- joins the memory latency to do list|
|Editor:- February 20, 2017 - As predicted 8 years
ago - the widespread adoption of SSDs signed the death warrant for hardware
RAID controllers. |
of hand tricks which seemed impressive enough to make hard drive arrays (RAID) seem fast in the
1980s - when viewed in slow motion from an impatient SSD perspective - were
just too inelegant and painfully slow to be of much use in true
The confidence of "SSDs everywhere"
means that the data processing market is marching swiftly on - without much
pause for reflection - towards memory centric technologies. And many old
ideas which seemed to make sense in 1990s architecture are failing new tests
of questioning sanity.
For example - is
DRAM the fastest main
memory? No -
not when the capacity needed doesn't fit into a small enough space.
the first solutions of "flash as RAM" appeared in
PCIe SSDs many years
ago - their scope of interest was software compatibility. Now we have solutions
appearing in DIMMS
in the memory channel.
This is a context where software
compatibility and memory latency aren't the only concerns. It's
understanding the interference effects of all those other pesky controllers in
the memory space.
That was one of the interesting things which emerged
in a recent conversation I had with Diablo Technologies
about their Memory1.
See what I learned in the blog -
and user risk reward with big memory "flash as RAM"
SandForce is transforming data storage by pioneering the use of
commodity flash memory in
computing applications with its innovative
SSD (Solid State Drive)
Processors. By delivering unprecedented reliability, performance, and energy
efficiency, SSDs based on patent-pending SandForce
unleash the full potential for mass-market adoption of SSDs based on NAND flash
||Founded in 2006, SandForce is funded
capital investors and first tier storage companies. For more information,
visit SandForce at www.sandforce.com.
- editor mentions on StorageSearch.com
- editor's comments:- December 2011 - SandForce is the best known
SSD controllers - and
has achieved high rankings in StorageSearch.com's quarterly rankings of the
top 10 SSD oems since
early 2009 - when the company emerged from stealth mode.
openly about its SSD controller technology - SandForce has garnered interest
from many stakeholders outside the set of those oems who may want to directly
use its chip technology. Although not explicitly stated in this way - the
company has cleverly leveraged the concept of "SSDs with SandForce inside".
Therefore end-users who want to peek ahead at the
SSD performance market
roadmap can get a realistic idea of what may be coming - even if they aren't
in the market for SandForce based products. (Many quarters after these comments
were 1st published SandForce did launch an official branding program. See
historic milestones below.)
SandForce was the 1st company to offer
IOPS in a 2.5"
flash SSD form factor.
Who competes with SandForce?
SandForce's market is high performance SSD controllers - their main competitors
are other companies which sell high performance SSDs. That's because those
competing SSD oems compete with SandForce's own customers - so if the
alternative architectures sell more - then the size of the pot for SF partners
2.5" SSD market
SF's main competitors are:- STEC,
Hitachi GST (WD), and
the PCIe SSD market -
SF / LSI's strongest competitors are:-
Texas Memory Systems
In April 2009 -
its SF-1000 family of SSD
Processors - aimed at oems building
SATA flash SSDs. Its
2.5" SSD reference design kit is the fastest
2.5" SATA flash
SSD on the market - with 250MB/s symmetric R/W throughput and 30,000 R/W IOPS.
asked SandForce's President & CEO, Alex Naqvi,
for more details about the various package of technologies which are bundled
in the company's "DuraClass Technology" - which achieves impressively
high IOPS without relying on over-provisioning or large external RAM caches. In
particular I wondered what part, if any its choice of processor SoC (from
Tensilica) had to play.
Naqvi explained - DuraClass performance doesn't come from the choice of
processor - but in the way that they have integrated various design techniques
with very fast hardware (proprietary chips) which the company has designed to
accelerate the core bottleneck functions of a
flash SSD controller.
In concert with other techniques, such as the ability to reorder
data before it is written to flash (thereby attenuating
by 2 orders of magnitude), RAID
like internal protection and very fast garbage collection SandForce's
DuraClass Technology results in small form factor enterprise class flash SSDs
which have no daily write limits for MLC flash and symmetric R/W IOPS.
