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PCIe SSDs - the story so far

PCIe SSDs for use in enterprise server acceleration have been shipping in the market since 2007.

It's one of the most popular SSD subjects pursued by our readers and has been (and has been since 2009 - when we first told you that searches for PCIe SSDs on StorageSearch.com - had overtaken searches for 2.5" SSDs on this site for the first time in SSD market history).

Over 100 million enterprise PCIe ports had already been shipped in the market (upto January 2014). And by the end of 2014 - the enterprise PCIe SSD market first surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue - with many analysts expecting revenue in this market to double in the next 3-4 years - helped the declining average selling price of these products and the emergence of a mature software ecosystem with multi vendor support for popular things you can do with PCIe SSDs. (Which now goes far beyond the original main reasons to buy - which were acceleration by tiering and caching.)

Over 60 companies have already ship enterprise accelerator PCIe SSDs. You can see a partial list in this column below. That will rise to over 100 companies as the availability of more PCIe supporting SSD controller chips, other SSD related chip sets and IP and SSD software for this market will make it even easier than it already is for newcomers to enter the PCIe SSDs market.

PCIe SSDs come in several shapes and sizes.

The original form factors were the now familiar looking cards, modules and even racks.

But a new form factor - for 2.5" PCIe SSDs which emerged in 2012 opened up new applications - such as the displacement of fast SAS SSDs.

In the 2nd half of 2013 - we also saw the start of another type of deployment for the PCIe interface in the M.2 form factor which was first aimed at the consumer SSD market and SSD notebooks. These consumer PCIe products had throughputs similar to the enterprise products of 5-6 years earlier - but weren't rated for heavy IOPS.

As expected there was confirmation in 2014 that PCIe SSDs in the M.2 form factor were also being developed for use in enterprise applications too.

Performance of PCIe SSDs?

The best way to get an idea of the range of performances in this market is to look at recent news coverage. Although benchmarks and data sheets don't tell the whole story.

In the enterprise market in 2015 - you mostly find products which are compatible with 2 different generations of PCIe - called gen 2 and gen 3 (5GT/s per lane). Although a 4th generation may become available at the end of 2015.

Each PCIe interface generation represents a different peak data throughput for each lane of the interface which is implemented. Adding more lanes adds more throughput capability.

In general - such as when used with the same flash controller architecture - a faster PCIe link (higher gen number) will result in lower latency. But it's not always true than a gen 3 PCIe SSD will be faster (in applications) than a gen 2 SSD. Other factors are throughput (due to number of lanes), differences in the design of the flash controller architecture, differences in the memories and differences in the software APIs (mature proprietary APIs can offer better application determined latency than standard NVMe APIs).

For PCIe interface speeds see the PCIe faqs page which is by the standards ORG - PCI SIG.

For PCIe SSD use cases and capabilities see - PCIe SSDs - state of the market & technology (pdf) - a white paper from t the 2014 Flash Memory Summit.

What's the Competition to PCIe SSDs for server based acceleration?

As the server based SSD accelerator market has grown in size and software support - PCIe SSDs should be viewed as one of many micro tiered layers inside a server. Tiering in this context being by latency.

Other key SSD examples (inside the server box) being:-
  • memory channel SSDs (which currently offer similar latencies to PCIe in January 2015 - but which might get faster)
Outside the server blade or box - competition for PCIe SSDs - also comes from the latency offered by fast FC SAN rackmount SSDs - and new emerging types of PCIe fabric which can be terminated in either remote RAM or remote flash.

Two different types of competing PCIe fabric architecture are currently being marketed
  • ExpressFabric from PLX (aimed at single cabinet to small number of cabinets level scale - and hundreds of PCIe ports)
It's certain that more vendors will also enter this market.
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PCIe SSD oems list
As promised above - here's a historic list of past PCIe SSD makers from the storage news archive and articles. It's listed in alphabetic order and also includes some notable vendors which have been acquired or exited the market.

Which of these companies are the most significant?

A good way is to cross reference this against recent editions of the Top SSD Companies.

Addonics

Angelbird

Apacer

Aupera Technologies

Avant Technology

BiTMICRO

Biwin

CoreRise

Dolphin

DDRdrive

EMC

Eonsil

Extreme Engineering

Foremay

Fuji Xerox

Fusion-io

Greenliant Systems

G.Skill

HGST

Huawei

Hynix

IBM

InnoDisk

Intel

KingSpec

LaCie

Lite-On

Longsys

Mangstor

Mach Xtreme Technology

Marvell

Memblaze Technology

Memoright

Micron

Mushkin

NetApp

Netlist

NovaChips

OCZ

Oracle (Sun)

OWC

Phison

PhotoFast

Plextor

PMC

QLogic

Ramaxel Technology

Renice Technology

RunCore

Samsung

SanDisk

Seagate

Shannon Systems

Sonnet Technologies

STEC (acquired by HGST)

Super Talent

Texas Memory Systems (acquired by IBM - EOL)

Toshiba

Violin (PCIe range sold to Hynix)

Virident Systems (acquired by HGST)

