| leading the way to the
new storage frontier||...|
after AFAs -
what's the next box?
ready for infinitely faster RAM?
hold up times in 2.5" military SSDs
farewell to reassuringly boring industrial SSDs
can memory chips be made in the wrong place?
editor - StorageSearch.com
- April 30, 2018 |
Is a memory chip in Country A worth
the same in Country B?
|If supplies were plentiful, and if there was
efficient and effective competition, and low barriers to free trade and market
entry - then the answer would be:- Yes. |
Superficially enough of those
conditions seemed to prevail worldwide upto about 3 years ago that if anyone had
tried to create a new mainstream civilian memory company (in the
nand flash markets) then
the effort would have been viewed as maybe being nuts.
There would have been little appetite to invest in such a new
The IP barriers alone were strong enough to
deter such efforts and the risks and rewards from the competitive side
(plentiful cheap memory and "forever downwards - like gravity" price
projections) would have been sufficient deterrents to such
fast forward to today.
position power exposed by the memory shortages coupled with geopolitical
sensitivities which received serious airing and analysis in the
beauty pageant of who might be a fit buyer of Toshiba's memory business
exposed the strategic sensitivities of the memory business.
recent actions by US regulators to block technology sales to significant
China based technology companies which fell afoul of well known US sanctions
on 3rd party countries (for example
survival at risk amid US ban - said SeekingAlpha.com while
says US penalties are 'unfair'- said ChinaDaily.com.cn) coupled with the
recalculation of value effect inevitably inspired by asking what would happen
if something like recently imposed
tariffs on photovoltaics were to be applied on memory chips by any country
for any reason - is creating a climate in which the Country A versus Country
B question may change the assessment of investing in new memory companies to
include a stronger weighting to the geographic question of where the
customers are compared to the factories which make the chips.
assuming here that another factor in reopening this type of question is that the
imbalance between memory supply and demand may have changed from its
pattern of quickly rebalanced balance - to becoming (for maybe several
more years yet ) - unplentiful and higher priced memory becoming the new
normal. Here are some articles which discuss the temperature of thinking.
Older readers will
remember that the question of whether memory chips might need passports and
visas to travel from one part of the world to the other (and the related
question of what kind of buyer reception these coach class chip tourists would
get when they arrived) was for many decades the norm. It was only in the dotcom
era that we got used to just in time inventories for manufacturing and the
free movement of consumer grade technology parts zigzagging their way around
the factories of the planet like the shadows of drunken satellites.
- A blog on AnandTech -
DRAM Industry Spreading its Wings: Two More DRAM Fabs Ready (April 25,
2018) - says "Innotron Memory and Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit, are
gearing up for volume production of computer memory in the coming month. Both
manufacturers were founded with the help of the Chinese government, their output
will initially be consumed locally."
there isn't enough effective competition in the memory market and it took
the lack of headroom in supply to show our vulnerability to these strategic
links and dependencies.
PS - The focus of blog above was talking
about mainstream civilian uses of memory chips. And I hope I made that clear.
It's obvious that another answer to the question - can memory chips be made in
the wrong place? - in the context of
military systems - is
of course yes. Geography and
of a military memory systems maker and SSD integrator are usually the
primary reasons for choosing a supplier - irrespective of cost. Sorry if you
were expecting a discussion about that.
electrons more or less?|
(sensitive nm geometry meets 2/3D)
|Editor:- April 26, 2018 - The sensitivity of
progressively smaller nand flash cells to actual trapped charge (as measured
by the number of electrons) has an immediate and direct bearing on the
repeatability of data reads compared to writes. |
Hence the original
noise tolerant ECC technologies.
And also playing their part -
with the passage of time - the corrosive attacks on
which accumulate in their effects due to leakage, disturbance etc - not to
mention the damoclesean biggie of write cycle damage aka
(endurance) - have been summarized by many useful shortcuts in the past as part
of the ongoing narrative associated with the pairing of
complexity growing as the necessary mitigating accompaniment (like a data
integrity cop) to memory cell sizes shrinking - in the quest for ever cheaper
You can see some good recent examples of how these
relationships pan out in a recent article by Andrew Walker -
Future of Non-volatile Memory (April 11, 2018) which is part of a series
he's written on 3DInCites.
other things Andrew notes that...
- In 2D nand flash at the 16nm nand flash level, less than 10 electrons will
cause a 100mV threshold voltage shift.
The main thrust of Andrew's article is to indicate that even
3D nand flash has shrinkability limitations because of the damage
caused by writes.
- Whereas in 3D (skyscraper) nand flash the total number of electrons
stored in the silicon nitride reservoir (occupying a similar 2D planar
footprint) is much greater resulting in more stability in the threshold
And this is one of the reasons that some memory
long been looking at
other technologies which don't rely on trapped charges although regarding
application roles he says:-
"STT MRAM is emerging as the
embedded nonvolatile memory of choice for advanced silicon processes. It is also
being touted as a replacement for SRAM and, with a small enough memory cell,
DRAM. It is unlikely to
replace nand flash." ...read
storage reliability -
news & white papers
shows processing in memory can save power |
|Editor:- April 2, 2018 - Here's a new acronym
for you and also a new way to think about the value of offload logic in memory
arrays too. They both appear in a recent paper -
Workloads for Consumer Devices: Mitigating Data Movement Bottlenecks (pdf)
which started as a research project in Google.