June 2009 - SandForce's VP marketing, Thad Omura published an article
in Computer Technology Review -
MLC Flash Practical for Enterprise SSDs.
July 2009 - SandForce
was ranked #2 in
StorageSearch.com's list of the
the Top 10 SSD OEMs
based on search volume in Q2 2009. This is the 1st time that the top 10 SSD
list has included a company whose primary business is designing
search volume was 72% higher than the #3 ranked company in this list
indicating high reader interest in what the company has to say about SSDs.
StorageSearch.com attributes this to 2
1 - Users are getting much more interested in
educating themselves about what happens inside flash SSDs - to understand what
factors affect performance
and reliability -
and in the hope of avoiding choosing the
- Thousands of designers in hundreds of companies worldwide are now
investigating the option of designing their own SSDs as the technological
barriers to doing this have crumbled way. (This is confirmed by pageviews for
SSD SOCs and reader emails.) It means that if big computer oems are successful
in the SSD market many will turn their attention to designing future SSDs
in-house rather than buying commercial off the shelf products.
on the company's high ranking in these pages SandForce's VP of Marketing Thad
Omura said - "We are delighted StorageSearch.com is raising the
visibility of SandForce's innovative SSD Processors that enable the usage of
commodity NAND flash memory in enterprise and mobile computing applications."
In August 2009 -
the availability of the SF-1000
family Evaluation 2.5" SSD featuring 34nm flash from
September 2009 -
Technologies announced it has selected the
SSD processor for use in its next-generation enterprise-class
SATA SSDs sampling
later this year.
In October 2009 -
SandForce was again
ranked #2 in
StorageSearch.com's list of the
the Top 10 SSD OEMs
based on search volume in Q3 2009.
frenemmy nature may be a
factor in the high interest levels in this company. Even if you're not
planning to use their products - you can't afford to ignore them - because
their technology may pop up in another place close to your own interests.
in October 2009 -
SandForce published a
new article - here on StorageSearch.com.
It's called - Data
Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design. Written by Kent Smith
Senior Director, Product Marketing at SandForce - the article describes what's
needed inside the next generation of fast flash SSDs to ensure data integrity
and to eliminate the risk of "silent errors."
2009 - SandForce
that it has closed $21 million in Series C funding.
2009 - A-DATA
announced it has joined the growing roster of
SSD makers using
SSD SoCs from
are now in the final testing stage and will be previewed at
CES next month.
quarter 2010 - in this quarter
the first SSD manufacturer to market SSDs using
to end users. Previous
inside SSDs from other companies were aimed at the server and industrial
In May 2010 -
that its SSD SoC
technology had been used in a TPC-C
benchmark recently published by IBM.
The system used 10.5TB of
MLC flash SSD
capacity - implemented by 56 SSDs that use SandForce SF-1500 SSD processors.
in May 2010 - SandForce officially
a branding program called - SandForce
This effectively confirms
StorageSearch.com's analysis of the
company's marketing efforts which we had described in the past year as "SandForce
SandForce was already the best known
SSD SoC company in the
SSD market - confirmed by
its high listings in StorageSearch.com's quarterly
Top 10 SSD Lists
which have tracked the SSD search volume of millions of readers. The new
branding campaign leverages this - and the company clearly aspires to
maintain this early lead - in the same way that Intel did with it
Intel inside program which was designed to obliterate the x86 microprocessor
clone makers (and x86 licensees too).
But unlike the Intel program
(which played on the fact that you did need an Intel architecture processor
chip to run Microsoft's PC operating system) - you don't need a SandForce
controller chip to make a fast SSD. That includes SSD companies like
Fusion-io (and many
other companies) who make SSDs which are faster than SandForce-driven products
but use their own proprietary IP.
And even SandForce customers
who find it convenient to fill product line gaps with SandForce driven SSDs
- don't necessarily want to reveal that to the outside world.
many SSD companies I can think of who do use SandForce controllers - but
may not wish to join a branding program like this which implies that
their SSDs are the same as all the others listed. See also:- when the SSD brand
sends the wrong signal
In July 2010 - A new set of the
- suggested by Michael Raam,
was published on StorageSearch.com.
