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what's the big picture message re SSDs?

what to tell your VC, lawyer, and non technical friends who don't work in the computer industry

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - published June 21, 2010
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You've all heard about SSDs.

Zillions of articles talk about them. I've written a few myself. But what is all the fuss and excitement about?

This article gives you a simple summary of what you need to know. I've tried to make it as non technical as I can. (Really.)

SSDs are electronic modules which work with computer systems. You don't need to know how they work. You just need to know what they can do.
  • what can SSDs do for servers?

    SSDs can speed up nearly all server applications by 3x.

    Sometimes the speedup can be as much as 40x.

    These speedups can be achieved at the same time as using less servers, less space, less power and lower cost than using traditional (rotating hard disk) technology. If you consider that processor clock speeds only grew about 4x in the past decade - and hard disk storage speeds didn't increase at all - then using SSDs is like leaping your server performance 10 years forwards in time in a single day!
  • what can SSDs do for notebooks?

    SSDs can significantly speed up notebooks, make them lighter and increase battery life.

    This non trivial result requires a good SSD-aware design. Unfortunately there are no true SSD notebook paragons yet. Nearly all current notebooks were designed originally for hard drives and have been adapted for SSDs. Imperfect SSD notebooks can deliver some improvements - but not as many as native SSD designs. And I include the OS as part of the design.

    The OS plays a bigger factor in notebooks than in servers - because server economics enable designers the luxury of packing more CPU power in the SSD controller - and the best server SSD solutions tend to be heterogeneous or OS-agnostic.
Is there more?

For brevity I've just mentioned 2 headline applications for SSDs which work now. There are 5 categories described in StorageSearch.com's SSD market adoption model (published in 2005) - 4 of which already exist now and another recent addition - which is an emerging new category.
what about SSD's future?

I've mentioned above what SSDs can do today in products which are familiar. And for most of you - that's all you need to know.

But SSDs are a disruptive technology which will change the landscape of the future computer market and create a new technology bubble with new market leaders.

Examples of past bubbles include the microprocessor (mid 1970s) the Wintel PC (early 1980s) the commoditization of parallel servers which was an enabling technology for the affordability of the commercial internet (mid 1990s).

SSDs will change the way computer products are designed - so that by 2015 nearly all products will be designed to be SSD-centric - instead of HDD-centric as they have been for over 50 years.

In the future - SSDs will enable new markets and applications which do not yet exist. SSDs will enable a new class of data leveraging applications which create value from datasets in ways which were impossible with the limitations of past servers and storage systems. The impact of these new markets will be as significant as the impact of search-engines has been to the utility of the web.


what's the business impact of SSDs?

When technology markets have the potential to grow big fast - there's a bubble effect which is fueled by
  • greed - the desire to make money and
  • fear - the fear of becoming irrelevant by not participating in a new market which may have an important impact on the business you're already in
Take a look at these numbers - which show the number of SSD manufacturers listed on StorageSearch.com
  • 1998 - 10 companies
  • 2005 - 30 companies
  • 2007 - 63 companies
  • 2008 - 92 companies
  • 2010 - 200 plus companies
  • 2013 - 1,000 plus companies - forecast extrapolated from internal market models (Later correction:- seen from the perspective of January 2014 - I estimate there were about 600 SSD companies plus another 100 or so in the ecosystem for whom SSD chips or SSD software were becoming an important part of their business. There may have been more - but it was a futile process trying to count them all - as many of them weren't doing anything significantly different.)

SSD annual revenue - (StorageSearch.com estimates) - for more revenue data see SSD analysts

I was the 1st storage market analyst to raise my head above the parapet and say that SSDs had the capability to grow to be a $10 billion / year market and I published a catalytic report to that effect in 2003.

The initial reactions from SSD company founders and marketing VPs were incredulity and surprise.

