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who's who in the SSD market in China?
by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - October 16, 2017
Nowadays you can't expect to understand the worldwide SSD market and realistically predict the likely source and direction of strong influences without having some cognizance of the SSD market in China.

As the publisher of StorageSearch.com I have been in the fortunate position that (since the 1990s) the founders of many SSD companies have contacted me. Consequently during a long span of SSD history I've had thousands of conversations with influencers in this market trying to understand the unfettered potential for memory systems products and discuss how to solve the barriers of technology, education and creating new markets.

In the early days of earning my living from the SSD market the principal movers and shakers were mostly US based companies. But from about 2006 I started to see significant products entering the international SSD conversation from companies who were coming from China.

Communication wasn't as fluid as talking to US companies because my working language is English.

But I quickly realized from our common language (the technical characteristics of the SSDs themselves) and from our email discussions that there was a treasure trove of talent in China which had independently been looking at SSD related design problems and solving them for their own customers.

By the time some of these China based SSD companies emerged as "newcomers" to the international markets via news or ads on my web site and others some of them were already fully operating companies and had more actual customers than is typically the case for US tech companies when they emerge from stealth or seek VC funding or launch their first products.

StorageSearch has always been an international publication.

By the close of 1993 my previous enterprise publication had customers and readers in over 23 countries. So I've always been receptive to learning more about companies which are pushing the boundaries forward in the technology segments I write about regardless of where they are. And with single exception of the military and aerospace SSD markets - where the proximity of the manufacturer and customer are an essentially intertwined and primary part of the qualification equation - I mostly think that - SSD technology has no geographic boundaries.

That's why I've never published a list of "SSD companies based in China". Although if you wanted a list like that you could make a good start and prepopulate it - were you minded to do so - by a Google search of the SSD news archives here on the mouse site.

If you prefer a commercially off the shelf list of China SSD companies, however, I recall that - in March 2016 - Forward Insights announced a report Opportunities in China's SSD Market which among other things listed oems, controller suppliers and others in that region of the SSD ecosystem. (See more SSD market analysts, list of market research companies who have been mentioned in storage context.)

And another thing you could do if you were interested in the SSD market in China would be to look at events like - China Flash Market Summit - which took place last month.

All of which above is long way of setting the scene for a very long conversation I had last Friday with Michael Wang who is founder of Saniffer whose company is the leading distributor of special test equipment and bus analyzers for SSD companies in China.

Saniffer logoEarlier this year I had added Saniffer's logo - which is a dragon - to my list of animal brands in the SSD market.

I had noticed Saniffer as a presence in the storage test market some years before but I didn't have a reason to write about it. We only started talking to each other about the SSD market this year. That's when Michael told me he first noticed my SSD articles about 10 years ago.

We had fun talking about the early days of the SSD market in China and we both knew many of the same people who had founded companies which went on to achieve worldwide recognition.

He asked if I had been to China. I said - no - I don't travel anywhere for work reasons because I find being connected is more efficient use of my time.

Another explanation is I tend to get lost easily. Even if my starting point is less than half a mile from where I live if you want to know the worst of it. (And a story popular in my family is how I spent 3 days in 1974 walking around the streets of Southampton without being able to find the university where my degree in Electronic Engineering was due to commence. When I got hungry I abandoned my quest to get food and then started searching again. This loop was exited only when I met some others doing the same course - one of whom later became my wife.)

What did the SSD mouse learn from an SSD dragon?

Location, location... Because of where he is, and the nature of his business, Michael Wang is in an ideal position to become aware of SSD drive and controller companies in the China market from the time they are being designed.

I've written before about the business benefits of SSD customization and Michael confirmed that he's seeing some of his customers designing custom SSDS and even new controllers and he said there are new SSD startups in the China market which will be significant when the outside world gets to hear about them.

