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For many of these AFA startups a single customer like that is bigger than their whole business plan.
the dreams and illusions of "our product is better than EMC" startups
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re rackmount SSDs
by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com
I've been reporting on the rackmount SSD market since the early 1990s.

What's the main reason that most users look for rackmount SSDs today?

In an earlier phase of the market it was mostly about speed (IOPS performance and low latency).

But as predicted in many earlier SSD analyst articles the reasons for rackmount SSD adoption are now many fold:-
  • run faster
  • do more than old style legacy HDD architected systems
The enterprise market has moved to the point where nearly all enterprise data touches SSDs .

So you can't live without them.

There's a lot of complicated stuff going on in this market at the controller, software, architecture and business levels.

And yet despite the size of the market - many user needs still aren't being satisfied by suitable products.

Evolving through turbulent market chaos and technology change in 11 years of enterprise flash the rackmount has emerged as the hot zone of survivalist thinking for SSD storage architects.

It's the form factor where SSD software, micro cloud architecture and amazing utilization efficiency techniques can come together in ways which are impossible to achieve at the drive or server bound layers - even when it's nearly impossible to guess what the next generation box you buy will look like.

There are no easy answers.

But I hope that somewhere - here on this page - or the many linked articles - you'll find something which helps you develop your own ideas to a better way forward.

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It's been a tradition in the computer market that users and integrators look to see what their suppliers say about the future of the market and defer to those visions.

Other good places to look for answers were universities (theoretical concepts) and market research companies (numbers).

None of that works with enterprise SSDs.

This is disruptive market where what happens next doesn't follow on the smooth curve trajectory of what happened before.
Enterprise flash - the Survive and Thrive Guide

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growing user confidence will spur enterprise flash consolidation
Editor:- April 21, 2015 - In an new article today on StorageSearch.com I look at drivers, mechanisms and routes towards consolidation in the enterprise SSD systems market along with some other outrageous and dangerous ideas.

"90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive." ...read the article

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At the high end business level - for SanDisk - the ability to monetize flash at the rackmount systems level (which is the most efficient way to convert raw flash chips into usable enterprise SSDs) is a rational next step.
What will SanDisk really get from Fusion-io?

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We haven't reached stability yet in reference enterprise designs and use cases.
what kind of SSD world can we expect in 2015?

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Whenever a significantly new rackmount SSD comes to market there are some vital things I need to know in order to place it accurately in my mental map - of how it fits in the market.
the 30 seconds - checklist

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RAM SSDs
SSD endurance
high availability SSDs
the top SSD companies
7 roles for datacenter SSDs
roadmap to the Petabyte SSD
MLC Flash wars in the enterprise
What do enterprise SSD users want?
What an Interface Says About an SSD
How fast can your SSD run backwards?
playing the enterprise SSD box riddle game


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The simplest way for vendors to signal to the world that they are masters and commanders of the enterprise flash array high seas - rather than merely floating barges of chips which can be swept along in any direction by the latest technology gust of wind - is to hoist new colors of SSD pricing.
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing


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Notes from SSD market history

The product shown below, from Imperial Technology
(which is no longer in business) is an example of a
rackmount SSD accelerated SAN router which was
featured here on StorageSearch.com in June 2003.
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MegaRam-5000 from  Imperial Technology
MegaRam-5000 Enterprise SSD SAN router
from Imperial Technology

rackmount SSD news

other SSD news
popular SSD articles
high availability enterprise SSDs
the Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs
AccelStor NeoSapphire  all-flash array
1U enterprise flash arrays
InfiniBand or 10GbE iSCSI or 16G FC
NeoSapphire series
from AccelStor
Nimbus re-emerges from stealth with 1PB / U raw HA SSD

Editor:- August 9, 2016 - Nimbus Data Systems has emerged from its self imposed exit into marcomms stealth mode with the announcement of a new range of Ethernet/FC/Infiniband attached rackmount SSDs based on its new ExaFlash OS with GA in Q4 2016.

Entry level products start in a 2U box with 50TB raw capacity for under $50K and for larger configurations Nimbus says its ExaFlash offers an effective price point as low as $0.19 per effective gigabyte (including all software and hardware).

