click to visit StorageSearch.com home page
leading the way to the new storage frontier .....
image shows megabyte waving the winners trophy - there are over 200 SSD oems - which ones matter? - click to read article
top SSD companies ..
click to see directory of SAS SSD companies
SAS SSDs ..
memory channel storage
memory channel SSDs ...
SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers ..
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics
SSD power loss ..
SSDs over 163  current & past oems profiled
SSD news ..
.....

SMART Storage Systems - (upto 2013)

is now SanDisk Enterprise Storage Solutions

SMART Storage Systems is a technology leader in the design, development, and deployment of current and next-generation enterprise solid-state storage products. SMART delivers high-quality, high-reliability solutions to a broad customer base, including tier one storage and server OEMs. .... Smart logo - click for more info

see also:- SMART - mentions on StorageSearch.com, SSD endurance - the forever war


which SMART SSD company?

In 2012 - they split into different parts - which confused me even 2 years later in 2014 - despite having known some of the details in advance.

That's because instead of creating a pure SSD business and a pure memory business - they subdivided the SSD product lines too.
  • for SMART Storage (the enterprise SSD business - which was spun off from SMART Modular) please stay on this page and read the many articles about what they did below.


Who's who in SSD? - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - April 2013

SMART Storage Systems is a Top 20 SSD company - which designs legacy oriented enterprise SSDs - using its own proprietary small controller SSD architecture - which leverages adaptive R/W and DSP IP - to yield efficient SSD designs.

SMART also recently anoounced it's collaborating with a company called Diablo Technologies to design a new type of new dynasty fast server-side SSD which will be compatible with DRAM server sockets but which will be flash rich - and pitched as an alternative way to accelerate apps compared to standard PCIe SSDs - using flash as a memory tier instead of as fast SSD storage. The first sample ultra low latency SSD products from this venture are anticipated towards the end of 2013 or early 2014.

SMART has traditionally been a supplier into the industrial SSD market. In some of these designs which use industry standard 3rd party SSD controllers from LSI - SMART is able to offer enhanced endurance due to using SMART's preconditioned flash memory.

SMART is 1 of hundreds of companies listed in these directories:- SAS SSDs, 2.5" SSDs, 3.5" SSDs, 1.8" SSDs, SATA SSDs, PATA SSDs, SCSI SSDs, enterprise SSDs, military SSDs and industrial SSDs.

SMART doesn't currently market PCIe SSDs. The company did launch one back in June 2009 but it isn't a current product line. Recently SMART has indicated its willingness to re-enter this market when conditions seem right to them with the establishment of industry standards. However, it looks like that will be after the company's upcoming memory channel storage developments.


Here are earlier profiles and articles about SMART's SSDs

my preconceptions were out of date...

Until February 2012 - I had thought of SMART as being just one of the many (30+, now 50+) makers of SandForce inside SSDs although having some special reliability wraparound twists - for example in the sudden SSD power loss and flash memory screening departments.

SMART had gotten into the higher performance rugged SATA and SCSI SSD markets by acquiring Adtron (a top 10 SSD maker) in February 2008. Prior to that - SMART's flash SSD family had been low power PATA SSDs.

But for years after - it seemed to me that nothing much exciting emerged from SMART in the SSD field.

Sure - the company had steered more towards the enterprise market (and away from its rugged / MIL roots) and SMART had gotten its SandForce driven 2.5" SAS SSDs qualified in some IBM computers in 2010 - but so what?

Reliability? - yes. Dependability? - yes. These were traits I associated with SMART's SSDs. And they were among the best at writing white papers which explained the behavior of their SSDs to systems designers. But SMART wasn't a company which came to mind - when I was thinking about the subject of leadership in SSD controller and architecture innovation.

conversation with SMART's President - John Scaramuzzo

My preconceptions were wrong - as I learned in a conversation I had with John Scaramuzzo, President at SMART Storage Systems in February 2012.

John joined the company in January 2010 and his SSD team have done a lot in the last 2 years - mostly out of sight of people like me - until they were ready.

