| leading the way to the
new storage frontier||..|
| top SSD companies
changed in SSD year 2013?
ratios and the software event horizon
In line with the trend of DRAM shrinking into nanometerland where nand flash has
already been - Samsung today announced volume production of 20nm 4Gb DDR3|
|Editor:- March 11, 2014 - 40 years ago in the
days of MOS LSI - whenever semiconductor companies like
Intel wanted to
characterize a new semiconductor production process and establish the "safe"
design rules for manufacturability at ever smaller chip geometries (by doing a
"shrink") the circuit and product of choice for the fab architects
was memory - even if the eventual product for the wafer fab was going to be a
That's no longer true.
And so - more recently
- in the past few years - if you've been looking at all those "nm"
(nanometer) numbers in the news stories about IT related chips you can
hardly fail to have noticed that it's been the flash memory devices which have
been at the leading edge of the shrinking nanometer numbers.
when looking at production devices - flash has been about 2 years in advance of
DRAM and server CPUs.
You've often heard on these pages that it's only
the safe design rules used in preceding generations that interesting new
SSDs come to market.
And a big part of the to-do list for any
SSD controllers is to
cope with a predictable scale and style of expected memory defects and
virtualize them away - creating a usable base level storage device.
in line with this trend (of DRAM going into tiny spaces where nand flash has
already been) Samsung
it's using 20nm technology in the production of new 4Gb DDR3
way this pattern has been going in recent years is that the first volume uses
of new silicon geometries go into
consumer markets -
where if there's a data upset - you can see something wrong happening (blue
screen or freeze and some lost data) - but never mind - turn the power off and
try to resume where you left off before.
- Samsung was doing volume production of 10nm flash (used in consumer
eMMC SSDs for mobile
phones) in November
After several quarters of
doing this - the chip bakeries have finely tuned their recipes and are ready to
guarantee a less crumbly dough mixture for use in the enterprise.
if these concepts are new to you - it's not worthwhile memorizing them. Because
3D nand flash changes the
priority of future enhancements towards a preference for building upwards
in more layers instead of merely thinning sideways.
for a company called Skybox Imaging,
Inc. where I'm currently working on upgrading our storage system.
found your web site invaluable in doing market research and wanted to thank you.
- I love the mice!
Flight Software Engineer|
(email to the editor - February 28, 2014)
|Enterprise endurance - and
the SSD event horizon|
|Editor:- February 3, 2014 - I had not long
before ftped up the first draft of my new
Top SSD Companies
article last Friday afternoon - when I got an email from a reader - who
is an insider in an enterprise SSD company (and prefers to remain anonymous
here) who commented on an article I'd written a few months before - the SSD event horizon.|
said - "I had not seen that article before.... really liked it and
forwarded it to other people here. One other cause to consider for the event
horizon is this.... A real problem is that when it comes time for (system)
refresh, the customer looks at the wear life of the flash and observes
that it has plenty of available life and decides to keep it instead of
Editor's comments:- In case you haven't seen it yet either -
the SSD event
horizon article is hard to summarize - but - among the things discussed
are the predictable revenue crashes which can hit enterprise SSD vendors
from time to time - triggered when they ratchet up technical improvements in
their products which increases SSD utilization for a homogeneous user base - at
a faster rate than the sales ramp was growing before such changes.
in SSD systems endurance
wasn't one of the examples mentioned in my original article - but when viewed
from this angle - it is.
