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SSD ad - click for more info
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services which sell SSDs
Editor:- November 14, 2014 - I recently learned about 2 interesting service products related to SSDs.

They aren't strictly new - as in "launched today" - but they are interesting examples of a new marketing differentiation trend in the SSD market - where some companies are making it easier to do business with them - by offering services which make it easier for more customers to buy their SSDs.

Tegile IntelliCare

The first of these is a new service offering from Tegile - called IntelliCare - which for me was much more interesting than the new entry level SSD box which they announced at the same time.

Tegile collects setup and configuration information from its user base which enables the company to learn the range of settings - such as the compression rate - or the ratio of SSD to HDD capacity - or the raw performance level - used for popular applications.

This crowd based data (via IntelliCare) can now be leveraged by any user who is setting up new systems to get a heuristically guided feel for the range of settings and efficiency expectations which might be realistic for them too.

I thought that for most users that was a great idea because it removes most of the burden of coming up with the right answer. And it will provide confidence to user admins and save time in configuring new systems.

So the result will be to incrementally improve the user experience of all Tegile's customers - in a very direct way they can relate too - instead of indirectly - as for example when enterprise flash array vendors collect statistics about endurance in their boxes - which (by informing the designers how their flash care schemes are working across the spectrum of real-life apps) mainly benefits users who buy the next generation of products based on that crowd intelligence.

As a business development tool for Tegile - it will probably help customer loyalty (from one system refresh cycle to the next) as well as demonstrably reducing the risk of overspend for new customers too.

SanDisk STAR

The SanDisk Tech Assisted Refresh program (STAR) - launched (September 2014) - simplifies the task for corporates of getting new notebook SSD technology sooner, more easily and at lower cost - into their population of legacy HDD based notebooks. Among other things - the upgrade program can be done on site. "Laptops never leave the premises" - which greatly simplifies security concerns and logistics.

The productivity benefits of using SSDs in the workplace have been known a long time.

In September 2009 - Intel chose that as the main theme for their SSD bookmarks (educational series) - because Intel said it would give readers an overview of the "benefits experienced by the enterprise after deploying notebooks with solid state drives."

SanDisk recently produced a whitepaper about these benefits to support their STAR program - TCO for an SSD-enabled PC (pdf)

However you arrive at justifying a similar conclusion (SSDs enhance enterprise notebook user productivity) the point about the new services program is that it cuts out the messy bits of getting to the end result. And not only does that make it easier to sell more SSDs - but it makes user organizations more willing to buy.

services which deter you buying SSDs

On the other hand - the intention of a new service offering can also be to deter you from buying competitive SSDs.

This SSD deterrent effect is discussed in a recent story concerning Apple on ZDNet which says that a new version of Apple's OS X won't boot dependably if you have an independently sourced (non-Apple) SSD as the boot device.

You might say - what's the surprise? - given that Apple has been making it clear for years it doesn't like users having 3rd party unbranded hardware inside its products. Just be thankful that Apple doesn't also insist which power utility you should use to supply the electrons for their power supplies.

innovation after years of stagnation?

The New Data Services - a new blog by Andy Warfield , cofounder and CTO - Coho Data makes this observation...

"Here's the sad thing. Data services in the storage industry haven't changed an awful lot in the (past) 20 years."

Andy goes on to say - however - that he's excited by new signs of data services innovation in the cloud.
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image shows software factory - click to see storage software directory
SSD software
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Micron samples auto-market endurance compliant mSATA SSDs
Editor:- November 4, 2014 - Ever since the first microprocessors and MOS memories were marketed in the early 1970s - it was realized that systems designers in mission critical embedded applications would need some kind of reassurance from the makers of such chips that their new devices would still be operating reliably at some time in the remote future.

These new semiconductor devices self evidently had no proven market track record.

Due to the undesirability (from an industrial chipmakers point of view) of waiting 7 to 10 elapsed years to collect the real-time reliability evidence which would convince industrial users it was safe to design these new products into their systems - by which time they would be EOL and long forgotten - the semiconductor industry evolved theoretical methods to satisfy customers in such markets much sooner.

These marketing techniques centered around accelerated life tests - which involved extreme temperature cycling - supported by physics based models which explained how the breakdown mechanisms in the new chips were accelerated at extreme temperatures - compared to their normal operational use.

I was reminded of those extrapolated life techniques today - because they are at the core of a document called - non-volatile memory program/erase endurance, data retention, and operating life test 2012 (pdf) - which is part of a set of standards for automotive electronics - from an ORG called the AEC.

This had been mentioned in a press release today from Micron - who is sampling a new automotive-grade SSD - the M500IT (pdf) (2.5" / mSATA - industrial grade SSD) - whose memory components and the SSD itself have been acceleration life tested according to the methods described along with the nostalgic sounding (to me) stress inducing checkerboard test data patterns which I remember having used in industrial control systems back in 1980.

