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leading the way to the new storage frontier
the top SSD companies
after AFAs - what's the next box?
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
capacitor hold up times in 2.5" military SSDs
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?
optimizing CPUs for use in SSDs in the Post Modernist Era
controllernomics and risk reward with big memory "flash as RAM"

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rugged SLC like a legendary blend of Don Quixote and Geronimo has staunchly defied many siren calls to surrender
Editor:- June 28, 2017 - planar SLC flash may one day acquire the same romantic mythical status in the SSD market that tournaments did in the early days of gunpowder.

Old data warriors drinking their murky brews on days which blur into each other unpunctuated by the wake up calls of work related deadlines will say to one another - Dost thou remember those days when we used to dress up in shiny armor and charge wildly at each other on horseback while aiming our pointy lances?

Men had strong muscles and chivalry in those days. Now we just tap an icon to send a poison cyber capsule or squeeze the virtual trigger for a remote drone strike... Ah the good old days of SLC (memory you could trust to the care of childlike simplistic controllers).

For anyone with a grasp of memory roadmaps and generational progress it has been inevitable for a while that one day SLC will come to an end - because when the cell sizes become sufficiently small you need clever controllers to get data integrity. And if you've already got them for any one purpose then you might as well use them for the next obvious thing too.

Nevertheless - SLC like a legendary blend of Don Quixote and Geronimo has staunchly defied many siren calls to surrender and is still to this day the dominant memory technology in the hotter outposts of the industrial and military markets.

That's why I draw your attention to the announcement by the industrial SSD company Swissbit which announced that in December 2016, for the first time 1/3 of all the flash products sold by Swissbit were based on MLC. (Which means there's still time for your squire to feed dress the horse and polish up the metal jackets.)

See also:- A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
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Red Herring - SSD related companies
Editor:- June 23, 2017 - I had a quick glance today at the 2017 Red Herring North America list to see if I could find companies named there which intersect with the SSD and memory trends I write about here on the mouse site.

The strongest match is GridGain Systems - which I have mentioned here before.

I always set aside time to read their pioneering in memory computing blogs.

It's not that everything GridGain talks about is new. Many of these types of applications and problems were being tackled with inhouse developed code years ago by the early customers of the SSD market pioneers and these needs fed a lot of startups.

The interesting thing for me about GridGain - which emerged in 2011 - is they have provided an evangelistic narrative framework for this aspect of the industry and due to their expertise they make it sound so easy. GridGain's blogs and customer stories provide a glimpse of how the whole market will be doing things in the future when big memory boxes outnumber old style enterprise servers.

TidalScale is a software company which I keep a regular eye on but haven't written about before.

My linkedin ignited interest in TidalScale began in 2016 when Gary Smerdon became CEO. Gary had previous influential SSD market roles at LSI and Fusion-io.

TidalScale's software approach to aggregating servers and storage sets a state of what you can expect to get benchmark model if you're trying to create big memory from regular good old fashioned hardware. This is without the need to up(memory)cycle the servers in hardware using SCM DIMM wars and PCIe SSD fabric stretching technologies.

For a glimpse at this take a look at their blog 300x Performance Gains Without Changing a Line of Code which is one of many stories related to big memory.

Zadara Storage - which operates in the storage-as-a-service market - has been keeping my email inbox regularly updated since 2013 - but Zadara is another company I haven't written about before because they're not strictly speaking SSD technology originators.

Your interests are likely much wider ranging than mine so you might be interested in seeing all the companies listed in the article.
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6 years ago in SSD market history
In June 2011 - FlashSoft - which soon after became one of the first software companies to break into the Top SSD Companies List in Q3 2011 - announced free trials of its software which provided form factor agnostic tiering, caching and pooling of enterprise flash SSDs.

Like many other innovative SSD technology companies which earned fast market prominence - before and since - it inevitably joined the growing ranks of acquired SSD companies.

In 2017 we're now in the post modern memoryfication era when a 4U multipetabyte AFA includes over 250,000 flash memory chips (SSD news September 2016) so it's not surprising that enterprise users need software to manage the millions of memory devices which populate a modern storage cabinet.

Ever wonder why there's a memory shortage?

But assuming you have got those millions of chips (and remember this is just one cabinet in a datacenter) is it right that when you have such large semiconductor memory assets that the pooling model and interfaces still revolve around pretending to be storage?