The event horizon impact on revenue is
something I had also been discussing with another company last Thursday - this
time from the perspective of
|What's the big picture
message re SSDs? What do you say to your VC, lawyer, and non technical friends
who don't work in the computer industry?|
| the big picture
message re SSDs|
The above article - originally published in 2010
- is still the basis of many conversations I have with newcomers to the SSD
|Coho Data now shipping 2U
Editor:- March 6, 2014 - Coho Data today
general availability of its first product - a 2U
SSD ASAP called the
(an SSDserver 4/E) - which
integrates PCIe SSDs,
hard drives and a
server into a web scale expandable unit (using an internal 52 port 10GbE fabric
switch) to implement what the company refers to as a "MicroArray"
designed with the philosophy of
Tiering Upside Down (pdf)" to deliver a base building block unit of
Editor's comments:- you may judge for
yourself the lofty scale of Coho's
ambitions by this market
soothsayer quote which they integrated in the launch press release - "By
2017, Web-scale IT will be an architectural approach found operating in 50%
of Global 2,000 enterprises."
SSD empowered cloud
VMware enters the SSD market
Editor:- March 6, 2014
- With the launch of its
Virtual SAN - VMware has at last
joined the crowding SSD
software ecosystem as a lead SSD player rather than (as before) in a
subordinate role (as the
dancing partner - a bit like dancing with your uncle or aunt at the wedding
disco) which was the case before in
of acceleration compatibility stories narrated by other SSD companies.
version 1.0 is an SSD
ASAP (hybrid virtualizing appliance) - which supports 3-8 server nodes. The
company says that "support for more than 8 will come later." ...read the
Editor's comments:- first impressions? It's
late and doesn't look great (in features). But it will probably be deemed
adequate for many users starting down this road.
Before dismissing it
entirely (as some commentators and competitors have already done) let's
remember that when LSI
entered the SSD market in
January 2010 -
it was the "163rd company to enter the SSD market". And look
where they are now.
late to market doesn't count as a mortal sin in the SSD marketing lexicon
right now because
mover advantage (pdf) assumptions aren't valid in this phase of the
more comments re VSAN
customers who had the opportunity to participate in the VSAN beta told us that
in most cases, (our) Maxta MxSP performs better" - said competitor Yoram Novick,
founder Maxta in his blog
Storage the Devil is in the Details
proud of how the team has outperformed expectations. Today we're announcing GA
support for 32 nodes. That means that Virtual SAN can now scale from a
modest 3 node remote office, to a multi-petabyte, mega-IOPS monster just
by adding more server resources... and ...VSAN isn't bolted on, it's built in."
- says Ben Fathi,
VMware - in his blog -
SAN: Powerfully Simple and Simply Powerful
Fusion-io accelerates Yelp
Editor:- March 5, 2014 -
an applications story about the use of its SSDs to accelerate the MySQL
database infrastructure of Yelp while also
extending the viable longevity of its existing datacenter boxes.
new CMO at Violin
Editor:- March 4, 2014 - Violin today
it had recruited a new CMO - Eric Herzog.
Editor's comments:- it's often the case that when business
doesn't go the way that investors would like - they blame/change the marketing.
had identifed weaknesses in Violin's marketing on this site even when they were
on the upward ride. Doesn't mean to say I would know how to fix them in today's
much more complicated enterprise market.
There are no easy SSD
business options. But getting a new marketing brain - when you have SSD
business headaches is a no-brainer.
OCZ launches Z-Drive 4500 - 19nm enterprise PCIe SSD
March 4, 2014 - OCZ
is still using LSI's
SandForce SSD controllers
SF-2582 enterprise SATA (pdf)) in its newest PCIe SSD - the
Z-Drive 4500 Series
today - which has upto 3.2TB of usable
19nm flash, R/W bandwidth
of 2.9GB/s and 2.2 GB/s respectively, and 252K / 76 K R/W
in a FHHL form factor and is integrated with Windows WXL and OCZ's VXL
Being physically smaller than OCZ's legacy Z-Drive R4 - the new 4500
will be compatible with more server platforms.
The embedded controllers
operate thermal-throttling - which means that if the drive gets hot - the
performance is reduced to avoid runaway overheating.
The Z-Drive 4500
comes with integrated Windows Accelerator (WXL) Software - and is also fully
compatible with OCZ's legacy VXL virtualization and caching software.
previous generations of PCIe SSDs from OCZ - the Z-Drive 4500 is bootable.
positions the Z-Drive 4500 as its best yet enterprise PCIe SSD family
which "advances the Z-Drive Series feature-set by supporting higher
performance and a more robust architecture."