We got right down to the subject of SAS SSDs and their new Optimus Ultra.

John said he knew from his experience at Seagate/Maxtor/DEC that getting a SAS drive qualified in tier #1 server companies was hard to achieve.

Only a small number of companies had managed to do this. And some had spent a lot of money and failed.

This was one of the projects he set in motion when he joined because he expects that SAS SSDs are going to be a big factor in the enterprise.

SMART has put a lot of resources into getting its SAS SSDs accepted in tier #1 - and they are already qualified in a spread of different servers within IBM - just to name one customer.

Doesn't that take a lot of effort? - I asked. - And doesn't it mean you need a technology roadmap to make it worthwhile? Otherwise the effort isn't sustainable.

John confirmed it did - and said - "You can't get into tier #1 if you are only a one trick pony."

That brought me onto my next question.

Did I read this right? - I asked. - Do you really have a new controller?

When I had first read about the Optimus last summer I had come away with the impression (based on the performance figures) that it was just another SF inside. I had disregarded all that other reliability verbiage as marketing fluff - which was mostly about their award winning power loss protection etc.

John confirmed - yes - it is a new controller / management architecture - and it's SMART's own design.

John said that to develop the data integrity features - he recruited a bunch of ex recording guys with traditional storage media backgrounds. He told them - take a look at this flash stuff and see if you can use your skills to create more reliable media management. That's what they did - and the flash controller in the Optimus Ultra is the embodiment of those efforts.

John said it uses a variety of advanced techniques including DSP and adaptive programming.

SMART is now a world leader in enterprise flash management

SMART is now regarded by some of the memory companies they talk to as one of the world leaders in converting unreliable consumer grade flash into very reliable enterprise grade SSD.

He said only 2 other companies have anything close to their DSP technology - Anobit and STEC.

John said he was relieved when he heard that Apple had acquired Anobit - because that effectively removed their technology as a potential competitor in the enterprise market.

He didn't have to say anything about STEC - because they are the company which every 2.5" enterprise flash SSD maker has to contend with. STEC has been taking a battering in the market - from many competitive directions - but SAS SSDs is one of their core territories.

John said SMART was already getting a lot of positive outcomes from its tier #1 qualification efforts - and he named a bunch of customers and systems which I can't reveal to you at this stage. I took this as a sign that STEC now faces serious competition in its home turf. If STEC's enterprise marketing was as good as its SSDs... But that's a very old story now.

SLC write life from consumer MLC

Here's why SMART's tier #1 customers are excited by the new Optimus Ultra.

You put in 3K write endurance consumer grade MLC - and get an SSD-wide reliability closer to 40K.

The flash management is scalable and not tied to a single vendor's product or generation. Far from it.

The new controller learns from each chip the best way to handle it - and can even use different parameters in different parts of the chip and at different points in time too.

Adaptive writes - not just clever wear-leveling

Take a write pulse for example. (And this is my inference here rather than what John told me.)

Externally from a black box viewpoint you do a single write of a prescribed logical width and that's that. But internally the flash chips initiate a series of high voltage erase pulses.

The chipmakers choose cell erase constants which guarantee that enough blocks will work to yield a good device yield over the life of the product for the worst cells. But that means - early on in the device life and for most of the cells throughout their life - the erase pulse energy is much more than it needs to be. This causes undue stress in the device - and results in sub-optimum life.

What you can do instead - if you have the trust of the memory makers - is to get access to the internal programming pulse circuit parameters and tune them yourself. Cutting down the over-kill write-erase energy reduces the stress in the chip caused by the high field strength - so you are in fact getting a better life out of the chip. It's not just about clever wear-leveling techniques.

When the first flash devices came to market over 30 years ago - this programming mechanism wasn't hidden - and I remember being surprised when I peekd into the numbers of my home-brew programming algorithm - that some parts of a flash chip were so much harder to program than others. Later flash generations hid the pulse mechanics inside the chip to make the memories easier to sell and to prevent accidental destruction which could happen if the system designer got the voltages, pulse shapes and duty cycle wrong.

