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reaching for the petabyte SSD - article on StorageSearch.com
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Petabyte SSD Milestones from Storage History
NetApp has shipped 59PB of SSDs in past 3 years

Editor:- November 19, 2013 - Among other things - Network Appliance today disclosed it has has shipped over 59 petabytes of flash storage in the past 3 years.

Editor's comments:- What NetApp actually said was "over 60PB to date".

My calculation goes like this... The company shipped 1PB in its first year in the SSD market - which ended in the 3rd quarter of 2010. So it's shipped approximately 60PB in 3 years. Probably more than 1/2 of that will have been in the past year.

How does that compare with others? It doesn't sound like a lot in the context of today's market.

According to a blog by Toshiba - the analyst data which they have aggregated projects that 8,000 PB of enterprise flash SSDs will ship in 2014.


Skyera will ship half petabyte 1U SSD in 2014

Editor:- August 13, 2013 - Skyera today launched 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.


Nimbus ships petabyte SSDs / month

Editor:- January 22, 2013 - Nimbus Data Systems today announced it has been shipping at the rate of over 1 petabyte of SSD storage / month.


WhipTail shipped over 3 petabytes SSD storage in 2012

Editor:- January 17, 2013 - WhipTail recently announced that its revenue grew 300% in 2012 and that it has shipped a total of over 3.7 petabytes of SSD storage


Nimbus HALO OS supports 0.5 Petabyte SSD in a single SSD file system

In January 2012 - Nimbus announced its entry into the high availability enterprise SSD market with the uveiling of the company's - E-Class systems - which are 2U rackmount SSDs with 10TB eMLC per U of usable capacity and no single point of failure.

Nimbus software (which supports upto 0.5 petabytes in a single SSD file system) automatically detects controller and path failures, providing non-disruptive failover.Pricing starts at $150K approx for a 10TB dual configuration system.


0.4 Petabyte SLC SSD feasible in a single cabinet

In December 2011 - Texas Memory Systems announced imminent availability of the RamSan-720 - a 4 port (FC/IB) 1U rackmount SSD which provides 10TB of usable 2D (FPGA implemented) RAID protected and hot swappable - SLC capacity with 100/25 microseconds R/W latency (with all protections in place) delivering 400K IOPS (4KB), 5GB/s throughput - with no single point of failure (at $20K/TB approx list).

The high density and low power consumption of this SSD made it feasible to stuff over 400TB of usable SSD capacity into a single cabinet without fear of over heating.


Hybrid Memory Cubes tick boxes for feasibility of Petabyte SSDs

In October 2011 - Samsung and Micron launched a new industry initiative - the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium - to standardize a new module architecture for memory chips - enabling greater density, faster bandwidth and lower power.

HMC will enable SSD designers to pack 10x more RAM capacity into the same space with upto 15x the bandwidth, while using 1/3 the power due to its integrated power management plane. The same technology will enable denser flash SSDs too.


university researchers compare SSD and tape archives

In - October 2011 a white paper - Using Storage Class Memory for Archives with DAWN, a Durable Array of Wimpy Nodes (pdf) - written by academics at University of California, Santa Cruz and Stanford University - and published under the auspices of the Storage Systems Research Center compared the long term cost and reliability of solid state archival storage and traditional media - such as tape.


over 100 Petabytes of SandForce Driven SSDs in 1 year

In February 2011 - SandForce announced it had shipped more than one million of its SF-1500 and SF-1200 SSD Processors since they were released into production in 2010.

SandForce Driven SSD manufacturers shipped more than 100 Petabytes of NAND flash into the mainstream computing markets.


Fusion-io shipped 15 Petabytes of SSD accelerators in 1 year

In January 2011 - Fusion-io announced that in the past 12 months it had shipped more than 15 petabytes of its enterprise flash SSD accelerators.

The company said that more than 2,000 end users have chosen to architect their enterprise infrastructure upgrades with Fusion's ioMemory technology, including more than half of the Fortune 50.


EMC shipped 10 Petabytes of SSDs in 2010

EMC's President and COO, Pat Gelsinger said the company had shipped 10 petabytes of flash SSD storage in 2010.