Higher density boxes in this product line - D-series models - will have 4.5 PB raw capacity in 4U (12 PB effective).

Re the architecture - I haven't seen details - Nimbus says there is no data network between the storage arrays themselves, guaranteeing that performance truly scales in lock-step with capacity and with consistent latency.

4 petabytes raw 12 effective in 4U

video above shows the 4PB raw ExaFlash at FMS

Editor's comments:- if there are to be sustainable roles in the future consolidated enterprise SSD systems market for AFA vendors which previously sold arrays of SAS/SATA SSDs - and who don't own their own semiconductor fabs - the only viable ways to establish such platform brand identities are with SSD software and architecture.

There's a huge gap between the technological aspiration which Nimbus talks about and the weakness of its past marketing and the kind of funding which we've seen competitors in this market burn through in the past with mixed results.

In the next few quarters I hope we'll hear more from Nimbus about its business development plans and customer adoption.

See also:- roadmap to the Petabyte SSD, the unreal positioning of many flash array "startups"


trust and SSD services marketing

Editor:- July 20, 2016 - 12 years ago a survey by StorageSearch.com identified that service related guarantees for enterprise SSD systems could be among the pivotal market adoption disinhibitors. But compared to the fast moving backdrop of enterprise technology it's interesting to note that the way marketers behave has changed so slowly.

It takes a long time for marketers to understand and learn why their potential customers aren't buying. Or why they aren't as excited by new products as their creators and investors. I touched on the deep seated reasons for this kind of disconnect in my article - decloaking hidden and missing segments in the analysis of market opportunities for enterprise rackmount flash (2014).

Pricing is an area where we began to observe innovation in the SSD market at around the same time and I wrote about some of the ways in which vendors were starting to sidestep the issues of complexity (which arise from having to know too many things which are unknown by most customers or unknowable) in my article -exiting the astrological age of enterprise SSD pricing.

If you haven't read it an inexact analogy is that if you're buying a plane you don't have to know the physics about how it flies. Others who do know physics and how the bits fit all together will certify that it's safe. The more important aspects for you as a buyer are how it will fit into your business plans. It takes a long time to learn those plane vendor things and become trusted. That's why in mature markets where there are these high barriers to entry - you don't hear about hundreds of new companies entering the plane market. Unlike the wild west of SSD systems.

And if you're still with me at this point. Price is a marketing service.

If you thought it was anything else and if you work in SSD sales or marketing you've got a lot of reading or training courses to get through.

Which brings me to a recent services related press release from Kaminario.

The message essence is their headline...

"Kaminario unveils storage industry's most comprehensive business assurance program."

How much of that claim you agree with or disagree with is up to you. And don't complain to me if you don't agree.

We've seen many similar sounding service related assurance offerings from other vendors too.

They can be summarized as - buy this stuff from us and we'll always look after your interests and make sure you don't regret it.

The details of such service related offers always sound like it's Christmas. John McClane will rescue his wife. Scrooge will avoid a bad end by giving away a turkey. And Dorothy will find her way from Oz.

But when it comes to long range service promises from any SSD company you need to use your common sense too.

Given what we've seen in the enterprise SSD market in recent years:- the acquisitions, the EOL product lines and the predictable EOL and obsolescence of most current platforms and architectures - it's worth reminding yourself that companies can only deliver on such long term promises if they are still in business, remain profitable and remain in control of their own destinies.


Pure Storage says its AFA revenue in Q1 2016 was more than the leading HDD array brand

Editor:- June 21, 2016 - Scott Dietzen, CEO - Pure Storage says in his recent blog - Reinforcing a generational shift in data center storage - "...not only were we the fastest-growing storage vendor named in IDC's report, but we cracked of the top 10 storage vendors (for revenue) globally not just for all-flash storage, but for ALL external enterprise storage."

Editor's comments:- this result in the real world of market revenue tracking is broadly in line with a long range prediction I made in 2009 - in which I said "50% of the (enterprise) hard disk market will no longer exist in 5 years, and none of it will exist in 10 years (except in museums)."