And that's just one of the many of the ingredients in the flash SSD cola wars.

back to SMART

I asked John what this meant about the positioning of SMART's SF based enterprise SSDs.

He said that there was enough of a gap between the two controllers to ensure a market for both types of SSD in the product line.

I also picked up on the idea that SMART's new controller means their enterprise SSDs can be more profitable while also being more reliable - compared to competition which used eMLC. In theory that's also a strength of STEC's CellCare too BTW - but you only get the profit after you get the sales...

Funally I asked - what about seeing a PCIe SSD family based on the new controllers? Surely that would be even easier for SMART to design than the SAS SSD had been. Was that in their plans too?

John said he didn't want to make a definite statement about that.

As you can imagine we also talked about some past storage history - the disruptive effects of the SSD market etc. And I nearly forgot to mention here that SMART Storage Systems has been officially been spun out as a separate business entity - although that was covered in a recent news story.

enterprise SSD doesn't stand still

What's exciting from my point of view is whenever I think I understand who are the leading players in the SSD market - and start making mental lists of who's best at what and why - another conversation shows that the pace of innovation in SSD hasn't stopped. The surprises keep coming.

For more info about SMART take a look at the links above and SMART - 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.

editor's earlier comments:-

January 2012 - SMART Storage Systems (which changed its name recently from SMART Modular Technologies) was acquired in August 2011 by private equity company Silver Lake. SMART traditionally offered high performance industrial / military grade SSDs in standard disk form factors. Like many other SSD companies SMART has been focusing more attention to the enterprise market and recently launched some fast high capacity 2.5" SAS SSDs.

SMART uses a variety of merchant market SSD controllers inside its current range of SSDs - and it's tempting to think that all SSDs with the same controller are the same. But they're not - for a variety of reasons - including the different ways that designers have of dealing with critical elements like data protection in the event of sudden SSD power loss. As a company with a long history in the industrial and military markets SMART's SSD design culture and process experience means it's in a different reliability class to newbie SSD companies like Intel.
.
selected SMART SSD milestones from SSD Market History

In October 2008 - SMART started shipping the Xcel-10 SSD - a 2.5" SLC flash SSD with upto 128GB capacity. Sustained read speed is 115MB/s, and write speed is 125MB/s. (It really is faster than the read speed). It delivers 5,580 IOPS at 100% read or 980 IOPS at 67% read, 33% write, for random I/O using 4K block size.

In February 2009 - SMART announced new 3.5" parallel SCSI SSDs with upto 128GB and faster secure erase for industrial, defense, and other embedded applications that require extremely rugged storage devices and legacy interfaces.

In June 2009 - SMART disclosed it had used Marvell's SSD controller in SMART's new XceedIOPS PCIe SSD which offers upto 400GB capacity and 140,000 random IOPS performance.

In August 2009 - SMART announced a new range of rugged 2.5" 256GB SSDs for defense applications. Data declassification compliance is implemented by the company's EraSure technology. The models comply with MIL-STD-810F environmental specifications for operating shock, vibration, humidity and altitude, and each drive passes a demanding 8 hour, full-temperature range burn-in test prior to shipment.

In September 2009 - SMART announced it has selected the SandForce SF-1500 SSD processor for use in its next-generation enterprise-class SATA SSDs sampling later this year.

In October 2009 - SMART announced that it has been selected by Harris Corp to provide SSDs for use in its Mass Storage Unit program. The new MSU, which is part of a larger F/A-18 program, is the first of a new family of avionics file servers. Harris selected SMART's XceedSecure 2.5" SATA SLC flash SSD for the in-flight file server application. XceedSecure SSDs include EraSure technology, which provides secure erase features.

In December 2009 - SMART started sampling the XceedIOPS SATA - SLC and "enterprise grade" MLC flash SSDs in 1.8" and 2.5" form factors - based on the SF-1500 processor from SandForce. Performance is upto 30K IOPS random read/write. SMART uses a combination of write attenuation technologies to attain a 5-year projected lifetime for its 400GB MLC XceedIOPS SATA model ($2,900 oem qty price) in an environment that demands 250MB/s sustained write and a 40% duty cycle.

