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leading the way to the new storage frontier .....
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SAS SSDs
read the article on SSD ASAPs
auto caching SSDs
.....
picture of Z drive 4500 PCIe SSD from OCZ
bootable integrated PCIe SSD based acceleration
with caching optimized for Windows WXL
the Z-Drive 4500 - from OCZ

a Toshiba group company
.....

PCIe SSDs

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).

With over 100 million enterprise PCIe ports already shipped in the market (upto January 2014) and with waiting-to-be-exploited fabric capabilities which chipmaker PLX calls "ExpressFabric" (by which they mean PCIe as a fabric outside the box but still within the cabinet) the fast changing and converging PCIe SSD / server market is well positioned to expand into new applications.

Over 40 companies already ship enterprise accelerator PCIe SSDs (see list 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 most familiar form factor is cards, modules and racks. But a new form factor - for 2.5" PCIe SSDs which emerged in 2012 are opening 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 is aimed at the consumer SSD market and SSD notebooks. These consumer PCIe products have throughputs similar to the enterprise products of 5-6 years earlier - but aren't rated for heavy IOPS. Nevertheless I wouldn't be surprised to see them appear as enterprise components in some future arrays in read-intensive design slots.

An emerging competitive alternative to PCIe SSDs - at the low latency end of the applications spectrum inside (rather than outside) the server box - which started shipping in volume in 2014 - is a new class of low latency flash SSDs which plug into DIMM sockets which were originally designed for DRAM.

You can read more about these products (which go by various names such as TeraDIMMs, ULLtraDIMM SSDs, eXFlash DIMMs etc) in the memory channel SSDs page.
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SSD ad - click for more info
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don't all PCIe SSDs look pretty much the same?
When you look at the photos and headline specs for high speed PCIe SSDs - it's easy to come away with the impression that they all look the same and have about the same performance.

After all - how different can they be?

But don't let the experience of the SATA and SAS markets - in which enterprise SSD vendors cluster close together in performance rankings - give you the wrong idea about PCIe SSDs.

In this market the performance limits and capabilities of the SSD aren't set by fossilized hard disk interface and package limitations. They're limited only by the imagination of the designers - tempered by the educated guesses of marketers who are trying to predict the optimum (most salable) features for an ideal server side enterprise SSD.
click to read the article And because server apps vary - so too do those idealized designs too. ...read the article
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PCIe chips from PLX - click for more info
switches for leading PCIe SSD designs
ExpressLane from PLX Technology
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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.
SSD symmetries article Which symmetries are most important in an SSD? That depends on your application. ...click to read the article
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Today's commodity MLC flash has raw wear-out in the 2,000 to 3,000 write cycle range. And the future direction is downwards (towards worse).
SSD endurance - the forever war

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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PCIe SSD oems list
This is a (partial list) from past SSD news and articles:-

Angelbird, Apacer, Avant Technology, BiTMICRO, Biwin, CoreRise, Dolphin, DDRdrive, EMC, Eonsil, Extreme Engineering, Foremay, Fuji Xerox, Fusion-io, HGST, Huawei, Hynix, IBM, InnoDisk, Intel, KingSpec, LaCie, Lite-On, LSI, Mach Xtreme Technology, Marvell, Memblaze Technology, Memoright, Micron, Mushkin, NetApp, Netlist, OCZ, Oracle, OWC, PhotoFast, Plextor, QLogic, Ramaxel Technology, Renice Technology , RunCore, Samsung, SanDisk, SANRAD, Seagate, Shannon Systems, SMART, Sonnet Technologies, STEC, Super Talent , Texas Memory Systems, Toshiba, Virident Systems.
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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.


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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
2.5" PCIe SSDs
the fastest SSDs
SSD endurance - forever war
what changed in SSD year 2014?
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
PCIe SSDs versus memory channel SSDs
don't all PCIe SSDs look pretty much the same?
Enterprise SSDs - the Survive and Thrive Guide
an SSD conversation with PLX about PCIe fabric etc
what's so different about the design of Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs?
PCIe SSDs - state of the market & technology- FMS 2014 (pdf)
PCIe SSD news below / SAS SSD news / other SSD news
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.


Diablo is the #1 SSD company in September (so far)

Editor:- September 23, 2014 - This page is about PCIe SSDs - right?

So why am I going to use this space to briefly talk about Diablo? - pioneer of DDR3/4 flash DIMM SSDs.