Virtium

Waitan
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how fast can your SSD run backwards?
SSDs are complex devices and there's a lot of mysterious behavior which isn't fully revealed by benchmarks, datasheets and whitepapers. Underlying all the important aspects of SSD behavior are asymmetries which arise from the intrinsic technologies and architecture inside the SSD.
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You don't have to understand the internal details of how these individual techniques work. And with hundreds of patents already pending in this topic there's a high probability that the SSD vendor won't give you the details anyway (not even under NDA). It's enough to get the general idea.
Adaptive flash care management & DSP ECC IP in SSDs
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SSD software
the Fastest SSDs
popular SSD articles
SSD Market History
the SSD Buyers Guide
flash SSD Jargon Explained
the Top 20 SSD Companies
Reaching for the petabyte SSD
RAM Cache Ratios in flash SSDs
Yes you can! - swiftly sort Enterprise SSDs
the Problem with Write IOPS - in flash SSDs
Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design
Are MLC SSDs Ever Safe in Enterprise Apps?
RAM SSDs versus Flash SSDs - which is Best?
Clarifying SSD Pricing - where does the money go?
Rackmount SSD Trends - open vs proprietary
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the Problem with Write IOPS in flash SSDs
Random "write IOPS" in many of the fastest flash SSDs are now similar to "read IOPS" - implying a performance symmetry which was once believed to be impossible.

So why are flash SSD IOPS such a poor predictor of application performance?

And why are users still buying RAM SSDs which cost an order of magnitude more than SLC? (let alone MLC) - even when the IOPS specs look superficially similar?

This article tells you why the specs got faster - but the applications didn't.
the problem with flash SSD  write IOPS And why competing SSDs with apparently identical benchmark results can perform completely differently. ...read the article


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classic SSDs from SSD market history
Virident FlashMAX.  - click for more info
Predictable, industry-leading PCIe SSD performance.
Scales across diverse workloads, data sets,
and sustains over time.
Learn more about - Virident FlashMAX
Both the world's largest HDD makers loved the FlashMax II (launched in August 2012). Seagate oemed it. Then later - WD acquired the company.


.
many years ago - in SSD market history
BiTMICRO & CENATEK collaborate on PCI SSDs

March 5, 2002 - BiTMICRO. and CENATEK announced today, a technology and marketing partnership to investigate developing a hybrid solid state disk storage solution that brings together the best in flashdisk storage and PCI bus-attached SSD technology.

Prices are likely to range between $1,000 to $2,000 per gigabyte.

Editor's later comments:- the fast PCI SSDs which later emerged from CENATEK - can be seen as immediate ancestors of the modern PCIe SSD market.

But the concept of using fast bus based SSDs as storage accelerators wasn't a new idea. It went back 3 to 4 decades.

Those earlier market experiments with solid state storage were always short lived - because the expensive SSD storage in each product generation was always competing with fast changing improvements in CPU clock speeds, bus memory throughput or faster external magnetic storage media.

The changes in the modern era of SSDs - which started about 2003 - was that due to those other computer technologies stagnating and not getting any faster - the only competitor which killed an SSD from about that time - was another SSD.

By that time - the new computer bus was known to be PCI express. But it was the failure of the alternatives to solid state storage to get faster - which made the big difference to the business viability of SSDs - rather than any inate characteristic of PCIe SSDs.



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"despite the bewildering range of products in the market - the performance characteristics and limitations of ALL flash SSDs are determined by a small set of of architectural parameters."
a toolkit for understanding flash SSD performance characteristics and limitations

PCIe SSDs on StorageSearch.com

SSD news
2.5" PCIe SSDs
what changed in SSD year 2014?
11 Key Symmetries in SSD design
PCIe SSD fabric - news and articles
PCIe SSDs versus memory channel SSDs
Enterprise SSDs - the Survive and Thrive Guide
90% of enterprise SSD companies have no good reasons to survive
what's in a number? - a new notation for any SSD accelerated server
Seagate enters 2.5" NVMe SSD market

Editor:- August 11, 2015 - Seagate today announced details of 2 new families of NVMe SSDs which will be available in 2.5" (October) and M.2 (in early 2016) form factors. Also new - the Seagate Nytro XP6500 - a PCIe SSD accelerator (which is currently available) delivers the lowest write latency within Seagate's Nytro product portfolio.

Editor's comments:- until this announcement it wasn't clear how Seagate would deal with an issue which has been problematic for other competitors too - that of introducing SSDs in form factors and interface types which can (at the fringes) compete with pre-existing product lines.

But because there is clear customer demand for both SAS SSDs and PCIe SSDs in 2.5" form factors for example - then it would be a mistake for any vendor with large scale market ambitions to opt out of supplying such products despite the potential risk of some cannibalization.

Nevertheless - the order in which we see enterprise SSDs being introduced in various form factor and interface combinations (different for each supplier) tells us what they consider are their native strongholds.


BiTMICRO has new faster, denser PCIe SSD

news image Bitmicro SSDEditor:- August 11, 2015 - BiTMICRO announced the release of the company's MAXio Z-Series enterprise PCIe SSDs (gen 3 8 lanes) which are controlled by its patented Talino ASIC architecture. The new Z-Series provides up to 8.8TB in a PCIe edge card form factor and also includes military-class erase technology. For 4KB blocks the R/W IOPS and latencies are respectively - 430K 50µS and 150K 30µS respectively.