Or crazier still - SSD arrays pretending to be memory!

That's why the memory systems market continues to be interesting.

There's so much more you can read about this.

Don't worry about right or wrong answers. Or not understanding everything.

Whatever you choose you're in the right place to do your own thinking. We've come a long way since the 1990s and the world's first mouse-managed continuously updated resource on mission critical SSDs.

Every year even I have to discard one or two hard learned and cherished SSD ideas which served me well in previous years but which now have as much relevance as that rest stop you took when all the roads to where you were heading were closed a few holidays ago.

Here are some suggested articles.

the SSD heresies

after AFAs - what's next?

why DRAM wasn't good enough to make big memories

towards SSD-everywhere software - progress updates

ReRAM in the CPU
Editor:- June 7, 2017 - These are some of the ideas which emerge from a slideshare - Rethink with ReRAM by Crossbar from a presentation at the recent Memory+ Conference.
  • Standard memory busses are too slow to support the computational needs of new distributed (and always on) AI applications which leverage IoT.
  • The only way to improve ultimate "time to get answers" performance is to integrate storage on the same die as the processor.
  • ReRAM can be embedded in SoCs in any CMOS fab to deliver battery friendly latency under 5nS.
rethin reram presentation June 2017

"The Internet used to be a one-way flow of information. Systems were only required to enable websites to provide information feed to the consumer. Today, with more and more user-generated content and uploads online, storage methods have also become increasingly complicated."
Kevin Wang, VP Sales - Longsys in a press release - increased memory needs in the IoT and IoV era (June 5, 2017)

SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers ..
image shows mouse building storage - click to see industrial SSDs article
industrial SSDs ..
M.2 SSDs ..
military storage directory and news
military SSDs ..
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SSD news - June 2017

SSD history / popular articles / military SSDs

Toshiba samples QLC says it will sue WDC

Editor:- June 28, 2017 - Here are 2 news stories about Toshiba.

Toshiba said yesterday that it is sampling the world's first 3D (64-layer), QLC (quadruple-level cell) flash memory to SSD controller makers for characterization.

The 768Gb chips are believed to be the highest density nvms currently available from anyone.

Editor's comments:- this is an extraordinary achievement for the nvm market. And you can judge how difficult it has been by comparing the actual timing to the earliest optimistic market expectations.

In February 2008 - Lane Mason - who at that time was at Denali Software and was one of the few people on the planet writing about such detailed matters - said - in the Denali blog - the industry expected the transition to 4-bit MLC cells, by 2012. So it has taken 5 years longer. (Lane is now at Objective Analysis BTW.)

The other Toshiba news story - Toshiba Misses its Deadline for a Deal for its Microchip Unit (NY Times) - is another episode in the much delayed (although not as much as QLC) serialization of the sale of Toshiba Memory - which many viewers had mistakenly believed had already publicly aired its season 1 finale. Among other things the NY Times article says this...

"Toshiba said it was suing Western Digital for about $1 billion over its attempts to block the sale of the chip unit..." the article

SMART revenue up 38% compared to pre IPO

Editor:- June 22, 2017 - The first earnings report for SMART Global Holdings following its recent IPO was disclosed today. Net sales for the quarter were $207 million compared to $149 million in the same period the year before.

Cactus clarifies role of pSLC etc in embedded SSDs

Editor:- June 22, 2017 - I had to read a new blog from Cactus Technologies twice just to make sure I grasped its meaning properly.

The blog is: - SLC, pSLC, MLC and TLC Differences - Does Your Flash Storage SSD Make the Grade?

My did they really say that? moment came when I got the distinct impression Cactus said something nice about Pseudo SLC.

I remember that in the past Cactus has been critical of competitors who offer pSLC for use in industrial SSDs - so did I misread something or is it the case that Cactus is now offering pSLC in its SSDs too?

Yes... to pSLC in Cactus SSDs.

No... this isn't a reversal of their previous statements.

pSLC is being offered as a memory option for oems who need a high reliability SSD but don't have the budget for SLC and don't need the full industrial temperature range either.

