|rackmount SSDs -
by Zsolt Kerekes,
|I've been reporting on the rackmount SSD
market since the
the main reason that most users look for rackmount SSDs today?
still mostly speed
(IOPS performance and low latency).
But as predicted in my
enterprise SSD market
silos report - a new emerging trend is for fast-enough SSD racks to find an
between the performance levels of HDD arrays and the fast end of flash arrays.
new segment for SSD
racks will be SSD arrays to implement the lowest cost bulk / archive /
cloud storage at a
lower cost than high capacity
hard drive arrays.
There's a lot of complicated stuff going on in this market at the
controller, software, architecture and business levels. These various new
factors you're seeing everyone talk about now are discussed in my article -
directions in rackmount SSDs
rackmount SSD vendors?|
|Editor:- are you
searching for rackmount SSD companies? When the number of companies marketing
rackmount SSDs started heading into the 100+ region I removed the long
dangly vendor list which used to be on this page - because it was becoming
unusable. Instead I suggest using the siet search below - and insert the words "rackmount
SSD" along with another criterion which matters to you - such as iSCSI, FC
SAN, fastest etc.|
The product shown below, from
(which is no longer in business) is an example of a
accelerated SAN router which was
featured here on StorageSearch.com in
|rackmount SSD news|
|You don't need to worry
about the endurance of our FlashSystems - says IBM|
October 7, 2014 - Worried about
"None of the thousands of
products (fast rackmount SSDs) which IBM has shipped has ever
worn out yet! - says Erik
Eyberg, Flash Strategy & Business Development at IBM - in his new
storage reliability: Aligning technology and marketing. "And our
metrics suggest that will remain true in almost all cases for many, many years
(certainly well beyond any normal and expected data center life cycle)"
goes on to explain that's the reason IBM can now officially cover flash
storage media wear-out as part of its standard IBM FlashSystem warranty and
maintenance policies - without changing the prices for these services.
his blog has a
to a white paper about the reliability architecture underlying this product
(although it's behind a sign-up wall - which seems counter productive to me.)
comments:- Don't expect all other flash array vendors to follow suit (with
no cost endurance guarantees) - because this product range from IBM is based on
design rules and memory reliability architectures experience in FC SAN
compatible enterprise SSD racks which have evolved since the 1st generation
RamSan from TMS (in
2000). And for more than a decade
using other popular enterprise storage interfaces.
Holly Frost - who founded
Texas Memory Systems - and who was the CEO when TMS was acquired - told me a
revealing story about TMS's policies concerning the reliability of their SSD
systems and customer care procedures.
This conversation took place
in December 2011
- when the company was launching its first high availability SSD - which
became the basis of IBM's FlashSystem.
It still makes interesting
reading today. You can see it in
this article -
in the right hand column - scroll down to the box titled - "no single point
of failure - except..."
NetApp says - the time for taking risks with enterprise flash
startups is over
Editor:- October 1, 2014 -
of the flash startups is the provocative title of a recent blog by Craig Alger at NetApp - who
asserts that the "brief window of time where fast and agile (enterprise
SSD) startups can get the jump on large, slow manufacturers" has now
Craig questions how startups like
Tegile can expect to
compete now that "titans of the industry" such as NetApp, and EMC
(and by implication IBM, Dell, and HP too) have got their flash toys,
licensed and integrated neatly within vast product catalogs?
comments:- If you agree with Craig's premise - that all the disruptive
innovation is now over - then you'd probably also agree that it's not worth
taking risks with new enterprise SSD startups. Just stick with the big safe
vendors and you'll be OK.
You won't be surprised to learn what I told
Craig by email yesterday - which was this...
I saw your blog - Demise of the Flash startups - and might comment /
post about it. Liked the middle but disagree about the conclusion.
I would agree - if the pace of disruptive change in enterprise SSD
architecture had slowed down and if it already did solve most problems.
with a lot of very big
changes in utilization still to come - the potential market size for
genuinely innovative enterprise SSD startups (drives, systems and software) is
bigger than it was before.
"So there will more startup
companies to acquire, license from and compete with. No one's got a whole
stable solution architecture and credible roadmap yet. At best current flash
systems are stepping stones to somewhere else."
Oh - and if you're
wondering - which is the part of Craig's blog I liked the most (apart from the
cleverly provocative title) it was where he says "...those SSDs aren't as
expensive as they
used to be." ...read
how to configure Micron SATA SSDs for VSAN as a lower cost and
faster alternative to SAS HDDs in a Dell PowerEdge
September 12, 2014 - Micron
today published a new blog -
Demo 2014: A How-To Guide - which gives a top level configuration summary
of a recent benchmark demo it ran at VMWorld.
says "Our primary goal was to demonstrate best-in-class VSAN performance
and show how that compared to a standard VSAN configured with SAS HDDs. One of
the most interesting aspects of our configuration was that our M500 client
(cheap SATA) SSDs were actually less expensive than the SAS 10K HDDs (in the
comparison system)." ...read
Editor's comments:- An interesting thing
(for me) is that - for reasons explained in the article - Micron configured
VSAN to see the M500 SSDs as HDDs.
