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the problem with SSD education (and comprehension)

Sorry - this isn't a magic formula which resolves neatly in 5 easy bullet points

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - July 2010
In the early days of the SSD market knowledge about fundamental issues like:- how to optimally tune servers (with high HDD to SSD capacity gearing), how to optimize the design of SSD controllers, and how best to manage flash SSD endurance - were regarded as proprietary secrets.

Nowadays users are discovering that the more they learn about some of these arcane aspects of SSD technology - the more reasons they have to worry that there may be more they need to learn to avoid major disasters with their SSD deployments.

Users don't have the option of sitting back and waiting another 5 or 6 years for SSD technologies and architectures to stabilize into a stable set of best practise ideas.

If your competitors use are using SSDs - to speed up their business processes, or increase the efficiency of their knowledge workers - then you don't have any choice. You too have to participate in the SSD market bubble - or run the risk of being regarded as irrelevant or uncompetitive to your potential customers. has been publishing articles about SSDs since before most people even knew the market existed - and those articles have helped to increase understanding within the industry and accelerate the market's progress. But one of the frequent complaints I get from readers is that they have spent hours reading articles about SSDs and they still don't understand what to do.

I can tell you now - that any prescriptive guide which says - this is exactly what you need to do to buy the best notebook or server or military SSD is doomed to failure at the start - because users don't know they are asking the wrong questions - or have an incomplete understanding of the data and value preferences which they have already unconsciously applied to filtering and asking the wrong questions.

The only solution to the SSD problem is better education.

But where is this education going to come from? And who can you trust?

Our news pages have shown that even experienced CTOs inside storage companies haven't always understood the subtle problems instrinsic in selecting SSD partners. And I have talked to many marketers in SSD companies - who operate within a narrow range - and would certainly give you the wrong advice if you asked them a question outside their day to day competency.

At the other end of the spectrum I have been privileged to share dialog with a handful of people who really understand the technology inside the chips, who know how it will interact with computer architecture and who are guiding their companies on a course which will lead them to the solid state promised land.

SSD talent is rare. And you can't be sure if the claims that people make about their own SSD understanding - stand up to any scrutiny.

That kind of judgement creates a problem for me too.

For example - in the past several years I've been contacted by a bunch of companies in the data recovery market who asked about advertising their services for SSD data recovery. But when I probed some of these companies with awkward questions - it was clear that their knowledge was only superficial - and they didn't have good answers for the tough questions I asked.

Anyone can create a web page claiming they can solve your problems - from recovering data from a dead SSD, or making flash live 100x longer in a new controller scheme - to curing cancer.

How can online readers judge the reliability of the info they see?

Thousands of companies will rush into the SSD training market - but maybe less than 1% of them today - and less than 10% in 2012 - will actually have worthwhile long term expeience in the subject they're talking about.

No list of quick links is going to solve this problem.

It's just the start of another journey.

Read lots of SSD articles - then ask lots of awkward questions. And good luck.
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" We have to be ready and take advantage of this quiet period to learn and know more about SSD technology and what the experts are saying. I found a great website that introduces and speaks about SSD in depth. It is called StorageSearch and it is what I consider the best treasure trove on the web right now for SSD information. Go check it out."
SSDs coming into mainstream … be Ready - blog on (August 7, 2011 )

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In the old days of the SSD world - the traditional sales process went something like this.

SSD vendor explains to customer...

This is what an SSD is. This is how we do it. And these are the models we sell.

In the modern era of SSDs - the customer has received their education about what an SSD is - and what it can do - from many sources.

So when they talk to a vendor - the customer says.

Don't tell me about SSDs. Tell me instead how you fit into my idea of SSDs I'm looking for - and why I should buy from you - instead of all these others.
re-imagining the enterprise SSD customer
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If a user has been deploying SSDs in their datacenter for 5 to 10 years already - then they will have a different set of ideas about product feature preferences and vendor profile preferences to another user who is looking at SSDs for the first time - or who has less experience and less confidence about SSDs.
Segmentational multipliers in enterprise flash
"People look at retail ads for microSD cards and see a 4GB card for ~$5, whereas an industrial grade part is many times that amount.

"Many, younger designers (and some older ones too) think you are trying to pull a fast one on them because the parts look identical and function in the same socket."
Steve Larrivee, Cactus Technologies in reply to a question about SSD education - and the differences between SLC and MLC for embedded industrial SSD projects - (April 8, 2014)
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Enterprise SSDs - the Survive and Thrive Guide - some simple rules to help you stay on the safer side of the tracks.

Can you tell me the best way to SSD Street? - I'm like the Old Woman of the SSD Village who talks to everyone that passes through. No wonder I have a unique perspective. It would be strange if I didn't.
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