TMS has shipped a Petabyte of enterprise SSDs

In a webinar (Nov 2010) - Levi Norman, Director of Marketing - Texas Memory Systems disclosed that the company already has more than a petabyte of its enterprise SSDs installed and running in customer sites (mostly in banks and telcos). That was a mixture of RAM SSD and flash.


Skyera founded

In July 2010 - Skyera was founded. The company was originally called StorCloud - but changed its name later. The company was founded to develop the technologies needed for petabyte scale bulk storage SSD systems which would be cheaper than HDD arrays.


NetApp ships a petabyte of flash cache

InJune 2010 - Network Appliance disclosed that it had shipped more than a petabyte of flash SSD acceleration storage since introducing the product 9 months earlier.


Spectra Launches Highest Density Tape Library

March 10, 2009 - Spectra Logic announced the T680 - the first tape library which stores a full petabyte of data in a single rack.

It supports 12 full-height tape drives and 680 tape cartridges. Interface connections include - FC, SCSI or iSCSI. Throughput is 10.4TB/Hour (compressed ) with LTO-4 drives and media.


EMC Announces Petabyte Disk Storage Array

January 26, 2006 - EMC announced availability of the world's first storage disk array capable of scaling to more than one petabyte (1,024 terabytes) of capacity.

The record capacity is made possible through the qualification of Symmetrix DMX-3 system configurations supporting up to 2,400 disk drives and the availability of new 500GB low-cost Fibre Channel disk drives.


Unisys Issues "Real-Time Petabyte Challenge"

November 8, 2004 - Unisys announced the "Real-Time Petabyte Challenge" - a research initiative aimed at developing petabyte-sized storage that will allow researchers, and businesses to have instant, real-time access to vast amounts of data at a more affordable price.

"Petabyte storage is not a new phenomenon," said Peter Karnazes, director of High Performance Computing at Unisys. "However, what is revolutionary is the requirement to immediately access large amounts of this data. Within the next 5 years, as businesses strive to comply with information security legislation, online petabyte storage will become a necessity. To realize this vision, significant advancement in storage and storage management must be achieved to dramatically reduce the cost of these storage systems, which would otherwise fall in the range of $50 to $100 million using today's enterprise-class storage devices. Unisys goal in this challenge is to develop a highly manageable system of reliable commodity storage disks at one-tenth the price."


Sony Unveils PetaSite Tape Library

March 24, 2003 - Sony unveiled the PetaSite tape library family with up to 250TB of native capacity per square meter of floor space, and a total native capacity of up to 1.2 petabytes (PB).

The new systems, available in June 2003, will bring high-speed backup and restores to life for enterprises and digital content providers. Sustained native data transfer rates for the SAIT PetaSite library will reach up to 2.88GB per second, and a standard file can be restored in just over one minute.


StorageTek Backs Up a Petabyte of Weather Data

March 20, 2003 - With the help of StorageTek the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has surpassed the one-petabyte mark in its data holdings, which range from satellite, atmosphere, ocean, and land-use data to depictions of weather and climate from prehistoric times to the year 2100 and beyond.

At one petabyte, the archive is now more than a thousand times larger than 1986, when it reached the one-terabyte level.
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the Case for Fast Boot SSDs (100mS or less) inside Petabyte SSD Archives
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"In 2016 you won't need a petabyte of SSD to replace a petabyte of HDD."
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this way to the petabyte SSD - 2016 to 2020 roadmaps

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor StorageSearch.com - published March 2010

In which the author explains why he thinks users will replace their hard drives with SSDs in the last bastions of the datacenter (the cost sensitive backup archive) even if hard drives are given away free to consumers...

And publishes the business plan for a new industry in the SSD market. Now's a good time to get that coffee (and the headache pills).

This article maps my vision of the steps needed for the storage market to deliver affordable 2U rackmount SSDs with a PB capacity (1,000 TB) in the soonest possible time using evolutionary steps in chip technology but calling for a revolutionary change in storage architecture.


how does this article fit in with earlier and later SSD market model articles?