I give you 2 reasons in SSD news.

The main point is that - due to recent developments in PCIe SSD fabric... having SSDs located in a DIMM socket in one server - doesn't preclude that very same data being accessed by another server as if it were just a locally installed PCIe SSD any more.

That's created a lot of buzz ...read more in SSD news


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.


OCZ samples hot swap, fast 2.5" NVMe SSDs

Editor:- September 9, 2014 - OCZ announced that this month it will begin sampling a new 2.5" hot swappable enterprise PCIe SSD - the Z-Drive 6000 - is a native PCIe 3.0 NVMe 1.1 solution - which the company says "provides industry-leading IOPS per dollar". It has a SFF-8639 connector, internal RAID, power loss data protection, "consistent low latency", and encryption.

Editor's comments:- Although OCZ demonstrated the SSD industry's first working 3.5" PCIe SSD prototype 4 years ago - in August 2010 - the company didn't follow through to establish an early lead in its natural successor - the 2.5" enterprise PCIe market - where current leaders today are Micron and Samsung. The main reason for that was financial problems in OCZ in the years which immediately followed - which mitigated against products which didn't have a short term guaranteed market.

Now, however, with OCZ having been almost a year as a Toshiba group company - the small form factor enterprise NVMe market looks like a natural fit for OCZ - as an extension of its long running conventional form factor PCIe SSD accelerator business.


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.


the Top SSD Companies in Q2 2014

Editor:- July 28, 2014 - StorageSearch.com today published the new 29th quarterly edition of the Top SSD Companies - based on metrics in Q2 2014. ...read the article


OCZ announces availability of ZD-XL SQL Accelerator 1.5

Editor:- July 15, 2014 - OCZ this week announced availability of version 1.5 of its ZD-XL SQL Accelerator (PCIe SSD and caching software bundle) the beta version of which was announced in April.


continuity of PLX's PCIe box platform?

Editor:- July 10, 2014 - Yesterday a reader asked if I thought that the PCIe fabric system - which I had written about last month in the article - An SSD conversation with PLX - would still be available as a product after the acquisition of PLX by Avago Technologies closed?

He pointed out that Avago avoids competing with its own systems customers (which is why they divested the SSD business from LSI) and also Avago isn't a systems company.

Here's what I said...

The points you make are valid and I had wondered the same thing myself.

But I think the PCIe fabric box (ExpressFabric solution) will continue in some form or other – because it started out as a system design kit for demonstrating what could be done with the next generation of PCIe chips and software stacks. So it's an essential sales tool for the chip business.

Before the announcement from Avago – the PLX guys had already said that any of their customers would be welcome to use as much or as little as they wanted from the SDK box – as PLX wasn't originally advancing this as a systems product.

But I could see from my own judgement (and PLX confirmed this) that for some customers – having availability of such a box as a product would be a convenient tool.

Incidentally - that's how Intel got into the systems business - with their Multibus SBC product range in the 1970s - which was a response to customers asking if they could buy the boards which were in the early microprocessor development systems.

Returning to Avago and the PCIe fabric SDK

I agree - it's possible that Avago may decide not to get into the volume supply business of these boxes – but in that case I think the boxes (and design IP for these boxes) would continue to be available in some form from a designated source – otherwise lack of this integration concept tool would slow down market adoption of the new PCIe fabric chips.

It's in the interests of Avago and its oem customers to ensure that the ExpressFabric SDK remains available as a software reference architecture which is at the center of this new ecosystem.

Later:- I asked for an official response about this (just in case I had missed anything) but - as I expected - the answer was - it will come in a future press release.


Avago agrees to acquire PLX

Editor:- June 23, 2014 - PLX Technology today announced that it has agreed to be acquired by Avago Technologies for approximately $309 million.


SanDisk to buy Fusion-io

Editor:- June 16, 2014 - SanDisk today announced a definitive agreement to acquire Fusion-io in all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.1 billion.

Editor's comments:- What will SanDisk really get from Fusion-io?

Here's the short version from me.

"The ability to get more enterprise petabytes out from the same raw flash chips in - by shipping it through better architecture - is a more significant business factor in the flash memory market today than the ability to do another cell geometry shrink - or to add a few more toppings on the 3D pizza. "

For the much longer version(s) - see my article in SSD news


PLDA enters the PCIe SSD controller market with 6.6 Gb/s NVMe controller

Editor:- June 9, 2014 - PLDA today anounced immediate availability of a new SSD controller aimed at the PCIe SSD market.

