|perspective - comparing the SSD market today
to earlier tech disruptions|
by Zsolt Kerekes,
editor - January 3, 2012
|It probably won't
surprise you to learn that the subject of SSDs came up a lot with the friends
and relatives I talked to during the recent Christmas holiday.|
I explain the significance of the SSD market to people with diverse backgrounds
in a couple of sentences?
That's quite a challenge.
easiest people to discuss the SSD market with are those with a background in
electronics - particularly if they have worked in semiconductor companies.
are also many common frames of reference when I talk to people who have
worked in the computer market.
Despite that, however, the
semiconductor related issues (such as risks of potential bottlenecks in
product roadmaps and reliability subtleties and cost factors associated with
of flash memory) are concepts which are beyond the comprehension of most
computer people - even if they understand how processors work. CPU designers
have stuck to the safe side of the chip technology rules street in recent
decades - whereas SSD designers have been crashing around and beyond the
safety barriers of accepted memory process design rules.
who are very computer literate just have to accept that there are important
strands in chip technology which they can't understand from first principles -
and they therefore have to rely on indirect clues and hope that the reference
sources they trust are correct when it comes to making supplier choices.
the flurry of acquisition and IPO fever in the SSD market in
2011 - it's
become much easier discussing the significance of the SSD market with people
whose backgrounds are financial - like accountants and business managers with
MBAs. That's because money talks. And the SSD financials tell a clear story.
Here is a market which was till recently too small to bother learning about.
But it now such good prospects for revenue growth (100% / year in some
segments) and potential
towering revenue ceilings. These factors mean that a handful of leading
SSD companies were valued in 2011 at a total amount worth more than the
combined revenue of the entire market of several hundred SSD companies. SSDs
could be a new tech growth bubble.
The toughest people for me to
explain the context of the SSD market to - are those who have no technology
background at all - even if they have achieved senior positions in people
related markets - like law and psychology.
In those circumstances I
know that not a word I say about architecture, chip technology or market size
is going to be understood. But I can still find reference points from everyday
life. And my argument goes something like this.
Since the early 1970s
there have been 3 revolutionary disruptive influences in the electronics and
- the commercialization of the internet
can relate where I think we are in the SSD market at the start of 2012 to
distinct phases in those earlier revolutionary markets.
- the transition of digital storage to solid state drives (SSDs)
with the microprocessor market.
The first microprocessors started
shipping in the early 1970s. By 1980 - it was clear that the micro was going to
affect a lot more than just the computer peripherals market. By that time micros
were being designed for wide deployment in factory automation and process
control systems and the new digital technologies enabled improvements in the
levels of efficiency and repeatable quality in the manufacture of everything
from foodstuffs and chemicals to cars - which had previously been impossible.
All this was still before the introduction of the Wintel PC - which as a
standard reference platform later enabled the creation of entirely new markets.
I would say that the SSD market today (despite its long
is similar to the state of the microprocessor market in 1980. Some of the SSD
types and applications for SSDs are already in use - but we still haven't got to
the equivalent of the 16/32 bit micro market - because there are many
architectural improvements and reference platforms still to be developed.
with the internet market.
The internet moved into a new higher
orbit with the introduction of commercial web sites in 1995. Before then the
primary use of the internet had been email - but as we now know - the web
eventually made it easier to find out information about almost anything and
then buy it in almost seamless real-time transactions.
equate the state of the SSD market today with the state of the web in about 1998
- when you could already see a lot of the promise and the direction that the
web was going towards (the hype was so great we had the dotcom bubble) but this
was still before Google became operational and long before the economics of
digital rights management - and iTunes and the Kindle.
In the SSD
market today we can extrapolate from current business uses of SSDs and speculate
about future SSD enabled markets. But we still haven't got the pure play SSD
enabled information economies in play yet. Most of what we've got today with
Facebook, YouTube and online games is SSD accelerated versions of businesses
that already existed before.
How long before we get to the Kindle age
in the SSD market?
I expect we'll see entirely new SSD enabled markets
in the next few years - but it could be 2015 or later before it starts to be
clear who the SSD equivalents of the Wintel platform (leveraging the
microprocessor) or Amazon and Apple (leveraging the web) will be.
you're the CEO in a new startup and you think that your SSD enabled services
will change the world - send me an email when you're ready for our readers to
|3 things that could have
killed flash SSDs|
emerging size of
the flash SSD market as you see it today was by no means inevitable. It owes a
lot to 3 competing storage media competitors which failed to evolve fast enough
in the Darwinian jungle of the storage market in the
One of these 3 contenders is definitely on the road to extinction -
but could one of the other 2 still emerge to threaten flash SSDs?