How will the hard
drive market fare... in a solid state storage world?
StorageSearch.com updates 10 key SSD ideas in 2014
September 2, 2014 - StorageSearch.com today published a new home page
blog - updating 10 key SSD ideas in
Are SSD years getting faster? It seems like an end of year
SSD market update is due even though 1/3 of this year hasn't happened yet.
Skyera's Rado Danilak to spend more time focused on technology
August 18, 2014 - Skyera
that current investors from its previous $51.6 million funding round have
provided additional capital to the company as it prepares to scale its sales and
manufacturing cycles to meet increased demand. Financial terms were not
Additionally Skyera has promoted Frankie
Roohparvar to the position of CEO while Dr. Rado Danilak,
co-founder of Skyera, becomes CTO of the company.
new article on enterprise SSD pricing
18, 2014 - in a new article on StorageSearch.com
the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing - I explain why I think that
2014 will be seen as the start of a new phase of creativity in the enterprise
SSD market on the subject of pricing and affordability and I name 3 companies
leading this charge.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that the
dominant form factor leading this new market trend is
because as I told you in this article last year -
directions in rackmount SSDs - that's the most productive form factor for
doing something different with technology.
And the simplest way for
vendors to signal to the world that they are masters of the enterprise SSD high
seas - rather than floating barges of flash which can be swept along in any
direction by the latest technology gust - is to hoist new colors of SSD
pricing. ...read the
new SSD racks announced (and unannounced) by Violin
June 24, 2014 - Violin
a new rackmount SSD -
7000 - which can provide upto 280TB of raw fast
enterprise flash (using Violin's standard
modules) in 18U.
The key thing about the 7000 is that it's a software
services rich storage box -which enables many types of replication functions
to be easily scheduled and run concurrently (if so desired) between various
7000 nodes in dispersed geographic locations to ensure data survivability.
also offers an upgrade kit which enables existing users of its legacy 6000
storage arrays to interoperate with these services.
comments:- June 25, 2014 - yesterday in this space I promised I would give
you a bigger story about Violin.
I said - it wouldn't be about this
new product - the Concerto 7000 - which I regard as an incremental and
predictable gap filler - but instead about an interview I conducted with
the company last week driven by the need to understand their business
strategy better and to assess how they aimed to fix this paradox...
time Violin (or any enterprise SSD vendor) adds new market optimized software
and features into a new product line - it makes the new product more attractive
to some users - but much less competitive for most users.
that marketing paradox with Violin's aspiration to significantly grow revenue
led me to pose some very direct and detailed
questions to the company. And I got some very interesting answers.
In early to mid June more than the usual number of
investors had been asking me questions about Violin which I mostly answered
by referring them to scattered fragments of content which talked about their
themes - on the pages of StorageSearch.com
With another quarterly
update of the Top SSD
Companies coming soon - I was already thinking it might be a good idea to
freshen my profile page for Violin - when I got contacted by a
the company asking if I wanted to talk again to Eric Herzog
who was planning another round of editor / analyst briefings about a new
software related product announcement (see above).
I said - "thanks
I'll be happy to talk (again) to Eric. But my main interest is not Violin's
new software (I talk to over 100 pure play
companies). However - if Eric is happy to divide his time between talking
about the new product launch and my random questions about Violin
(prompted by many hours of discussions with readers about Violin in recent
days) then let's make a date."
And that's how this meeting
got set up.
As things turned out - we used nearly all the allocated
time talking about my segmentation issues - and with less than 3 minutes
remaining at the end of that I said to Eric - I get the idea (about the
software in the Concerto 7000). I'll read up about it.
BTW - I didn't
send Eric any advance notice of my detailed questions.
because I prefer thinking on the spot and we've spoken about enterprise
SSD segmentation before so I know he thinks fast.
I thought it
might be a nice break for him to get away from the standard presentation
To be honest I wasn't really sure how much of our
conversation I would eventually be able to write about either - because I was
touching on some serious business issues.
And what's good for me to
know - when I'm talking in my self appointed pastoral role as the virtual
best friend of every SSD company - isn't the same as what's good for the world
at large to know - especially competitors.
Anyway - the people I talk
to regularly know that although I'm a bit strange (who else would be crazy
enough to spend so much time thinking about this market) I can be relied on
to keep their secrets.
On my part I was hoping to get clarification
on 2 issues.
- Business limiting factors in the server based SSD acceleration market.