In August 2010 - SMART entered the SAS SSD market with the announcement that it is sampling the XceedIOPS SAS SSD - a 400GB eMLC SSD with 26,000 / 20,000 R/W IOPS and 250/230 MB/s sustained throughput.

In October 2010 - SMART announced it is sampling a new 2.5" 200GB SATA SLC flash SSD for mission-critical defense and industrial applications. The Xcel-100 solid-state drive achieves up to 30,000 IOPS random read/write and 250MB/s sustained read/write. Validated to MIL-STD-810F it's designed to operate in a temperature range that extends from -40°C to +85°C, with the ability to sustain 50g operating shock and 16.4g operating vibration. The Xcel-100 offers high reliability and data integrity (< 1 in 1017 bits read) that is supported by extensive error-correction and detection capabilities, multi-level data-path and code protection, data-fail recovery, and data-integrity monitoring. The Xcel-100 also supports the ATA-7 Security Erase.

In November 2010 - SMART announced that its XceedIOPS SAS 2.5" solid state drive (SSD) will be used in new models of IBM POWER7 supercomputers instead of hard drives.

In April 2011 - SMART announced the release of its XceedIOPS2 6Gb/s SATA SSDs in 1.8" and 2.5" form factors which use with the latest SandForce SF-2000 series SSD processors.

In May 2011 - SMART began sampling a new 64GB 1.8" Slim (39x54x4mm ) SATA SLC SSD for embedded applications. The XceedIOPS iSATA Slim has a typical power consumption of 0.5W at +5VDC and supports automatic 5V/3.3V input power selection. R/W throughput is upto 120/115MB/s and 14K/1.4K R/W IOPS.

In August 2011 - SMART launched a new range of 2.5" SAS SSDs which provide upto 1.6TB usable capacity, 100K/50K random IOPS and 500MB/s sustained R/W transfer rates.

In September 2011 - SMART announced imminent sampling of a new 2.5" SATA MLC SSD aimed at cost sensitive / general purpose enterprise storage apps. The XceedStor 500S (60GB to 480GB capacity, 600MB/s burst throughput) combines a SandForce controller with SMART's proven power fail technology. UBER is less than 1 in 10-18 bits read.

In October 2011 - SMART announced imminent sampling of a SATA 3 version of its MIL-STD-810 compliant 2.5" SSD family - which includes encryption and fast erase. The new Xcel-200 provides from 60GB to 240GB SLC capacity, 500MB/s sequential R/W speeds and 60K/40K random R/W IOPS. It operates at standard industrial temperature ranges and is certified for operation at altitudes up to 80,000 ft.

In February 2012 - SMART Storage Systems launched the Optimus Ultra (a 1.2TB 2.5" 100K/60K IOPS, 500MB/s R/W SAS SSD) which uses the company's new, in-house developed, high reliability enterprise SSD controller IP - which includes DSP and adaptive programming techniques to deliver industry leading SSD data integrity and upto 25x / day full disk writes for 5 years endurance - while using low cost consumer grade MLC.

In April 2012 - SMART announced that it has figured out a way to get 5x more endurance from consumer grade flash when using unmodified industry standard controllers from LSI/SandForce. The technique - which is used in a new fast-enough (enterprise component) 2.5" SATA SSD product family sampling this quarter - involves preconditioning parameters in the flash memory when the SSDs are assembled (or at first boot) using intelligence gained from experience with the company's population of closed-loop adaptive DSP controllers which are used in its Optimus family. SMART applies a safety margin to compensate for the open-loop aspect of these factors when managed by a SandForce controller to which these underlying dynamics are invisible.

In June 2012 - SMART Storage Systems announced it's sampling yet another new variant of SAS SSD which uses adaptive flash DSP technology - the Optimus Ultra+ is a 2.5" SSD with 100K/60K R/W IOPS - which can endure 50 full random drive writes per day for a period of 5 years using commercial MLC NAND flash technology.

