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where are we heading with memory intensive systems?
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adding new notes to the music of memory tiering
Editor:- November 14, 2017 - If you're wondering why I haven't written much about the SSD market in recent weeks the simple answer is - I moved house.

Did I forget to pack the internet? You may ask.

It's strange how even the simplest of things which you take for granted in your old house are actually because of layers of past efforts which you've forgotten.

In the new house simple things like - let's get some heat - lead to - the control knob breaks off in my hand. Let's see what happen when I press this light switch - trips the whole house. And the range cooker is an ornament which no one within 100 miles wants to fix. (OK I was prepared for some of this and have Yellowstone camping stoves, logs for the fire, my legacy just- in-case-they're-right about Y2K Honda low noise electricity generator etc.)

Did I really forget to pack the internet?

I could say - yeah it was in a box - but there were about 100 other boxes in the way. But really I just needed a rest.

Part of the plan in moving (is it really only 200 yards? - yes - it's the very next house along the lane where I lived before - there are many nice things around here which look familiar - and wonderful neighbors too) - was to free up more time for writing. I mean writing for the next 10 years - not the first 10 days. Few strategic changes are entirely bumpless. Anyway I've still got many boxes to open.

In my time offline I got to thinking about the past year and past decade. (You know the sort of thing.) And the future too.

So I scribbled some notes - 2017 - adding new notes to the music of memory tiering

Thanks for your patience.
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who's who in the SSD market in China?
by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - October 16, 2017
Nowadays you can't expect to understand the worldwide SSD market and realistically predict the likely source and direction of strong influences without having some cognizance of the SSD market in China.

As the publisher of StorageSearch.com I have been in the fortunate position that (since the 1990s) the founders of many SSD companies have contacted me. Consequently during a long span of SSD history I've had thousands of conversations with influencers in this market trying to understand the unfettered potential for memory systems products and discuss how to solve the barriers of technology, education and creating new markets.

In the early days of earning my living from the SSD market the principal movers and shakers were mostly US based companies. But from about 2006 I started to see significant products entering the international SSD conversation from companies who were coming from China.

Communication wasn't as fluid as talking to US companies because my working language is English.

But I quickly realized from our common language (the technical characteristics of the SSDs themselves) and from our email discussions that there was a treasure trove of talent in China which had independently been looking at SSD related design problems and solving them for their own customers.

By the time some of these China based SSD companies emerged as "newcomers" to the international markets via news or ads on my web site and others some of them were already fully operating companies and had more actual customers than is typically the case for US tech companies when they emerge from stealth or seek VC funding or launch their first products.

StorageSearch has always been an international publication.

By the close of 1993 my previous enterprise publication had customers and readers in over 23 countries. So I've always been receptive to learning more about companies which are pushing the boundaries forward in the technology segments I write about regardless of where they are. And with single exception of the military and aerospace SSD markets - where the proximity of the manufacturer and customer are an essentially intertwined and primary part of the qualification equation - I mostly think that - SSD technology has no geographic boundaries.

That's why I've never published a list of "SSD companies based in China". Although if you wanted a list like that you could make a good start and prepopulate it - were you minded to do so - by a Google search of the SSD news archives here on the mouse site.

If you prefer a commercially off the shelf list of China SSD companies, however, I recall that - in March 2016 - Forward Insights announced a report Opportunities in China's SSD Market which among other things listed oems, controller suppliers and others in that region of the SSD ecosystem. (See more SSD market analysts, list of market research companies who have been mentioned in storage context.)

And another thing you could do if you were interested in the SSD market in China would be to look at events like - China Flash Market Summit - which took place last month.

All of which above is long way of setting the scene for a very long conversation I had last Friday with Michael Wang who is founder of Saniffer whose company is the leading distributor of special test equipment and bus analyzers for SSD companies in China.

Saniffer logoEarlier this year I had added Saniffer's logo - which is a dragon - to my list of animal brands in the SSD market.

I had noticed Saniffer as a presence in the storage test market some years before but I didn't have a reason to write about it. We only started talking to each other about the SSD market this year. That's when Michael told me he first noticed my SSD articles about 10 years ago.

We had fun talking about the early days of the SSD market in China and we both knew many of the same people who had founded companies which went on to achieve worldwide recognition.

He asked if I had been to China. I said - no - I don't travel anywhere for work reasons because I find being connected is more efficient use of my time.

Another explanation is I tend to get lost easily. Even if my starting point is less than half a mile from where I live if you want to know the worst of it. (And a story popular in my family is how I spent 3 days in 1974 walking around the streets of Southampton without being able to find the university where my degree in Electronic Engineering was due to commence. When I got hungry I abandoned my quest to get food and then started searching again. This loop was exited only when I met some others doing the same course - one of whom later became my wife.)