Editor's comments:- BiTMICRO which 10 years ago was a pioneer in the high performance enterprise flash SSD market got kind of swept aside from mainstream market view for many years as the market expanded and the rate of memory innovation seen in such SSDs changed too fast for most companies to keep up.

For years the company retrenched back into its safe roots in industrial military applications - and like many other SSD companies - it has had business setbacks. But it's also had some customer successes too with its newer SSD technologies in the China market in partnership with RunCore.


Toshiba's new NVMe PCIe SSDs will be available in 4 form factors

Editor:- August 10, 2015 - Toshiba today announced details of 3 new NVMe PCIe SSD families which will sample in the next quarter.

2 of these are aimed at the consumer market and come in variants of the M.2 form factor - with upto 4 lanes of PCIe 3.

More interesting, however, are the new enterprise products - model PX04P - in 2.5" or HHHL form factors.


Virtium launches industrial M.2 PCIe SSDs

Editor:- July 28, 2015 - Virtium today announced it has expanded its StorFly range of industrial SSDs with new PCIe SSDs (gen 2) available in both M.2 and Mini Card form factors with capacities from 16GB upto 480GB.

Endurance is upto 3.3 petabytes of writes (about 3.7 DWPD for 5 years). Virtium's new SSDs have full BOM control with up to 5 years of uninterrupted product availability.


bath tub curve is not the most useful way of thinking about PCIe SSD failures - according to a large scale study within Facebook

Editor:- June 15, 2105 - A recently published research study - Large-Scale Study of Flash Memory Failures in the Field (pdf) - which analyzed failure rates of PCIe SSDs used in Facebook's infrastructure over a 4 year period - yields some very useful insights into the user experience of large populations of enterprise flash.

Among the many findings:-
  • Read disturbance errors - seem to very well managed in the enterprise SSDs studied.

    The authors said they "did not observe a statistically significant difference in the failure rate between SSDs that have read the most amount of data versus those that have read the least amount of data."
  • Higher operational temperatures mostly led to increased failure rates, but the effect was more pronounced for SSDs which didn't use aggressive data throttling techniques - which could prevent runaway temperatures due to throttling back their write performance.
  • More data written by the hosts to the SSDs over time - mostly resulted in more failures - but the authors noted that in some of the platforms studied - more data written resulted in lower failure rates.

    This was attributed to the fact some SSD software implementations work better at reducing write amplification when they are exposed to more workload patterns.
  • Unlike the classic bathtub curve failure model which applies to hard drives - SSDs can be characterized as having early an warning phase - which comes before an early failure weed out phase of the worst drives in the population and which precedes the onset of predicted endurance based wearout.

    In this aspect - a small percentage of rogue SSDs account for a disproportionately high percentage of the total data errors in the population.
enterprise array reliability study in Facebook
The report contains plenty of raw data and graphs which can be a valuable resource for SSD designers and software writers to help them understand how they can tailor their efforts towards achieving more reliable operation. ...read the article (pdf)

See also:- SSD Reliability


Memblaze is #1 enterprise PCIe SSD supplier in China market

Editor:- May 22, 2015 - Memblaze accounted for 60% market share of the enterprise PCIe SSD market segment in China in 2014 - according to CEO Yin Xuebing who made this comment in a recent press release announcing the availability of Memblaze's new PBlaze4 700 Series bootable 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSDs which was demonstrated at CeBIT in March 2015.


OCZ's power envelope programmable 2.5" hot swap NVMe SSDs

OCZ 2.5 inch hot swap PCIe SSDEditor:- May 20, 2015 - OCZ today revealed more details about the new models shipping in its NVMe compatible PCIe SSD family - which was first announced last September. We had already heard before these new models include 2.5" hot swappable versions.

Today OCZ said this model - the Z-Drive 6300 SFF will be available with usable capacities of 800GB, 1.6TB and 3.2TB (in this quarter) followed by 6.4TB (later this year).

R/W performance is upto 2.9GB/s and 1.4GB/s respectively. Random R/W IOPS are 700K IOPS and 120K IOPS. Latencies are 30µs (write) and 80µs (read). Endurance options are 1 or 3 DWPD.

high availability and reliability features

The new Z-Drive 6000 models are dual ported so that 2 host systems can concurrently access the same SSD.

Additionally, the Z-Drive 6000 Series supports hot swapping of 2.5" drives, pre-set power thresholds and temperature throttling to support many types of enterprise ecosystems.

Editor's comments:- for various reasons to do with a combination of standardization efforts and changes of ownership for nearly every major enterprise PCIe SSD company in the market - you've had to wait 3 years since the idea of this kind of product was first discussed seriously on these pages and at conferences.

What has become clear to systems architects is that these new products offer far more flexibility in their roles than merely performance upgrades to high end SAS SSDs and traditional storage arrays.

Among other things these new types of products will enable lower cost mini SSD server clustering at PCIe latencies which will spur growth in the SDS market. At the high end - they could become the new building blocks inside the world's most powerful computer arrays.

Power consumption and heat in these NVMe SSDs?

I know from talking to systems architects that the electrical power and thermal footprints of 2.5" NVMe SSDs is a critical detail when considering the design of dense storage arrays so I asked Scott Harlin, OCZ for more information these factors. Here's what Scott said.