SSD's past phantom
demons explores the latent market threats which hovered around the flash SSD
market in the past decade. They seemed real and solid enough at the time.
|| Getting a realistic
perspective of flash SSD's past demons (which seemed very threatening at the
time) may help you better judge the so-called "new" generation of nv
memory contenders - which are also discussed in the article. ...read the article|
|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.|
all - how different can they be?
But don't let the experience of the
2.5" SSD market -
in which clusters of consumer SSD vendors use the
same or similar
controllers and hover
close together inpopular
(consumer) performance rankings - give you the wrong idea about
this market the performance limits and capabilities of the SSD aren't set by an
old hard disk interface
and package limitations.
In the PCIe market the products you get are
limited only by the imagination of the designers - tempered by the guesses of
marketers who are trying to predict the optimum (most salable) features for an
|From up here Terrorbyte's scary castle|
looked almost cute.
|the Modern Era of SSDs is
10 years old|
|Editor:- January 2, 2013 - My recent home page
Strategic Transitions in SSD -
mentions some of the key changes in the SSD market which took hold in recent
quarters - but as we're starting another new calendar year in SSD - I want to
say more about the context here.|
Even in a market which appears to be
so fast moving as the SSD market - where hot new SSD companies can enter the
top SSD companies list
(ranked by search) within weeks of exiting stealth mode, and some new
SSD companies are
acquired within a few quarters of launching their first product - it can
still take years before new technologies which excite technologists,
investors are adopted by more than 10% of SSD users.
strategic multi-year big changes and transitions which are sometimes hard to
pin down to a single year. For example the transition in the enterprise SSD
market from RAM
to 98% flash - which took 8 years.
Although it's easy to
recognize the start of new technology changes - it's harder to be so precise
about big market shifts - because those - by their very nature - occur only
when enough people get hold of a new way of doing things and change their buying
at the SSD market - 2013 now clearly marks the 10th anniversary of a
distinct market period which I now think of as - the Modern Era of SSDs.
What do I mean by the Modern Era of SSDs?
It's when SSDs
changed from being a niche tactical technology which satisfied the needs of
some markets (ruggedized military / industrial storage and next generation
server acceleration at any cost) to a time when the market advance of SSDs as a
significant well known core market within the computer industry became a
historical inevitability - and when the only serious technology which could
displace an SSD from its market role was another SSD.
products which we would recognize as enterprise SSDs were shipping for several
years before 2003 - it was in that year, 2003 - when there was enough confidence
in the minds of enough people in the SSD market that the future of SSDs could be
much bigger (100x bigger) and different to what had happened before.
wasn't simply my publication of
an article at the time
which explained why this could happen - nor simply the immediately post
publication discussions I had with SSD industry leaders at the time - nor indeed
in later years when founders and managers of new SSD companies kindly
told me that some of their thinking about the possibilities for the SSD
market had been influenced by those earlier articles on StorageSearch.com
It's just as much the case that the alternative futures which could have knocked
the SSD market off-course (such as faster CPU clock rates,
hard drives or faster
optical storage) didn't
The year after year "no-shows" by SSD's past
phantom demons were just as important as the new SSD technologies which did put
in an appearance.
Today it's clear to anyone looking seriously at
the data economy - the SSD market is here to stay and has its sights set on
being at the center of your future hardware and infrastructure decision making.
to big upcoming changes in SSD market thinking?
Can I say anything
at all useful at this stage about what the 2nd decade of the modern era of SSDs
will be like?
I think it will be the time when a critical mass of SSD
users become more sophisticated in their understanding and use of different
types of SSDs - and when each part of the SSD market becomes less generalized
and more focused.
It's not just about the
SSD software, and
iit's not just about the
SSD chip technologies.
These simply outline possibilities. What's important - and what will become even
clearer - is the dividing lines and colors of application specific SSDs.
specific enterprise SSDs - is a technology trend which started
shipping more than 3 years ago. But - as I said above - markets happen when
enough people have decided to make them happen - and not simply because
pioneering products are available.