But after talking to most of the leading companies in the market at that time (and some future SSD market leaders who were still in stealth mode) many SSD oem thought leaders I spoke to - who previously had thought about the SSD market only within the context of their own isolated market silos realized that things could change dramatically to the upside and revised their own plans accordingly and thereby lit the match to fire up the business and product development engines that began to transform the SSD market from its previous quiet obscurity to today's frenetic revolution.

I warned everyone at the start - that the cozy old ways of SSD marketing would change too - and that a bigger market would also mean a tougher more competitive market in which marketing would become more important. Some understood that - adapted and thrived - others did not and have dwindled into obscurity or disappeared.

As we progress from where we are now to where I think the market is heading there will be
  • excitement - the thrill of being able to do things with computers for the 1st time which were previously impossible, slow or out of reach to most budgets. That ranges from faster computer games for kids, to the making of new companies - like the next Intel, Microsoft, Sun and Google.
  • vendor pain - hundreds of companies will crash and burn (VC funded SSD companies which get it wrong) or fade quietly into a less frenetic retirement (storage makers, chip makers, OS designers and others who were leaders in HDD technology generations - but who fail to transition to the new SSD data driven economy).
  • user pain - those who bought an SSD which needed needed upgrades to make it work, those whose SSDs trashed their data or failed before their alloted time, those who had a great experience from their 1st generation SSD and then forgot to be careful and had a terrible time when they switched to a cheaper alternative supplier, those who thought they were buying from a safe proven company - only to realize that they were an unsuspecting beta site for a new technology disguised in an old brand.
At this point I realize that yet another promise of a "short article" has failed. But I hope you get the general idea. If you found parts of it useful - tell your friends and colleagues to see it themselves.

If they don't have time to read the article - then here's a simple message...

"SSDs could be a $100 billion / year market in 2020."

That would represent a revenue growth for the market of 1,000x - from the year 2,000 - which is when I started running the world's first online ads for enterprise SSDs here on StorageSearch.com

For more about the history of the SSD market - you can see a 35 year timeline here. And if you have weeks to research this subject there are thousands of significant SSD news stories in the mouse site archive.

If you don't want the all the gory details - but would like to get a better historical perspective of the SSD compared to other markets - I covered that in an article here.

There are hundreds more articles about SSDs already on this site - ranging from comments about individual companies - new product launches - technologies and details of how to design new SSDs - and a lot more to come.

Thanks for taking the time to read StorageSearch.com - "leading the way to the new storage frontier."


...Looking ahead:-

My next SSD article will be called - Branding Strategies in the SSD Market.

As the marketing girl in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy said - re the development of the wheel - "Alright, Mr. Wiseguy... "if you're so clever, you tell us what color it should be."

How will users navigate their way through thousands of SSD messages which compete for their attention?

In the time honored way of learning to recognize, filter out and disregard the 99% of SSD babel which is for someone else.

What can marketers do to create better messages for the SSD age?

How can users recognize a good SSD brand when they see it?


...Later:- in January 2012 - I wrote a new article - Perspectives - on the SSD market - How does the SSD market today compare with earlier disruptive tech markets?


...Later:- in July 2013 - in a new article - hostage to the fortunes of SSD - I explained why so many big traditional companies are piling into the SSD market with acquisitions and licenses - despite the fact that many leading SSD companies haven't demostrated sustainable business models yet.


...Later:- in October 2013 - in the article meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon - I examined the disruptive results which will come from new SSD software written from the approach of an SSD ecosystem big enough and confident enough to invest in making those changes worthwhile from the business perspective. The result will be a dramatic change in system utilization - and will change assumptions about how many SSDs are needed to replace all those hard drives in the enterprise.
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StorageSearch.com article image - punch and judy -
SSDs - the big market picture
Once upon a time...
there was a hard drive and an SSD.
...
Since the early 1970s there have been 3 revolutionary disruptive influences in the electronics and computing markets:-
  • the microprocessor
  • the internet, and
  • the modern era of SSDs.
Perspectives - on the SSD market
...
What's an SSD?

SSD Market History

the Top 20 SSD Companies

this way to the petabyte SSD

SSD market adoption models

2009 - Year of SSD Market Confusion

2010- Year #1 of the SSD Market Bubble?