Hi Zsolt – you are correct – the 2.5" drives can get a little toasty packing in the higher densities into this form factor -- typical power consumption of the Z-Drive 6000 series is 25W active and 9W idle. So we included a few items to address these concerns:

1. - Temperature sensing and thermal throttling to maintain consistent operating conditions even under adverse temperature variances

2. - User-selectable power envelopes, in 15W, 20W and 25W settings, reduces wasted power when maximum performance is not required while efficiently addressing temperature requirements in support of a variety of ecosystems

3. - An innovative 'flow-through' case design enables more airflow to critical components, keeping the device cool while reducing airflow requirements

Editor's comments:- that user selectable power envelope- in graduated steps - seems like a really useful design attribute. So I'll be watching out for it in future arrayable SSD launches.


which market uses the highest capacity PCIe SSDs?

Editor:- May 12, 2015 - Unlike the enterprise market where nearly everyone uses technologies which are recognizably similar to everyone else - we don't hear so much about advances in embedded industrial markets - because a technique which pushes the state of the art for one industrial customer may be of no interest to nearly everyone else.

Now I'm hearing more stories in which increasing SSD capacity in confined rugged spaces is the difference.

Yesterday it was a customer story from Waitan about designing and supplying high capacity PCIe SSD modules for use on a drilling platform. That was an application where paying more for the SSD to fit was cheaper than making more space for the SSD.

If you've got an interesting story about custom high capacity PCIe SSDs - outside the usual context of the cloud and the static datcenter (as opposed to the mobile datacenter) send me an email with the details.


still the same positioning for new generation of SanDisk inside Fusion ioMemory PCIe SSDs

Editor:- April 28, 2015 - Back in the summer of 2012 - at which time the PCIe SSD market was already well served by many strong (and soon to be acquired) competitors (as you can see in this archived news page from September 2012) I came up with a short phrase to summarize the positioning of Fusion-io's products (in ads here) which ran like this...

"the standard for enterprise PCIe SSDs by which all others are judged:- ioDrives from Fusion-io".

About a year later (in about December 2013) when I was seeking for a way to refine that description - I updated that summary to...

"(still) the standard for enterprise PCIe SSDs by which all others are judged:- ioDrives from Fusion-io."

The reason I mention that is to show how phrases which appear in ads can stick in readers' minds years later and resurface in everyday conversations.

This is something which (as I've got no formal qualifications in writing) I had never really thought about until I heard a lecture on this very point by Professor Brooks Landon in an episode of his audio series "Building Great Sentences" - a series which I dip into from time to time - originally triggered by the hope that I might learn some useful tricks I could apply to my scribbles on this site but a series which as I heard more episodes sustained my interest more so because it took me to unexpected panoramas of word writing virtuosity which have probably given me more pleasure as a spectator than the haphazard impressionistic experiments in recycling his word craft which I sometimes inflict on you .

So you can imagine my delight at seeing a recent press release from SanDisk about a new generation of Fusion ioMemory PCIe SSDs which among other things included this statement by John Scaramuzzo, senior VP and GM, Enterprise Storage Solutions, SanDisk.

"Fusion-io's technology fundamentally transformed expectations about data center performance when it debuted 8 years ago and it remains the standard by which all other PCIe products are judged."

Also in this news story we learn that over 250,000 of these accelerators have been deployed by over 7,000 customers. And that having been re-engineered to use SanDisk memory - the new models cost a lot less than the previous generation ioDrive2 product, and are 2x faster at reads.


Silicon Motion acquires Shannon Systems

Editor:- April 24, 2015 - Silicon Motion today announced it will acquire Shannon Systems for a total purchase price of $57.5 million.

"China has become the largest internet market in the world and its internet companies have already widely adopted SSDs for their data centers and hyperscale servers. More recently, Chinese corporates and government organizations have started using SSDs for data virtualization. These operators of corporate and internet infrastructure have increasingly been turning to Shannon for world-class, locally developed and supported SSD solutions," said Wallace Kou, President and CEO of Silicon Motion.


CoreRise ships new smaller BladeDrive PCIe SSD

Corerise E24 PCIe SSDEditor:- April 20, 2015 - CoreRise today announced customer shipments of a new version of its BladeDrive family of gen 2 x8 PCIe SSDs - the E24 - which has a smaller form factor than the earlier E28.

Its ASIC based implementation supports upto 1.6TB capacity, 275K IOPS (4KB) and 2GB/s throughput in half-height half-length. Software support includes Windows Server, Linux and virtualization such as Xen, Hyper-v, as well as TRIM.


SanDisk comments on customer drift away from its PCIe SSDs

Editor:- April 16, 2015 - You should be careful not to misconstrue SanDisk's recent statement about enterprise PCIe SSD replacement by SATA SSDs as a general trend for all customers and all types of PCIe SSDs. I think some of these customer migrations are probably more specific to some large scale customers for the Fusion-io product line rather than the whole industry.

In a quarterly results related conference call (transcript) this week SanDisk's President and CEO - Sanjay Mehrotra - said that in the enterprise market it was seeing some of the business which had traditionally been implemented by its customers using PCIe SSDs was moving towards arrays of SATA SSDs.

Editor's comments:- another emerging market is arrays of 2.5" PCIe SSDs which you could argue will take away market share from SAS SSDs - as well as enabling a new market.