Having said that - a good reality check I heard from a long term veteran of flash memory (the co-founder of FMJ) earlier this year - is that aesthetically plausible geometric R/W test patterns - such as those used to verify SSD controller compatibilities with new flash memories for example - aren't always the stressiest patterns which will break the memory.
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image shows mouse building storage - click to see industrial SSDs article
industrial SSDs
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from the SSD news archive
September
2014
A3CUBE - first US customer shipments soon

Samsung mass produces 3TB 3D 10 DWPD PCIe SSDs

Seagate reports low take up of hybrid drives
August
2014
Samsung ships 10nm SAS SSDs

Diablo unveils DDR-4 flash DIMM SSDs

July
2014
SanDisk launches ZetaScale (enterprise flash memory tier software)

NxGn Data exits stealth with promise of in-situ SSD processing
June
2014
SanDisk to buy Fusion-io

IBM is #1 in rackmount SSD revenue
May
2014
Seagate agrees to acquire LSI's flash business for $450 million

Kaminario guarantees amplified usable capacity
April
2014
SanDisk samples 4TB 2.5" SAS SSDs

Violin enters the SSD integrated server market
March
2014
Samsung says its 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSD are 3x faster than 12Gbps SAS SSDs
February
2014
A3CUBE unveils PCIe memory fabric for 10,000 node-class architectures

Marvell samples 5K IOPS smartphone SSD (eMMC 5.0)
January
2014
IBM revamps TMS rackmount SSDs and launches memory channel SSD servers (with SanDisk / Diablo inside)

Half Micron's nand flash now used in SSDs

InnoDisk's (MO-276) nanoSSD in full scale production

Netlist says ULLtraDIMM SSDs infringe its patents

And prior to that...

what changed in SSD year 2013?

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pcie  SSDs - click to read article
PCIe SSDs
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why did Memblaze launch its new 14µS latency PCIe SSDs in Europe before US?
Editor:- October 31, 2014 - Something I saw in a press release this week by Memblaze Technology made me think I'd better pause to check the significance behind the words before mentioning it here.

The story - from their PR agency - A3 Communications - was about the launch of a new PCIe SSD - the EBlaze3 - in Europe - which contained the phrase.

"This will be the first time the technology is available outside China."

I wondered if - behind that statement - there might have been an implied message that the new product will be sold preferentially in Europe - rather than the US - as we have seen evolving in stories about one of the world's biggest enterprise companies - to have emerged from China - Huawei.

Or was this wording - and the showing of Memblaze's EBlaze3 at a trade show this week in Germany - simply due to the timing of having booked booths at trade shows and the availability of the new product - rather than an expression of preference about which market - the US or EU - is more important for their new enterprise SSD to be seen in?

So I asked Ron MacLeod - who is VP of marketing for Memblaze in Europe - to clarify.

Ron said - "The product will be available in the US in the same way it is available in Europe. And with regard to timing indeed it was just coincidence that the Powering the Cloud event was running and at which was the first time Memblaze was public in Europe. There is no favouritism over markets except the US is potentially larger - so no hidden messaging. We value the European business and other potential global partners equally."

Editor's comments:- That's good to know. So - my apologies to readers for having sat on this story for a few days longer than was necessary.

FYI - The Memblaze EBlaze3 (upto 2.4TB in HHHL and 4.8TB in FHHL single slot) is a new version of the PBlaze3 card - which is aimed at, Hyperscale and OCP (Open Compute Project market).

It offers an ultra-low latency of 14µs and enables customers to define and alter key settings to ensure optimum performance in their specific applications and platforms.
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hybrid DIMMs
hybrid DIMMs
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DRAM SSD interfaces and PCIe fabrics are hotting up the top storage searches - in anticipation of new enterprise architectures
Editor:- October 1, 2014 - Total SSD article views on StorageSearch.com grew 5% year on year in September 2014- despite all the changes in Google algorithms and increased competition in the SSD market reporting space.

But what have readers actually been looking at?

I'll be reporting on the 30th quarterly Top SSD Companies later this month. That involves a lot of work, cross checking and writing associated articles. All of which takes time. But what I can reveal today are these observations - based on reader metrics.
  • In Q3 2014 - Memory Channel SSDs became the 2nd most popular SSD form factor which readers followed up in articles and news stories. (#1 - in case you can't remember - has been - since 2009 - PCIe SSDs)
  • In September 2014 - the 3 SSD related companies which our readers were reading about most were:-

    #1 - Diablo (DDR3/4 flash technology)
    #2 - A3CUBE (PCIe memory fabric) and
    #3 - Fusion-io (no introduction required)
What does that signify?

It won't come any surprise to long term readers that there are still significant changes coming in SSD enabled data server architecture.

Having become accustomed to the idea that low latency flash inside servers has become an essential part of the job description of any multi-user enterprise server - and being offered a rich variety of competing alternative ways to bind CPUs and storage with SSDs by the SSD software market - the next natural questions for users and applications developers to ask are these:-
  • why do we have such low limits being set in directly addressible low latency memory capacity?
  • why should the performance in a single server box still dictate the ultimate bottleneck perfomance limits for critical data integrity and synchonization house keeping tasks in strategic applications - when we have access to thousands of servers?
  • why are our most expensive and fastest SSD enabled servers and storage systems being forced to use different software to the cheaper ones we use in other locations?
The roadmap vision I'm seeing emerge from enterprise SSD developments in 2014 - is that while oems and users are being offered more choices in form factors and flash memory types - each of which adds to the raw confusion of which one is best to use - the mission statement for the software developers and fabric enablers - or those who want to please their investors - will be to create SSDcentric platforms which enable these disparate pieces to be seen as interoperable subsets of a bigger continuum architecture - in which users can move freely across wide cost/performance boundaries without hitting walls which restrict their freedom to expand in any direction they want to go.

But it will get more complicated than that.

Just as early modern SSDs had to interoperate with legacy software and data storage in order to justify their costs - future SSD software developers will have to look at the messy patchwork of SSD accelerated servers and SSD SAN storage which are being installed today as part of their future "legacy problem".

Seen from that angle - some solutions in the enterprise SSD jigsaw puzzle box today - already seem to have better longevity prospects and opportunities for future upcycling than others.


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For many people in the computer industry - the content of Primary Data's launch will initially seem like - "42".
data, storage, servers, apps and everything


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advertising SSD technology on StorageSearch.com
Editor:- September 22, 2014 - This is a time of year when many marketers are reviewing their business plans and wondering about ways to increase their visibility to the people that matter in the SSD market.