Cactus says its "OEM Grade products are based on pSLC NAND, which is the same MLC NAND as used in Commercial Grade. The difference is the MLC NAND is set in a mode which only the top and bottom states are used, thereby cutting the capacity in half but increase the endurance by 6x the MLC." the article, pSLC other mentions

Toshiba chooses "paid in Japan" bailout

Editor:- June 21, 2017 - the long running speculation about who's going to buy Toshiba's memory business may soon be over.

Toshiba today announced its board of directors have resolved to select the consortium of Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, Bain Capital Private Equity LP, and Development Bank of Japan a preferred bidder in respect of the sale of Toshiba Memory Corporation.

Toshiba said its intention is to reach a mutually satisfactory definitive agreement with the Consortium by the date of its annual ordinary general meeting of shareholders, scheduled for June 28.

See also:- Selling Toshiba's memory business - collected stories

JMR enters the HPC NVMe PCIe SSD market

Editor:- June 16, 2017 - Persistence can be a virtue for PR folk and not just memories.

Although it's been 15 years since I last wrote about JMR I was still reading their emails.

This morning I noticed they're offering NVMe PCIe SSDs (HHHL and bigger) aimed at the HPC and other high throughput integrator markets. MSRP of the JMR SiloStor starts at $795 for 512GB. Capacities available upto 8TB.

Does the new product matter? Why did I even write this note? It seemed to mark an important change for me. Click on their profile page link above if you're curious about my thinking.

BTW if you need any boxes to put JMR's new SSDs in - they might have some suggestions. They've been in the special enclosure business since 1982.

Reactive acquires obsolete drive emulation specialist ARRAID

Editor:- June 16, 2017 - Reactive Group today announced the acquisition of ARRAID.

Integrating proprietary FPGA-based technology and industrial grade CF cards as the media, Arraid manufactures new drive replacements for SMD, HISI, HPIB, MAC, OMTI, Pertec and XMD protocols, and several other legacy drive replacements including SCSI-1 and SCSI-2 and floppy disk drives. Legacy computer systems simply see Arraid's drives as if they are the original drives, enabling them to be field-replaced without the need for any software changes.

HA lessons from BA?

pull any datacenter power cord at random to attract the attention of a C level BA flight attendant

Editor:- June 15, 2017 - A systematic failure in fault tolerant architecture and processes at airline BA led to hundreds of UK flights being cancelled and delayed over the holiday weekend at the end of May.

The scale of disruption flashed headlines in the mainstream tv and news outlets worldwide. But in the days during and immediately after the story broke it seemed that extracting a plausible explanation in the public domain was like pulling teeth from the definitely reputation-damaged and probably litigation-sensitive airline.

It was obvious to many experts from the start that failure in fault tolerant architecture and human error were likely ingredients in the mix. But I thought I'd wait for a definitive narrative to emerge before placing a note here. Because it can be useful to learn from the common mode failures of others.

A report on Bloomberg - Engineer Pulled Wrong Plug provides a good summary and says (among other things) - "An engineer had disconnected a power supply at a data center near London's Heathrow airport, causing a surge that resulted in major damage when it was reconnected."

Editor's comments:- to me that's a design architecture fault and shows the failure to learn any useful lessons from the past 3 decades of enterprise computing (and in particular the lessons from companies affected by the terrorist attrocity of 9/11). If BA had a disaster recovery plan it was not fit for purpose.

high availability enterprise SSDs
backup and disaster articles from the rotating media era

hard delays from invisibly fixed soft SSD errors can break apps
that's why you need better storage analytics - says Enmotus

Editor:- June 15, 2017 - Using SSDs as its prime example - but with a warning shot towards the future adoption of NVDIMMs - a new blog - storage analytics impact performance and scaling - by Jim O'Reilly - on the Enmotus blog site - describes how soft errors can contribute to application failure due to unexpected sluggish response times even when the data is automatically repaired by SSD controllers and when the self-aware status of the SSDs is that they are all working exactly as designed.

That's the needs analysis argument for storage analytics such as the software from Enmotus which supports the company's FuzeDrive Virtual SSD.

Jim says - "Storage analytics gather data on the fly from a wide list of "virtual sensors" and is able to not only build a picture of physical storage devices and connections, but also of the compute instance performances and VLANs in the cluster. This data is continually crunched looking for aberrant behavior." the article

Editor's comments:- in my 2012 article - will SSDs end bottlenecks? - I said "Bottlenecks in the pure SSD datacenter will be much more serious than in the HDD world - because responding slowly will be equivalent to transaction failure."