Factors at work in the rackmount flash array market are very complex due to very different customer needs and different ways of judging the same tech attributes due to users' own business values related to their core activities and what they've done before.


Sonnet launches "Fusion PCIe Flash Drive"

(followed by) a useful clarification re the Fusion brand in storage


Editor:- April 7, 2015 - In a move which I think will lead to inevitable confusion - Sonnet Technologies has today launched a new consumer storage module called the "Fusion PCIe Flash Drive."

"The Fusion PCIe Flash Drive leverages the latest advancements in PCIe SSD design and Thunderbolt 2 technology, enabling Sonnet to offer a storage device that fits neatly in the palm of your hand yet delivers the blazing-fast performance of a multi-drive RAID storage system many times its size," said Robert Farnsworth, Sonnet Technologies CEO. "We think this will become an indispensable accessory for the creative professional."

Editor's comments:- Inside the box - is an M.2 SSD. If it had anything to do with Fusion-io - the best known brand in the PCIe SSD market - then I think we would have heard about it before.

I often wonder what goes through the minds of product marketers when they name new SSD products. Many of the clever words have already gone as you can see in my SSD brand name archives.

Later corrections and clarifications

I contacted Sonnet's CEO - Robert Farnsworth about this name confusion issue.

I said - "Robert is there any connection between your new Fusion PCIe drive and Fusion-io? I would be surprised if there was. Didn't you anticipate confusion when naming this product?"

Robert told me - "Sonnet Technologies has been using the Fusion™ name for our storage product since before Fusion-io existed as a company. None of Fusion-io products carry the Fusion name because Sonnet owns the trademark."

I got more of the background history about the Fusion storage trademark issue from Greg LaPorte, VP Sales and Marketing - Sonnet Technologies - whose detailed notes make interesting reading.

Greg said - "Sonnet was actually the first to use, and trademark, 'Fusion' in association with storage back in 2005 and have since used it for all Sonnet storage products. With respect to Fusion-io, yes, Sonnet began using the trademark 'Fusion' for storage products before Canvas Technologies became FusionMultiSystems in June of 2006 and well before they named their first ioDrive in September 2007. Later they evolved to Fusion-io for a company name but did not name their actual products with Fusion. They tend to use "io" in the majority of their product names."

Greg's email also included this related story. "When Apple came out with the Fusion Drive, we brought this to their attention; Was Apple infringing on a Sonnet trademark? Their answer was that Fusion is so commonly used for product names, they felt it fell into the "non-trademarkable" category. We... don't agree with that assessment but we have a good relationship with Apple."


Memblaze enters 2.5" PCIe SSD market

Editor:- March 16, 2015 - Memblaze today announced it is showing a 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSD variant of its PBlaze series at CeBIT in Germany.

Memblaze was the 27th most highly searched SSD company by readers of StorageSearch.com in Q4 2014.


another design win for Seagate's Nytro in China cloud market

cloud storage news, vendors, articles  and directory - click here
SSD cloud
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

See also:- the big market impact of SSD dark matter


8TB 2.5" PCIe SSDs sampling soon from Novachips

Editor:- March 4, 2015 - Are you interested in a world's first 2.5" 8TB (15mm height) PCIe Gen2 x4 SSD (pdf) with a single controller developed by Novachips. in Korea?

Novachip 8TB 2.5 inch PCIe SSDThat was an email I got recently from Sean Oh, in Germany, who is the sales representative for these products in Europe.

What would you say?

I did the same. After reading up the info he attached (there's a SATA version too) I asked some questions about availability. Here's what Sean said.
  • The working engineering samples have been available since last year.
  • The 1st customer sample comes out in the next 30 days.
  • We plan to start a mass production in 2nd half of this year.
  • What do you think ? Is it something cool, isn't it ?
Editor's comments:- part of this story has its roots in a news story from May 2007 - when a company called MOSAID was talking about a new, light capacitive load, ring based, flash memory topology called HLNAND. To make it work they needed a controller. Novachips collaborated on the design and recently acquired the assets and patents.


new edition of the Top SSD Companies

Editor:- March 2, 2015 - StorageSearch.com recently published a new edition of the Top SSD Companies list - based on market metrics in Q4 2014.


Greenliant enters PCIe SSD market

Editor:- January 12, 2015 - Greenliant Systems - has entered the entry level enterprise NVME PCIe SSD market - with the launch of its new G7100 (pdf) series MLC gen 2 x4 PCIe SSDs - upto 2.75 TB raw capacity, Full Height, Half Length form factor, 130K / 60K R/W IOPS, and endurance of upto 10 DWPD for 5 years.

Internally Greenliant's new PCIe SSD has a RAID protected array of miniature NANDrive SSDs which use the company's own controllers.

"Leveraging our in-depth flash memory knowledge and volume-proven NAND controller expertise, Greenliant is addressing the industry's increasing need for higher reliability, higher performance and larger capacity flash-based storage solutions," said Bing Yeh, CEO of Greenliant Systems.

Editor's comments:- ever since the company was founded - in 2010 - Greenliant's focus has been on the industrial and embedded SSD market. So it's surprising to see this new product aimed at the "enterprise" market. However it's part of an emerging trend in the market.