It can be read on its own - or viewed as a sequel to 2 preceding articles:-
  • SSD market adoption model (2005 edition) - in which I described why users would buy SSDs. This analyzed the user value propositions for the 4 main markets in which SSDs would be adopted in the decade following publication.
  • How solid is hard disk's future? (2007) - in which I explained that the growth of the SSD market wouldn't result in any sizable reductions in overall hard disk market revenue till about 2011 - because the HDD market was itself gaining revenue from new consumer markets such as video recorders almost as fast as it was losing revenue to SSDs in notebooks and embedded markets.
This Petabyte SSD article can also be read as the prequel to - the future of enterprise data storage (2011) and also forms part of the narrative in the (2012) article - an introduction to enterprise SSD silos (7 ways to classify where all SSDs will fit in the pure SSD datacenter).


this way to the petabyte SSD

This article previews the final chapter in the SSD vs HDD wars. The elimination of hard drives from what is currently (2010) its strongest bastion - the bulk data storage market in the data center.

That's been a cost sensitive market in which the cost per terabyte arguments (which I showed were irrelevant in 4 out of the 5 cases in the SSD market penetration model) have been very relevant in this 5th and final case. Media / capacity cost has been a protective shield to hard disk makers. This new article will show how that last remaining obstacle in the SSD domination roadmap will be removed. It will describe new user value propositions (which were not in my earlier SSD market adoption models) whereby the transition to solid state storage takes place irrespective of whether SSDs intersect with the magnetic cost per terabyte curve. It describes the market climate in which enterprise users will not find hard drives attractive or usable - even if the cost of buying a complete new HDD drops away to zero cents.

This is a much more complicated market to model than you might guess (even for an experienced SSD analyst like myself) for these reasons:-
  • MLC flash SSDs (the best looking horses in the theoretical race to achieve HDD and SSD price parity) will not play a significant part in dislodging hard drives from their use in archives for reasons explained later in this article connected with data integrity.

    Later note added in 2012 - I was wrong about this. The use of adaptive R/W DSP in MLC flash and in particular TLC enables MLC to play the same market replacement role which I originally anticipated would require mainly powered down SLC with fast boot. But apart from this memory type difference - the market impact and architecture assumptions below remain unchanged.
  • New emerging applications and market conditions (in the 2011 to 2019 decade) will put much greater stress on archived data. These new search-engine centric applications will accelerate the growth of data capacity (by creating automatically generated data flow patterns akin to ant-virus strings matching - which will speed up the anticipation and delivery of appropriate customer data services). At the same time these new apps will demand greater IOPS access into regions of storage which have hitherto been regarded as offline or nearline data. Those factors would - on their own - simply increase storage costs beyond a level which most enterprises can afford.
  • The ability to leverage the data harvest will create new added value opportunities in the biggest data use markets - which means that backup will no longer be seen as an overhead cost. Instead archived data will be seen as a potential money making resource or profit center. Following the Google experience - that analyzing more data makes the product derived from that data even better. So more data is good rather than bad. (Even if it's expensive.)
  • Physical space and electrical power will continue playing their part as pressure constraining corsets on these systems. That's why new SSD architectures will be needed - because current designs are incapable of being scaled into these tight spaces.
SSD ad - click for more infoBusiness plan for a new SSD market

In some ways I feel like any product manager launching any new product - nervous and hopeful that it will get a good reception. The product in this case - includes the idea of an entirely new class of SSDs.

By sharing this vision I'm throwing down the gauntlet to product managers in the SSD, hard disk, D2d and tape library markets and saying - "Look guys - you can do this. All the technology steps are incremental from where we are today... just start working on your aspect of the jigsaw puzzle. Because if you don't figure out which place you want to occupy in this new market (circa 2016) - then you will be unprepared for the market when it arrives - and won't have a business."

Because the audience for this article is technologists, product managers, senior management in storage companies and (as ever) founders of storage start ups... I'm not going to clutter up this article with things you already should know - or can easily find out - by reading any of the hundreds of other SSD related articles I've already published here in the past 11 years. Instead I'm going for a leaner style.