I was already sold on the strategic visibility and potential of the design tools market. I told Michael that in 1990 when I stuck a bus analyzer on multiprocessor systems to see what really was happening to data in real-time and how data went through memory from SSD and HDD storage compared to what everyone expected it confirmed that bottlenecks existed in many places. We could fix them because in those days we had a lot of the source code and the software mix was simple and under our control. But in today's SSD market the software comes from many places and controllernomics is the limiting factor for everyone.

It's a big problem to solve in which bus analyzers and machine learning all have a part to play.

The increasing complexity of memoryfication systems means that there are many prizes to be won.

Knowing what happens is better than guessing. SSD arrays can be improved by discovering behavior which is optimized for a different view of dataflow economics compared to the target installation.

The SSD test and verification market sounds like an exciting place to be.

So - going back to the title of this blog - what answer can I offer to the question of - who's who in the SSD market in China?

Bearing in mind that all market data is imperfect and that even when you have "reliable" data the way in which you interpret it is stilted by what your own position and preconceptions the answer is... no one knows all the answers but it always helps to find others with similar interests who might know more than you.

That's how we learn. From each other.

BTW - Michael Wang suggested that for those in China a new (to me) SSD engineering community web site is SSDfans.com
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SSD news - October 2017

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new test software from Quarch traces real-time SSD watts

Editor:- October 30, 2017 - The power consumption of an SSD design is a key determinant of its reliability and array density in system deployments. But how do you accurately measure the power over a range of performance and application demands?

Quarch Technology today launched a new software solution - Quarch Power Studio - which in conjunction with the company's test modules enables engineers to capture live scope traces of voltage, current and power performance; record high resolution results continuously over multiple days; scroll through multi-gigabyte data sets and zoom in to the smallest detail; examine minimum, maximum, mean and RMS statistics; and export images and trace sections.


BiTMICRO launches raft of NVMe SSDs for industrial and military applications

Editor:- October 23, 2017 - BiTMICRO recently announced several new SSDs for the industrial and military markets.

For high capacity PCIe SSD applications - a pragmatic approach for systems designers in recent years in cloud markets has been to use carriers which can support multiple M.2 SSDs. BiTMICRO announced the MAXio S-Series NVMe HHHL PCIe industrial grade PCIe x8 add-in card that aggregates the performance and capacity of upto 4x M.2 SSDs in a temperature tolerant, rugged reliable NVMe SSD with upto 8TB capacity today.

For military 2.5" SATA and U.2 NVMe applications - BiTMICRO announced availability of 2 new secure erase SSDs which support a wide range of temperatures, altitudes of up to 120,000 feet, and 1500G of shock. The new SSDs are available with MLC or pSLC flash, maximum pSLC is 1TB, and maximum MLC is 2TB.

"BiTMICRO is an industry pioneer, delivering ruggedized and secure solid state drives to leading customers in the industrial and military markets for over 17 years, and has continually strived to meet the expectations of our customers. This level of customer support coupled with our experienced team and proprietary technology differentiates our product offerings from the rest of the market," said Stephen Uriarte, President of BiTMICRO.


new report sizes NVDIMM market at 12 million units in 2021

Editor:- October 19, 2017 - October 22, 2017 - Objective Analysis opined today that the market for NVDIMMs is poised to grow at a 105% average annual rate to nearly 12 million units by 2021.

This forecast is a part of the company's new 80-page report titled - Profiting from the NVDIMM Market (outline pdf), single user price $6,500 - which among other things predicts unit and revenue shipments through 2021.

See also:- hybrid DIMMs - market timeline, Memory Channel SSDs, market research - storage


Toshiba said to have lost flash fab output due to malware

Editor:- October 19, 2017 - Adding to the catalog of manufacturability yield woes which we already knew had contributed to the recent memory shortages and their various impacts on the SSD market there were reports earlier this week that Toshiba had lost production due to the impact of ransomware.

Digitimes - the first to report this story - said malware had delayed about 100,000 wafer starts. Later comments on Bloomberg and Objective Analysis put the story into a better context.