PLDA's XpressRICH3 IP is a high performance, low latency, highly-configurable PCI Express 3.0 soft IP supporting endpoint, root port, switch and bridge configurations. The certified design has been engineered for both ASIC/SoC and FPGA implementations.

Editor's comments:- PLDA has written a product description - Conquering the challenges of PCIe with NVMe in order to deliver highly competitive Enterprise PCIe SSDs (pdf) - which contains an overview of the design. Here are some extracts.
  • power saving features? - PLDA implements L1 PM Sub-states, reducing power consumption without affecting performance.
  • performance? - 270K write IOPS, 12µS write latency write (4KB) using the FPGA-based reference design.
Here are some questions I put to the company.
  • is there a minimum order quantity or cost associated with licensing your IP?

    No minimum quantity.
  • What is your deliverable?

    An Encrypted Source code file that can be downloaded or sent on CD
  • How does a customer evaluate your IP?

    We provide 1 month Free Evaluation IP



new article re PCIe and SSDs

Editor:- June 5, 2014 - StorageSearch.com today published a new article - an SSD conversation with PLX.

That concept diagram they've been talking about for the past 3 years - may soon become a 1U PCIe fabric box reality which you can use to glue your servers and SSDs together.


new PCIe SSDs from Fusion-io

Editor:- June 5, 2014 - Fusion-io today launched 2 new gen 2.0 x8 standard height, half length PCIe SSD product lines - which they call the Atomic Series - which are available in 2 different price and application categories.
  • PX600 series - upto 5.2TB usable capacity, with 92µS / 15µS R/W latency, 2.7GB/s / 2.1GB /s R/W throughput and 375K write IOPS - designed for high end servers - with 5 years warranty.
  • SX300 - upto 6.4TB usable capacity - with similar latency to PX600 - but lower throughput (2.6GB/s / 1.2GB/s R/W throughput) and 16% lower power consumption - designed and priced for scale-out architectures and hyperscale environments - with 3 years warranty.
Fusion-io says that more than 7,000 customers in over 80 countries use its products to reduce latency and speed the flow of data-driven applications.


Hynix buys Violin's PCIe SSD product line

Editor:- May 29, 2014 - Today in line with previous guidance signals - Violin Memory (which in January 2013 had been observed to tentatively dip its toes as a late entrant into the raging torrents of the PCIe SSD market - but which had not been regarded by me as very likely to survive a rigorous swim) announced that it has sold its PCIe SSD product line to Hynix which paid $23 million in cash and assumed certain liabilities totaling $0.5 million.


Marvell samples controller for SATAe SSDs

Editor:- May 21, 2014 - If you're designing SATA Express SSDs then Marvell today announced it is sampling the 1st SSD controller specifically designed for the SATAe market - which will enable the design of 2.5" PCIe SSDs at costs which could be competitive with fast SATA SSDs.

Marvell's 88SS1083 is a 2 lane PCIe Gen2 SSD controller with transfer rates up to 1GB/s. It supports DevSleep and L1.2 PCIe low power state - to minimize power consumption in notebook and enterprise array environments.


EMC acquires (memory channel SSD in a box but connected via PCIe company) DSSD

Editor:- May 5, 2014 - EMC has acquired a stealth mode rackmount SSD company - DSSD - it was announced today.

Products based on the new DSSD architecture - which connects to servers via PCIe - are expected to be available in 2015.

Editor's comments:- for a competitive analysis and technology perspective see rackmount SSD news


the Top SSD Companies in Q1 2014

Editor:- April 30, 2014 - StorageSearch.com today published the 28th quarterly edition of the Top SSD Companies List based on metrics in Q1 2014. Newcomers to the list included Maxta and A3CUBE and there were significant movements in the top 10 companies. ...read the article


LSI's Nytro works with BPE in SQL Server 2014

Editor:- April 24, 2014 - A lot of SSD companies have announced that their products are compatible with Microsoft's SQL Server 2014. Another noteworthy company in that category is LSI - who today announced that its Nytro flash accelerator cards (PCIe SSDs) work with the new Buffer Pool Extension feature.


OCZ launches new desktop PCIe SSD

Editor:- April 24, 2014 - OCZ today launched a new gen 2 PCIe SSD for high performance desktop uses such as gaming and workstation. The Linux and Windows compatible RevoDrive 350 (240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacity models) has R/W speeds upto 1.8 / 1.7 GB/s and 140,000 4K random write IOPS.