You may not have known this but StorageSearch.com was the first publication in the world to focus on the SSD market and we've been selling ads which have helped to shape and change the SSD market for 15 years.

Here's an interesting aspect of our customers which only occurred to me this afternoon when I was thinking about how many great SSD ad slots we've now got to offer.

If I look back at SSD related companies which have been acquired since January 2013 - who were also significant multi-year SSD advertisers on StorageSearch.com it yields a list like this:- Now you may wonder - after seeing the above list - whether the primary reason for SSD companies to advertise their wares at all was because they wanted to get acquired?

But many of these customers of ours were advertising SSDs on StorageSearch.com for many years before there was any appetite for such activities.

Why did they do it?

They advertised to get noticed and to get more visibility for their messages where the serious SSD customers are.

And maybe also in some cases because they liked the market expanding SSD awareness content which StorageSearch.com delivered.

What about advertising SSDs today?

There's no guarantee that advertising your SSDs will lead to your SSD company getting acquired. (That would be a ridiculous notion.)

But it will get you noticed sooner and deliver more visibly to people who make this market happen.

So if you're not scared of mice, and if you're involved in sales, marketing or business development in an SSD company - then you may be interested in learning more about this.

To learn more - contact me by email Zsolt@StorageSearch.com or take a look at these information pages.


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image shows mouse at the one armed bandit - click to see VC funds in storage
VCs in SSDs


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AnandTech article re age symmetry performance bug in Samsung's 840 EVO SSD
Editor:- September 20, 2014 - Recalls, bugs and firmware upgrades in consumer SSDs are nothing new - but there's a particularly interesting dimension of anxiety for SSD design verifiers which is revealed in a recent story - about the nature of a read performance bug in Samsung's 840 EVO - which appears in AnandTech.

The article's author Kristian Vättö, SSD Editor at AnandTech says - "there is a bug in the 840 EVO that causes the read performance of old blocks of data to drop dramatically... The odd part is that the bug only seems to affect LBAs that have old data (>1 month) associated with them because freshly written data will read at full speed, which also explains why the issue was not discovered until now."

Editor's comments:- This shows that there is still a high degree of immaturity and unwillingness to learn good practises from other industries in some parts of the consumer design verification market.

In many industries in which I worked in my pre online life - 1,000 hour tests designed to seek out errors were part of the standard norm.

I first learned about these 1,000 hour tests 35 years ago when I visited an early production version of a fuel consumption meter and data logger which I had designed for auto engine test beds. I was going to change the power supply for a replacement which we had screened through extended high temperature burn in - because we had discovered a design fault in these units which came from a leading PSU vendor - which could be detected by such testing. Our rack wasn't in use - so I turned the power off.

Klaxons and sonalerts started going off all over the place! - and people started rushing up to this bed to ask what was I was doing?! - because I had inadvertently shut down the power to other instruments in the same cabinet which were connected to other engines which were still undergoing 1.000 hour tests.

About 11 years later (about 1990) - and in a different company - my engineers had designed a database driven real-time broadcast program sharing and audio routing control system for the BBC.

But the BBC insisted we run a 1,000 hour software test with simulated users before they would let us install the first system.

During the 1,000 hour test we actively ran analysis code to look for anomalous behavior.

We found a bug! It was in part of the real-time OS firmware which didn't recycle memory properly after it was released from some real-time tasks.

The amounts of "stolen memory blocks" had been too small to notice in our initial testing - but built up over time and by adding more users. It was easy to fix - and we were lucky that our customer had insisted on the tests.

I heard via linkedin recently from one of the engineers who stayed with that industry - our customer continued using and upgrading those systems for about 20 years. But the story would have had a different ending (and much sooner) if the bugs hadn't been picked up before being deployed to control broadcast feeds.

In the enterprise SSD market - there's a lot more testing done on systems before they are sold to customers.

But in the consumer market - a thousand hours of extra design verification (42 days) can be the equivalent of as much as 20% of the product's market life. And there's a different relationship with end users - which verges on the low value churnable customer view rather than towards seeking a high value long term partnership. So you can see why engineers in consumer SSD design groups face a lot of pressure to release designs too soon.

This type of long developing performance bug can be a nightmare for product designers.

Due to its importance I listed it as 1 of the 11 design symmetries in SSD design - "age symmetry - How does the SSD performance change relative to the time it has been running..."


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Test Equipment
testing SSDs


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the Top SSD Companies in Q2 2014
Editor:- August 1, 2014 - StorageSearch.com recently published the new 29th quarterly edition of the Top SSD Companies - based on metrics in Q2 2014. There are 2 first time appearances in this new edition. And some new updates. ...read the article


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whatever gave you that silly idea?
Can you trust SSD market data?
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popular SSD articles and recommended SSD blogs
SSD articles & blogs


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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.

A 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.
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs


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cloud storage news, vendors, articles  and directory - click here
cloud storage


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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. As evidence for that - I'm going to mention 3 companies at the end of this article - whose recent activities - while different in detail - were swirling around in my head this week.
Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing


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click to read the article - Big versus Small SSD  architectures
Size matters in SSD architecture


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"SSD efficiency is a very powerful differentiator in technology and I think it will also be very important in influencing business success too."
Efficiency - making the same SSD - with less flash


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SSD silos article
datacenter SSD silos


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"That step in improved utilization means that when users make the switch to the newer software - not only do they need less servers - but they don't need as many SSDs either."
meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon


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click to see directory of SAS SSD companies
SAS SSDs


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what's the state of DWPD?
Diskful Writes Per Day in leading enterprise SSDs


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click here to see our directory of SSD market analysts
SSD market analysts


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PCIe SSDs for use in enterprise server acceleration have been shipping in the market since 2007. It's one of the most popular SSD subjects pursued by our readers (and has been since 2009).