4500 briefing notes (pdf)
Editor's comments:- OCZ's
VXL bundles have been very successful in small to medium scale enterprise
The evolution of this product line - supporting as it
does another new generation of (lower cost) memory - will further extend its
LSI blog discusses hyperscale and customer driven change in the
Editor:- March 4, 2014 - "It's no longer enough to
ticktock product roadmap" - says Rob Ober,
Processor and System Architect LSI - in his new blog
the datacenter ecosystem -in which he goes on to say "Development
cycles for datacenter solutions used to be 3 to 5 years. But these cycles are
And when talking about rack scale
architectures - Rob says "Traditionally new architectures were driven by
OEMs, but that is not so true anymore."
I could have picked out several other things I like (and agree with) - your
favorite snippets may be different to mine. I'm looking foward to the next 2
articles in this series.
inside the SSD box,
the big market impact
of SSD dark matter,
enterprise data touches SSDs ,
how did the SSD
software market get into this mess?
Micron taps enterprise market to head storage business
March 3, 2014 - Micron
Thomas has been named as VP of Micron's storage business unit.
Oh, I know SanDisk
Editor:- February 27, 2014 - 2
years ago - with the acquisition of FlashSoft - SanDisk began to step
up its efforts to reposition itself as an enterprise SSD company - an
aspiration hadn't really been articulated in earlier
(even when they had involved enterprise ready product lines).
strategic goal of doing more in the
already been evoked in the company's investor communications a few months
before the details of how the missing IP would be sourced in detail became
transparently clear with the decision to acquire
SMART in July
blog on SanDisk's enterprise site - Jean S. Bozman,
Enterprise Solutions Manager, SanDisk - muses on how those enterprise-ward
changes are being seen through her eyes in as a relatively new employee and
also by customers - in conversations which begin with - "Oh, I know
SanDisk" (as a USB
flash drive maker) but then go on to other places.
Virtium launches 32GB ULP RAM with industrial screening
February 26, 2014 - Virtium
new low profile 16GB and 32GB DDR3 RAM modules in these form factors -
ULP (Ultra-Low Profile) - 0.70" high and VLP (Very-Low Profile) - 0.738"
high - for use in dense embedded servers which need industrial temperature
operation in these form factors.
Editor's comments:- as with
- one of the differences in industrial memory is the screening process.
Virtium's memory blog
says that using 24 hour TDBI (Test During Burn-In) chambers can reduce early
failures up to 90%.
involves many complex dimensions - so too does server RAM reliability - as
these articles show...
Hybrid Memory Cube gets x2 speedup
25, 2014 - Although the market for Hybrid Memory Cube compatible
RAM has barely begun - a
new Gen2 specification was
today which doubles the fastest short-reach data performance (previously
15Gb/s) upto 30Gb/s. See also:-
A3CUBE unveils PCIe memory fabric for
PCIe SSD architectures
Editor:- February 25, 2014 -
PCIe SSDs can now
access a true PCIe connected shared memory fabric designed by A3CUBE - which exited stealth today
of their remote shared broadcast memory network -
RONNIEE Express -
which provides 700nS (nanoseconds) raw latency (4 byte message) and which
enables message throughput - via standard PCIe - which is 8x better
Editor's comments:- I spoke to the
recently - who say they intend to make this an affordable mainstream
The idea of using PCIe as a fabric to share data at low
latency and with fast throughput across a set of closely located servers
isn't a new one.
The world's leading PCIe chipmaker
PLX started educating
designers and systems architects about these possibilities
few years ago - as a way to elegantly answer a new set of scalability
problems caused by the increasing adoption of PCIe SSDs. These questions
- how do you make this expensive resource available to more servers?
the least year or so - we've seen most of the leading vendors in the enterprise
PCIe SSD market leverage some of the new features in PCIe chips - to
implement high availability SSDs with low latency.