Editor's comments:- a key difference between this type of prosumer desktop SSD and the kind you need in intensive 24x7 server slots is endurance.

OCZ says the RevoDrive 350 is rated at "upto 50GB of host writes per day for 3 years". That may be OK for a desktop - but if you translate that into enterprise jargon - DWPD for 5 years - it translates into 0.1 - which is 40x lower than a typical enterprise PCIe drive.


Fusion-io says - we don't regard NVM DIMMs as a threat to our PCIe SSD business

Editor:- April 23, 2014 - Fusion-io today reported revenue up 14% yoy to $100 million but losses have grown too - to $30 million for the recent quarter.

Editor's comments:- Here are some technology points which emerged from the investor conference call.
  • Threat to FIO's PCIe SSD business from SanDisk's ULLtraDIMMs? (memory channel SSDs).

    Lance Smith said - he thought NVM DIMMs were a validation of what FIO had already done - but he regarded NVM DIMMs (in their current form) as a niche market. He went on to say - "We don't believe that DDR-3 and the memory interface is the bottleneck. It's about managing the nand and getting the best performance out of the nand."
  • Re 3rd generation iodrives? - These are being qualified. FIO's 3rd generation products - and the 5th generation of nand flash geometry used by the company - will be available in the next month or so.



if memory channel SSDs cost nothing - would there still be a market for PCIe SSDs?

Editor:- April 17, 2014 - StorageSearch.com today published a new blog - memory channel SSDs versus PCIe SSDs are these really different markets? - which revisits (from a current perspective) some of the key questions I posed a year ago about Memory Channel SSDs.

Are these really different markets? And - at the boundary limits of price - what are the different application roles - where one type of SSD is better than the other? ...read the article


Editor:- April 16, 2014 - BiTMICRO recently announced that Bharadwaj Pudipeddi has joined the company as VP of Engineering and Lead Architect. Pudipeddi's past design roles in notable SSD companies include 2 years at Violin Memory.


what's the market for Plextor's PCIe SSD?

Editor:- April 7, 2014 - I asked Plextor's virtual marketing representative in the US - Andrew Erickson at Alaniz Marketing to tell me more about Plextor's thinking about routes to market for their entry level (Gen2) PCIe SSD market offering - the M6e.
Plextor consumer PCIe SSD
He said - "The M6e is marketed directly to consumers as an end-user upgrade and mostly via newegg and major e-tailers."

Andrew went on to say - "Plextor is definitely moving into the enterprise space and we're expecting to see a couple of read intensive and multi-use ssd products later this year. It sounds like some of the enterprise firmware advances may already be evident in the M6e - though it's not being marketed in that way. I have seen some Plextor drives sold in high end gaming rigs, but I'm not aware of current plans to sell OEM at this time."


Samsung's new 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSD

Editor:- March 25, 2014 - Although Samsung's own mystery meat navigation inspired enterprise SSD selection page doesn't list this product yet (at the time of writing this) Samsung is engaged in the 2.5" PCIe SSD market - and is shipping a 1.6TB NVMe PCIe SSD rated at 7 DWPD for 5 years to Dell for use in its PowerEdge R920 servers.


PCIe Switching - new article in EnterpriseTech.com

Editor:- March 13, 2014 - A new article in EnterpriseTech.com - PCIe Switching Takes on Ethernet, InfiniBand - reviews the antecedents and current state of the PCIe fabric market.

This should be of interest to anyone thinking about the emerging architectural influences which may impact their plans within the PCIe SSD market.

One of the many vendors discussed in the article - PLX - says it's "not targeting warehouse-scale datacenters... but is rather thinking on a smaller scale, from hundreds to thousands of nodes." ...read the article


a new SSDserver nomenclature?

Editor:- March 5, 2014 - In a new home page blog today - StorageSearch.com published proposals for a new shorthand for SSD enhanced enterprise servers in the context of complex architectural dialogs. ...read the article

(You won't need this if all your projects look the same, or if your plans only include small numbers of SSDservers.)