See also:- terabyte talliers and storage market research


memory intensive data architecture emerges in a new family of latency roled boxes - unstealthed by Symbolic IO

Editor:- May 25, 2016 - 1 petabyte usable storage in 2U along with a flash backed RAM rich server family which uses patented CPU level aware cache-centric data reduction to deliver high compute performance are among the new offerings unveiled today by Symbolic IO which has emerged from stealth mode.

Founder & CEO, Symbolic IO - Brian Ignomirello, said - "This industry hasn't really innovated in more than 20 years, even the latest offerings based on flash have limitations that cannot be overcome. Our goal at Symbolic IO was to completely redefine and rethink the way computing architectures work. We've completely changed how binary is handled and reinvented the way it's processed, which goes way beyond the industry's current excitement for hyper-conversion."

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the fastest SSDs - click to read article
.. the fastest SSDs
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Giving a clue to performance Ignomirello said - "One of our early tests, allows us to run a full cable class content delivery network over 80+ nodes, while streaming 80+ full-featured movies simultaneously on one channel and requires less than 8% of the CPU capacity and we had plenty of headroom to run more. IRIS (Intensified RAM Intelligent Server) is 10,000 times faster than today's flash."

Editor's comments:- I hadn't spoken with Symbolic IO (when I wrote this) but my first impression was that the company is in line with at least 3 strategic trends that you've been reading about on StorageSearch.com in recent years:- Their company profile summarizes their capability like this...

"Symbolic IO is the first computational defined storage solution solely focused on advanced computational algorithmic compute engine, which materializes and dematerializes data effectively becoming the fastest, most dense, portable and secure, media and hardware agnostic storage solution."

For more about the company's background see this article - Symbolic IO Rewrites Rules For Storage on Information Week.

From the marketing point of view it's interesting to see that in its launch press release Symbolic IO positions itself in the DIMM Wars context in this way "IRIS... is 10 times faster than 3D XPoint."

Symbolic IO says the new systems will be start to become generally available in late Q4 2016.

From an enterprise segmentation viewpoint the IRIS systems will be proprietary. There is space for such approaches in the future market consolidation roadmap because not everyone needs the fastest performance. But many webscale SSD companies are already using data reduction techniques for their own utilizations and acceleration purposes.

The new thing - if there is a new thing - is that Symbolic IO will make available boxes which incorporate modern data architectures from a single source.

Although like all new systems companies they'll have to wade their way through the apps accreditation and compatibility lists before their revenues create any ripples - an adoption dampening factor I wrote about in my 2013 article Scary Skyera.

See also:- towards SSD everywhere software


thinking about latency?

click to see more SSD  Bookmarks Editor:- May 9, 2016 - "Little's Law is key to understanding why lower latency is good" says Woody Hutsell, Technologist, Evangelist - IBM in series 2, episode 4 - the SSD Bookmarks - published recently on StorageSearch.com ...read the article

Editor's comments:- you'll need to set aside some serious reading time when you follow up Woody's article suggestions.


Avere ranked #1 in Google's cloud partner search list

Editor:- March 16 , 2016 - How well does Avere Systems (and its virtual edge filer) work as a gateway to Google's cloud services? Apparently very well - as Avere today announced it had been named "Google Cloud Platform Technology Partner of the Year" for 2015.


enterprise SSD petabytes doubled in China in 2015

Editor:- March 15, 2016 - Gregory Wong, President, Forward Insights says that Enterprise SSD petabytes doubled YoY in the China market in 2015.


AccelStor says it can do 600K IOPS in 2U iSCSI AFA

Editor:- February 17, 2016 - AccelStor today launched a 2U high end model in its NeoSapphire (rackmount SSD) product line.

The 13TB NeoSapphire 3413 (which includes 24 hot-swap SSDs including 2 spares) achieves 600K IOPS for 4KB random writes with iSCSI over its 4 port 10GbE connectivity.

Re fault tolerance - AccelStor says its automatic data reconstruction makes it easy to replace drives on the fly and without a performance penalty.