And in a 2011 article - the new SSD uncertainty principle - I shared the (new to me) wisdom collected by long term reliability studies of enterprise flash done by STEC - that many flavors of flash controller management contained within them the seeds of performance crashes which would only become apparent after years of use as the data integrity algorithms escalated to progressively more retries and stronger ECC to deliver reliable data from wearing out (but still usable) flash.

So I agree with Jim O'Reilly. You do need more sophisticated datasystems analytics then whether or not an SSD has failed.

The variable quality of latency can be a source of incredibly long delays in server DRAM too.

more blogs re 3DX

Editor:- June 6, 2017 - Some recent blogs about Micron's 3DX.
  • Start waiting on 3DXP arrays - by Woody Hutsell suggests that 3DX is among the aspiring inheritors of the modern market space for latency sensitive customers which historically was once associated with RAM SSDs.

    Woody says - "I think the early usage for 3DXP will flow largely to server vendors (and their suppliers)."

    But he goes on to say why he thinks that adoption in storage arrays will be slower and at a lower scale than flash.
3DXpoint - mentions on

despite $27 billion bid - Foxconn considered a longshot

Editor:- June 5, 2017 - In Apple, Amazon to Join Foxconn's Toshiba Bid a blog on EE Times - Jim Handy founder of Objective Analysis says he expects the alliances and investing parties may change around before the final deal is struck.
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animal brands in storage / SSDs

Targa Series 4 - 2.5 inch SCSI flash disk
2.5" removable military SSDs
for airborne apps - GbE / SATA / USB
from Targa Systems
industrial SSDs - boring right?
Editor:- June 13, 2017 - For the past 11 years one of the safest assumptions you could make about the SSD market was that if you were looking for excitement and big revenue growth opportunities then the last place you should be looking was the industrial SSD market.

Indeed an important part of flash SSD history is that it started in industrial applications and only became mainstream and interesting - from a financial investor point of view - when flash SSD designers turned their gaze towards other directions like the consumer and enterprise markets.

In fact a good rule of thumb in the exciting days of disruptive change in the SSD market during 2004 to 2016 was that if you knew the capabilities of leading edge industrial SSD products in any one year the picture was probably the same the next year too.

For industrial customers - who were concerned about whether they would still be able to get the same locked BOM SSD 5 to 10 years after choosing it for their long lived design - the reassuringly boring predictability and calm, careful approach to new technology adoption in industrial SSD companies was widely regarded as a virtue compared to other brasher markets.

But there are many reasons to believe that the industrial SSD market will soon become a new attention seeking cauldron of innovation and architecture too.

I describe some of the indicators which brought me to this surprising conclusion in a new blog - not your grandfather's industrial SSD market - on

"Order of magnitude differences between commercial products are rare in computer architecture which may lead to the TPU becoming an archetype for domain-specific architectures...

Among the success factors of the TPU were the large matrix multiply (65,536 8 bit systolic MACs) and the substantial software controlled on chip memory (28MB)..."
In-Datacenter Performance Analysis of a 92 TOPS Tensor Processing Unit ASIC (pdf) - a paper by Developers at Google (June 26, 2017)

AccelStor NeoSapphire  all-flash array
1U enterprise flash arrays
InfiniBand or 10GbE iSCSI or 16G FC
NeoSapphire series - from AccelStor

related guides

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

Despite the bewildering range of products in the market - the performance characteristics and limitations of ALL flash SSDs are determined by a small set of of architectural parameters.
understanding flash SSD performance limitations

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

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

related guides

Are we there yet?
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

SSD jargon

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?

SSD news in Junes of yore
  • June 2001 - Adtron shipped the world's highest capacity 3.5" flash SSD aimed at the military market. It had 14GB capacity and cost $42,000.
  • June 2004 - The world's largest DRAM factory began production using 110nm process geometry and 300mm wafers.
  • June 2006 - CENATEK - a pioneer in the PCI SSD accelerator market (the precursor to PCIe SSDs) - announced availability of its RAMDisk software for Windows Server supporting upto 32GB of persistent solid state storage.
  • June 2013 - Samsung entered the PCIe SSD market with an M.2 form factor model aimed at notebooks. The XP941 had sequential read speed upto 1,400MB/s, and 512GB capacity.