OCZ launches Z-Drive 4500 - 19nm enterprise PCIe SSD

Editor:- March 4, 2014 - OCZ is still using LSI's SandForce SSD controllers (8x SF-2582 enterprise SATA (pdf)) in its newest PCIe SSD - the Z-Drive 4500 Series - launched today - which has upto 3.2TB of usable 19nm flash, R/W bandwidth of 2.9GB/s and 2.2 GB/s respectively, and 252K / 76 K R/W IOPS (4KB) in a FHHL form factor and is integrated with OCZ's new WXL caching software.

news image - click for info

See also:- Z-Drive 4500 briefing notes (pdf)

Editor's comments:- As I reported in an interview last November - OCZ's VXL bundles have been very successful in small to medium scale enterprise deployments. The evolution of this product line - supporting as it does another new generation of (lower cost) memory - will further extend its reach.


A3CUBE unveils PCIe memory fabric for
10,000 node-class PCIe SSD architectures


Editor:- February 25, 2014 - PCIe SSDs can now access a true PCIe connected shared memory fabric designed by A3CUBE - which exited stealth today with the launch of their remote shared broadcast memory network - RONNIEE Express - which provides 700nS (nanoseconds) raw latency (4 byte message) and which enables message throughput - via standard PCIe - which is 8x better than InfiniBand.

Editor's comments:- I spoke to the company's luminaries recently - who say they intend to make this an affordable mainstream solution.

The idea of using PCIe as a fabric to share data at low latency and with fast throughput across a set of closely located servers isn't a new one.

The world's leading PCIe chipmaker PLX started educating designers and systems architects about these possibilities a few years ago - as a way to elegantly answer a new set of scalability problems caused by the increasing adoption of PCIe SSDs. These questions include:-
  • how do you make this expensive resource available to more servers?
  • how do you enable a simple to implement failover mechanism - so that data remains accessible in the event of either a server or SSD fault?
In the least year or so - we've seen most of the leading vendors in the enterprise PCIe SSD market leverage some of the new features in PCIe chips - to implement high availability SSDs with low latency.

But although there are many ways of doing this - the details are different for each vendor.

And - until now - if you wanted to share data at PCIe-like latency across a bunch of PCIe SSDs from different companies - located in different boxes - the simplest way to do that was to bridge across ethernet or infiniband. - And even though it has been technically possible with standard software packages - the integration, education and support issues - compared to legacy SAN or NAS techniques would be extremely daunting.

That's where A3CUBE comes into the picture. Their concept is to provide a box which enables any supported PCIe device to connect to any other - at low latency and with high throughput - in an architecture which scales to many thousands of nodes.

At the heart of this is a shared broadcast memory window - of 128Mbytes - which can be viewed simultaneously by any of the attached ports.

If you've ever used shared remote memory in a supercomputer style of system design at any time in the past 20 years or so - you'll know that the critical thing is how the latency grows as you add more ports. So that was one of the questions I asked.

Here's what I was told - "The latency is related to the dimension of the packet for example: In a real application using a range of 64-256 bytes of messages the 3D torus latency doubled after 1,000 nodes. With larger packets, the number of nodes to double the latency becomes grater. But the real point is that the latency of a simple p2p in a standard 10GE is reached after 29,000 nodes.

"A more clear example of the scalability of the system is this. Imagine that an application experiences a max latency of 4 us with 64 nodes, now we want to scale to 1,000 nodes the max latency that the same application experience will became 4.9 us. 0.9 us of extra latency for 936 more nodes."

Editor again:- Those are very impressive examples - and demonstrates that the "scalability" is inherent in the original product design.

A3CUBE didn't want to say publicly what the costs of the nodes and the box are at this stage. But they answered the question a different way.

Their aim is to price the architecture so that it works out cheaper to run than the legacy (pre-PCIe SSD era) alternatives - and they're hoping that server oems and fast SSD oems will find A3CUBE's way of doing this PCIe fabric scalability stuff - is the ideal way they want to go.

There's a lot more we have to learn - and a lot of testing to be done and software to be written - but for users whose nightmare questions have been - how do I easily scale up to a 10,000 PCIe SSD resource - and when I've got it - how can I simplify changing suppliers? - there's a new safety net being woven. Here are the essential details (pdf).


PLX is ready with 1st Gen3 compliant PCIe switches

Editor:- February 4, 2014 - PLX Technology today announced it is the 1st PCIe switch vendor to have achieved Gen3 compliance having passed the compliance testing procedures of PCI-SIG.

Editor's comments:- the new standard doubles the maximum data bandwidth of PCIe SSDs to 1GB/s per lane in each direction - which enable 32GB/s total throughput for a x16 link.