August 2010 - SandForce announced
what their technology can do for
SATA SSDs. One of the advantages of
skinny flash SSDs
is the SSD controller
fits into a smaller physical space - because it doesn't need external
September 2010 - SandForce
has closed $25 million in Series D funding. - Michael Raam,
president and CEO of SandForce said - "This new funding will help us bring
our next-generation products to market, expand our customer and partner support
infrastructure, and accelerate our core technology development that will extend
our market leadership." See also:-
SSD Bookmarks, SSD
Controllers / IP, VCs
In October 2010 -
availability of its next generation
family SSD processors - for oems designing
SAS 3 class (6Gbps)
acceleration SSDs. The SF-2000 supports 500MB/s sequential R/W, 60,000
sustained random IOPS, wire speed encryption, end to end
data integrity checks
and industrial temperature operation in a
SSD architecture. Also new in this controller generation is support for
sector sizes additional to 512-bytes e.g., 520, 524, 528, 4K, etc., with Data
Integrity Field (DIF) for true enterprise-class SAS drive behavior and
In December 2010 - I accidentally discovered a
well structured profile of
SandForce on Wikipedia. That profile page is new to me - but probably has
been around for a while.
In January 2011 - an article
in Electronic Design revealed more about the thinking behind
SandForce's SSD controllers.
Among other things it confirmed they
compression and dedupe as some of the tactics to manage
February 2011 - SandForce
said it had shipped more than one million of its
SF-1500 and SF-1200 SSD
Processors since they were released into production in 2010.
Driven SSD Manufacturers shipped more than 100 Petabytes of NAND flash into
the mainstream computing markets.
In May 2011 -
data recovery company)
as a member of its trusted partners program.
In June 2011 -
that a single SSD using its SF-2000 SSD Processor
along with 25nm MLC flash memory has achieved the highest possible WEI score
of 7.9 for the disk data transfer rate in a Windows 7 environment (3.5GHz AMD
CPU with 8GB 1.3GHz RAM). The company also announced that
has joined the
Driven SSDs group - bringing the membership upto 30 companies.
August 2011 - SandForce
that it has shipped over 2 million
SSD processors in the
past 18 months - and the company also demonstrated its controller
compatibility with 24nm MLC flash made by
October 2011 -
a definitive agreement to acquire
approximately $322 million. The transaction is expected to close early in the
first quarter of 2012. SandForce president and CEO, Michael Raam will
become General Manager of LSI's newly formed Flash Components Division.
November 2011 - SandForce
was nominated for the
Global Semiconductor Alliance Awards - in the category "most respected
private semiconductor company."
In January 2012 -
it has completed the acquisition of
upside for SandForce inside LSI|
|Editor:- March 14, 2013 - For many years SandForce was the
best known brand of SSD controller. What happened after it was acquired by
LSI at the
beginning of last year?|
An insider's view was published in a new blog
post-acquisition employee attrition - written by Kent Smith - who explains
why he thinks things are better now for SandForce customers.
other things he says - "Enterprise storage manufacturers have...
their reputation at stake when they select new and emerging technologies like
flash memory to provide storage for their customers. There is always a level of
concern when these companies work with smaller startup organizations." ...read
joins LSI's new Flash Components Division|
|Editor:- January 4, 2012 - LSI today
it has completed the acquisition of SandForce.|
response to the announcement has been very positive and we are pleased to now be
able to fully demonstrate the benefits of the combined technology capabilities
of LSI and SandForce," said Jeff Richardson,
executive VP and COO. "Together, we offer the broadest storage technology
portfolio in the industry, and are well positioned to help customers manage
their growth and the explosive growth in data across enterprises and the cloud."
comments:- most of the leading companies in the earth shaking
PCIe SSD market use
architecture controllers or software - which provides cost and efficiency
advantages when you compare
capacities with maximun fault protection enabled.
competitors who use small SSD architecture (such as
LSI - who use
- and STEC which has yet
to establish a stronghold in this market with its own ASIC) at a potential
disadvantage as capacities scale up.