- First - the new (to me) acronym:- PIM - processing in memory.
is a synonym for "in-situ SSD / memory processing".
a concept which has been associated with creeping refinements and various
different implementations since it first came into common usage as one of the
ideas in 2014.
The authors say... "Our
analysis shows that offloading the primitives (for widely-used Google consumer
workloads) to PIM logic.. eliminates a large amount of data movement, and
significantly reduces total system energy (by an average of 55.4% across the
workloads) and execution time (by an average of 54.2%). ...read
the article (pdf)
- Second - the new idea:- saving power.
We're used to the idea that
PIM (or in-situ memory processing) can provide substantial acceleration for
applications when the core logic has been custom tuned for a particular set of
The new thing is that PIM can provide a worthwhile
reduction in electrical power too - by reducing movements of data to locations
outside the associated memory array. And a power optimized design can
deliver useful acceleration at the same time.
should we set
higher expectations for memory systems?
|Spin Transfer Technologies says its
breakthrough tweak to MRAM structure will enable new uses in datacenter ASICs|
April 30, 2018 - Although it can be an enigmatic challenge figuring out what
the market positioning and application roles of some alternative nvms really
Spin Transfer Technologies
left no room for doubt in press releases today about recent enhancements in
their (ASIC compatible) MRAM technology.
SRAM is one of the target markets. STT says its improved MRAM - with
Spin Current (PSC) structure - lengthens retention time by a factor of over
10,000 (1 hour retention becomes more than 1 year retention) while
reducing write current.
STT says the new PSC structure is compatible
with most MRAM processes, materials and tool sets and adds only about 4nm to
the height of the pMTJ deposition stack. PSC decouples the static energy
barrier that determines retention from the dynamic switching processes that
govern the switching current. Among the improvements:- PSC reduces read
disturb error rate up to 5 orders of magnitude.
no magic bullet to shorten how long it takes to test and verify
Bullet Train SSDs
Editor:- April 26, 2018 - Aspects of the
journey to get TB industrial SSDs approved for use in
bullet trains were
which beat 7 other competitors and has been supplying batches of its SSDs for
onboard use in these world's fastest running (200 mph) passenger trains
CoreRise's Product Manager said - "Before mass
production, there are more than 500 items of the tests in 57 categories to be
passed. Moreover, the test standard is very strict. It need not only to conform
to the customer requests or nominal standards, but also enough safety
redundancy, and guarantee the reliability and consistency of technical
Editor's comments:- The interesting thing in this
story is how the customer qualification processes and verification tests for
reliable operation in harsh environments for electronics take longer
than the original design of the SSD.
That's one of the distinguishing
characteristics of the industrial SSD business and sets it apart from consumer
and enterprise markets.
the business of custom
Hynix says DRAM prices will stay high due to continuing growth
Editor:- April 24, 2018 - SK Hynix today
announced it will
enter the enterprise PCIe
SSD market as one of several plans to diversify its product portfolio.
its DRAM business in the quarter ended March 31, 2018 - Hynix reported - "Quarter-over-quarter,
DRAM bit shipments decreased by 5% due to weak mobile demand and lessened
production days nevertheless of sustained robust server demand. However, the
average selling price rose by 9% through evenly increased price for all DRAM
Hynix said in a related
call (audio) /
- on SeekingAlpha.com).
"(Global) demand for DRAM is expected
to grow by low 20% level this year. Supply growth will not be enough to ease the
price supply situation, even if suppliers accelerate their migration to 1Xnm
and continue to add wafer capacity by increasing investment."
the NAND market the demand growth continues around SSD. Enterprise SSD in
particular is expected to drive growth." ...read
Editor's comments:- As the continuing ripple
effects of the
shortages are now in their 3rd calendar year of impact you have to ask
yourself - is this the new "business as usual?"
I said on
For those suckled on the "memory as commodity" business model of
semiconductor product marketing the current surreal competitive landscape must
make them feel they were suckered.
view of memory boom bust business cycles.
Toshiba memory sale reenters What If? zone
April 24, 2018 - The
of Toshiba's memory business still has the potential to unravel
according to various reports which note that regulatory delays have delayed
completion of the deal with Bain (announced
into a different market territory in which Toshiba's parent no longer needs the
proceeds to remain solvent and the value of the flash memory memory business
is not the same as it was.
- "Toshiba and Bain want to finalize the current agreement, but they can't
Weekly - "Activist investor Argyle Management of Hong Kong says the
memory unit could fetch $40 billion in an IPO, whereas the Bain/Hynix sale will
only bring in $18.6 billion."
of Toshiba's forced memory sale
- "...the tech giant has missed a deadline of March 31, due to Chinese
antitrust regulators, which are yet to permit the acquisition to take place."
a NAS / AoE view of no SPOF
Editor:- April 19, 2018
- No Single Point of
Failure + Golden Images is one of a series of recent blogs by Brantley Coile,
Founder/CEO at Coraid (see also older
Coraid 2009 to 2015)
about topics mostly related to good software design in the context of network
Editor's comments:- Brantley's musings about the
storage software industry from a historic perspective have become a regular and
enjoyable read for me in recent months. He's written about topics as diverse as
the history of hard drive interfaces to the ideal size of software teams.
availability enterprise SSDs
what's the value of infinitely faster RAM?