Violin had made it clear it wasn't go to play in the PCIe SSD market - and the
company's VIMMs don't suit a memory channel SSD form factor either- the
company's only publicly known stakeout in this market is the recently launched
While that's an interesting experiment - which will appeal to some
kinds of users who like Windows and who like the idea of having a single
source integrated SSD enhanced apps server - and while it gives Violin a
definitely different personality to other vendors competing in this space - I
could see 2 problems which would limit the scale of this business.
the fact that Violin provides the servers.
Most big users will
prefer to standardize on servers from their preferred server suppliers.
- the market limiting effect of the Windows SQL environment.
there are other OS's and other apps.
So I opened my conversation with Eric by saying I had been
speaking to a lot of people about his company recently and one of the main
things I wanted to talk about was what Violin was going to do about the
apparent segmentation problem - which is - the more you specialize a product for
one group of customers - the less attractive you make it for everyone else.
- Business limiting factors in the SSD storage array market.
particular I was wondering how Violin was going to deal with customers of the
type who liked its earlier array products - specifically because they didn't
come with a lot of software strings attached.
My concern was - that
that Violin's new product roadmap looked like it was going down the road of
increasing product specialization and increasing the software bundle.
despite what some naive market reports about the SSD array market may tell you
- more functionality equates to a worse matching product for those customers who
prefer to use a different preferred set of software.
customers in that group - who don't want it - all it does by being in the
bundle is slow things down, add to their costs and support and integration
I couldn't see the solution to this question coming from a continuing sequence
of product variations like the last 2 products.
And to make sure we
were on the same page I said - the outward sign of real marketing strength -
is being able to say with confidence which segments you definitely want to
walk away from.
He said straight away - we already did that when we
sold the PCIe SSD business.
Which showed we were on the same
So I quickly gave Eric a summary of the concerns which I
have already outlined to you above. And this is a summary of what he said.
the server side - he said he has seen those exact same issues.
named some customers (which I won't divulge here) who liked the look of the
WFA and went as far as evaluating it. And when they did that they liked the
performance they got.
(He reminded me BTW that the initial published
performance numbers for the WFA came from Microsoft - and not from Violin.)
But sometimes he conceded - that Windows is just a small part of a
customer's OS mix. If they're a big organization it's too cumbersome to start
supporting additional types of systems components in their infrastructure.
- on the SSD storage array side - he readily agreed with my point that there
are many customers who prefer using their own software which they already have -
rather than introducing a new bundle of software like that in the 7000. (And he
went on to give me a lot of examples of such use cases which Violin has seen
in its customer base.)
By then he'd already told me about how Violin
was already satisfying those needs with an unannounced new product.
said - I am not going to walk away from that kind of business or those kinds of
In a way - when Eric first told me the details - I was
surprised. But I wasn't shocked.
Because I had been thinking that the
solution might lie in the direction of a stripped down - no frills - software
light SSD array.
But I had anticipated that might be a future product.
Like a Strad 2000...
Can I talk about this? - I asked.
- but don't name the customers or the other details about the software
environments we talked about - said Eric.
So this is where I can reveal
the details of Violin's new product - which satisfies many of the problems I
mentioned above - which arise from having too much specialist software in an SSD
Although - not exactly.
Eric said - we can keep
the 6000 competitive and up to date - because most of the modules (power
supplies, fans, memory) are interchangeable with the 7000.
In a way the
solution is obvious. But in another way it's not.
I said to Eric - the
usual thing in this industry is that when a company brings out a new product
which looks a bit like the product they had before - but which does more - then
everyone assumes that the old product is obsolete.
maybe there's a case to made for relaunching the 6000.
- who simply look at the bullet points and count how many different software
features it's got - will hate it.
But the customers - who just want a
fast reliable and predictable SSD box - and who don't want to be told what
software they have to run with it - will be delighted.
BTW - I
deliberately didn't ask Eric to break out numbers for WFA sales.
won't try to estimate them by comparing them with similar things to guess a size
I said to Eric in this conversation - you don't need
analysts or market reports to tell you if the WFA experiment is working. You're
going to know that soon enough from your sales people.
So if it's still
in the product line next year - that will be a clue to us all.
the enterprise SSD box riddle game,
hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs,
this enterprise SSD different?
Dell rebrands FIO's ION - "Violin smasher class" fast
Editor:- June 24, 2014 - Fusion-io today
that its all-flash ION
Accelerator Appliance (fast rackmount SSD) will be offered as a fully
integrated and Dell
The scalable all-flash appliance features high
performance and efficient density with up to 12TB of persistent, ultra low
latency flash memory in 2U of space.
IBM is #1 in rackmount SSD revenue
16, 2014 - IBM
today that a recently published market report by IDC identified IBM as the
#1 company (ranked by revenue in 2013) for rackmount SSDs with 25% market
Editor's comments:- this would only be a surprise if
you had not read my January article -
Who's who in SSD?
It's IBM Jim - but not as we know it - which was cut and pasted from this
SSD news page you're reading now. .
The IBM-Jim article included
IBM's FlashSystems shipment numbers and the revelation that for 3 quarters IBM
shipped everything they could make.