New Visions for Digital Storage

Editor:- October 11 , 2017 - The 2017 Storage Visions Conference . will be held Monday, October 16, 2017 in Milpitas, CA..

The conference theme is "New Visions for Digital Storage" and the conference will bring together the vendors, end users, researchers and visionaries that will meet the growing demand for digital storage for all aspects of unstructured and lightly structured data. Among other things expert panels will include:-
  • Bringing Compute to the Data.

    Over the entire history of computing data has resided in storage and memory, and has been summoned to the data processing element as it is needed. Today the industry is discovering that the movement of Big Data to the processor consumes inordinate power and incurs significant time penalties.

    This panel, featuring leading companies who address this issue, will discuss their current efforts to move compute to the data to save power, accelerate processing speed, and even improve scalability, in order to greatly enhance the cost/performance of tomorrow's computers.
  • Hardware Visions for Ubiquitous Storage and Memory.

    Emerging non-volatile solid-state storage technologies are set to replace or supplement DRAM in many applications. New fabric technologies will enable fast network storage using NVMe devices.

    Flash memory is moving to more and more 3D layers with three-level cells and four-level cells capable of reducing the costs for flash memory and driving its use. At the same time, HDDs as well as magnetic tape and optical storage are getting faster.
...see conference agenda


Infinidat secures $95 million C round

Editor:- October 3, 2017 - Infinidat today announced it has closed a $95 million Series C financing round. Equity raised by the company to date totals $325 million.

Infinidat says that several hundred enterprise customers have adopted its (hybrid storage) InfiniBox platform with more than 2 exabytes of storage deployed globally.

Editor's comments:- Although we've become accustomed to storage box makers reporting funding rounds like this and so in that respect this wouldn't attract much comment from me - the interesting thing from an SSD history trends viewpoint is this funding story shows that the hybrid storage appliance model for the enterprise - in which SSDs and HDDs both play a part - is still being regarded by investors as a valid business model. Although the identification of segments in the market which have product gaps still remains - as ever - problematic.

The memory shortages of 2017 demonstrated that solid state storage makers couldn't make enough SSDs with their in place production plants to sustain the needs of the SSD market even at inflated prices.
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SSD history

SSD news in Octobers of yore
  • October 2000 - Viking siad it would soon ship the industry's highest capacity CompactFlash cards to resellers nationwide. The 256MB components were for digital cameras, MP3 players, portable computers and PDAs.
  • October 2002 - Platypus Technology named customers and announced lower pricing for its fast (50,000 IOPS) QikDATA M-series redundant solid-state storage accelerators. The PCI bus 8GB model cost approximately $12,500.
  • October 2003 - Memtech said its Wolverine 2.5" military SSD (8GB 12.5mm high) was available with 8 years warranty.
  • October 2008 - IMEC started research on Resistive RAM (RRAM) cells as a potential candidate to replace conventional flash memory.
  • October - 2009 - Seagate - which had previously been hostile and dismissive about the importance of the SSD market - disclosed it was sampling its 1st SSD product to major oems.
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While no one can guarantee that MRAM, ReRAM or 3DX / Optane will all continue to be available and competitive in multiple future generations - the continued future existence of any one particular alternative to flash and DRAM is less significant than the balance of probability that there are enough technologies out there (and coming in the works) to make it worthwhile for software and hardware designers to apply their minds to enriching the vocabulary of their architecture song books.
2017 - adding new notes to the music of memory tiering
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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 StorageSearch.com - 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". ...read the article

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If you're one of those who has suffered from the memory shortages it may seem unfair that despite their miscalculations and over optimimism the very companies which caused the shortages of memory and higher prices - the major manufacturers of nand flash and DRAM - have been among the greatest beneficiaries.
consequences of the 2017 memory shortages

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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 StorageSearch.com - 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. ...read the article

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