With over 100 million enterprise PCIe ports already shipped - the converging PCIe SSD / server market is well positioned to expand into new applications.
the PCIe SSD directory on StorageSearch.com


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"The winners in SSD software could be as important for infrastructure as Microsoft was for PCs, or Oracle was for databases, or Google was for search."
get ready for a new world in which
all enterprise data touches SSDs


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"Don't place too much credence in what SSD companies tell you about the present or the future of the SSD market."
Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs
read the article on SSD ASAPs
tiering / caching SSDs ..
Rackmount SSDs click for news and directory
rackmount SSDs ..
SSD SoCs controllers
SSD controllers

SSD news

history
endurance
Top SSD Companies
11 key SSD ideas in 2014
hot SSD news
Foremay says MIL designers can now have 8TB in a 2.5" secure, rugged SATA SSD

Editor:- November 19, 2014 - How much capacity do you need in a 2.5" SSD?

That depends on the economics of your application and what other alternatives you have. But 2.5" SATA is emerging as a safe roadmap form factor for high capacity embedded projects in the rugged / military market - and now those mission critical designers will be able to stretch their capacities further than most of you.

Jack Winters, CTO - Foremay said “When we asked our customers what we should do for the next step in SSDs, most replied with capacity, capacity and capacity."

That's why Foremay announced this week it is now offering 8TB as a variation in its encrypted, secure rugged SSD range.

Editor's comments:- I spoke to Foremay yesterday to clarify the availability versus "unveiling" status of the new 8TB SSDs.

Foremay said - We are accepting orders for small quantites now. Mass production is expected in Q1'2015


SMART Modular enters the M.2 SSD market

Editor:- November 11, 2014 - SMART Modular today announced it is sampling a new M.2 SATA SSD for enterprise applications with 32GB to 512GB capacity (19nm MLC) and R/W speeds upto 540Mbytes/sec and 320Mbytes/sec, respectively.

See also:- M.2 SSDs - mentions on StorageSearch.com, industrial SSDs


Diablo's biggest customer joins company as President

Editor:- November 10, 2014 - Alex Yost - formerly VP Strategy and Alliances in IBM's x86 server business - has joined Diablo Technologies as President.

Yost said he had seen the value of Diablo's products earlier this year when (at IBM) he was able to announce a system that delivered 99x faster analytics using Memory Channel Storage technology. And he now looks forward to delivering Diablo-based products to a wider market.

Editor's comments:- Just as the personality of SSDs is largely made up from the DNA of controller and associated software - so too the performance personality of modern servers is nowadays overwhelmingly dictated by their population of SSDs.

And when your biggest customer joins your company - you must be doing something they like.


another reason to set your clock to Primary Data

Editor:- November 6, 2014 - Primary Data recently announced that Lance Smith (who had been President and COO of Fusion-io in the 14 months leading up to its acquisition by SanDisk - where he became Senior VP and GM of the ioMemory solutions division) has joined the stealth mode company - Primary Data as CEO.

"I'm delighted to join David Flynn and Rick White once again at Primary Data along with the team of visionary executives" said Lance Smith.

Editor's comments:- Primary Data will be exiting stealth mode on November 19 - and in the lead up to that they've had a countdown clock on their home page.

From the little I learned in various chats I've had with Dave and Rick since they started the new company - I think their new technology will trigger as big a disruptive change in the enterprise storage market as anything we've seen seen in the past 10 years - and will no doubt create new ecosystems and inspire new startups too.

That's why - I said this on linkedin.

""Less than 2 weeks left before the data access world as we think we know it changes again - unless someone knows how to pause that countdown clock."


now ready - Enmotus's FuzeDrive software

Editor:- November 4, 2014 - Micro-tiering within the server box - between the lowest possible latency persistent memory (such as flash backed DRAM DIMMs from Viking), then up a level to SATA SSDs and finally to hard drives - gives users materially different performance and cost characteristics to merely caching between those devices when they are used in a hybrid storage appliance.

That's the message behind the announcement today by Enmotus about the general availability of the company's FuzeDrive server (SSD software) for Windows and Linux - in which (unlike simple server based cache based solutions) - FuzeDrive treats the SSD as primary storage and so "all reads and writes to the hot data occur at full SSD speeds".

""Even SSDs are becoming bottlenecks in some cases" said Marshall Lee, CTO and co-founder of Enmotus. "As a result, newer classes of storage devices continue to appear that can take advantage of higher performance busses inside servers, NVDIMMs being a great example."

See also:- Why I Tired of "Tier Zero Storage" (in 2009)


Dot Hill's messages today

Editor:- November 4, 2014 - I haven't mentioned Dot Hill on these news pages for a while - but a press release from the company today triggered a bunch of random reactions in my brain which almost - for me - drowned out the significance of the central idea of their new product announcement (a new SAN compatible hybrid storage box - and software).

2 of the distracting internal noises (in my head) were sparked by product names:-
  • "Dot Hill's entire line of storage systems (are) equipped with the latest generation AssuredSAN 4004 storage controllers."

    I'm sorry guys. I know numbers are just numbers. But for me the 4004 controller will always be that chip family from Intel which was the first rumble in the microprocessor revolution.
  • RealTier, RealCache, RealQuick, RealPool - and others in Dot Hill 's real-suffix list of product feature names - distracted me with the recollection that 3 years before sampling its first ever real PCIe SSD - the so-called RealSSD P320h (in June 2011) - Micron had demonstrated a less real (prototype / concept demonstrator) PCIe SSD - which never made it to market. So - for me - the word "Real" attached to an SSD related product - already has many associations.
These notes show that the names you give to SSD related products matter a lot - because the concepts which spring to mind when people read these words and numbers - depend on what else they have read before.