- how do you enable a simple to implement failover mechanism - so that data
remains accessible in the event of either a server or SSD fault?
But although there
are many ways of doing this - the details are different for each vendor.
- until now - if you wanted to share data at PCIe-like latency across a bunch
of PCIe SSDs from different companies - located in different boxes - the
simplest way to do that was to bridge across ethernet or infiniband. - And even
though it has been technically possible with standard software packages - the
integration, education and support issues - compared to legacy SAN or NAS
techniques would be extremely daunting.
That's where A3CUBE comes into
the picture. Their concept is to provide a box which enables any supported PCIe
device to connect to any other - at low latency and with high throughput -
in an architecture which scales to many thousands of nodes.
heart of this is a shared broadcast memory window - of 128Mbytes - which can be
viewed simultaneously by any of the attached ports.
ever used shared remote memory in a supercomputer style of system design at
any time in the past 20 years or so - you'll know that the critical thing is how
the latency grows as you add more ports. So that was one of the questions I
Here's what I was told - "The latency is related to the
dimension of the packet for example: In a real application using a range of
64-256 bytes of messages the 3D torus latency doubled after 1,000 nodes.
With larger packets, the number of nodes to double the latency becomes grater.
But the real point is that the latency of a simple p2p in a standard 10GE is
reached after 29,000 nodes.
"A more clear example of the scalability of the system is this.
Imagine that an application experiences a max latency of 4 us with 64 nodes, now
we want to scale to 1,000 nodes the max latency that the same application
experience will became 4.9 us. 0.9 us of extra latency for 936 more nodes."
Editor again:- Those are very impressive examples - and demonstrates that the
"scalability" is inherent in the original product design.
didn't want to say publicly what the costs of the nodes and the box are at this
stage. But they answered the question a different way.
Their aim is to
price the architecture so that it works out cheaper to run than the legacy
(pre-PCIe SSD era) alternatives - and they're hoping that server oems and fast
SSD oems will find A3CUBE's way of doing this PCIe fabric scalability stuff -
is the ideal way they want to go.
There's a lot more we have to learn
- and a lot of testing to be done and software to be written - but for users
whose nightmare questions have been - how do I easily scale up to a 10,000
PCIe SSD resource - and when I've got it - how can I simplify changing
suppliers? - there's a new safety net being woven. Here are the
coming soon - an incrementally denser rackmount SSD from Nimbus
February 25, 2014 - What does a
petabyte of pure
flash enterprise SSD look like?
It depends on who makes it, the
relative speed category
of the storage itself and the user's own preferences for
schemes and associated
the densest (best) level - a petabyte of enterprise SSD can occupy as little as
2U rack space (skyEagle
The upper limit in size depends a lot on the internal
and memory type
- but typically occupies 10x to 20x more physical space than the example I've
On that theme - Nimbus Data today
that in April it will sample the next generation of its own fast
featured SSD systems - the Gemini X - which will provide an incremental 2x
capacity density improvement over the company's previous offering.
Gemini X implements 960TB (raw) unified SSD storage with 100 microseconds
latency (at under 6W / TB) in 24U of rackspace (40GB/s internal bandwidth)
with external connection via 10 dual ports which can be
40Gb Ethernet or
Like most leading vendors -
Nimbus likes to
think that its product are better than some other named competitors.
But all such comparisons are very selective.
1 in 5 strings cut at Violin
Editor:- February 20,
2014 - Violin Memory
it has downsized its workforce by 21% - compared to the peak of 4 months
ago. The company indicated that (despite this restructuring of sales,
marketing and engineering) Violin still hoped to "grow revenues by
strengthening engagement of indirect channels."