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise
May 28, 2014 - StorageSearch.com
today published a new article -
hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs
Some of the
world's leading SSD marketers have confided in me they know from
their own customer anecdotes that there are many segments for enterprise
flash arrays which aren't listed or even hinted at in standard models of
the enterprise market.
Many of these missing market segments don't
even have names.
Hey - that means SSD-world is like a map of the
US before Lewis and Clark.
If you're a user - maybe that's why no
one is delighting you in the way you think you deserve.
That's what led
me to write my new article. ...read the
Another petabytes shipment snapshot of enterprise flash
May 9, 2014 - A recent blog - in ArchitectingIT
- says that 3 leading vendors shipped a sum total of over 50PB of
rackmount SSDs in
Q1 2014 - with HDS
- apparently having shipped more flash capacity than either EMC or Pure Storage
according to estimates by the blog's author Chris Evans.
comments:- How does this compare to other vendors? and to other times?
See Petabyte SSD
Milestones from Storage History.
Another context is this.
and when Skyera
ships just 40U of its fully populated upcoming
skyEagle (in a single
quarter later this year) that would be more flash capacity than anyone in the
above list. (Although they should all be shipping more too if you believe
flash capacity - on its own - is a crude and meaningless measure. (Unless -
I suppose - you're the company which sold the
chips or the boxes.)
of enterprise flash depends on how fast it is,
where it's located in the
datacenter architecture and how well it has been integrated to leverage
the application architecture.
EMC acquires memory channel SSD in a box company DSSD
May 5, 2014 - EMC
has acquired a stealth mode rackmount SSD company - DSSD
- it was announced
Products based on the new DSSD architecture are expected to be
available in 2015.
Editor's comments:- an informative and
entertaining article about this can be seen on
sounds like the DSSD product will implement a large directly addressable (by
PCIe) memory space - based on a transparent
RAM cache flash
scheme and will offer latencies similar to
SSDs - but with the capacity difference being that you can pack more
capacity into a box than in a bunch of DDR3 DIMMs.
It hearkens back to
the original big shared memory in a box connected by PCIe of
Violin's first product
- the Violin 1010 Memory
Appliance - which was launched back in 2007.
Although that was
pure RAM - and
enterprise users in those days weren't as
educated as they
are today. That meant Violin had to go back and redesign the product to include
a fibre-channel front end -
to make it fit in with the market idea of what an enterprise SSD box should
really look like. And that product also came in at the tail end of the
RAM SSD market - in the
year before new flash
controller architectures enabled SSD makers (including Violin) to displace
low to mid range SSD boxes with pure flash.
And before Violin's product
- in 1994 - Texas Memory
Systems was shipping a product called the SAM-2000 (Shared Access Memory) -
which enabled a bunch of different computers (even with different OS and
internal busses) to share the same memory at low microsend latencies and bus
There's an argument for saying that Violin already offers
something similar now to what EMC hopes to ship next year - in the shape of
Flash Array (WFA). Except that the 1st generation WFA uses GbE as the server
clustering fabric. But my guess is that it would be easy for Violin to offer
other variations with lower internal latency - to connect the CPUs to its
- if they thought enough customers would buy it.
IBM can already do
something similar (to Violin) with its X6 architecture.
limitations in IBM's technology are that the 1st generation of eXFlash DIMMs
(designed by SanDisk
and Diablo) are greedy
when it comes to power consumption. That means legacy server motherboards
don't have enough current capacity routed to the DIMMs to enable you to fill
them all with these modules. That's easy to change, however by adding more
copper in the motherboards and increasing the air flow in the box.
EMC offers the DSSD as a product which is unbundled from the brand of server -
then it might find a niche market for it.
But there are so many
different ways of tackling the same problem (such as enabling
PCIe SSD fabric from
storage, not to mention what's the PCIe interface for in
Skyera's new box)
that it may already be a crowded market by the time EMC has anything to ship.
Are you ready to
rethink enterprise RAM?
Pure Storage's funding coffers fattened up to nearly $0.5
Editor:- April 23, 2014 - Pure Storage
it had raised another $225 million in funding - bringing the total in all
rounds to $470 million.
Editor's comments:- One of Pure
Storage's many competitors - Nimbus
- whose CEO has taken a different approach to funding (so far) - this week
published an unflattering
side by side features comparison between the 2 company's flagship rackmount
trends, VCs in SSDs
Violin enters the fast HA SSD apps server market
April 22, 2014 - Violin
general availability of its
Flash Array (WFA) - a new 3U fast 10GbE
SSD accelerated apps
server (64TB raw flash capacity) - for Microsoft enterprise software
environments (with unique software developed by Microsoft) which opens up a new
market opportunity for Violin and which enables it to compete head to head
with vendors who sell enterprise servers accelerated by
PCIe SSDs or
SSDs with its own proprietary solution - which integrates servers preloaded
and configured with Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 with fast RDMA memory access
to an internal fabric of Violin
Editor's comments:- This product announcement is
the nexus of several past business strands for Violin and also I think marks
another major reset point for the company in terms of its positioning and
business potential in the SSD market.