Tegile trims fat in Europe

Editor:- February 8, 2016 - Tegile's headcount and costs in Europe were disproportionately high compared to revenue - according to a story in SiliconANGLE - Tegile slashes global headcount in pre-IPO cost cutting - which discusses layoffs by the company to improve its business efficiency.


Pivot3 acquires NexGen

Editor:- January 27, 2016 - NexGen Storage announced today it has agreed to be acquired by Pivot3.

RAID
it's not really RAID
Editor's comments:- The last time I wrote about Pivot3 was 7 years ago. I had a good feeling about their big controller architecture thinking which was being applied to hard drive arrays but I viewed it more as a valuable efficiency boost to buy breathing space for the last gasp years of enterprise HDD rather than the new direction I was focused on - which was heading towards the solid state storage datacenter. And so - from my point of view - I had nothing more to say.

On the other hand we're heard about NexGen many times in recent years.

Combining the software and architecture from these 2 companies could produce a platform with characteristics comparable to the best upwardly stretched efforts of much better known competitors if Pivot3 and NexGen can draw the integration boundaries in the right places (and get it done quickly enough).


7 out of top 10 SSD companies are systems companies

editor:- January 7, 2016 - Rackmount SSD companies dominated the top 10 zone of the new 34th quarterly edition of the Top SSD Companies published today by StorageSearch.com - with 7 out of the top 10 being in the rackmount SSD business.

EMC was the 2nd fastest climber and this period marked Kaminario's best rank in the more than 5 years it has appeared in this series.

Looking back at the dominance of rackmount systems makers in past editions in this series - the pattern first became clear in Q2 2013 when it was 8 of the top 10 companies.

The compelling technology necessities driving this trend were noted in my 2013 SSD year transitions article. The top level idea is the same today as it was then.

"The rack has become the most important form factor at which level enterprise SSD vendors must focus their strategic product ideas. What we're seeing in the market today at the rack level - are efficiencies and competitive advantages which accrue from combining and integrating design factors at many levels within large SSD arrays (at the memory utilization level, the SSD controller level, the drive interface level, the flash array organization level and multiple levels up and down the system software and apps software stacks). Mastering the design possibilities of SSD at the rack level enables new levels of competitive advantages for vendors."

It's the precise details which have changed since 2013. Hence all those recent AFA and big data SSD acquisitions.

And the market destination has changed too (90% of enterprise vendors will disappear) which means it's less safe for SSD outsiders to sit back and wait to see what happens.


Permabit shrinks data in new flash boxes from BiTMICRO

Editor:- October 20, 2015 - Permabit today announced that its inline dedupe and compression software is used in BiTMICRO's new rackmount SSD white boxes - which include a 1U iSCSI appliance (20x 2.5" TB SSD shown at FMS) and a 3U fast SSD server (8x PCIe SSDs) which is due to be shipped this quarter.


Dell buys EMC - the SSD view

good for Dell-EMC - long term

good for AFA and hybrid competitors - short term

disruption and changes for SSD suppliers - short term


Editor:- October 13, 2015 - Dell yesterday announced it has agreed to acquire EMC for approximately $67 billion. The acquisition also included EMC's stake in the storage software company VMware - which will remain in public ownership.

Editor's comments:- In the short term this fixes a problem for Dell (its weakness in enterprise storage) and offers a credible way for EMC to adapt to a long term future in which its storage products become more commoditized and accessible to smaller businesses (something which Dell has historically been good at with its server business.)

The competitive landscape in enterprise storage is complex but a long term SSD centric summary goes something like this.

Servers have become a commodity. And there is little or no scope for genuine competitive value differentation options to be offered within the server market. (Being able to offer the same memories or SSDs in servers as everyone else - does not decommodify server product lines BTW.)

In contrast - enterprise storage - which in the HDD and post tape library and post optical storage era (2001 to 2008) had been coasting towards oblivious commoditization - has been temporarily reprieved from that fate (2009 to 2018) by the disruptive impact of SSD memory technologies which enabled the construction of 5 to 6 role differentiated types of new storage boxes which could deliver value to users in ways which were technically unimaginable and unfeasible with classically tiered memory and storage.