On the other hand - I congratulate Dot Hill for having planted these 2 messages in their press release text today.
  • The idea of a 37-month "bumper-to-bumper" warranty.
  • And this great customer quote...

    "This is absolutely the best product we've purchased in the last 25 years."



Samsung acquires Proximal

Editor:- November 3, 2014 - Samsung announced today it has acquired Proximal Data.

Editor's comments:- Why did Samsung need to acquire another SSD ASAP / caching company?

Samsung's earlier purchase - NVELO (acquired in December 2012) - operated in the consumer market - whereas Proximal's caching technology was designed to work with enterprise PCIe SSDs - a market in which Samsung is a relative newcomer - and in which Samsung stood out from other leading competitors in having no caching software it could call its own.


Skyera's new skyHawk FS

Editor:- October 29, 2014 - It was with great enthusiasm last week that I looked forward to having my first conversation with Frankie Roohparvar, CEO of Skyera.

For me the interesting aspect wasn't that it was Skyera - because even though I think they are really important - I wasn't really expecting any earth shattering new announcements from them till next year. And in that respect I guessed about right. As you can see for yourself by reading their press release about the new skyHawk FS - a 1U very efficient rackmount SSD. (More of which later).

Frankie has helped to create flash history. So the first thing I said to him was that I'd really enjoyed his history of flash memory and storage (video). Which if you haven't seen it - and if your network admin permits you to watch youtube - is very worthwhile.

Here's a small spattering of what we talked about.
  • what's different about the new product?

    Skyera's new box is an incremental improvement on what they did before.

    Twice as much capacity in the same 1U space.

    A smaller number of fast 10GbE ports - replaces the old plethora of slow ports.

    Addition of another hot-swap power supply.

    Frankie said that the 2nd version of any product benefits from learning the reactions to what came before.

    So I see this version of Skyera's box as an interim marketing course correction - due to better understanding of customer needs - rather than as being a technology advance.
  • the mobile data center

    If you see someone carrying a 1U rack in a pack onto a plane - and find out later this box has 136TB of raw flash, which can do 400K IOPS on a SAN at under 1 micro-second latency - even with one power supply down - it may be Frankie - or someone else from Skyera.

    If the product is from a competitor - however - and you see just one single person carrying the same storage payload - you may want to reconsider whether it's safe to get on the plane. (Especially if their shirt looks tight and their skin color is green.)

    Size weight and power (swap) savings are some of the consequences of Skyera's relentless pursuit of the ultimate efficiency in SSD array design - which was something I wrote about last year - in my article scary Skyera.

    This acronym - swap - comes from military parlance - and marketers in various companies adorn it with their own customizations - depending on what point they're trying to emphasize. You can see how Skyera stretches this to swap4 - in the skyHawk FS briefing paper (pdf)

    Frankie said the mobile data center - such as is enabled by having hundreds of terabytes of flash in a Hummer for example - is an interesting new enterprise market segment in which Skyera's product enables entirely new types of mobile deployments.
  • re unified storage and gentlemen's clubs

    One of the dimensions in which Skyera has invested resources recently - is the population of bullet points associated with software compatibilities.

    The trick here - if you're a marketer - is to make the list so long - nobody has the time to read it. Instead if your price is attractive then people will ask you if you have what they want - and from those conversations you can decide which features should be prioritized.

    On this theme - almost a null bullet point - which I'm seeing from many flash box vendors is the phrase - "unified SAN / NAS storage".

    And unsurprisingly it's in Skyera's blurb too.

    So I said to Frankie - in some ways - by doing this (and the other compatibility stuff) - Skyera is putting a lot of effort into joining something which looks a lot like an old fashioned English gentleman's club (think- Forsyte Saga or Sherlock Holmes). But we know that the current members of the club are so old they will die soon anyway. So is it worth it?

    Frankie laughed at that.

    And that's how I raised the topic of unified storage...

    I said - When it comes to unified storage I see that Skyera has the usual 2 - (SAN + NAS) but I expect something better from Skyera than the usual 2 out of 3 which the old timers do. So... what about persistent memory?

    Surely - I said - if a customer has invested in some of your state of the art boxes (which we know inside have latency characteristics similar to the best server based accelerators) it would be reasonable for them to expect to be able to do big memory type software APIs via PCIe too - using next generation software such as SanDisk's Zetascale etc.

    If they own petabytes of flash in your (Skyera) boxes- why should they be forced to go and buy more flash from someone else (in a server box for example) - to get the job done?

    Frankie said - I wasn't the first person to have raised that issue.

    Some of Skyera's customers have mentioned those needs too.

    Skyera is thinking about it.

    So my guess is that in 2015 we can expect to see that kind of access model to the flash array - as an API supported, low latency, big memory type - via interfaces like PCIe or InfiniBand - being added to leading-edge flash storage racks.

    That will make "unified storage" a more meaningful concept.



Who Needs 10Gbps USB?

Editor:- October 29, 2014 - SSDs are at the forefront of the thinking in a new article today - Who Really Needs USB 3.1? by Eric Esteve.

Eric's blog sketches out a 5 years into the future application picture for this new (10Gbps) iteration of the USB connected story.