One of the design challenges for
LSI will be to see if they can extract the proven flash management features in
past SandForce controllers and scale them up to support bigger capacities and
faster throughput without adding latency penalties (which currently accrue with
arrays of SFPs) or which uses a new processor core or split controller
architecture to better support larger flash chip populations.
mistake about it. This acquisition is about developing better tools for the
enterprise SSD goldrush.
|| And the truest seams that vendors are
looking for are the user server caverns that will be stuffed with
PCIe SSDs. Billions
of dollars of revenue will be the prizes for the lucky strikers.|
shipments growth in 2010 surprised analysts because it grew so much faster
than anyone had wildly predicted..."|
|...Editor:- from -
the Top SSD Companies.|
|Who's who in SSD? |
|Editor:- November 30, 2011 - SandForce is
1 of 29 companies in the SSD
controllers and IP list, a frequent high flier in the
top 20 SSD oems list
and the company has also had many honorable mentions in past editions of the
did the SSD market look like in 2006 when SandForce was born?
the SSD market - I said that 2006 was the year SSD awareness flared into
user market. Samsung
had already declared SSDs to be a strategic market the year before.
the start of 2006 there were only 36 companies actively marketing SSDs -
of all types - including rackmounts - but by the end of the year that had
grown to 44.
Memory prices had dropped to the point where SSDs
would be attractive to new markets. And in
2007 - the
year of SSD architecture revolutions - flash SSDs proved they could beat the
performance of hard drives and start to challenge
RAM SSDs when they were
deployed in arrays - once again pushing the boundaries of what SSDs could do and
redefining who could afford them.
It was clear to SSD market experts
that the SSD market could grow to 100, 150 or more companies within a short
time. (That's why I started
the top 10 SSD companies list in 2007.) In such a market - where would the
expertise come from to deliver the state of the art performance that could be
packed into 2.5" SSDs?
Only a handful of US
military SSD companies
like STEC and
BiTMICRO (and their
counterparts doing similar things for universities and technical incubators in
China) had the expertise.
Most of the new companies coming into the
SSD market would be faced with the problem that they didn't have the technical
expertise to develop competitive SSDs and if they did invest the design effort -
the market was still too small to guarantee they could make any money out it
sustainably after paying for all the R&D and all the marketing costs too.
the gap which SandForce filled when they came to market in
Alex Naqvi - who cofounded the company told me at the time of
their launch that SandForce had started out from the perspective of looking
at the silicon.
What could they do with it? How could they design
storage drives which would be faster than anything else, but also more reliable
and cheaper to make?
The company used a variety of state of the art
architectural techniques which have since been well documented.
back on what SandForce has disclosed about its technology in recent years I
know that many of these specific techniques had been used before by other
RAIC technology for memory
chips by Solid Data
Systems in the 1990s. And
wear leveling was
first used by M-Systems.
And using compression to create flash buffer space - was a technique used inside
the Managed Flash Technology from
EasyCo which came to
the SSD market in 2007. Also
skinny RAM cache
flash architecture was integral to the design of the SiliconDrive family
(now part of WD)
which came to market in 2004.
But it was the combination of all these
technical factors and great management and ambitious marketing (documented in
my article - Imprinting
the brain of the SSD ) which made the difference from - Who cares?
- You care! - about the about the identity of SSD controllers.
has become one of the best known of all SSD brands - and not just the best
known brand of controllers.
How much is that worth?
LSI - thought it was
worth over $300 million when they agreed to acquire SandForce in October. So
that tells you.
For related articles about SandForce here on the mouse
site - take a look at the
- suggested by SandForce and
- editor mentions on StorageSearch.com.
I currently talk to more
than 300 makers of SSDs and another 100 or so companies which are
closely enmeshed around the SSD ecosphere - which are all profiled here on
the mouse site.
I learn about new SSD companies every day, including
many in stealth mode. If you're interested in the growing
big picture of
the SSD market canvass - StorageSearch will help you along the way. Many
SSD company CEOs read our site too - and say they value our thought leading SSD
content - even when we say something that's not always comfortable to hear. I
hope you'll find it it useful too.
sudden power loss|
|Why should you care
what happens in an SSD when the power goes down? |
This important design
feature - which barely rates a mention in most SSD datasheets and press releases
- has a strong impact on
SSD data integrity
This article will help you understand why some
SSDs which (work perfectly well in one type of application) might fail in
others... even when the changes in the operational environment appear to be