Having misfired its original entry into the enterprise flash market in 2008 - EMC has in recent years managed to accumulate credible industry leading proprietary IP and product lines in 2 of the 5 above storage box segments (which will satisfy projected enterprise storage needs in the post HDD era) meanwhile treading water in the other 3 main box segments (indicating its aspiration to occupy part of those other crowded beachheads if possible).

Assuming all goes well with the acquisition process - the Dell-EMC product line will enable EMC storage to be more competitive in the short term with existing products and to maybe credibly add another notch to the list of product types for which it has aspirations for clear leadership.

But the acute efficiency pressures on the server and storage markets which are emerging from SSD centric software and data architectures will mean that traditional product lines from both vendors will shrink away.

And those lost revenues will stay gone forever. The old ways and the old purchase orders won't be coming back. That's why it's important for both companies to draw in new smaller customers and to nurture them (if possible) into the new sustainable sold state storage and server product lines.

What about impacts for the SSD market?

Anyone who competes with Dell or EMC will - for the next year - have an easier ride - due to the inward focus which sucks away the attention of the talent following such acquisitions.

The SSD market as a whole will continue to supply memory and SSDs to the new company - and probably can look forward to getting more business in 18 months time.

But it won't simply be more of the same. Some SSD vendors may see big changes when Dell EOLs systems and modules which are cannibalistic and compete within the combined product lines.


NexentaStor available with InfiniFlash

Editor:- September 3, 2015 - Nexenta recently announced support for SanDisk's InfiniFlash AFA box.

List price for the integrated solution including, perpetual software licenses, controllers, InfiniFlash, 3 year support and installation can be as low as $1.500/Raw TB.

See also:- towards enterprise hardware consolidation, SSD prices


3D TLC is good enough to last 7 years
in 1 DWPD Kaminario customer base


Editor:- August 21, 2015 - One of the early new SSD ideas in 2014 was that 3D nand flash was tough enough to consider using in industrial SSDs so it was no surprise when 3D flash started to appear in volume production of enterprise SSD accelerators such as Samsung's 10 DWPD NVMe PCIe SSDs in September 2014.

So the recent announcement by Kaminario that it will soon ship 3D TLC (3 bits) flash in its K2 rackmount SSDs can be seen as a predictable marker in the long term trend of flash adoption in the enterprise.

Less predictable, than the price (under $1,000/TB for usable systems capacity) however, is that Kaminario is offering a 7 years endurance related systems warranty.

disk writes per day in enterprise SSDs
DWPD in SSDs
This factor - discussed in a Kaminario blog - tells us more about Kaminario's customer base than it tells us about flash endurance however.

Kaminario says its HealthShield "has been collecting endurance statistics for the past few years, and from analyzing the data we see that 97% of (our) customers are writing less than a single write per day (under 1 DWPD) of the entire capacity."

This is one aspect of a trend I wrote about a few years ago - thinking inside the box - which is that designers of integrated systems have more freedom of choice in their memories than designers of standard SSD drives - because they have visibility and control of more layers of software and can leverage other architectural factors.

A competent box level SSD designer can make better decisions about how to translate raw R/W intentions (from the host) into optimized R/W activities at the flash .

This is especially the case when the designers are also collecting raw data about the workloads used in their own customer bases. The customer experience is more important than slavishly designing systems which look good in artificial benchmarks.


"more lanes of SAS than anyone else" - new 4U SavageStor

Editor:- July 28, 2015 - As the rackmount SSD market heads towards future consolidation - new business opportunities are being created for those brave hardware companies which accept the challenge of providing simple hardware platforms (which provide high density or efficiency or performance or other combinations of valued technical features optimized for known use cases) while also being willing to sell them unbundled from expensive frivolous software.

In that category - Savage IO today launched its SavageStor - a 4U server storage box - which - using a COTS array of hot swappable SAS SSDs - can provide upto 288TB flash capacity with 25GB/s peak internal bandwidth with useful RAS features for embedded systems integrators who need high flash density in an untied / open platform.