In April 2013 - Diablo Technologies named SMART Storage as its exclusive flash partner to pioneer a new type of (faster than PCIe SSD) memory channel SSDs

In July 2013 - SanDisk announced a definitive agreement to acquire SMART Storage Systems for approximately $307 million.

In August 2013 - SMART Storage Systems announced it had begun sampling the first memory channel SSDs compatible with the interface and reference architecture created by Diablo Technologies.
.
"Enterprise Flash" - is a market phenomenon
not a technology.
Sugaring flash for the enterprise - describes - how the market changed from 2004 to 2013.

.
SSD ad - click for more info

.
Surviving SSD 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 and operational reliability.

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 negligible.
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics If you thought endurance was the end of the SSD reliability story - think again. ...read the article
.
SMART is new competitor in STEC-class enterprise SSDs
Editor:- February 22, 2012 - when you've got a memory business which also designs SSDs that creates hard to reconcile business tensions.

Success in the memory market comes from caution and long term planning to enable survival in the inevitable feast and famine memory business cycles.

Success in the SSD market comes from...

Well it's too early to say definitively what it comes from - but investing in your own IP and understanding a small set of focused customer application cases better than anyone else - is a good starting point (judging by those in the top 10 SSD companies list) and being prepared to do things which are different to the way that others are already doing them may be a good plan too - (as long as you are eventually proved right).

Several leading companies in the past, including STEC and OCZ, have found that the best thing to do if you're the SSD part of a memory business is to forget about those memories and do your own SSD thing.

The latest company to follow this route is SMART Storage Systems which has officially been spun out as a separate entity - it was announced today.

The SSD bit is the only bit of the company I've been interested in - and probably the same goes for most of you too. So you could say - what's changed? - apart from a few legal formalities.

Last week I spoke to SMART's president John Scaramuzzo and learned more about the company's new enterprise SSD controller - which is used in their new Optimus Ultra (a SAS SSD) launched today. The new controller has reliability characteristics above and beyond the industry standard products - from SandForce - which SMART also uses. SMART's new SSD design - like those from STEC - can guarantee an industry leading level of SSD write longevity - while using low cost consumer grade flash.
click to see directory of SAS SSD companies Some tier 1 storage customers have been sufficiently impressed to qualify the new SSD family in their systems.
.

storage search banner

..
"SAS SSDs stood out as the stellar performer in the enterprise segment last year - with 69% revenue growth..."
SSD news - March 20, 2014
.....
SSD ad - click for more info
..
SanDisk, SMART and enterprise SSDs
Editor:- August 22, 2013 - SanDisk today announced it has completed its acquisition of SMART Storage Systems whose president John Scaramuzzo will now assume the new role of senior VP enterprise storage solutions at SanDisk - reporting to Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO.

Editor's comments:- I've been reporting on SanDisk's metamorphosis on the way to becoming a serious enterprise SSD company since long before they acquired Pliant Technology (an SAS SSD maker) in May 2011.

Lessons were learned from that - and a transformation seemed to take place in SanDisk's thinking triggered by their acquisition of FlashSoft in February 2012 - which enabled SanDisk to get much better clarity on what was really happening in a wide range of enterprise SSD users' sites - as a result of feedback coming from customers using its SSD software.

The 4 key assets which SMART brings to SanDisk in the enterprise SSD context are:-
  • enterprise grade (world class) adaptive R/W flash SSD technology.

    SMART has already demonstrated - in launched products - that this technology is scalable across a wide span of cost, power consumption and IOPS use cases.

    And at the fab level adaptive R/W IP increases SSD efficiency (usable SSDs per wafer).
  • an attractive (tier 1 validated) SAS SSD and enterprise SATA SSD product mix which has already displaced competitors in many leading server and storage oem design wins.
  • an embryonic new type of SSD - memory channel storage - which aims at the market space of fast PCIe SSDs - and which - if successful - could change the future mix of motherboard memory used in servers.
  • a team of technical, sales and marketing people with a long track record of successful product innovations in the mission critical flash SSD market.
Unlike the other Top 10 SSD company acquisition which is currently in the pipeline (Stec by WD which may need a lot of reworking to make it fly) - the SMART product lines within SanDisk have already been expanding their reach of new customer destinations.