Samsung mass producing gen 3 PCIe SSDs for notebooks

Editor:- January 7, 2015 - 19 months after launching its first M.2 PCIe gen 2 SSDs aimed at the notebook market (the XP941 (pdf) in June 2013) - Samsung said it is now mass producing the follow-up SM951 - which supports gen 3 PCIe.

Samsung says - "For ultra-slim notebooks and workstations the SM951 can read and write sequentially at 2,150MB/s and 1,550 MB/s respectively..."

The SM951 is the first SSD to adopt L1.2 low power standby mode (the PCIe SSD equivalent of the power saving devsleep mode in SATA SSDs) . When hibernating in L1.2 mode, the SM951's power consumption is less than 2mW.


Toshiba shows early version of BGA PCIe SSD

Editor:- January 7, 2015 - Toshiba announced it will showcase a prototype of the world's first PCIe single package SSD - with up to 256GB in a single BGA package at CES this week.

The NVMe compatible device fits into 16mm x 20mm x 1.65mm and weighs under 1g. See also:- BGA SSDs


What next - after PCIe SSDs everywhere?

Editor:- December 2, 2014 - What next - when PCIe SSDs are already everywhere? You know you need them. But you need more too.

Signs of interesting times ahead in 2015 are revealed in the new edition of the Top SSD Companies - based on market metrics in Q3 2014 - researched and published by StorageSearch.com

For over 5 years - Fusion-io had occupied the top #1 spot in this list as the SSD company which was most researched by our readers. That was inevitably going to change. And it did. But not in the way you might have expected.

The new #1 SSD company is Diablo Technologies - creator of the Memory Channel Storage platform.

But that's not the only sign of change.

7 years after the 2007 Year of SSD revolutions - is the enterprise SSD market about to begin a new revolution in server centric SSD architecture? ...read the article


the key band members - which made Fusion-io so very famous - have reunited at Primary Data

Editor:- November 19, 2014 - "With Woz on the team along with Lance Smith and David Flynn,, we now have the band back together, and I'm amped to be reunited at Primary Data" said Rick White, cofounder Primary Data today - referring to the fact that 4 of the best known people in Fusion-io (including the 2 founders) were now at the helm of the new company on the day it emerged from stealth mode. ...read more in SSD news


why did Memblaze demonstrate 14µS latency PCIe SSDs in Europe before US?

Editor:- October 31, 2014 - Something I saw in a press release this week by Memblaze Technology made me think I'd better pause to check the significance behind the words before mentioning it here.

The story - from their PR agency - A3 Communications - was about the launch of a new PCIe SSD - the EBlaze3 - in Europe - which contained the phrase.

"This will be the first time the technology is available outside China."

I wondered if - behind that statement - there might have been an implied message that the new product will be sold preferentially in Europe - rather than the US - as we have seen evolving in stories about one of the world's biggest enterprise companies - to have emerged from China - Huawei.

Or was this wording - and the showing of Memblaze's EBlaze3 at a trade show this week in Germany - simply due to the timing of having booked booths at trade shows and the availability of the new product - rather than an expression of preference about which market - the US or EU - is more important for their new enterprise SSD to be seen in?

So I asked Ron MacLeod - who is VP of marketing for Memblaze in Europe - to clarify these points.

Ron said - "The product will be available in the US in the same way it is available in Europe. And with regard to timing indeed it was just coincidence that the Powering the Cloud event was running and at which was the first time Memblaze was public in Europe. There is no favouritism over markets except the US is potentially larger - so no hidden messaging. We value the European business and other potential global partners equally."

Editor's comments:- So that's why I delayed mentioning this before.

FYI - The Memblaze EBlaze3 (upto 2.4TB in HHHL and 4.8TB in FHHL single slot) is a new version of the PBlaze3 card - which is aimed at, Hyperscale and OCP (Open Compute Project market). It offers an ultra-low latency of 14µs and enables customers to define and alter key settings to ensure optimum performance in their specific applications and platforms.


StorageReview.com tests Fusion-io's Atomic SSD

Editor:- October 21, 2014 - Earlier this year - in June 2014 - and just weeks before SanDisk announced it was acquiring the company - Fusion-io launched a new generation of PCIe SSDs - the Atomic Series - which was an overdue catching up exercise to use cheaper 20nm flash.

At the time the headline product specifications seemed to me to be adequate - rather than spectacular.

It's probably safe to assume they were intended to restore the competitiveness of Fusion-io's products rather than push performance boundaries.

But what are they like? And how do they compare?

A new article - Fusion ioMemory PX600 Review - published in StorageReview.com provides the answers to how it performs and how it compares on popular OS platforms and benchmarks. ...read the article

See also:- how fast can your SSD run backwards?, SSD testing & analyzer news


Samsung mass produces 3TB 3D PCIe SSDs

Editor:- September 25, 2014 - Samsung today announced it has started mass producing 3.2 TB NVMe PCIe SSDs (HHHL) based on its 3D flash memory technology, for use in enterprise systems.
pic of Samsung PCIe SSD
The new NVMe PCIe SSD, SM1715 provides a sequential R/W speeds upto 3GB/s and 2.2GB/s respectively with endurance rated at 10 DWPD for 5 years.