See also:- storage interface chips, market research


McObject expands reach of in memory database for serious embedded apps developers

Editor:- October 28, 2014 - First 2, then 3 and finally - 4 interesting things caught my eye in news about version 6.0 of eXtremeDB - an in-memory database system from McObject
  • Data compression. This release adds data compression for both in-memory and on-disk databases. Once upon a time compression was a value add feature in some products - but now in the SSD age when compression is almost latency free - it has become a must-have on the feature list - especially for embedded systems.
  • Avionics platform support. This upgrade adds compatibility with Wind River Systems' VxWorks 653 COTS platform for delivering safety-critical, integrated modular avionics applications.
  • More flexible transaction scheduling. Applications using eXtremeDB's multiple-user, single-writer transaction manager can override the default FIFO scheduling policy within priority levels to favor either read-only or read-write transactions.
  • Distributed query processing support. eXtremeDB partitions a database and distributes query processing across multiple servers, CPUs and/or CPU cores - which can accelerate performance.
""Demand for distributed query processing cuts across market segments, but is especially relevant to the automation and control field, where eXtremeDB is historically strong" said McObject CEO and co-founder Steve Graves.

See also:- industrial SSDs, military SSDs, hybrid DIMMs


VIMMs, controllers and firmware's place in the box

Editor:- October 27, 2014 - As Violin's flash SSD controllers - VIMMs - are such an important part of their system offerings - and as they have established themselves as a de-facto proprietary standard in the enterprise (in the same way that if you ship enough quantities of anything over several memory product generations and over 6 years expanse of time it is an industry standard - despite having no ORG as custodian of the sacred pdfs)...

That was my pretext (6 months ago) for suggesting to Eric Herzog, Violin's CMO - that readers like you - might be interested to know how many VIMMs the company has shipped.

I said this would enable analysts and prospective customers to compare the installed weight of this controller architecture to other things which they can get numbers for - such as units of SAS SSDs, PCIe SSDs etc.

I don't have those VIMM shipment numbers - but I found it refreshing to see a recent blog from Violin which talks again about the hardware inside its arrays - coming as it does after a stream of announcements from Violin which have focused mostly on software compatibilities - in which almost the exact same words could have been said of other competing rackmount SSD despite them having completely different innards.

Where does firmware come from? - by Erik Ottem, Director of Product Marketing - Violin - answers this question more from a business perspective than a technical software writing angle.

Erik's point is that Violin's biggest systems competitors have made up their deficits in raw flash array architecture by buying companies or licensing 3rd party software - whereas Violin controls everything about the way that the thousands of flash memory chips in each big SSD architecture system are connected and managed. ...read the article

Editor's comments:- While nothing in Erik's blog is really new - for anyone who has known the company for a long time - I think it's a healthy restatement of what makes this company different from most of its competitors.

Having said that - owning your own controller architecture - also carries its own consequences in terms of the cost of the raw memory you have to buy too.


flash backed DIMMs - new directory on StorageSearch.com

Editor:- October 21, 2014 - Although StorageSearch.com has been writing about flash backed DRAM DIMMs since the first products appeared in the market - I didn't think that subject was important enough before to rate a specific article or market timeline page.

That's unlike - memory channel SSDs - which has become 1 of the top 10 SSD subjects viewed by readers after having had its own directory page here since April 2013.

Despite my lack of initial enthusiasm for bybrid DIMMs (or hybrid drives for that matter too) I realize that sometimes a market is defined as much by what it isn't as by what it is. Which is why I have relented.

And so - to help clarify the differences between these 2 types of similar looking storage devices (one of which I think is much more significant than the other - but both of which are important for their respective customers) I have today created a directory page for hybrid DIMMs etc - which will act as the future launch pad for related articles.


StorageReview.com tests Fusion-io's Atomic PCIe SSD

Editor:- October 21, 2014 - Earlier this year - in June 2014 - and just weeks before SanDisk announced it was acquiring the company - Fusion-io launched a new generation of PCIe SSDs - the Atomic Series - which was an overdue catching up exercise to use cheaper 20nm flash.

At the time the headline product specifications seemed to me to be adequate - rather than spectacular.

It's probably safe to assume they were intended to restore the competitiveness of Fusion-io's products rather than push performance boundaries.

But what are they like? And how do they compare?

A new article - Fusion ioMemory PX600 Review - published in StorageReview.com provides the answers to how it performs and how it compares on popular OS platforms and benchmarks. ...read the article

See also:- how fast can your SSD run backwards?, SSD testing & analyzer news


HP plus EMC? - the SSD DNA mix from Jurassic Park

Editor:- October 20, 2014 - I'm still here. I've been working on a new article (see above).

PS - I didn't think it was worth commenting here earlier about that EMC / HP merger story - which is covered in many other places such as BusinessInsider.com

My reasoning was this.

No matter how you mix the DNA from 2 dinosaurs - the result is unlikely to be a mammal.

See also:- animal brands and metaphors in the storage market and animal brands in the SSD market


SSDs are made of this

Editor:- October 14, 2014 - Without memory - there would be no SSDs.

And while naturally the emphasis in SSD thinking is mostly on - how can we do useful and affordable things with SSDs? - despite how terribly flawed the raw material is which we have to work with (which leads you to architecture, controllers, data integroty and software) - it can nevertheless be strategically useful for SSD specifiers to sometimes brace themselves for a deep dive down into the cold details of how much better (or worse) those raw memory characteristics are going to get - so you can anticipate future developments.

This week the best place to look is MemCon.

Here's the agenda page.


HA SSD arrays - are now mainstream

Editor:- October 13, 2014 - I've long had an abiding interest in the architecture of fault tolerant / high availability electronic systems - ever since learning that such concepts existed - when (in about 1976) our digital systems design lecturer Dr R G 'Ben' Bennetts at Southampton University suggested we should read a paper about how NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs used triple modular redundancy.