What did the SSD mouse learn from an SSD dragon?

Location, location... Because of where he is, and the nature of his business, Michael Wang is in an ideal position to become aware of SSD drive and controller companies in the China market from the time they are being designed.

I've written before about the business benefits of SSD customization and Michael confirmed that he's seeing some of his customers designing custom SSDS and even new controllers and he said there are new SSD startups in the China market which will be significant when the outside world gets to hear about them.

I was already sold on the strategic visibility and potential of the design tools market. I told Michael that in 1990 when I stuck a bus analyzer on multiprocessor systems to see what really was happening to data in real-time and how data went through memory from SSD and HDD storage compared to what everyone expected it confirmed that bottlenecks existed in many places. We could fix them because in those days we had a lot of the source code and the software mix was simple and under our control. But in today's SSD market the software comes from many places and controllernomics is the limiting factor for everyone.

It's a big problem to solve in which bus analyzers and machine learning all have a part to play.

The increasing complexity of memoryfication systems means that there are many prizes to be won.

Knowing what happens is better than guessing. SSD arrays can be improved by discovering behavior which is optimized for a different view of dataflow economics compared to the target installation.

The SSD test and verification market sounds like an exciting place to be.

So - going back to the title of this blog - what answer can I offer to the question of - who's who in the SSD market in China?

Bearing in mind that all market data is imperfect and that even when you have "reliable" data the way in which you interpret it is stilted by what your own position and preconceptions the answer is... no one knows all the answers but it always helps to find others with similar interests who might know more than you.

That's how we learn. From each other.

BTW - Michael Wang suggested that for those in China a new (to me) SSD engineering community web site is SSDfans.com
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Everspin says it will make current STT-MRAM generation more competitive

Editor:- November 15, 2017 - A story on MRAM-info.com says that Everspin has decided to delay the introduction of its 1Gb STT-MRAM devices and instead focus on its 256Mb chips which are already in production.

In Everspin's recently announced financial results press release the company's CEO said the company is progressing from being "a developer of innovative MRAM technology into one that can develop markets, scale operations and reduce costs to compete..."


PCIe SSDs (enterprise and notebook M.2) did well in Q3

Editor:- November 15, 2017 - TrendFocus today published SSD market shipment data for Q3 2017.

Only one segment, enterprise PCIe, saw unit growth where every other segment – client drive format factor, client modules, enterprise SATA and enterprise SAS, all declined from the prior quarter.

Trendfocus SSD report Q3 2017The enterprise SSDs market declined 7% Q-Q, which includes SATA, SAS and PCIe. The bright spot within this overall decline was the healthy 15.6% increase in PCIe units. As hyperscale companies continue to migrate away from SATA, PCIe should continue to grow in both units and exabytes. SATA, still the highest volume of all enterprise categories, managed to stay just above 4 million units shipped but did decline sharply in CQ3. However, exabytes shipped in the SATA SSD market grew due to the transition to higher capacity units. SAS SSDs now represent the lowest unit volume of the enterprise SSD segments, but still maintain a large lead in average capacity shipped at over 2.1 terabytes.

Client SSD shipments fell 4.5% sequentially but exabytes shipped was flat. Client modules now represent almost 2/3 of all client SSDs shipped. Even more impressive within this segment is that M.2 PCIe is now 50% of this segment – illustrating the continued migration for major Notebook OEMs to integrate with this interface.

3D NAND accounted for more than 50% of all bits shipped for the first time in CQ3, as all of the NAND suppliers are well into the transition.


Enmotus tiers NVDIMMs with NVMe flash at SC17

Editor:- November 13, 2017 - Enmotus today announced it is demonstrating a fully automated tiered volume with 2 million IOPS performance using NVDIMMs and NVMe flash technology from Micron at the SC17 Conference being held this week in Denver, Colorado.

“Enmotus’ FuzeDrive Virtual SSD Software combines the NVDIMMs and NVMe flash into a single, fully automated virtual volume,” said Andy Mills, CEO of Enmotus. “The software identifies the active data set of applications, and dynamically allocates the appropriate storage resources to optimize performance.”


Qualcomm invests in Excelero

Editor:- November 7, 2017 - Excelero today announced a strategic investment from Qualcomm Ventures which brings the total of VC funds invested in Excelero to $30 million.