Editor's comments:- Samsung supplied an IOPS rating for the new SSD - but forgot to include the block size to which it relates - so I've asked for clarification.


Seagate launches new improved Nytro PCIe SSDs

Editor:- September 10, 2014 - Seagate today launched 2 new PCIe SSDs - which are based on the SSD product lines and brand assets of the recently acquired SSD business of LSI.
  • click for more infothe Nytro XP6302 is a HHHL, gen 3 PCIe SSD - which provides up to 1.75 TB of usable eMLC capacity with 200 microseconds average latency, and 295K/79K R/W IOPS (8KB) and rated for 0.9 DWPD (approx) write endurance for 5 years.
  • click for more infothe Nytro XP6210 is a FHHL gen 2 PCIe SSD with 1.86TB usable 19nm cMLC capacity, with 50 microseconds average latency 185K/120K R/W IOPS (8KB), and rated at 1.6 DWPD (approx) write endurance for 5 years.



HGST announces 2nd generation clustering software for FlashMAX PCIe SSDs

Editor:- September 9, 2014 - HGST today announced a new improved version of the high availability clustering capability previously available in the PCIe SSD product line acquired last year from Virident.

HGST's Virident Space allows clustering of up to 128 servers and 16 PCIe storage devices to deliver one or more shared volumes of high performance flash storage with a total usable capacity of more than 38TB.

HGST says its Virident HA provides a "high-throughput, low-latency synchronous replication across servers for data residing on FlashMAX PCIe devices. If the primary server fails, the secondary server can automatically start a standby copy of your application using the secondary replica of the data."

For more details see - HGST Virident Software 2.0 (pdf)

Editor's comments:- This capability had already been demonstrated last year - and ESG reported on the technology in January 2014.

But at that time - the clustering product called vShare - was restricted to a small number of servers - and the data access fabric was restricted to Infiniband only.

With the rev 2.0 software - the number of connected devices has increased - and users also have the lower cost option of using Ethernet as an alternative supported fabric.


StorageSearch.com updates 10 key SSD ideas in 2014

Editor:- September 5, 2014 - Are SSD years getting faster? It's not just the SSDs.

Anyway it seemed to me that an end of year SSD market update was due even though 1/3 of this year hasn't happened yet.

That's why StorageSearch.com this week published a new home page blog - updating 10 key SSD ideas in 2014.

As you might expect - PCIe SSDs come into the picture. But there's more to it than that. If you're impatient - you don't have you don't have to wait till January 2015. ...read the article


Plextor's M.2 PCIe SSD wins award at FMS

Editor:- August 7, 2014 - Plextor today announced that its M6e - an M.2 PCIe SSD - has won Best of Show for most Innovative flash memory technology at the Flash Memory Summit.

The M6e SSD combines a multi-core Marvell PCIe 9183 controller and Toshiba toggle NAND flash with firmware developed by Plextor's in-house team.


say hello to Shannon Systems

Editor:- August 6, 2014 - I hadn't heard of Shannon Systems before. But I got a nice email this morning from Xueshi Yang, CEO and co-founder who said he has been reading StorageSearch.com "for quite a number of years now" and also said that his company is showing their products at Flash Memory Summit.

Among other things - Xueshi Yang said - "Shannon System is a startup I co-founded in 2011 in China after I left Marvell.

"The company is dedicated to the enterprise flash storage market. Currently, we focus on the high performance PCIe market with our proprietary controllers and software systems. In April this year, we announced the industry first 6.4TB PCIe SSD with a single controller, which boasts 67us read access latency and 9 us write access latency (all in 4KB, random). While in June, we introduced a PCIe SSD with SFF-8639 interface, which is hot-pluggable. We currently serve over 100 customers in China, including Tier 1 internet companies, as well as other named customers such as China Mobile, China Telecomm etc."


eASIC supports Mobiveil's NVMe platform

Editor:- August 6, 2014 - eASIC today announced announced support for Mobiveil's NVMe platform (pdf) implemented in eASIC devices.

"eASIC is enabling the rapid deployment of SSD technology at substantially lower cost and up to 70% lower power than alternative solutions", said Jasbinder Bhoot, VP of Worldwide Marketing at eASIC. "By working with Mobiveil, customers will have access to a complete NVMe solution running in cost, power and performance optimized eASIC devices."


HGST rekindles concept of a PCM based PCIe SSD

Editor:- August 4, 2014 - HGST today announced it will demonstrate a PCM PCIe SSD concept at the Flash Memory Summit. HGST says the demonstration model delivers 3 million random read IOPS (512 Bytes) and a random read access latency of 1.5 microseconds.

Editor's comments:- Micron funded the world's first enterprise PCM PCIe SSD demo 3 years ago (in June 2011). The storage density of PCM resulted in an SSD which had pitifully low capacity compared to flash memory at that time - and earlier this year (in January 2014) there were reports that Micron had temporarily abandoned this idea.

Is HGST really going to wander into memory space where even the memory makers don't want to go? Or is this just a market signal that HGST isn't just looking at short term SSD product concepts?


Lite-On enters enterprise M.2 PCIe SSD market

Editor:- July 30, 2014 - Lite-On will be showing a new M.2 PCIe SSD for the enterprise market next week at the Flash Memory Summit.