(I can't remember the details of that paper - but the JPL people and their collaborators and descendants have never stopped inspiring and writing a rich literature about the design aspects of computer systems which operate a long way from a service engineer.)

In the early part of my career - such ideas were good to know about - but far too exotic and expensive to incorporate into most products. But I was reminded about them in the 1990s - when in the publication which preceded StorageSearch.com - some of my customers were advertising their FT/ HA SPARC servers for the telco market.

The more you investigate the architecture of FT/ HA computer systems the more you realize it's a philosophy rather than a technology which you can implement as a plug and play inconsequentially within the cost goals of mere mortals.

The results are always compromises - which balance reliability (aka functionable survivability) against other tradeoffs - such as performance. (And performance itself has many internal dimensions of fault tolerance too.)

Violin's 6000 SSD and HA

3 years ago (in September 2011) when I was talking to Violin's CEO (at that time) Don Basile about the launch of Violin's first 6000 series (the first no single point of failure, competitively priced, fast flash rackmount SSD) he expressed some concern about how I would tell you (my readers) what was unique about this product and signal whether it was relevant to you or not - as it was competing for attention with thousands of other SSD stories for applications ranging from phones to drones.

I didn't see that as a problem - because my readers are smart - and I had been publishing a directory page dedicated to SSD Reliability since 2008.

But just to make sure that the systems embodiments of FT/HA/SSD architecture from a growing base of competitors didn't get washed away by other stories - I launched a dedicated ft/HA enterprise SSD directory in January 2012 - to serve an emerging base of reliability focused readers - which in those days measured around 10,000 readers / year in that niche topic. (Until recently HA SSDs have rarely entered the top 30 SSD articles viewed by my readers.)

But something in the market has changed.

I noticed this week that the topic of HA/FT SSDs has risen to be 1 of the top 10 topics that you've been looking at this month. Which means it's mainstream.

Looking back at other past niche topics...

10 years ago I didn't think that more than a few hundred people would be interested in the intricacies of flash endurance. And to begin with - SSD vendors were nervous about even acknowledging that there was such a thing as SSD wear out. Now you can't shut them up. They all want to show you how clever they are at handling it

The different types of flash memory and different generations of arcane flash care schemes spawned a huge industry literature of understanding and misunderstanding - so I wouldn't be surprised if the enterprise FT/HA flash array market now started to do something similar.

PS - After a communications gap of 37 years - I exchanged some emails with my old university lecturer - Ben Bennetts while writing this - to see if I had remembered things correctly.

He said - "Yes, that was me. I lectured on fault-tolerant systems and JPLs Self-Test And Repair, STAR, computer, based on triple modular redundancy, used to feature in my presentations."

So that enables me to pin point the original source of that inspirational IEEE Transactions paper about fault tolerant computing - which I remember having read in 1976 (although I haven't read it since) to Prof. Algirdas Antanas Avižienis - whose visionary work on - what is today called - "Dependable Computing and Fault-Tolerant Systems" - continues today.


Samsung versus Samsung

3D MLC v 2D TLC (wrapped in a SATA SSD)


Editor:- October 10, 2014 - What are the differences seen at the SSD level when you compare Samsung's 3D nand (32 cells stacked vertically in the chip MLC - with 2 bits per cell discrimination) with 2D (planar) TLC (1 cell high fabrication but 3 bits per cell discrimination)?

3D versus TLC are different memory manufacturing techniques with different technology roadmaps - but both are out in the wild of the market in SATA SSDs at the present time.

Jim Handy - the SSD Guy - has published a new blog - Comparing Samsung's V-NAND and Planar SSDs which compares the possible differences in performance and power consumption as viewed in the context of 2 SATA SSDs - the 850 and 840 respectively - which use the same controller.

Re IOPS - Jim says "the 850 performs consistently better than the 840 at all block sizes for constant streams of writes and for a 65:35 read/write mix. At the 100% read workload the performance of the two SSDs is roughly equivalent."

Editor's comments:- Although small superficial differences emerge in the benchmarks - I don't think they're significant.

Because even if you introduced 2 SSDs using the same memory technology at different dates for the consumer market - you might - as a product marketing decision - choose to tweak the controller biases a different way.

Instead what I find more interesting is how closely Samsung was able to match 2 SSD characteristics using different memories. This is a shrewd strategic signal to their oem customers that they know enough about the internals to deliver a consumer SSD with a given set of characteristics regardless of what is the most convenient memory technology to take from their fab.

In other markets - such as embedded / industrial SSDs - being able to retain and deliver precisely the same SSD power and performance envelope - despite using different types and generations of raw flash over a 7 year or so market period - has developed into a more refined artform.


Netlist asks court to shut down SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM production and recall units already sold

storage patent disuputeEditor:- October 10, 2014 - Netlist recently announced it has filed a motion for preliminary injunction which seems to be intended to restrain Diablo and its flash-side SSD integration partner SanDisk from any further manufacture or sale of the ULLtraDIMM (memory channel SSDs).

The Court has set a tentative date of December 2, 2014, for a hearing on Netlist's motion. If granted this would immediately shut down any further manufacture and sale of the ULLtraDIMM. Netlist has further asked the Court to order the recall of any ULLtraDIMM products previously sold.

Editor's comments:- This series of legal disputes has been going on since last year. If you haven't read those stories - the essential story is something like this.

At some time in the past Netlist and Diablo had a technology supplier agreement - as a result of which - Diablo had access to Netlist's IP related to minimizing the capacitive load of complex circuits susch as controllers when they sit on a DRAM style of bus. Netlist doesn't have any products which are similar to SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM - but Netlist claims that the ULLtraDIMM design has used its patented interface technology without a license. Countering that - Diablo says it did get the rights to use some of the DRAM load interface technology - and that in any case - this aspect of the design is not the essential defining characteristic of their flash SSD architecture.