April 17, 2018 - A recent blog on StorageSearch.com
- are we ready
for infinitely faster RAM? - asks - among other things - what's the value of
having very much faster memory?
Looking at past decades for clues -
there was limited scope for being able to change the world of computing by
simply having faster memory. Even if you could go back in time and take
compatible chips or SSDs from today's market and retrofit them - you wouldn't
change very much - because the nature of applications and bottlenecks were a
quagmire of limited thinking and finite lookalike expectations.
enterprise computing market of today is different as it's not just the actions
of people which create workloads but the economic value of machines
which create data from inventing and discovering new relationships in data
anywhere which can be leveraged into monetizable opportunities - provided that
the results can be computed quickly enough.
But would you recognize a
new memory accelerator if you saw it? Faster memory systems may nhot even look
like traditional memories and their "fastness" will be application and
context dependent. ...read the
unveiling a 200TB hard drive for cloud apps - the Titanosauros 1
April 1, 2018 -
Triassic Peripherals today exited
stealth mode and
its first product - a 200TB hard drive aimed at cloud applications.
Titanosauros 1 has a dual port
interface, spins at 5,000
and comes in a
8" form factor. Triassic says that a 1U rack can provide 1 petabyte of raw
storage. Despite being optimised for electrical power the outermost cylinders of
the drive can provide data throughout faster than a 15k 2.5" drive.
Pricing data is available on request.
One of the co-founders - Fred Spinstone said that in a
company his team had been supporting legacy EOL 8 inch IPI-2 hard drives
for military customers but using flash inside. (Similar in business concept to
the EOL mitigation
solutions offered by Reactive
Group and others.)
The idea for Triassic was - hey let's put a
hard drive in a hard drive enclosure. Random access time isn't great at 50 mS
but in a cloud system
the metadata knows where the chunky data lives and systems performance is tiered
through servers and flash anyway.
The patents for the 8" platters
have expired so Triassic isn't expecting patent suits from the usual suspects.
comments and more info
HDD articles & news on
SSD news in Aprils of
||Texas Memory Systems
offered the world's first performance related guarantees for SSD products. |
promised they would outperform any competing storage system, or meet the
customer's agreed application speedup expectation - or the customer would get
their money back.
This approach was partly inspired by market
research data from
SSD User Survey - which said that users would be more likely to try SSD
systems if vendors offered such guarantees.
The perceived risks for
users associated with buying (what seemed to be) relatively expensive
enterprise SSD systems from (mostly little known) vendors to obtain business
benefits from poorly understood and likely-to-change installed assets
-based on pre SSD thinking - continued to dampen adoption of SSDs by
mainstream users for the next decade - because it required considerable
technical expertise to understand what was being offered.
the enterprise flash market chose the route of creating plausible sounding
pricing models as the way to bypass technical performance unknowns - a
marketing trend which I wrote about in my article -
the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.
utility pricing model - based on memory pricing roadmaps - didn't prove to be
sustainable when memory costs
in 2017) this didn't halt the onward progress of memoryfication because the
widescale adoption of flash meant that flashless users could see evidence of
the benefits in industries which they understood.
Technologies became the first enterprise SSD manufacturer to display end
user pricing online for the full range of its SSD arrays. |
date the volatile nature of memory pricing and fear of price led competition
had meant that most SSD oems declined to publish any pricing data.
||Seagate filed suit against
STEC alleging patent
infringements related to hard disk interfaces. |
The case was seen by
many SSD proponents as a potentially deadly but seriously misguided missile
launched at the entire SSD market. It was later dismissed without merit. And
later - helped by the acquisition of LSI's SSD business - Seagate itself became
a significant supplier of enterprise SSDs and SSD controllers.
- what's next?|
| Throughout the
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. |
classic blog on StorageSearch.com
adapted memory systems - asks (among other things) if this will always be
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
|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. |
of the 2017 memory shortages|
Defined Software - a new market in the making|
|There's a new software idea that's been
experimented on in the AI skunkworks in the cloud and as patentable secret
enhancements in next generation embedded processor designs. This new concept and
exciting new market (for the VCs reading this) will be more significant than a
new OS and will mark a break in the way that the enterprise thinks about
You had had plenty of warning about the new chips but
memoryfication doesn't stop with faster storage. The idea didn't have a name
when I started writing about it. But what it should be called is obvious.
Defined Software doesn't have to work at being backwards compatible
because the legacy storage industry will import and export to it if they want
to play in data's future.
See more about this in my blog -
Memory Defined Software. (Sometimes you can change the world with software
which breaks all the rules - if you can find the right platform to run it on.) ...read the