If you look at what LSI did with SandForce - I think that provides a better idea of the future scale and speed of ramp up which you can expect to see with the new enterprise SSD business in SanDisk.
..
how will big the SSD will be when SSDs replace hard drives?
meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon
..
SMART samples first ULLtraDIMM SSDs
Editor:- August 8, 2013 - SMART Storage Systems today announced it has begun sampling the first memory channel SSDs compatible with the interface and reference architecture created by Diablo Technologies.

SMART's first generation enterprise ULLtraDIMM SSD (ULL = ultra-low latency) can be deployed via any existing DIMM slot and provides 200GB or 400GB of enterprise class flash SSD memory with upto 1GB/s and 760MB/s of sustained read/write performance, with 5 microseconds write latency. Throughput, IOPS and memory capacity all scale with the number of ULLtraDIMM deployed in each server.
ultra low latency memory channel SSD
Editor's comments:- With the current design -only one DIMM slot in each server has to be reserved for conventional DRAM. Apart from that constraint any DIMM slot can be used for either flash or DRAM as deemed necessary for the application.

For more about the potential of this technology, the thinking behind it and the competitive landscape relative to PCIe SSDs etc see my earlier articles on the Memory Channel SSDs page.
..
SGI's past and present SSD partners
Editor:- June 12, 2013 - When SMART told me they would today be announcing that their CloudSpeed 500 (a SATA SSD which uses the company's own brew of adaptive R/W IP and is rated at 1.2 DWPD) has been certified by SGI for use in its storage appliance platforms - they asked if I had any questions?

"Just one" - I said. "How many of these CloudSpeeds do they think SGI will buy in the next year?"

Which - as you may guess - SMART declined to disclose to all the competitors among you - who will also be reading this. But it was worth a shot. As it is - I'm left without much of a story.

So the only interesting thing I can say is that 2 years ago SGI was offering Virident's PCIe SSDs in its servers.

And - judging from the list in SGI's SSD page I think SGI have also used Stec's 3.5" RAM SSDs in the past too.

Which all goes to demonstrate what I've said before in my enterprise SSD article - that no single enterprise SSD (or supplier) can economically satisfy all the needs of server customers.
..
SSD ad - click for more info
..
A banner ad from SSD market history (June 2013)


..
Diablo names SMART Storage as exclusive flash partner to pioneer memory channel SSDs
Editor:- April 25, 2013 - You may remember reading here before about a company called Diablo Technologies - which while in stealth mode - hinted it was working on a new technology which would enable SSDs to run on server motherboards with latency and throughput even better than PCIe SSDs....

Diablo has been creating the interface side of things - but I learned recently that implementing the flash side of this - in a manner which is both effective and affordable - requires a world leading mastery of enterprise flash IP - which Diablo wisely recognized it doesn't have.

So today Diablo has publicly announced an exclusive partnership agreement with SMART Storage Systems which will leverage its flash IP and controller assets to co-design a new family of ultra-low latency SSDs and system accelerators which connect via Diablo's memory channel storage architecture and which will be sold exclusively by SMART but jointly supported by both companies.

Editor's comments:- there are a lot of implications for the future direction of SSD server acceleration if this collaboration succeeds in delivering competitively attractive new types of SSDs. But there are also very difficult technical problems and ecosystems development problems to solve too in order to make it viable.

I discussed these topics in a conversation earlier this week with John Scaramuzzo, President and Esther Spanjer, Director SSD Marketing at SMART.