The 4 propositions discussed in this article are:-

  • what kind of animal will the PB SSD be?
  • who's going to buy it - and why?
  • where will it fit in the datacenter storage architecture?
  • what are the technical problems which need to be solved?
  • looking back at the last bastions of magnetic storage
The easiest way to demonstrate the first 2 points is to roll forwards in time to the fictional launch press release for this type of product.
Stealth mode startup wakes petabyte SSD appliance market

Editor:- October 17, 2016 - Exabyte SSD Appliance emerged from stealth mode and today announced a $400 million series C funding round and immediate availability of its new Paranoid S3B series - a 2U entry level Solid State Backup appliance with 1PB (uncompressed) capacity.

Sustainable sequential R/W speeds are 12GB/s, random performance is 400K IOPS (MB blocks). Latency is 10 microseconds (for accesses to awake blocks) and 20 milli-seconds (for data accesses to blocks in sleep mode.)

The scalable system can deliver 20PB of uncompressed (and RAID protected) nearline storage in a 40U cabinet - which can be realistically compressed to emulate 100PB of rotating hard disk storage using less than 5kW of electric power.

Preconfigured personality modules include:- VTL / RAID emulation (Fujitsu, HP, IBM and HP), wire-speed dedupe, wire speed compression / decompression and customer specific encryption. Exabyte SSD also offers fast-purge as additional cost options for Federal customers or enterprises, like banks, whose data may be at higher risk from terrorist attacks. Pricing starts from $100,000 for a single PB unit with 4x Infiniband / FC or 2x Fusion-io compatible SSD ports. The company is seeking parterships with data migration service companies.

Editor's comments:-the "holy grail" for SSD bulk archives is to be able to replicate and replenish the entire enterprise data set daily - while also coping with the 24x7 demands of ediscovery, satellite office data recovery, datacenter server rebuilds and the marketing department's heavy loads (arising from the new generation of Google API inspired CRM data population software toys.) The Paranoid S3B hasn't quite achieved that lofty goal - with the current level of quoted performance (because in my opinion the proportion of "static data" - mentioned in the full text of the press release is much higher than is found in most corporations). Despite those misgivings the Paranoid S3B is the closest thing in the market to the idealized SSD bulk archive library as set out in my 2012 article.

Internally the Paranoid uses the recently announced 50TB SiliconLibrary (physically fat but architecturally skinny) SLC flash SSDs from WD - instead of the faster (but lower capacity) 2.5" so called "bulk archive" SSDs marketed by competing vendors. In reality many of those wannabe SSD archive SSDs are simply remarketed consumer video SSDs.

Exabyte SSD's president Serge Akhmatova told me - "...Sure you might use some of those other solutions on the market today if you only need to buy a few boxes and can fit all your data in a handful of Petabytes. Good luck to you. That's not our market. We're going for the customers who need to buy hundreds of boxes. Where are customers going to find the rackspace if they're using those old style, always-on SSDs? And let's not forget the electrical power. Our systems take 50x less electrical power - and are truly scalable to exabyte libraries. When you look at the reliability of the always-on SSDs it reminds me about the bad old days of the hard disk drives - when you had to change all the disks every few years."

The recently formed SSD Library Alliance is working on standards related to this class of SSD products - and will publish its own guidelines next year. I asked Exabyte SSD's president - was he worried that Google might launch its own similar product - because they were likely to be the biggest worldwide user for this type of system.

"I can't speculate on what Google might do in the future" said Serge Akhmatova "we signed NDAs with our beta customers. But it does say in our press release that the new boxes are 100% compatible with Google APIs. We worked very closely together to make absolutely sure it works perfectly. You draw your own conclusions."

Editor (again):- students of SSD market history may recall that one of the early pioneers in the SSD dedupe appliance market was WhipTail Technologies (who launched their 1st product in February 2009). The company, who recently announced...
where will it fit in the datacenter storage architecture?

In an earlier article - Why I Tire of "Tier Zero Storage" - I explained why I think that numbered storage tiers - applied to SSDs is a ridiculous idea - and I still hold to the view that SSD tiers are relativistic (to the application) rather than absolute.

But where does the Paranoid PB SSD appliance fit in?