"NVMe SSDs and innovations like 3DXpoint need new scale-out architectures so that IT teams can consolidate resources enterprise-wide into flexible and reliable infrastructures, without compromise," said Lior Gal, CEO and co-founder of Excelero. "We're proud to receive the ultimate vote of confidence from esteemed strategic investors such as Qualcomm Ventures – leaders who are driving innovation in data center technologies. We look forward to building out our offering and helping enterprises to deploy the hyperscale data center of tomorrow."

SSD software, VC funds in SSD, after AFAs - what's the next box?


AccelStor doesn't use capacitor holdup to boost new HA arrays

Editor:- November 6, 2017 - The complex interdependencies between capacitor hold up time on RAM flash caches and performance and reliability in SSDs has been discussed many times in StorageSearch.com.

In an announcement today about its new 2U flash array for the high availability market - the H510 (pdf) (array of 24 SATA SSDs with 8x 10GbE SFP+ or 4x 16G FC connectivity) - AccelStor said this...

"Some vendors adopt NVRAM as a write cache and use supercapacitors to provide energy to write the RAM content into flash in the event of a power failure. However, supercapacitors can still cause a single point of failure. AccelStor aims to provide comprehensive data protection. With the special write-through design, its NeoSapphire AFAs acknowledge the completion of incoming I/O only when 100% of the data has been written on the SSD."

AccelStor became known for their high performance arrays for the performance optimized market. The new H510 also includes data security features including cryptographic erase.

Many flash arrays includes some kind of performance hit during software upgrades and maintenance. Accelstor says its shared nothing architecture requires no maintenance window. "You can simply perform the maintenance on a single node while receiving the full performance and capabilities of the secondary node."

Editor's comments:- I wrote about Accelstor's thinking about the use of NVMs and arrays failover gotchas in an interview article last year.


new test software from Quarch traces real-time SSD watts

Editor:- October 30, 2017 - The power consumption of an SSD design is a key determinant of its reliability and array density in system deployments. But how do you accurately measure the power over a range of performance and application demands?

Quarch Technology today launched a new software solution - Quarch Power Studio - which in conjunction with the company's test modules enables engineers to capture live scope traces of voltage, current and power performance; record high resolution results continuously over multiple days; scroll through multi-gigabyte data sets and zoom in to the smallest detail; examine minimum, maximum, mean and RMS statistics; and export images and trace sections.


BiTMICRO launches raft of NVMe SSDs for industrial and military applications

Editor:- October 23, 2017 - BiTMICRO recently announced several new SSDs for the industrial and military markets.

For high capacity PCIe SSD applications - a pragmatic approach for systems designers in recent years in cloud markets has been to use carriers which can support multiple M.2 SSDs. BiTMICRO announced the MAXio S-Series NVMe HHHL PCIe industrial grade PCIe x8 add-in card that aggregates the performance and capacity of upto 4x M.2 SSDs in a temperature tolerant, rugged reliable NVMe SSD with upto 8TB capacity today.

For military 2.5" SATA and U.2 NVMe applications - BiTMICRO announced availability of 2 new secure erase SSDs which support a wide range of temperatures, altitudes of up to 120,000 feet, and 1500G of shock. The new SSDs are available with MLC or pSLC flash, maximum pSLC is 1TB, and maximum MLC is 2TB.

"BiTMICRO is an industry pioneer, delivering ruggedized and secure solid state drives to leading customers in the industrial and military markets for over 17 years, and has continually strived to meet the expectations of our customers. This level of customer support coupled with our experienced team and proprietary technology differentiates our product offerings from the rest of the market," said Stephen Uriarte, President of BiTMICRO.


new report sizes NVDIMM market at 12 million units in 2021

Editor:- October 19, 2017 - October 22, 2017 - Objective Analysis opined today that the market for NVDIMMs is poised to grow at a 105% average annual rate to nearly 12 million units by 2021.

This forecast is a part of the company's new 80-page report titled - Profiting from the NVDIMM Market (outline pdf), single user price $6,500 - which among other things predicts unit and revenue shipments through 2021.

See also:- hybrid DIMMs - market timeline, Memory Channel SSDs, market research - storage


Toshiba said to have lost flash fab output due to malware

Editor:- October 19, 2017 - Adding to the catalog of manufacturability yield woes which we already knew had contributed to the recent memory shortages and their various impacts on the SSD market there were reports earlier this week that Toshiba had lost production due to the impact of ransomware.

Digitimes - the first to report this story - said malware had delayed about 100,000 wafer starts. Later comments on Bloomberg and Objective Analysis put the story into a better context.



New Visions for Digital Storage

Editor:- October 11 , 2017 - The 2017 Storage Visions Conference . will be held Monday, October 16, 2017 in Milpitas, CA..