Marvell samples 5K IOPS smartphone SSD
February 18, 2014 - Marvell
it is sampling a new
5.0 controller - the 88NV1088 - which enables "SSD class"
performance (280MB/s read speed and 5K random IOPS) in a smartphone compatible
IBM Redbook places memory channel SSDs in onboard server apps
contexts and hierarchy
Editor:- February 18, 2014 - IBM today published a new
free 28 page ebook (aka Redbook) -
IBM eXFlash Memory-Channel Storage in Enterprise Solutions (abstract) / (pdf) -
which describes how
SSDs fit into the concept of servers relative to the other types of SSDs
Editor's comments:- I've been writing
about this technology since the time it was being developed and have been well
briefed by the original developers - so this paper didn't have any great
surprises to me - but I think this document presents a balanced introduction
to this technology and a contextualized analysis of how it compares to the
other well established SSD acceleration options which are available for use
key takeway - in my view is table 2 - in which you can see a hierarchy of write
latencies which are approximately 5x longer in each case as you
progress up the flash SSD options from
SSDs, PCIe SSDs
and SAS SSDs.
bearing in mind that SSD data write latency is not the same as apps
performance latency (because the integration of R/W data flow patterns
with the software
plays a significant part too) and also remembering that
some products in
the market will blur the ratio of the latency boundaries for these 3
different SSD types - you can, nevertheless see why memory channel has a
distinct slot within the onboard SSD acceleration options which you need to
another $13 million for Primary Data
February 17, 2014 - A
in SiliconAngle.com - shared from the linkedin page of Primary Data's CMO
- Rick White -
says that Primary Data (which is still in stealth mode) has secured another
$13 million funding - bringing its total funding up to $63 million.
comments:- there's a lot of speculation about what this new company is
Primary Data's founders changed the enterprise server market
with their previous startup
Fusion-io (founded in
Before Fusion-io - server makers didn't want to talk about
After Fusion-io - no server maker could launch a new
enterprise server product line without including SSD acceleration as a standard
option. (Because Fusion-io signed up most of the key server oems as "PCIe SSD inside"
which made all server makers
hostage to the
fortunes of SSD).
When Primary Data launches its products later
this year - what will its products look like?
From the hints dropped
so far - it seems that
Primary Data will
aim to shake up the enterprise architecture world with a new platform which
leverages SSD enhanced servers as the worker ants in a software scheme which
spans everything from the local cluster to the
also:- VCs and SSDs,
enterprise SSD silos,
Diablo comments on legal barbs cast by Netlist
February 14, 2014 - Diablo's
CEO and founder -
Badalone was reported to have said in an
blog by Willem ter Harmsel today - re the lawsuit launched against
them by Netlist...
(Netlist) basically have yet to prove that:- they understand the product, and
also that they have found anything Diablo is actually infringing on. We are
just going to let this run through the (legal) process and we are confident
about the outcome." ...read
Atlantis provides more evidence of the trend towards massively
improved enterprise utilization enabled by SSD-aware software
February 11, 2014 - Atlantis
that the new "In-Memory Storage Technology" release of its storage
virtualization software - called
Atlantis ILIO USX -
can significantly increase enterprise utilization by enabling users to deploy
up to 5x more VMs on their existing storage.
USX faqs (pdf),
utilization and the SSD event horizon,
Conduant's new 3U 8TB PXIe SSD
Editor:- February 10,
2014 - Conduant
launched a 3U
single slot PXIe module which can be populated with upto 8 mSATA SSDs. The
DM-8M-3U has a PCIe Gen 2 interface which connects to the flash array via
an on-board Marvell
controller. See also:- test
systems, military SSDs
wanted! - VARs for Fusion's rackmounts
February 10, 2014 - Fusion-io
that its systems level (PCIe SSD inside) rackmounts will soon be widely
available from VARs in North America. 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.
Pure Storage launches maintenance program to allay user fears
about flash array upgrade costs and obsolescenece
6, 2014 - Pure
a new business model for supporting its rackmount SSDs - the
Forever Flash program - which
the company says will provide users who have maintenance contracts better
forward visibility of costs and upgrades.
