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overview of Seagate's world leading enterprise SSDs

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com
For some time now Seagate has offered 3 main SSD product families each of which in its own right can be considered to be either the most significant or certainly one of the most significant in the market space it occupies - due to its history of customer adoptions, technical lineage and market share. The enterprise / cloud market products above have been joined by a newer range of NVMe SSDs - the Nytro XF1440 (2.5" hot swap PCIe Gen3 x4 PCIe) and XM1440 M.2 form factor NVMe). ...more details here

The roots of the 3 earlier product groups originally evolved in 3 different companies SandForce, LSI and Seagate - although even before they were all brought together by acquisitions in a unified business group at Seagate it was clear that there had already been elements of collaboration and co-operation by these companies with the intention to optimize SSDs for particular applications.

Seagate's SSD controllers - SandForce range

Since the first generation SandForce SSD controllers came to market in April 2009 this product line has become the best known and most widely adopted flash SSD controller used in enterprise, industrial and consumer markets.

Now in the 3rd generation of products the SandForce design has a proven technology roadmap which has spanned multiple flash generations. I've written more about this in many articles - for example here. You can read more about the product family on Seagate's web site here.

In 2012 as the SSD market was embarking on the transition towards various types of adaptive DSP ECC I wondered how these techniques would be implemented (as indeed they were) in the next generation (3rd generation) of SandForce controllers which was unveiled in November 2013 . That was the product I called the "SSD market on a chip".

You can get an idea of how that was done in the paper - SHIELD Error Correction Technology which describes the principle of how the strength of ECC code is dynamically determined depending on the noisiness of each segment of flash and also how LDPC code filtering can be used to reinforce the data integrity on an "as needed" basis.

A good overview of all the main techniques used in the SandForce controllers can be seen in the paper DuraClass Technology.

Seagate's PCIe SSD - Nytro range

If I've learned one useful rule of thumb from having been involved with the PCIe SSD market since it began in 2007 - it's this:- no single PCIe SSD design is optimal for all enterprise applications.

And that's one reason why the Nytro range appears so confusing at first glance.

Because it includes different models which have been value engineered for the RAS, density, scalability and performance needs of widely different use cases within the enterprise.

The Nytro product which is cost effective when it's part of an installation of thousands in the same datacenter is different to the product you might choose to accelerate legacy apps in a small population of traditionally architected servers and storage.

Currently Seagate's Nytro range of PCIe SSDs includes 6 main product types. Nytro SSDs are available in s traditional server PCIe module sizes and also 2.5" and M.2.

This has been a very successful product family. In January 2014 we learned that over 100,000 units had been shipped in the first 20 months of the product line - making it the #2 enterprise PCIe SSD product by volume at that time.

Considering the number of competitors in the market that was impressive.

My guess is that one factor for that past success and for the Nytro's continuing success may be the lower perceived risk of a PCIe SSD product line which uses the widely deployed SandForce controller architecture (and which comes from the same source). That provides a reassurance that improvements in the flash capabilities of one (due to its volume of use in more markets) will ripple through into quicker improvements in the other.

That's in comparison to the weaknesses of some competing pioneer enterprise PCIe SSD products I observed in 2014 in which support for newer memory types was tardy - leading to higher than anticipated costs for users of those products compared to the projections they must have expected.

Seagate's SAS SSDs

It's 14 years since I began writing about the SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) storage market and I recalled that Seagate and LSI which Seagate recently acquired were both prominent in those early years - so I checked the timeline from my history pages.

Sure enough - the first functioning silicon for SAS was demonstrated in January 2004 by LSI, and Seagate was among the first hard drive companies to complete interoperability testing with SAS hard drives in 2005.

Seagate launched its first enterprise SAS SSDs (Pulsar brand) in March 2011 - and its current high end SAS SSD product - the 1200 SSD - is a lineal descendant of those years of experience in the market.

Seagate's 1200 SSD was the first 12Gb/s SAS SSD to ship in volume and can sustain a data transfer rate of 750MB/s and random R/W IOPS of 110K / 40K respectively (4KB) and an endurance rating of 10 DWPD for 5 years.

For outline info click here and for more specifications see the datasheet (pdf)

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Seagate previews 60TB 3.5" SAS SSD
Editor:- August 9, 2016 - Seagate today said it 's demonstrating prototypes of a 60TB 3.5" SAS SSD which will be available next year.
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StorageReview.com looks inside Seagate's SAS SSDs
Editor:- December 4, 2015 - A new review of industry leading 2.5" SAS SSDs starring the multi-role 1200.2 family from Seagate (also available as the S600DC from Micron) StorageReview.com looks inside the case.
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Re performance... the article says that the latency of these SSDs for their SQL server benchmark is positioned "right in the middle of the pack". ...read the article

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Seagate and Micron collaborate on enterprise
click to see directory of SAS SSD companies
SAS SSDs
Editor:- February 12, 2015 - Micron and Seagate today announced a strategic multi year agreement which among other things will secure for Seagate a supply of nand flash for the SAS SSD market while also providing for Micron a framework of SSD controller IP and designs with which it can populate gaps in its own enterprise SSD range.

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another design win for Seagate's Nytro in China cloud market
Editor:- March 12, 2015 - QingCloud mentioned high capacity and low cost among the reasons for selecting Seagate's XP6209 (pdf) (PCIe SSD) as components to build the low latency SSD infrastructure of its cloud services for the China market - in a press release today.

Editor's comments:- who are the new cloud companies in China?

Meet China's Cloud Innovators - a blog by Charlie Dai, Principal Analyst - Forrester Research

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StorageIOblog looks at Seagate's 12Gbs SAS SSD
Test Equipment
testing SSDs

Editor:- November 4, 2014 - StorageIOblog today published a lab review of Seagate's 1200 12Gbs SAS SSD which includes TPC-B (write intensive) benchmarks for a single drive with simulated workloads without using caching products.

The 2nd part of this article - enumerates the performance benefits of using the same Seagate 1200 SSD as a read cache for an array of SAS hard drives.

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Seagate announces strategic technology agreements with Baidu
big market impact
the big market impact
of SSD dark matter
Editor:- September 17, 2014 - Seagate today announced it has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Baidu, China's largest web services firm.

Under the agreement, Baidu will give priority to Seagate products when considering components for all Baidu servers and storage facilities. In return Seagate will give priority to Baidu when providing enterprise storage products and relevant support, as well as maintain a dedicated engineering team for Baidu.

Editor's comments:- This is a very significant business announcement for Seagate. But it shouldn't come as any surprise - as the destinies of the companies were already set on a natural convergence of interests course which only needed the missing part of the IP jigsaw (SSDs) to complete the required harmony.

Here below is a verbatim quote from my coverage of Seagate's acquisition of LSI's SSD business in May 2014.

"I think that even if Seagate disregarded any new markets - and focused only on the high volume potential of existing cloud infrastructure customers and big web entities (like Google and Baidu) - who need value based enterprise SSDs - but who are perfectly capable of designing their own software and APIs and firmware tweaks - then Seagate could leverage the LSI SandForce SSD roadmaps for the next several years as a business tool to establish it as one of (several) leaders in the utility SSD segment of the cloud."

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