2011 - Year of the Fusion-io IPO

2012 - Year of the Enterprise SSD Goldrush

2013 - SSD market milestones month by month

will the SSD market be big enough for all these companies
[list] to grow?
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Beware the distorting lens of viewpoint
as in - "SSDs are similar to..."
Can you trust SSD market data?
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"... if Fusion-io sells more...
does that mean Violin will sell less?"
That's a question asked recently by a reader.
...click to read my (article length) reply
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SSD ad - click for more info
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"...the SSD market will be bigger in revenue
than the hard drive market ever was."
How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?
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Fusion-io fast SSDs - click for more info
the standard for enterprise PCIe SSDs
by which all others are judged
ioDrives from Fusion-io
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"The winners in SSD software could be as important for infrastructure as Microsoft was for PCs, or Oracle was for databases, or Google was for search."
get ready for a new world in which
all enterprise data touches SSDs
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an introduction to enterprise SSD silos
SSD silos article The enterprise SSD market is complicated enough already but despite that - only 7 distinct types of SSD classes are all that are needed to sustainably satisfy all the architecture needs in the pure solid state storage data center of the future. ...read the article
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What's the best way to design a flash SSD?
and other questions which split SSD opinion
More than 10 key areas of fundamental disagreement within the SSD industry are discussed in an article here on StorageSearch.com called the the SSD Heresies.
click to read the article - the SSD Heresies ... Why can't SSD's true believers agree upon a single coherent vision for the future of solid state storage? ...read the article
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the 3 fastest flash PCIe SSDs - list / lists
You know the sort of thing I mean - where a magazine compares 10 SSDs or a blogger compares 2 SSDs against each other. It would be nice to have a shortlist so that you don't have to waste too much of your own valuable time testing unsuitable candidates wouldn't it?

StorageSearch's long running fastest SSDs directory typically indicates 1 main product in each form factor category but those examples may not be compatible with your own ecosystem.

If so a new article - the 3 fastest PCIe SSDs list (or is it really lists?) may help you cut that Gordian knot. Hmm... you may be thinking that StorageSearch's editor never gives easy answers to SSD questions if more complicated ones are available.
the 3 fastest  PCIe SSDs  - click to read article But in this case you'd be wrong. (I didn't say you'd like the answers, though.) ...read the article
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popular SSD articles on StorageSearch.com

SSD Myths - "write endurance" - In theory the problems are now well understood - but solving them presents a challenge for each new chip generation.

SSDs replacing HDDs? - That's a gross simplification.

the Top 20 SSD companies - updated quarterly.

the Fastest SSDs - in each form factor. Speed is still the #1 reason for buying SSDs.

the SSD Buyers Guide - summarizes key SSD market developments in the past quarter and has a top level directory of SSD content.

PCIe SSDs - news and market commentary. We've reported on PCIe SSDs since the first products shipped in 2007.

SSD market history (1976 to today) - If you're new to the market it provides a clue to how much things have changed - and how fast (or how slowly).

is eMLC the true successor to SLC in enterprise flash SSD?- which so called "enterprise MLC" tastes the sweetest? How come there are so many different and contradictory reliability claims?

Clarifying SSD Pricing - where does all the money go? - Also includes SSD price examples.

the SSD Reliability Papers - links and abstracts of articles related to the subject of SSD reliability and data integrity.

the problem with Write IOPS in flash SSDs - this classic article helps you understand why nearly all flash SSD benchmarks incorrectly suggest you're going to get much higher performance than you will actually see in your application..

meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon - the impact of software on SSD utilization and SSD markets

Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design - looks into the detailed techniques to achieve data reliability.

What's the best / cheapest - PC SSD? - I often get emails from readers who ask the above question.

this way to the Petabyte SSD - This article describes the future storage architecture of the datacenter, explains the economics of SSDs replacing HDDs for bulk storage and suggests a roadmap for getting there.

the 3 fastest PCIe flash SSDs list - or is it really lists?
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

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