Here are a couple of things
for you to be thinking about this new product.
- Violin was already one of the
leading companies in
the rackmount SSD
market before this product line. Its previous products provided various ways
to accelerate apps by connecting their storage to existing servers.
this new product - if you're using enterprise apps from Microsoft - Violin can
now provide the servers too. And the fast flash is already integrated in the
server blades with a low latency software connection into server RAM via
custom VIMM acceleration code written by Microsoft.
While not as
scalable as some of the new vendors in the general cloud / SDS market
(Violin's new system currently scales to 4 arrays) - Violin's box will be one
of the 2 or 3 fastest boxes in the market today.
- Look Ma - no PCIe SSDs!
Less than a year after Violin made its
late entry into the PCIe SSD market (in January 2013) the company's new
management in 2014 was saying that it would soon exit that business.
exit strategy made sense even before today's announcement - because it's a
different type of business. - Violin was late to market - and PCIe SSDs
requires different technical and marketing support than systems. (You saw a
mirror image of some of those problems with
boostrapping of itself into also being a systems company last year.)
Violin's case - seen from the company's business perspective - with its WFA
product - you can now see why decoupling from the PCIe SSD market makes even
more sense than it did before for 2 more reasons.
1- If Violin isn't
using its own PCIe SSD form factors in its own servers (but using its
proprietary VIMMs instead) then why should anyone else use them?
Another reason in the balance is that the WFA will compete directly with server
makers who are in the market for PCIe SSDs. If Violin found it hard trying to
sell PCIe SSD to server makers before - the company's entry into the SSD
server market would shrink such design prospects even more.
Going back to the WFA
product launch. I think the WFA is the most significant new product direction
for Violin since the company switched away from using DRAM in its rackmount SSD
arrays - and over to using flash (in
- A new style of marketing.
When I spoke last week - ostensibly
about the WFA product briefing - to Eric Herzog,
Violin's new CMO - I started by repeating something I'd already said to him
earlier by email.
Violin's big Achilles heel in recent years in my view
had been its marketing.
Since September 2011 (long before the
company's IPO) I had been saying to readers on these pages as directly as I
could that Violin's marketing communications and advertising was not fit for
I told Eric that I regarded his arrival in the company as a
way to change all that.
He told me that he agreed - and had already
taken steps to correct a lot of past obvious mistakes.
On the business
development side he said the new management team at Violin included a strong
hybrid of skills in both big enterprise companies and startups.
personal level - having left a lot of money on the table from his previous post
in coming to join Violin - he believed there was a great opportunity for
Violin to be much more successful than it has been upto now. And a part of what
he would be doing is ensuring that the company communicated more clearly - in
the same kind of language that its customers used - what Violin was all about
and how its solutions made good business sense.
can I still buy WhipTail arrays? - blog by StorageMojo
April 17, 2014 - In case you hadn't noticed - Cisco hasn't exactly
been providing a rolling news narrative on what it's been doing with the
products and technologies it acquired from rackmount SSD maker - WhipTail.
IBM was similarly quiet for
a year after it acquired Texas
Memory Systems - although
as IBM later
revealed (earlier this year) - they had been busy selling a lot of those
systems - and adding some improvements to make it blend in better with the
In the past 10 years
acquiring an SSD
company has changed from being a rarified novelty. And in that time we've
seen that what companies do after they've acquired an SSD company varies a lot.
The other end of the spectrum (compared to Cisco and IBM) when it
came to post acquisition news noise - was
SandForce, and maybe
also SanDisk with
to WhipTail, however... this week Robin Harris
(StorageMojo) muses on what's
happening now in the sales arena with WhipTail's arrays in his blog -
gets the Cisco Whiptail lash
DCIG ranks top rackmount SSD vendors
31, 2014 - If you're interested in
then DCIG has published the
2014-15 Flash Memory Storage Array Buyer's Guide (free sign-up page) -
which provides detailed comments on the strengths and weaknesses of rackmount
SSD systems from 20 different vendors - which are currently available in the
market today (includes list prices).
DCIG have created their own
multi-dimensional scoring system in which they look at component features such
as density (TB/U), software compatibility (for example ease of integration with
VMware), and management functions (dedupe, tiering, snapshots etc). DCIG has
ranked these systems overall - and compared many of them to others in the same
price band. Another useful feature of the report is a background story about the
design heritage or market history of each product.
comments:- I've read the report and think it's a good read with respect to
the raw data and detailed observations about many of the systems listed.
to the product rankings?
I think whether you agree or not -
depends on whether you would assign the same weights to each constituent in the
confidential matrix of factors which DCIG have devised.
users it will reflect your own priorities - for others - the scoring outcome
would be entirely different.