See also:- storage ORGs, SSD interface chips, Gen3 faqs, PCI Express 3.0 Integrators List


ESG reports on clustering Virident's PCIe SSDs

Editor:- January 23, 2014 - ESG today published a test report for Virident / HGST's FlashMAX II (PCIe SSDs) which validated the ability of this product family and its related software (vShare ) to be configured for useful operation in an Oracle RAC environment in high availability configurations which were clustered via Infiniband.

Although ESG said performance was good they also commented on some current limitations of the product suite for this type of application. In particular:-
  • the lack of a graphical interface for setup and performance mintoring,, and
  • the lack of support for other supported fabrics such as 10GbE (mentioned in the report as a future option), and PCIe fabric (which was not mentioned at all in this report).



This is what it takes to be #2 in PCIe SSDs

Editor:- January 22, 2014 - LSI said today in its quarterly financial report it has shipped over 100,000 PCIe SSDs since it entered this market in April 2012.

Editor's comments:- LSI shipped 60,000 units in the 8 months from May to December 2013 (a figure calculated by subtracting the numbers contained in an earlier announcement.)

Despite those impressive numbers - LSI itself estimates that it is still the #2 company in this market. Which gives you an idea of how large this market has grown.


IBM launches first memory channel SSD based servers

Editor:- January 16, 2014 - IBM today disclosed preliminary test results comparing the latency of memory channel SSDs to PCIe SSDs - in the launch press release of its new X6 architecture for X86 servers.

IBM said - "Our evaluators are seeing 5-10 microseconds write latency for eXFlash DIMMs in preliminary testing vs. 15-19 microseconds latency for PCIe-based flash storage from Fusion IO, Micron, and Virident, and 65 microseconds latency for Intel S3500 and S3700 SSDs."

IBM also announced enhancements and sales figures for the rackmount SSD product line it acquired from Texas Memory Systems a year ago. See SSD news for more about the latter.


reasons to expect more PCIe SSDs in 2014 PC Market

Editor:- December 16, 2013 - A new article in DRAMeXchange discusses the issue of SATA 3 SSDs being replaced by PCIe SSDs in the consumer SSD market in future designs of PCs. ...read the article


how to avoid hot pluggable PCIe SSD failures

Editor:- December 3, 2013 - What happens if you test PCIe SSDs for their sensitivity to data corruption or even failure - in the event of sudden power loss?

You'd think that with more hot pluggable products coming into the market -especially in the 2.5" form factor - that the experimental outcomes would be known by the designers and problems debugged so that users wouldn't have to worry.

In August 2013 Quarch Technology launched some special test equipemnt to inject power related faults into PCIe SSDs - and the company today announced it has extended this range to automate power line error testing of PCIe SFF SSDs.

Andy Norrie, Technical Director at Quarch Technology told me today that "Almost every combination of test kit we have tried in Quarch (a number of friendly customers lent us kit and eval drives to get the new module up and running) has failed in some way. Sometimes failing to come back up again nicely, sometimes with a full BSOD which will almost certainly have risked data loss."


estimating the size of the server-side SSD market etc...

Editor:- October 8, 2013 - Before you make that next presentation about what's happening in the business world of enterprise flash, or before you commit to any future datelines for hard drives being sold into the enterprise - you'd be well advised to meet Ken and the enterprise SSD software event horizon - the (long anticipated) new home page blog on StorageSearch.com.


new route to market for FIO's ioScale

Editor:- September 26, 2013 - IBM - which has been offering Fusion-io's ioDrive (PCIe SSD) technology in its product line since December 2009 has now become the first server oem to remarket the ioScale - a product described as having been optimized (price and feature set-wise) for huge end users in the SSD dark matter segment at the time of its launch in January 2013.


Demartek blog re NVMe

Editor:- September 19, 2013 - The unruly PCIe SSD market was threatened with standards which might tame it several years ago. The state of play is assessed in a new blog - re IDF2013 and NVMe written by Dennis Martin, President Demartek . ...read the article


LinkedIn uses Virident SSDs

Editor:- August 28, 2013 - Virident Systems today announced that LinkedIn is a customer of its PCIe SSDs.


Skyera offers PCIe attach to petabyte class SSD

Editor:- August 13, 2013 - Skyera today announced that. among other things, it will introduce PCIe connectivity (to the existing FC and iSCSI) as well as replication in the next version of its rackmount SSDs - the skyEagle - which will ship in the first half of 2014 - offering 500TB uncompressed (2.5TB deduped and compressed) in a 1U form factor at a record breaking list price expected to be under $2,000 per uncompressed terabyte.