The conference theme is "New Visions for Digital Storage" and the conference will bring together the vendors, end users, researchers and visionaries that will meet the growing demand for digital storage for all aspects of unstructured and lightly structured data. Among other things expert panels will include:-
  • Bringing Compute to the Data.

    Over the entire history of computing data has resided in storage and memory, and has been summoned to the data processing element as it is needed. Today the industry is discovering that the movement of Big Data to the processor consumes inordinate power and incurs significant time penalties.

    This panel, featuring leading companies who address this issue, will discuss their current efforts to move compute to the data to save power, accelerate processing speed, and even improve scalability, in order to greatly enhance the cost/performance of tomorrow's computers.
  • Hardware Visions for Ubiquitous Storage and Memory.

    Emerging non-volatile solid-state storage technologies are set to replace or supplement DRAM in many applications. New fabric technologies will enable fast network storage using NVMe devices.

    Flash memory is moving to more and more 3D layers with three-level cells and four-level cells capable of reducing the costs for flash memory and driving its use. At the same time, HDDs as well as magnetic tape and optical storage are getting faster.
...see conference agenda

Infinidat secures $95 million C round

Editor:- October 3, 2017 - Infinidat today announced it has closed a $95 million Series C financing round. Equity raised by the company to date totals $325 million.

Infinidat says that several hundred enterprise customers have adopted its (hybrid storage) InfiniBox platform with more than 2 exabytes of storage deployed globally.

See also:- SSD Bookmarks - from Infinidat, VCs in SSDs
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SSD news in Novembers of yore
November 2000 Solid Data Systems discussed the advantages of SAN SSD accelerators in the article - Solid State File-Caching for Performance and Scalability.
November 2001 Texas Memory Systems announced the industry's first NAS SSD for enterprise acceleration.
November 2002 TI produced a 64Mb ferroelectric RAM chip using Ramtron's patented FRAM technology.
November 2005 Micron and Intel announced an agreement to up a new jointly owned company IM Flash Technologies.

Texas Memory Systems demonstrated its first native InfiniBand rackmount SSD accelerator.
November 2006 SanDisk acquired M-Systems which had been a pioneer in the use of MLC in SSDs.
November 2009 Google opened its doors to developers who wanted to work with a new operating system Chrome OS which was designed at the outset around solid state storage and which specifically excluded the paradigm of hard drives.
November 2011 SSRC published a paper which examined the possible future advantages of using arrays of storage class memory nodes as a cost effective archiving solution compared to hard drives and tape.
November 2012 First mention of Diablo on StorageSearch.com with news of a $28 million funding round.
November 2013 InnoDisk announced it would demonstrate its FlexiArray based rackmount SSD at the SuperComputing 2013 conference.
November 2014 Primary Data emerged from stealth saying that Steve Wozniak had joined the company as Chief Scientist.
November 2015 Netlist announced a joint development IP license with Samsung to develop NVDIMM-P (NV-P) memory solutions.
November 2016 Western Digital demonstrated a RapidIO DRAM controller for tiered storage class memory.
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fits in the palm of your hand
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all in one Ethernet+USB+RS-422 < 5W power
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Are we there yet?
After more than 20 years of writing guides to the SSD and memory systems market I admit in a new blog on StorageSearch.com - Are we there yet? - that when I come to think about it candidly the SSD industry and my publishing output are both still very much "under construction". ...read the article

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If you're one of those who has suffered from the memory shortages it may seem unfair that despite their miscalculations and over optimimism the very companies which caused the shortages of memory and higher prices - the major manufacturers of nand flash and DRAM - have been among the greatest beneficiaries.
consequences of the 2017 memory shortages

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AccelStor NeoSapphire  all-flash array
1U enterprise flash arrays
InfiniBand or 10GbE iSCSI or 16G FC
NeoSapphire series - from AccelStor

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The industry will learn a lot about the "goodness" of new memory tiering products by stressing them in ways which the original designers never intended.
RAM disk emulations in "flash as RAM" solutions

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after AFAs? - the next box
Throughout the history of the data storage market we've always expected the capacity of enterprise user memory systems to be much smaller than the capacity of all the other attached storage in the same data processing environment.

after AFAs - click to read rhe articleA new blog on StorageSearch.com - cloud adapted memory systems - asks (among other things) if this will always be true.

Like many of you - I've been thinking a lot about the evolution of memory technologies and data architectures in the past year. I wasn't sure when would be the best time to share my thoughts about this one. But the timing seems right now. ...read the article

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related guides

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SSD jargon

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All the marketing noise coming from the DIMM wars market (flash as RAM and Optane etc) obscures some important underlying strategic and philosophical questions about the future of SSD.
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?
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