Among the SSD vendors listed in the
report - the happiest will be
Nimbus (who have been
about being #1) - and happy too should be
HP (which is #2).
vendors - whose products are best in class in a particular dimension - don't
score highly in the main list because they lose out on the "sum of all
things which DCIG think you might need" - which is an
judgement - rather than being a universal "goodness" attribute.
only company which is conspicuously absent from DCIG's list (at any rank)
Fusion-io. Does DCIG
know something we don't? That's very odd.
Pure Storage announces rackmount SSD mille-stone
March 11, 2014 - Pure
it has shipped over 1,000 of its Pure FlashArrays (fast enough rackmount
Editor's comments:- in case you didn't get that "mille-stone"
thing. "Mille" is an olde English prefix (from latin) meaning "thousand".
array history context?
Pure Storage's shipments milestone is
less signficant than IBM's
1,500 FlashSystem 840s (fast
rackmount SSDs), but more significant than
Tegile's 1,000 Zebi
storage arrays (hybrids)
- which we have also heard about in this quarter.
wanted! - VARs for Fusion's rackmounts
February 10, 2014 - Fusion-io
that its systems level (PCIe SSD inside) products will be widely available from
VARs in North America in in Spring 2014. Specifically these products include:-
Editor's comments:- It takes
less time to hatch a human baby than it has taken for Fusion-io to make the
transition from first talking about some of these integrated systems to
making them generally available.
Traditionally - SSD systems
companies hid the messy product creation process - and preferred to launch their
new rack babies when they were fully formed and ready to fly off the shelves.
That's in contrast to drive makers who often start revealing what their plans
are - long enough beforehand so that their customers can warm up to the idea.
Fusion's case - what we've been seeing in the past 2-3 quarters is not so much
the development of new rackmount product lines (because all the technology
components already existed before) but what we've witnessed instead is the
growth pangs and development of a new SSD systems business - jostling for
adequate space and recognition within an already confident module and software
business - with much of the thinking about the priorities being done out loud
and visible to the public gaze.
IBM shows off what's it's been doing with the RamSan rackmount
SSD product line it acquired from TMS - and also launches first memory
channel SSD based servers
Editor:- January 16, 2014 - For most of
the previous decade (2000 to 2009) Texas Memory Systems
was THE company which competitors aspired to match in market position when it
came to fast
In the early part of this decade (2010 to
2012) TMS lost
its monopoly on rackmounts as it inevitably had to share the expanding market
with a lot of other companies - starting with
Violin (which overtook
in 2011) and then
other companies like WhipTail,
Skyera which had all
established strong market recognition by the end of
in those latter years (from
not only was TMS competing against all those newbie rackmount vendors - but
it was also engaged in another hotly contested
part of the enterprise
SSD market in fast PCIe
SSDs - where its product line was trying to find a place somewhere in the
narrowing gaps between Fusion-io
Then a year ago - in January 2013 -
IBM completed the
acquisition of TMS (which had been announced in
August 2012) and
since then we haven't heard much about these products apart from a few
glimpses - which enabled us to observe that TMS's rackmount products had been
retained and renamed - while their PCIe products were quietly end of lifed.
week - among other things - IBM has launched a new fast rackmount SSD family -
architecture is effectively an enhanced adaptation of TMS's 8th
generation RamSan with some tweaks to incorporate newer memory, iron
out some RAS wrinkles (you can now change everything inside from the front or
back - without sliding the rack out) and a big investment to present a
software friendly face. The new software capabilities are being done by
products which are being offered as external-to-the-box unbundled
subsystems (control enclosures) for those who want them. This means that the
performance and efficiency of the raw flash array isn't compromised in any way.
new SSD box (a 2U
FC fast rackmount SSD with
upto 48TB usable capacity,
priced at $683K
approx list) is called the
Earlier this week I spent an hour talking about
this new product with Woody Hutsell
and Levi Norman -
who are both now back in the IBM branded TMS fold having both sampled the
delights of some other leading SSD companies in recent years. Woody wrote about
in a recent blog.
As I've known both of them for many years - I
couldn't help but start by saying - "This feels like one of those movies -
where they decide to make a sequel many years after - but all the actors look
much older. It's lucky for us this conversation isn't going out on YouTube."
can get a flavor of what IBM thinks it's doing with this new product - and more
details in its
document (pdf) - and I won't repeat much of that detail here.
said "It's interesting to me how much attention the flash operation is
getting within IBM's storage organization."
He went on to say
that IBM's big commitments to flash such as the $1 billion investment
announced last April
are seen within IBM as popular actions "which are important as we need to
compete." As a result - many competent people (in IBM) want to be a part
of the flashsystems effort.
Anther change in scale since TMS became
part of IBM is that the size of the development team for the flash systems
rackmount has quadrupled.