SMART starts sampling 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 scale with the number of ULLtraDIMM deployed in each server.


Samsung enters the 2.5" PCIe SSD market

Editor:- July 18, 2013 - Samsung today announced its entry into the 2.5" PCIe SSD market. Its new NVMe SSD has upto 1.6TB capacity, read throughput upto 3GB/s, and up to 740K IOPS


PCIe topologies for enterprise SSDs

Editor:- July 17, 2013 - PLX Technology recently published a white paper - Enterprise Storage and PCI Express - which gives an overview of past, current and future PCIe SSD connection topologies along with a list of detailed reference articles.

Along with the clear text and authoritative viewpoint (PLX is the leading supplier of PCIe chips to the SSD industry) the article includes a complete set of attractive pictures too - which make it easier to visualize the many different interconnection methods being discussed. Below is an example from a section in the paper - called - Taking PCIe Out of the Box.

image from PLX article about PCIe SSD topologies

In recent years we've seen the start of a growing diversity in both the type and functionality of PCIe SSDs. PLX's new article provides a good introduction to what can be done with PCIe in an SSD context - and may make you rethink your ideas about the roles of this interface too. ...read the article

See also:- interface chips and IP, 7 silos for enterprise SSDs


Samsung enters PCIe SSD market

Editor:- June 17, 2013 - Samsung has entered the PCIe SSD market with an M.2 form factor model (80mm x 22mm) aimed at notebooks. Samsung's XP941 - which weighs less than 6g - has a sequential read performance of 1,400MB/s, and capacity up to 512GB.

Editor's comments:- the SSD notebook market began the year before PCIe SSDs started being used in the enterprise.

But in the first 5 years of its history (2006-2010) the notebook SSD market was a disappointment to SSD evangelists like me - because integration with PCs was so bad. And for years on these pages I ranted that notebooks using SSDs would never be able to reach their true potential as long as they were still wasting their inherently light CPU resources and latency advantages by talking to the CPU via old fashioned hard disk interfaces like SATA.

The exciting thing about today's announcement by Samsung is that consumer grade PCIe SSDs for notebooks will enable a dramatically different user experience which will help to create new markets.

Will there be a crossover into the enterprise market?

It's inevitable that some people will ask - what would an array of consumer priced PCIe SSDs look like in a box? And no doubt you will probably see such products coming onto the market. And that might lead to a temporary state of user confusion about expectations for PCIe SSDs.

But setting aside for the moment the obvious considerations at the single drive level of differences in endurance and performance characteristics - I think the key differentiators of enterprise PCIe SSDs compared to consumer PCIe SSDs are the different degree of data integrity (higher for the enterprise), power fail management and support for fault tolerance.


Violin's new blog on PCIe vs FC SAN SSDs

Editor:- June 11, 2013 - How much confidence do you have in the fault tolerance of the SSD system which you're deploying? - And how different are the reliability costs when you scale PCIe SSDs compared to rackmount SSDs?

These are some of the issues discussed in a new blog by Violin - Flash Memory: too Array or to Card - written by the company's CTO of Software - Jonathan Goldick - who warns that when you're estimating the latency advantages between different ways of connecting SSDs - "Always be cognizant that you may just be moving the bottleneck to the software." ...read the article


Micron turns up the heat for adoption of 2.5" PCIe SSDs

Editor:- May 3, 2013 - Micron yesterday announced it's sampling a new model in the hot swappable 2.5" PCIe SSDs market - the P420m has upto 1.4TB MLC capacity and can deliver 750K R IOPS.


QLogic enters the enterprise SSD market - with SAN IOPS caching accelerator

Editor:- March 22, 2013 - QLogic yesterday entered the enterprise SSD market (in the PCI SSD and SSD ASAPs segments) with the launch its first product - the FabricCache 10000 Series adapter (pdf) - which provides transparent sharable and clusterable caching for FC SANs.

The 2 card set (upto 400GB flash, and 2x 8Gbps FC ports) can deliver upto 310,000 initiator IOPS and supports upto 2,048 concurrent logins.

QLogic says - FabricCache uses just a single standard adapter driver per OS, the same QLogic field-proven adapter driver stack that has shipped with more than 13 million FC ports. The FabricCache adapter appears logically to the server as a single QLogic HBA which integrates seamlessly into current enterprise server and infrastructure environments.

