limitations of CPU clock speeds and memories which would prevent CPUs getting much faster beyond the year 2000 due to physics and the lost latency due to the coherency of signals when they left silicon and hit copper pads.

That was one of the triggers which made me reconsider the significance of the earlier CPU-SSD equivalence and acceleration work I had stumbled across in my work in the late 1980s and write about it in these pages when I explained (in 2003) why I thought the enterprise SSD market (which at that time was worth only tens of millions of dollars) had the potential to become a much bigger $10 billion market by looking at server replacement costs and acceleration as the user value proposition for market adoption and disregarding irrelevant concerns about cost per gigabyte.

I was surprised these equivalencies weren't more widely known. And that's why I recognized the significance of what the pioneers of SSD accelerators on the SAN were doing in the early 2000s.

It's taken 17 years - but the clearest ever expression of the CPU GHz problem and why server achitecture got stuck in that particular clock rut (for those of you who don't have the semiconductor background) appears in a recent press release from Tachyum which says (among other things)...

"The 10nm transistors in use today are much faster than the wires that connect them. But virtually all major processing chips were designed when just the opposite was true: transistors were very slow compared to the wires that connected them. That design philosophy is now baked into the industry and it is why PCs have been stuck at 3-4GHz for a decade with "incremental model year improvements" becoming the norm. Expecting processing chips designed for slow transistors and fast wires to still be a competitive design when the wires are slow and the transistors are fast, doesn't make sense."

The warm-up press release also says - "Tachyum is set to deliver increases of more than 10x in processing performance at fraction of the cost of any competing product. The company intends to release a major announcement within the next month or two." the article

Editor's comments:- Do I believe it's possible?

Yes - by discarding 2D designs of CPUs and maybe adding SSDera memory architecture in the CPU SoC. (I'm just guessing about these solutions BTW.) But if anyone knows how - then I'm prepared to give cofounder Rado Danilak the benefit of the doubt for such ambitious claims.

Toshiba's storage sale - update from Tom Coughlin

Editor:- April 4, 2017 - As previously reported Toshiba's memory and SSD business will be spun off to generate cash to plug losses in its nuclear generating business. A new article by Tom Coughlin, President Coughlin Associates - HDD Implications of Toshiba Memory Unit Sale - looks at the ramifications (no pun intended) for the hard drive market depending on which of the 10 or so potential bidders succeeds.

Among other things Tom says - "Selling the HDD unit along with the flash unit could be one outcome... The end result could be very interesting and create very strange bed-fellows." the article

Walmart generates 2.5PB of analyzable data every hour

Editor:- April 3, 2017 - Walmart's Data Café is a private cloud which supports business decision makers in its 20,000 stores who can access over 200 streams of internal and external data, including 40 petabytes of recent transactional data, which can be modelled, manipulated and visualized.

I learned the above stats in a new case study - Big Data At Walmart: How 40+ Petabytes Improves Retail Decision-Making by business author Bernard Marr who tells us how teams from any part of the business are invited to bring their problems to the analytics experts and then see a solution appear before their eyes on the nerve centre's touch screen "smart boards". the article
What happened before? What happened after?

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Michelangelo found David inside a rock.
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12 years before in SSD news
In April 2005 - Texas Memory Systems (which made the world's fastest SSDs) offered the world's 1st performance guarantees for enterprise solid state storage systems.

The company said "if the RamSan unit does not accelerate the software application performance to a level acceptable to the customer, the RamSan unit may be returned within 30 days of delivery and Texas Memory Systems will refund all related Texas Memory Systems hardware charges, minus a 10% restocking fee."
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The industry will learn a lot about the "goodness" of new memory tiering products by stressing them in ways which the original designers never intended.
RAM disk emulations in "flash as RAM" solutions

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after AFAs? - the next box
Throughout the history of the data storage market we've always expected the capacity of enterprise user memory systems to be much smaller than the capacity of all the other attached storage in the same data processing environment.

after AFAs - click to read rhe articleA new blog on - cloud adapted memory systems - asks (among other things) if this will always be true.

Like many of you - I've been thinking a lot about the evolution of memory technologies and data architectures in the past year. I wasn't sure when would be the best time to share my thoughts about this one. But the timing seems right now. the article

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Are we there yet?
Editor:- April 7, 2017 - After more than 20 years of writing guides to the SSD and memory systems market I admit in a new blog on - Are we there yet? - that when I come to think about it candidly the SSD industry and my publishing output are both still very much "under construction". the article

RAM has changed from being tied to a physical component to being a virtualized systems software idea - and the concept of RAM even stretches to a multi-cabinet memory fabric.
what's RAM really? - RAM in an SSD context

All the marketing noise coming from the DIMM wars market (flash as RAM and Optane etc) obscures some important underlying strategic and philosophical questions about the future of SSD.
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?

I think it's not too strong to say that the enterprise PCIe SSD market (as we once knew it) has exploded and fragmented into many different directions.
what's changed in enterprise PCIe SSD?
The same memory block may have different ECC codes wrapped around it at different times in its operating life - depending how healthy it looks. And different ECC codes may be used within the same memory chip at the same time.
Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP in SSDs