Sales are good too. IBM has shipped
over 1,500 of these flashsystems. In effect Woody said this was
limited by the fact that for 3 quarters IBM shipped everything they had planned
Woody said he thought that this alone - even without all the
other SSDs which IBM was selling into the enterprise market meant that IBM was
probably on its way to be one of the biggest vendors in the market.
said - a dominant market share in enterprise flash in 2014 might look like 5
or 10 per cent as there are hundreds of companies in the market. - We'll have
to see how things work
But my guess is that with a few assumptions about density,
channels etc this means this rackmount IBM product line has possibly been
generating about $500 million of revenue in the past year - which explains where
some of the revenue missing from competitors' reports may have gone to.
else which appeared in the briefing paper singing the praises of IBM's
expanding universe of enterprise flash product offerings - eXFlash DIMMs -
sounded to me like just another name for
to be the case) which appeared in another announcement
server announcements today - see footnotes for more.
final take on this? (FlashSystem 840 announcement)
IBM is now the
company to make comparisons with if you're looking for fast rackmount SSDs with
some high availability options. Particularly if you're working in a complex
environment - are a big customer and think you will be reassured by the
availability of compatible products and pre sales technical sales support.
density - in terms of rack units needed to build a
petabyte SSD - is
better than some other fast systems - but remains an order of magnitude less
Skyera - due to the
difference between IBM's use of eMLC compared to Skyera's claimed ability to
use TLC due to
controller architecture - which is 2 generations (4 years) ahead of what's
used in this particular IBM box. (Having said that - IBM does already use some
degree of adaptive flash SSD technology in other systems - by virtue of the
SSDs it designed in from
back to scary Skyera
- "On the other hand" - I said to Woody - "Skyera doesn't have
the same HA
or software in place
yet. But not everyone needs all these features."
Overall - for
competitors in the same high performance and reliability class as this new IBM
box (which includes companies like Violin,
Fusion-io etc) - IBM
can still be beaten on
price. It was ever
Footnotes - IBM's first memory channel SSD servers
SSD announcement today (alluded to above) about its new server
architecture which leverages
SSDs - and making a comparison with
PCIe SSDs - 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,
Virident, and 65
microseconds latency for
Intel S3500 and S3700
We've seen increasing granularity of detail emerge about
the system characteristics of memory channel SSDs emerging in a trickle of
announcements, and experimental user reports in the past year. Now that the new
flash DIMM SSD products are becoming generally available - there will soon be
better clarity on real world costs and performance.
heads up alert for a future article about rackmount SSDs
January 15, 2014 -
hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs is the working title
of a future article which will appear here on StorageSearch.com on
or shortly before February 14.
Segmentation is an important marketing
concept which enables vendors to operate more efficiently by identifying
discrete sets of customers within contextual frameworks - who (for specific
stated purposes) can be modeled as having similar needs. But many
significant user adoption realities still remain conspicuously absent in
enterprise SSD marketing plans. ...more about
enterprise flash storage - the 1st decade
December 11, 2013 - as we approach the end of another year - it's interesting
to note that this also marks the end of the 1st decade of flash storage arrays
in the enterprise.
This decade was an unruly period in
- accompanied from the very beginning by early doubts that flash could ever
be as reliable and
- every few years - the reliability debate was re-opened by the desire to use
newer, cheaper and intrinsically less reliable types of
flash memory to increase
competitiveness - which relied on ever more complicated internal architectures
to manage the growing raw technology deficits.
Most other IT related
markets would have reached some kind of predictable calm by now. But there's
no sign of that here in the
SSD market. Instead -
all the debates and architectural upheavels which accompanied enterprise flash
before now seem quaintly simple by modern standards. To get an idea of what
happened see my classic article -
Flash for the Enterprise".
You may decide that my ratios are too timid - I said to Skyera's
CEO - Rado Danilak.
If so - scare us!
22, 2013 - I spoke recently to Skyera's CEO about
SSD utilization efficiencies and the problem of being a newbie vendor in the
enterprise SSD market. You can see more in the article -
New report from the Spur Group tracks "share of voice"
in rackmount SSD market
Editor:- October 16, 2013 - The Spur Group
a new market report service -
Share of Partner
Voice: Storage and SSD ($4,995) which compare the sales channels for 4
encumbant rackmount storage platform vendors:
Dell against the channel
efforts of selected rackmount
SSD suppliers including:-
Whiptail and others.
Spur Group says its "Share of Partner Voice" web based methodology
is rooted in "extracting website content from over 76,000 technology
service providers, hosting companies, software developers and other customer
facing technology suppliers through a proprietary crawler."
Ross Brown, senior principal
and the lead author of the report, said - "Our approach to measuring Share
of Partner Voice® shows that Violin Memory is outpacing the market, with
more than twice the brand presence of its nearest competitor. The report also
highlights why the market for
companies is accelerating, as the channel adoption is happening very quickly and
often at the expense of incumbent platforms."
comments:- As you know I'm a great believer in the value of using raw web
data to get insights into fast changing emerging markets - which is why I
launched the Top SSD
Companies series - 6½ years ago.