One of the clever subliminal marketing messages here - when you get into the
details - is the assumption that Pure Storage will still be in business in
future years and still offering competitive SSD systems which you'd want to
But at the same time - Pure Storage - does also tackle
head-on a key user fear which delays sales in this statement - "Flash
storage changes completely every 6-9 months, so we built the
FlashArray to allow for
incremental expansion to take advantage of fast flash density and cost
enterprise SSD box riddle game,
survivor's guide to enterprise SSDs
3D NAND flash challenges - an industry roundtable discussion
Editor:- February 6, 2014 - The best article I've yet seen about
the practical implications of increasing the adoption of 3D NAND flash is -
At The Table: Commercial potential and production challenges for 3D NAND memory
technology published by Semiconductor
Manufacturing and Design.
Among the many practical
considerations discussed in this article was the question of - "how is the
semi industry preparing for the transition to 3D memory?"
issue of scalability limits and market pacing - the article reveals that
vertical scalability currently appears feasible in roadmaps upto about 100 cell
But the rate of 2D shrinks in successive 3D designs
will slow down from the recent historic average of 20% per generation to 5% -
due to the problems of registration which accumulate up as you add more
ATP's industrial SSD firmware has been screened for power fail
Editor:- February 5, 2014 - ATP
today that the design qualification process of the firmware used in its new
industrial 2.5" SATA 2 SLC SSD range - the
SI-Lite - includes assessing the data integrity vulnerability to "multiple
power outage conditions during different R/W timing and the product has passed
several thousands of power cycles during the strict product qualification
sudden power loss,
SSD data integrity
old software will slow new silicon in memory done by SSDs
February 5, 2014 - In a new blog -
Vistas For Persistent Memory - Tom Coughlin,
Associates reminds us that in exteremely fast SSDs - lowering the
hardware latency is just one part of the design solution.
Tom says -
"An important element in using persistent memory in the PCIe and memory
bus of computers is the creation of software programs that take advantage of the
speed and low latency of nonvolatile memory. With the increase in performance
that new interfaces allow, software built around slower storage technologies
becomes a significant issue preventing getting the full performance from a
persistent memory system."
Tom's article includes a graph which
shows the increasing proportion of the read access time taken up by system
software in successively faster hardware interface generations. ...read
Editor's comments:- living with the old
while planning for a new type of SSD-aware computer architecture is
Just how complicated that picture can be... you may
glimpse in a classic far reaching paper (about abstracting application
transactional semantics in usefully different ways when viewed from their
interactions with the flash translation layer) - called
Operations via the Flash Translation Layer (pdf) by Gary Orenstein,
PLX is ready with 1st Gen3 compliant PCIe switches
February 4, 2014 - PLX
announced it is
the 1st PCIe switch vendor to have achieved Gen3 compliance having passed the
compliance testing procedures of PCI-SIG.
Editor's comments:- the new standard doubles the maximum
data bandwidth of PCIe SSDs to 1GB/s per lane in each direction - which enable
32GB/s total throughput for a x16 link.
SSD interface chips,
Express 3.0 Integrators List
news - January 2014
SSD news - December 2013
SSD milsestones -
month by month in 2013
history - all
|"It's not newsworthy"|
|Why being the 49th SSD company to do the same
thing doesn't rate a mention on StorageSearch.com's news page - even if it
was widely reported on other sites.
Why won't I publish your
|"...My advice re
SSDs for database acceleration has always been - try before you buy.
That's because the performance model which you have in your head may not be the
same performance model which is at work inside your system."|
|...Editor (in many conversations) about the
interplay of enterprise software with SSDs in database apps. |
sudden power loss|
|Why should you care
what happens in an SSD when the power goes down? |
This important design
feature - which barely rates a mention in most SSD datasheets and press releases
- has a strong impact on
SSD data integrity
This article will help you understand why some
SSDs which (work perfectly well in one type of application) might fail in
others... even when the changes in the operational environment appear to be