Among the many questions inspired by that conversation:-
  • how is the new technology different to what has been done before? - particularly with PCIe SSDs and with DIMM class flash?
  • if successful - what impact would memory channel SSDs have on the PCIe SSD market? - and application server architecture?
  • how will the new types of SSDs stretch the demands of flash endurance and latency?
  • how will competitors respond to this new technology? And how much of what they say should you take take on board or disregard?
  • who are going to be the among the first wave of customers to adopt these new SSD?
  • when will the first products be ready?
I've about these matters and more in a new blog on StorageSearch.com - Memory Channel Storage SSDs - will the new ultra low latency SSD concept fly? - should you book a seat yet?
..
"By 2014 - 50% of all workloads will be processed in the cloud"
Editor:- August 24, 2012 - that quote is part of a profile of Tom - a mythical cloud datacenter manager - in SMART's white paper - is MLC ready for the enterprise? (pdf) - presented today at the Flash Memory Summit

Tom likes what flash can do to keep things flowing. His boss likes it too. Tom may get promoted.

But too late - it seems - he learns that the MLC SSDs he's been using have different lives in different workloads (4 months in an exchange server, maybe 1.6 years serving web pages). He starts to learn about endurance, write amplification etc - and instead of getting a kick up the management ladder - he risks getting a kick out the door.

You can guess how this story ends... with a happy ending.

SMART's SSDs - based on adaptive R/W DSP flash technology - saves Tom his job - and he no longer has to worry about flash reliability. The tale is engagingly presented in pictures. ...see Tom's SSD adventure in the cloud datacenter - (pdf)
..
SMART proliferates adaptive DSP IP in SAS SSDs
Editor:- July 5, 2012 - SMART Storage Systems recently announced it's sampling yet another new variant of SAS SSD which uses adaptive flash DSP technology - the Optimus Ultra+ is a 2.5" SSD with 100K/60K R/W IOPS - which can endure 50 full random drive writes per day for a period of 5 years using commercial MLC NAND flash technology.

Editor's comments:- This is SMART's 3rd turn of the screw this year already in leveraging its new controller IP in enterprise SSDs - and the company has published various pretty graphs for editors, analysts and users which identify the different sub markets and use cases within enterprise SSDs where differing amounts of SSD write life can be economically and sustainably deployed. (It's an SSD component maker's view of sites inside enterprise SSD silos.)

More guaranteed SSD writes generally mean more cost - because - in the limit - when all the write attenuation tricks have been done - the extra endurance in classic flash SSDs either comes from overprovisioning or RAM cache which add to the component count. But for the pioneers in DSP enhanced flash IP - a new degree of design freedom comes from applying new flash care tonic to change all the rules.

Unlike human cures for baldness which are applied when the symptoms start to appear - SSD baldness cures have to be applied from birth - and the strength of the tonic has to increase with age to get the best results.

I discussed the business development opportunities of this new technology trend with Mike Lakowicz, SMART's - VP of Marketing.

Mike said that their ideal customers for these enterprise SSDs are big oems where it can cost millions of dollars to get products qualified.

SMART's new controller technologies enable them to customize an SSD which matches the performance, endurance and operating power needs of enterprise oems - at any point in a wide spectrum of use cases - in a manner which is efficient (lowest cost memory bill of materials) from the same core set of parts.

This sounds similar to what STEC was telling me about their CellCare last year. But SMART's documents make what Mike called the "rational" design rule choices along the SSD envelope much more explicit and easier to focus in on.

To me - this seemed like a pragmatic and well engineered set of marketing propositions for the type of customers that SMART is aiming at.

So I asked again (I had asked SMART's President - John Scaramuzzo earlier this year) what are their plans for designing a fast-enough PCIe SSD using the DSP technology?

Mike Lakowicz explained that the taxonomy of PCIe SSDs in the market today wasn't clear. (I agreed - there are many different types of functionality in the PCIe SSD space - so it's hard for a new entrant to decide which segment within PCIe SSD will work best as a sustainable business.)

Mike explained that as a supplier of legacy compatible storage SMART would prefer to see more stability and the emergence of clear standards within the PCIe SSD market before they launch any such product.