In my view there are 3 distinct tiers in the SSD datacenter.
  • acceleration SSD - close to the application server - as a DAS connection in the same or adjacent racks (via PCIe, SATA, SAS etc.)
  • auxilary acceleration SSD - on the SAN / NAS.
  • bulk storage archive SSD - whose primary purpose is affordable bulk storage which is accessible mainly to SAN / NAS - but in some data farms - may connect directly to the fastest servers.
Some of these tiers will have sub-tiers - because of the realities of market economics. But only 7 different types of SSDs are needed to sustainably satisfy all the architecture needs in the pure solid state storage data center. The Petabyte SSD rack is 1 of those 7. You can read about the rest in my article - an introduction to enterprise SSD silos.

technical problems which need to be solved

...introducing a new species of storage device - the bulk archive SSD


This is a very strange storage animal which - although internally uses nv memory such as flash - and externally looks like a fat 2.5" SSD - looks as alien architecturally to a conventional notebook or server SSD as does a tape library to a hard drive. The differences come from the need to manage data accesses in a way which optimize power use (and avoids the SSD melting) rather than optimizing the performance of data accesses.

The requirements of the controllers for SSDs in bulk store applications differs from those in today's SSDs (2010) in these important respects:-

  • optimzation of electric power - the need to power manage memory blocks within the SSD so that at any point in time 98% are in sleep mode (in the powered off state). I'm assuming that the controller itself is always in the mostly awake state.
  • architecture - internally each SSD controller is managing perhaps 20 to 50 independently power sequenceable SSDs. In this respect the 2.5" SSD architecture resembles some aspects of a mini auto MAID system.
  • endurance - data writes to the library chips are nearly always in large sequential blocks (because it's a bulk storage appliance) therefore write amplification effects are a lesser concern than with conventional SSDs. Also the main memory is SLC - not MLC due to the need for data integrity. That's partly because the thousands of power cycles which occur during the life of the product - which can be triggered by reads (not just by writes) would lead to too many disturb errors - and also because the logic error bands in MLC thresholds are too small to cope with the electrical noise in these systems.

    ...Later:- I may have been wrong about the need for these bulk storage SSDs to be built around SLC. A few years after writing this article developments in adaptive SSD controller design and DSP - showed that MLC, TLC (x3) and even QLC (x4) can be managed to produce adequate operating life and data integrity.
  • power up / power down - for the controller this is a different environment than a notebook or conventional server acceleration SSD. It lives in a datacenter rack with a short term battery hold-up and in no other type of location - ever. The power cycling must be optimized to reduce the time taken for the 1st data accesses from the sleep state.
  • performance - R/W throughput and IOPS are secondary considerations for this type of device and likely to lag 2 to 3 years behind the best specs seen for other types of rackmount SSDs. In the awake state sequential R/W throughput - for large data blocks - has to be compatible with rewriting the whole SSD memory space in approx 24 hours or less.
The design of the archive SSD presents many difficult challenges for designers and I'm not going to understate them. But in my view they are solvable - given the right economic market for this type of product and overall feature benefits. Here are some things to think about.
  • refresh cycle - you know about refresh cycles in DRAMs - why need one for flash? The answer is that seldom accessed data inside the SiliconLibrary could spend years in the unpowered (or powered but static data) state. That would be a bad thing - because the data retention of the memory block can decline in certain conditions increasing the risk of data loss. So to guarantee integrity in the SSD is a house-keeping task which ensures that ALL memory blocks in the SSD are powered up and refreshed at regular intervals - maybe once every 3 months - for example. If you're familiar with tape library management - think of it as "spooling the tape."
  • surges and ground bounce in the SSD. If uncontrolled - these could be a real threat to data integrity. That's one of the reasons why the wake access time has been specificied as a number like 20 milliseconds - instead of an arbitrary number like 200 micro-seconds. Soft starting the power up (by current limiting and shaping the slope) will reduce noise spikes in adjecent powered SSDs and also minimize disturb errors.
  • awake duty cycle. I haven't said much about the nature of the duty cycle for the powered up (awake) state for memory blocks. To achieve good power efficiency I've assumed that in the long term this will be just a few per cent of the time. But how will it look on any given day? That depends on the HSM scheme used in the SSD library. My working assumption is that once an SSD block is woken - it stays in use for a period ranging from seconds to minutes. The controller which woke it needs to have a way of anticipating this. As the SSD library is the slowest tier in the SSD storage world - it would be reasonable to assume that the device which originated the request (an online SSD) can do some buffering and pack or unpack data requests into multiple GB chunks. Something for the "hello world!" members of the design team to think about.
looking back at the last bastions of magnetic storage

I published my long term projections for HDD revenue in an earlier article - Storage Market Outlook 2010 to 2015.