Savage IO says it "products are intentionally sold software-free, to further eliminate performance drains and costs caused by poor integration, vendor lock-in, rigidly defined management, and unjustifiable licensing schemes."

Editor's comments:- I spoke to the company recently and most of you will instantly know if it's the right type of box for you or not.


fast rackmount SSDs from EMC, IBM, Pure... which is cheapest? (maybe)

Editor:- July 9, 2015 - In a recent blog about the competitiveness of fast rackmount SSDs - Why I Hate Cost/GB Discussions - Michael Martin, FlashSystems Specialist - IBM - leads you through a series of arguments to convince you that - when measured on a 5 year ownership basis (against a very specific set of parameters) his company's fast rackmount SSDs are cheaper to own than competitive models from EMC and Pure.

Among other things Michael says - "Why is everyone so focused on the initial cost when it comprises such a small percentage of the "real" or total cost of the storage array?"

One interesting boundary condition question which Michael Martin looks at is - what is if EMC gave you a FREE VMAX? How would that compare to the IBM V9000 FlashSystem's TCO?

I like that style of analysis - because it's one I've used a lot myself in the past 12 years or so - in various market forecasts where I looked at the cost of one type of product being zero but another type of product (SSD) still being cheaper or better.

Editor's comments:- recently we've seen survey data from Tegile suggesting that for a significant proportion of enterprise users the ROI on their enterprise flash investment can be as little as 1 or 2 years - which suggests that looking at the 5 year cost, or the initial purchase cost are equally unreliable expectations.

For most users - the uncertainty of capturing reliable predictive cost benefit data to justify the acquisition of enterprise flash arrays was discussed in my article - Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.

The reasons for choosing one system over another include so many user preferences and associated customer service values that the 5 year predicted cost from a particular web site are not likely to be the decisive factor for most users - who will prefer to trust their own analysis.

As long as you don't take the rankings in Michael Martin's blog too seriously - as gospel - and don't come away with the idea that IBM's FlashSystem is always the best and cheapest fast rackmount SSD - it's a fun read. ...read the article

Conspicuously absent however in this discussion - given the 5 year cost justification timeframe - is a new class of fast rackmount SSDs which will be emerging in the next year - based on arrays of 2.5" NVMe SSDs - which will have the same impact on this segment of the market (IBM, EMC, Violin etc) as did flash on RAM SSDs. (Implode the costs and explode the scalability and market roadmaps.)

See also:- SSD costs and justifications 2001 to 2015


SolidFire opens sales channel in Japan

Editor:- March 19, 2015 - SolidFire today announced it has expanded its sales reach into Japan with the opening of a new office in Tokyo and a distribution agreement with ITOCHU Techno-Solutions.
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SSD ad - click for more info
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storage search banner

Sir Squeaks-a-Bit - image for rackmount SSD page ... If he had his way... Sir Squeaks-a-Bit would stretch all rotating disk pretenders on the rack and remove their wobbly heads.
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SSD ad - click for more info

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"I think the scoring concept intrinsically suggests a much more stable, restricted and naive model of the SSD enterprise than is currently the case."
re - DCIG's new AFA Buyers Guide
Editor's comments (September 30, 2015 )

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Many factors at play in enterprise SSD market behavior still don't appear as explicit assumptions in SSD product marketing plans.

One contributory cause for gaps in segmental understanding has been the continuing pace of disruptive innovation in enterprise SSD-land - which has meant there hasn't been a stable market template for vendors to follow from one seemingly chaotic year to the next as they encroach on new markets.
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise


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With next generation software and architecture - 1 petabyte of flash rackmount storage will replace 10 to 50 petabytes of HDD storage in legacy enterprise infrastructure and also run faster.
utilization and the enterprise SSD software event horizon


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In 1978 a 45MB enterprise SSD system from StorageTek cost $400,000 which was about half the price of the rotating IBM mainframe storage it could replace while at the same time running applications faster.


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Some of the deepest thinking going on in the SSD market right now is focused on rackmount SSDs. (Or enterprise flash arrays - if you think that sounds better.)
new SSD thinking inside the box


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SSD market perspective