The P1P is a M.2 PCIe SSD with capacities of 1TB and power loss protection circuit all in a small form factor.

The small form factor and high capacity allow enterprise customers to pack more storage in a smaller footprint. The P1P Series can deliver sequential R/W speeds up to 610MB/s and 520MB/s while random R/W speeds can be upto 95K/15K IOPS.

The drive has a MTBF of 2 million hours and an endurance rating of up to 1 drive write per day for 5 years.
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Let's hope Chris McCall at NexGen is wrong

when he says "PCIe - the Next Infiniband?"
Editor:- June 10, 2015 - Don't let the title of this blog - PCIe - the Next Infiniband? - by Chris McCall, SVP Marketing - NexGen- deter you from taking a look at it.

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PCIe SSD evangelists like me sincerely hope that PCIe won't fare like Infiniband - which - after a promising birth in 2000 - and IDC's woefully rash celebratory plaudit prediction that "more than 75% of all servers shipped in 2004 would be shipped with InfiniBand connectivity" - became sidelined by other technologies and lives on mostly as a trusted RDMA veteran in HPC and consults sometimes as a plush prototyping technology in risk averse SSD clustering concept proof demonstrators.

No I hope that PCIe as a fabric will do very much better than IB.

I suppose you could say that NexGen (the foundling iSCSI hybrid rackmount company discovered in the customer printout and adopted by Fusion-io but then later placed back on the pavement outside the car park by SanDisk - which didn't want rusty magneto storage sullying its own visions of rackmount SSD purity) has had some skin in the game although more as a systems integrator of PCIe SSDs than as an incubator.

And for those reasons Chris's blog provides a clear angst free mini modern survey of the state of the market ideas about PCIe fabric and lists some useful resources. ...read the article


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a guide to data compression techniques and where to use them for designers of SSDs and memory systems
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Inside the SSD controller brain the compressibility of data is one of the tools which can go into the mix of optimizing performance, endurance and competitive cost.

A recent paper - A Survey Of Architectural Approaches for Data Compression in Cache and Main Memory Systems by Sparsh Mittal and Jeffrey S. Vetter in IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems - reviews the published techniques available and places their relevance in the context of real and future memory types and applications.

The survey covers applications from embedded systems upto supercomputers.

In addition to being useful resource directory of related papers the article gives you a brief description of many compression techniques, where you might use them and what benefits you might expect.

See also:- list of articles and books by Sparsh Mittal which among other things covers caching techniques, reliability impacts and energy saving possibilities in a wide range of server architectures.
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the 3 fastest flash PCIe SSDs - list / lists
Are you tied up in knots trying to shortlist flash SSD accelerators ranked according to published comparative benchmarks?

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 my 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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How are fault tolerant PCIe SSD designs supported in chips?
PCIe in enterprise SSD designs - this video by PLX includes an introductory tutorial into PCIe and its performance and architectural capabilities for SSDs including automatic failover and multi-host capabilities.
PLX's switch chips also supports failover if the fault occurs in the PCIe switch fabric chips themselves. ... click to watch the PCIe in SSD video

extract - "...And in case one of the hosts fails and you want to connect the SSDs - or the devices connected to that host - to another host - that can be done automatically as well - and the surviving host can attach the devices that were attached to the failing host to itself and control it so that the system doesn't go down and the data stored in these devices doesn't get isolated from the main system."
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"This is a tsunami warning event for SSD vendors addressing the enterprise server acceleration market."
...editor's comments (September 24, 2009 ) when I alerted readers and vendors to the fact that search volume for PCIe SSDs had surpassed that for 2.5" SSDs for the first time.

This type of search spike had been a reliable advance predictor for new interfaces - such as SATA and iSCSI - in earlier phases of storage history - and search volume has also been a good predictor for successful SSD companies too.
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PCI Express SSDs Technical Pros and Cons
The great attraction of PCIe for SSD oems is that it can support a wide range of performance options with throughput upto 16GB/s, and much lower attachment costs than the alternatives.

The older busses like PCI and cPCI also provide performance which is adequate for many applications.

Bus connected SSDs have been around since the earliest days of the SSD market.

The advantage of this approach is high throughput and low latency compared to SSDs connected via traditional hard disk style interfaces like SAS, SATA, fibre-channel or InfiniBand.

But there are disadvantages too which include:-

1 - Bus style interfaces reduce the available market for the SSD oem. Because older servers may not have the interface, or perhaps the interface (for example Sun's SBus) is proprietary and is only available in a small range of models.

2 - Bus interfaces tend to have shorter permissable cable lengths - which restrict how such SSDs can be connected.

3 - Bus interfaces usually don't include intrinsic end to end error detection and correction. If the physical arrangement of the SSD pushes the speed and cable lengths too far - then errors can arise in the bus connect - which have to be dealt with in the associated driver.

...Later:- May 13, 2009 - Dolphin's CTO, Venkat Krishnan emailed this article correction.

"Dolphin's StorExpress addresses concerns of PCIe direct attached SSDs raised in (2) above. It includes support for different types of PCIe interfaces (ExpressModule, AMC, etc.). Multiple PCIe SSD cards can be used without requiring multiple PCIe slots in the server. The storage can be collocated at distances of up to 300m from the server and can also be potentially shared by more than one server."
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