The hard disk market doesn't have to worry about an imminent threat from bulk storage SSDs for many years.

Instead I think the concept opens the door to a fresh opportunity for companies in the storage market to re-evaluate themselves.

If they believe the PB SSD will be coming (and the details may be different to the way I have suggsted) where will their own companies fit in?

I've also started to discuss this idea with software companies too. Because the new concept open up entirely new ways of thinking about backed up data. What is it for? What can you do with it? How can you grow new business tools from content which upto now - was just out of site and out of mind?

There are many exciting challenges for the market ahead.

(And many mistakes too in the initial draft of this article - which I'll pick up and deal with later.)

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you like it please let other people know.
Key ideas to take away from this article
  • More data is better - not worse. Data volumes wll expand due to new intelligence driven apps. But the data archive will be seen as a profit center - instead of a cost overhead.
  • the "SSD revolution" didn't end in 2007. It will not stop soon - and instead will factionalize into SSD civil wars. Some of these will overlap - but many won't.
  • True archive SSDs using switched power management may be able to pay for themselves by saving on electrical costs, disk replacement and datacenter space - even if the competing hard drives are free. But it will be impossible for hard drives to deliver the application performance needed in the petabyte ediscovery and Google API environment anyway.
  • Petabyte SSD systems - used for cloud and archive applications would benefit from fast boot SSDs (with low standby power) but don't need fast R/W performance at the single drive level. When originally writing this article in early 2010 - I thought the fast boot and data integrity could only be met by SLC - but now it looks like adaptive R/W technology coupled with developments in the consumer market - such as DEVSLP could provide these functions more cheaply.
  • There will be no room in the datacenter for rotating storage of any type. It will be 100% SSD - with just 3 types of distinct SSD products.

Footnotes about the companies mentioned in this article

Some of the companies mentioned in the "fictional" part of this article - to illustrate the 2016 press release - are real companies. Thiese are the reasons why I chose the companies whose names I used to illustrate certain concepts. And I hope they won't be offended.

  • WD Solid State Storage (SiliconLibrary) - WD's SSD business unit has been intensively testing SSD data integrity by running individual SSDs through thousands of power cycles - since 2005 - as part of verifying its PowerArmor data protection architecture. These are the longest running such test programs I know - and they have already harvested data from millions of hours of device tests (by 2010).

    Understanding what happens to MLC SSDs when subjected to these stresses is a key factor in the confidence to design bulk storage SSDs - in which each memory block may undergo upwards of 5,000 power cycles in its operating life.

    Although many other industrial flash SSD companies also have experience in this area - WD also has experience with designing hard disks which have good power performance in sleep mode. These features have not been widely deployed in MAID systems because of the long wake access time. Will the 20mS wake time - which I've proposed for archive SSD prevent its acceptance? We will see.
  • Fusion-io (SSD port) - although SSDs currently use standard interfaces within and between racks - I speculate that in some markets there will be a cost / performance advantage to creating a new proprietary interface to "get the job done." I'm proposing that Fusion-io - already the best known brand in the PCIe SSD market (2010) - is a likely company to adapt its products for new markets when the need arises - and create a new defacto industry standard for inter-rack SSD ports.
  • Google - It's not unreasonable to expect that in the 6 years following publication of this article Google (who already markets search appliances, is the #1 search company, and is working on an SSD based OS for notebooks) will be setting many key standards for the manipulation of large data sets within the enterprise. Google APIs will be as important to CIOs in the future as Oracle and other SQL compatible databases have been in the past as tools which support data driven businesses.

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