Yesterday Diablo's CEO - Riccardo Badalone retorted to Netlist's latest legal move saying this - "After a year of court proceedings and months of discovery, Netlist still cannot decipher how Memory Channel Storage works, much less substantiate that it infringes on any of their IP."


Efficiency is important for web scale users - says Coho

Editor:- October 9, 2014 - Facebook as a file system - a web scale case study - a new blog by Andy Warfield , cofounder and CTO - Coho Data - made very interesting reading for me - as much for revealing the authoritative approach taken in Andy's systematic analysis - as for the object of his discussion (Facebook's storage architecture).

It reveals useful insights into the architectural thinking and value judgments of Coho's technology - and is not simply another retelling of the Facebook infrastructure story.

When you read it you may get different things out of it - because it's rich in raw enterprise ideas related to architecture, software, and dark matter users. All of which makes it hard to pick out any single quote. But here are 2.
  • re - the miss match between enterprise products and user needs

    Andy Warfield says - "In the past, enterprise hardware has had a pretty hands-off relationship with the vendor that sells it and the development team that builds it once it's been sold. The result is that systems evolve slowly, and must be built for the general case, with little understanding of the actual workloads that run on them."
  • re efficiency and utilization

    Andy Warfield says - "Efficiency is important. As a rough approximation, a server in your datacenter costs as much to power and cool over 3 years as it does to buy up front. It is important to get every ounce of utility that you can out of it while it is in production."
There are many more I could have chosen. ... read the article


You don't need to worry about the endurance of our FlashSystems - says IBM

Editor:- October 7, 2014 - Worried about endurance?

"None of the thousands of FlashSystem 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 blog - Flash 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)"

Erik 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.

And his blog has a link 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.)

Editor's 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 before that 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..."

See also:- high availability enterprise SSDs


Toshiba orders 1 million SSD controllers this quarter from Phison

Editor:- October 7, 2014 - A report on Digitimes says that Toshiba has ordered "about one million" SSD controllers from Phison for delivery in the current quarter.

Editor's comments:- You can get an idea of who else uses Phison's controllers (Corsair, Kingston etc) - and for what purposes - on Phison's news page.


SolidFire gets another $82 million funding

Editor:- October 7, 2014 - SolidFire today announced it has closed an $82 million Series D round of funding, bringing its total funding to $150 million.

New investor Greenspring Associates led the round along with a major sovereign wealth fund, with participation from current investors NEA, Novak Biddle, Samsung Ventures and Valhalla Partners. SolidFire will use the additional funds to extend its global reach.

Editor's comments:- The basic building blocks of SolidFire's SSD systems are 1U iSCSI rackmount SSDs which include 10x 2.5" SSDs. At that level it's the same as 100 or so other competing systems.

If you want fibre channel access - you add a special 1U adapter rack to the native IP array. So it's expensive - but keeps the unit costs of the most common building blocks down - compared to including native unified storage in each rack. So in the case of a big installation - it's a reasonable cost optimization tradeoff.

A key difference is SolidFire's software architecture and the fact they use a big controller architecture type of RAID - which they call "no-RAID".

In SolidFire's no-RAID (which is really big RAID) - the data is more widely dispersed across the drive population than in classical (small architecture) RAID.

The effect is much less disruption to data access and consistent performance when a drive fails - because SolidFire's software can manage upto about 100 racks as a raw storage resource (1,000 SSD drives) - so the impact of a single drive down is small. Users also have a high degree of flexibility as to how they micro manage different virtualized segments of storage to meet their different QoS goals.

See also:- VCs and SSDs


We need new software abstractions to efficiently handle all the different emerging flavors of persistent enterprise memory - says SanDisk

Editor:- October 3, 2014 - New enterprise software abstractions are needed in order to efficiently utilize all those unruly developments in flash, tiered flash-DRAM architecture and NVDIMMs.

And laying the educational framework for those ideas - along with some practical suggestions for where applicable solutions might be coming from - is the theme of a recent blog - the Emergence of Software-Defined Memory - written by Nisha Talagala, Fellow at SanDisk & Fusion-io - who (among other things) says:-

"We're seeing excitement build for a new class of memory:- persistent memory - which has the persistence capabilities of storage and access performance similar to memory.

"Given this richness of media technologies, we now have the ability to create systems and data center solutions which combine a variety of memory types to accelerate applications, reduce power, improve server consolidation, and more.

"We believe these trends will drive a new set of software abstractions for these systems which will emerge as software-defined memory – a software driven approach to optimizing memory of all types in the data center." ...read the article

See also:- are you ready to rethink enterprise DRAM architecture?


NetApp says - the time for taking risks with enterprise flash startups is over

Editor:- October 1, 2014 - Demise 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 ended.

Craig questions how startups like Pure and 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 gotten their flash toys acquired, oemed, licensed and integrated neatly within vast product catalogs?

Editor's 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 I disagree.

This is what I said to Craig (by email) yesterday...

"Hi Craig,

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.

"But 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 Craig's article
.
It starts fast - and stays fast. Violin says the sustained performance does not drop off in the same dramatic way as in most other flash SSDs.
6 years ago - here on StorageSearch.com

November 10, 2008 - Violin Memory today reached out to markets beyond those accessible to its RAM based storage appliance line by announcing the availability of a fast 2U 4TB SLC flash SSD.
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Surviving SSD 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 and operational reliability.

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 negligible.
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics If you thought endurance was the end of the SSD reliability story - think again. ...read the article
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