Editor's comments:- from the business and marketing perspective QLogic's new Mt. Rainier branded SSD is a tardy, pragmatic and cunning response to the threats and challenges posed by SSDs to traditional storage ecosystems vendors.

Tardy - because the first SSD ASAP appliances - which used SSDs to automatically and transparently accelerate access to SAN storage first shipped in 2009. And the first enterprise PCIe SSDs started shipping in 2007.

Pragmatic - for a bunch of reasons
  • Pragmatic - because QLogic's new products provide a credible way for the company to participate and get customer experience in the crowded high value PCIe SSD market - by recycling IP from (what would otherwise soon be downgraded to) a commodity IP base (FC SAN physical adapters).

    In my 2011 article - don't all PCIe SSDs look pretty much the same? - SSD ASAPs (like QLogic's FabricCache ) were discussed as one of the many options for market differentiation.
  • Pragmatic - for another reason too - because with 50 or more different flavors of auto-caching/tiering software schemes already in the market - QLogic has neatly side-stepped the issue of participating as yet another new SSD software company which user have got to learn about - and instead has cleverly positioned its product as needing no new software. (The FabricCache adapters learn everything they need to know from being acticated by standard FC HBA drivers.)
Cunning - because the implied message to users here is:- "if you want to fool around with SSD auto-accelerating your SAN storage - you can do it without haveing to learn about new software. - All the software you need to know about is already running your interface HBAs."

This is kind of sneaky - because in reality - if users are investing in this product - they will soon start to care about the internals of the software - and to ponder on the ability of QLogic to continue delivering good market roadmap symmetry across upcoming new generations of back end SAN storage systems as these SAN racks themselves change their internal make-up from hard drives to flash.

Another consideration is that - accelerating data I/O between a traditional server SAN stack and storage on the SAN - may give better results than without any flash - but may not be as good an ROI as the competing alternative of accelerating apps performance using similar flash capacity but with an interface agnostic bunch of algorithms.

Nevertheless - QLogic's new SSDs provide a "low perceived risk" way for users - who don't want to plunge deeply into the mystical and changeable details of SSD acceleration - to experiment and fool around with the benefits of SSD SAN acceleration.

Before I get any emails from investors asking - is this good for QLogic? or - is it bad for Fusion-io (or Virident)? Here are my thoughts.

Companies in the server SAN infrastructure market have no future without an SSD core. So having a plausible SSD product - even at this late stage of the enterprise SSD market development game- upgrades QLogic from a future as a mere commodity interface chip supplier to a plausible player.

I doubt if any PCIe SSD makers feel in any way threatened by QLogic's new product.

See also:- QLogic's informative white paper - QLogic Mt. Rainier Integrates SSDs with SAN Connectivity (pdf)



9 million IOPS in a single PCIe SSD

Editor:- March 5, 2013 - Fusion-io today announced it has achieved 9.6 million IOPS (64 byte) from a single 365GB MLC ioDrive2 (PCIe SSD).

This performance is made possible using APIs in Fusion-io's ioMemory SDK (such as Auto-Commit Memory) which integrate flash into host systems, allowing data to bypass normal bottlenecks in the OS.

FIO says its APIs have been embraced by dozens of industry-leading software companies to enhance their applications.
archived versions of this PCIe SSDs news page
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the SSD Buyers Guide
where are we now with SSD software?
PCIe SSDs for newbies - what are they etc
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"Enterprise Flash" - is a market phenomenon not a technology.
Sugaring flash for the enterprise - describes - how the market changed from 2004 to 2013.
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PCIe SSDs (and their descendants) are one of the 7 main SSD building blocks of the the future datacenter storage Silo architecture.
The enterprise PCIe SSD market itself can also be further segmented in the following ways


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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 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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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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"...all new datacenter servers will include SSD acceleration - instead of the tiny percentage today."
......from the article - will the enterprise SSD market be big enough for all these companies [list] to grow?
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How Big is the Market for PCIe SSDs?
In 2010 I wrote here that I confidently expect that PCIe SSDs will become a multi-billion dollar a year market.

That's now the standard SSD analyst view.

Since 2010 most of the top 10 SSD companies also sold PCIe SSDs.

For more about PCIe SSDs fit into the enterprise SSD landscape see - introduction to SSD market silos.
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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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