The raw data types and
methodologies which The
Spur Group use are completely different to ours. They look at different
types of web activity and are based on different population samples - so the
results and inferences are going to have different use cases too.
growing ecosystem for storage
and SSD market data companies is a healthy sign that more economic
activity in future will become SSD-centric.
But a bigger SSD market
means bigger risks too.
This is a complex and innovative market - so
it's very easy to miss key products, companies and trends in the SSD market
compared to the comparative ease with which you can assess what's happening in
the "no great surprises here" technology museum segments
elsewhere in the enterprise.
exciting new directions in rackmount SSDs
May 29, 2013 - If you're an enterprise user who is already sold on the idea of
using more SSDs - what could be better than a great new SSD drive?
you're an SSD vendor looking for the magic formula to open up vast new
untapped markets for SSDs - what kind of solution do you need to offer to
attract enterprises who aren't at the sharp end of the performance pain
curve, are content with the speed they get from HDDs and who aren't even
looking at SSDs for their network storage?
This is a problem which has
been occupying the SSD industry's smartest product architects for years. And
their answer to both questions is the same - although the product details vary
according to the target market. - It's a new type of SSD box.
generation of enterprise SSD rackmounts is breaking all the rules which
previously constrained price, performance and reliability. The sum impact of
cleverly designed SSD arrays is systems which are many times more competitive
than you would imagine from any tear-down analysis of the parts.
new SSD folksy wisdom - "you can't second guess an enterprise flash array
from knowing what drives are in it" - may soon have to join the - "you
no longer judge
an SSD from simply knowing its memory".
Anyway - to get back to
my headline today - the new math of this new reality SSD box trend - what's
behind it, where it's going, and some of the vendors driving it - are explored
in my recent home page blog on StorageSearch.com
directions in rackmount SSDs. ...read the
Kaminario drops PCIe and turns to SAS to get costs down in new
Editor:- April 18, 2013 - "You don't have to be
an investment bank like JP Morgan to afford our style of fast, scalable high
availability SSD systems any more" - was the key message I got talking to
VP Business Development at Kaminario earlier
this week when discussing with me aspects of the company's newest series of
FC SAN compatible SSD
arrays - the
K2 v4 (6TB usable per U at a cost of $10K to $15K per TB) which was
Phil was referring to the expectation that their products -
which in the first generation were entirely
RAM based SSDs - and
then moved onto RAM / flash hybrids and then mostly pure flash (the flash
components being implemented in the previous generation of K2's by
Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs
- a relationship direction which I suggested in a much earlier briefing
conversation with Kaminario's CEO few years ago BTW ) - had acquired a
reputation of being out of reach pricewise - and not just in a class of their
own for resilience and
of the ways that Kaminario has pulled off the affordability trick is to drop
PCIe SSDs as the internal flash components and use instead
said before that in the enterprise arrays space - "SAS is the new SATA"
- because there are so many companies which have moved into this segment
that there's stiff competition. Unlike the PCIe SSD market -which is mostly sold
on high performance - the SAS market includes a number of vendors who have been
R/W ECC to enable them to use cheap flash to build reliable
Because Kaminario still has a lot of
RAM cache in
its server based architecture - it doesn't need the raw
and performance of
FIO's ioMemory to deliver multi-gigabyte throughput at the rack level. And
another factor is that Fusion-io itself is on course to become a significant
supplier of rackmount SSDs (although not aimed at the same kind of customers.)
Kaminario didn't want to say which SAS product they're using. They
might say later. But it doesn't really matter.
The K2 v4 also
demonstrates that the key IP component in Kaminario's box is SSD software.
When I suggested that future boxes could equally well discard SAS SSDs if
2.5" PCIe SSDs
offered a better set of characteristics - Phil agreed that the company wasn't
tied to any particular internal SSD drive form factor or interface.
has paid Taneja Group
to do some new testing on the performance aspects of simulated hard faults.
These will be very useful for customers - and take the uncertainty out of the
picture - giving hard numbers for various scenarios.
For example - when
running at just under 200K
5GB/s throughput - an entire node (controller) was removed to simulate a fault.
I/O resumed after 23 seconds and performance dropped by less than 15% for 2
minutes before recovering fully.
|Pure Storage tells CNBC
about enterprise flash|
|Editor:- June 3, 2013 - "You're not the only
company that plays in this market - correct?" - said Becky Quick, co-anchor of
CNBC's squawkbox in a leading
question to Scott
Dietzen, CEO of Pure Storage
"We weren't the first to package flash for
storage" said Dietzen. "What we did figure out uniquely was
how to get flash into a place where it was price competitive with (enterprise)
Editor's comments:- "uniquely"
must have another meaning I haven't learned yet.