I said to Mike that I thought their VC owners should be happy with what SMART was doing - because even discounting their SSD products - it was clear that within the SSD controller market - the new adaptive DSP technologies were going to attract a premium value once enough analysts understood how this technology could permeate the SSD market. But I also warned that in 2-3 years every flash SSD company would be using this type of technology.

To which Mike replied - that companies like SMART which has already been using this technology for several years - would still have an advantage over those who were coming in with their first products at the 20x endurance level - for example.
....
SandForce driven SSDs get 5x SMARTer
Editor:- April 26, 2012 - SMART is close to sampling a new fast-enough (enterprise component) 2.5" SATA SSD - called the CloudSpeed 500 - which uses a controller from LSI/SandForce - and I can already see a lot of you starting to yawn or click away or look at something different on this page or out of the window - which is a good argument for putting duct tape over that camera lens on your browsing device BTW.

"Let me cut you off right here!" - I said to SMART's President - John Scaramuzzo last week - right after we had done with the conference bridge pings and greetings. "Because if all you want to talk to me about is just another SandForce driven SSD then this is going to be a very short conversation. Can we talk about something else instead? - because this is not going to get onto my news page - which has a big yellow note on it explaining why."

Just to drive home my point I followed up by saying - "There has to be something different in a SandForce inside announcement to make it news for me and my readers. So for example - if STEC or SanDisk launched a SandForce based SSD that would be news."

John said - "I saw your note - and we have a new twist on this which no one has done before."

So I listened. He was right. Here goes...

SMART have learned a lot - about better ways to interact with cheap consumer flash - from the experience they accumulated designing the adaptive DSP based SSD controller which goes inside their Optimus SSD (which I wrote about in February).

That gives them raw stats for factors like write pulse length, endurance and data integrity - when they are in this closed loop adaptive DSP managed flash environment - with brand X flash memory and generation Y process. In a new wave DSP SSD controller those figures are going to be different in different parts of the memory and different over time - but it gives you an idea of what the memory can do. (With a view which even the original memory manufacturer doesn't have.)

What SMART have done is ask - if we know this stuff about this type of memory - and precondition it during manufacture or first boot (with different parameters to the default setting done in the fab by the chip maker) then can we get better reliability even when using an SSD controller which doesn't see the memory the same way and runs open-loop?

They found the answer is - yes! They can't get exactly the same reliability that they would get with their Optimus controller - but they do get a 5x reliability boost by using the new setups with unmodified and lower cost SandForce chips.

SMART has to back off the preset numbers - to allow a safety margin - because they're optimizing the numbers for the whole population of memories they will use - rather than optimizing each part of each memory.

To use an analogy here - your average safe running speed is different for you as an active kid compared to you with a broken ankle or you at 3 score years and 10. And the average safe running speed for an olympic athlete is different to the population as a whole. Traditional SSD controllers can't tell if this piece of flash is an olympic champion or not - and unlike new wave controllers - they can't give them juice.

And here's another analogy. I changed my behavior in this interview with SMART from what I thought I would to - to do something different instead as a result of what I learned. (And I hope it was worth it for you.)

SMART's trick with the SandForce controllers is like using Dolby correction with a 1980s cassette tape. Whereas SMART's trick with its Optimus controller is like having a dynamic sound equalizer built into an iPod.

What's this got to do with SSDs? There's a new wave of flash SSD management - based around combining adaptive flash interaction with DSP. In one way it's not that new - because some companies have been working on it for years. What's new is that more vendors are doing it - and in different ways.
SSD SoCs controllers Now coming back to the "cloud" thing. Attaching the word "cloud" to an SSD name isn't new. I recall that OCZ have done it before - and there are many other examples. Maybe there should should be a new editor's filtering rule about SSDs and cloud names. Don't look now but here comes another one...
.
1.0" SSDs 1.8" SSDs 2.5" SSDs 3.5" SSDs rackmount SSDs PCIe SSDs SATA SSDs
SSDs all flash SSDs hybrid drives flash memory RAM SSDs SAS SSDs Fibre-Channel SSDs

StorageSearch.com is published by ACSL