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The enterprise flash story... could it have been simplified?
Decloaking hidden preference segments in enterprise flash
90% of enterprise SSD companies have no good reasons to survive
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what can we learn from Pure Storage's IPO filing?
Editor:- August 14, 2015 - Pure Storage needs more funds to continue its current growth strategy in the rackmount SSD market.

The reasons become clear in the details revealed in the FORM S-1 which the company registered recently with the SEC for an IPO.

One interpretation is that the company's R&D and sales and marketing costs have been disproportionately high relative to their revenue - judged by steady state market standards. However, if you choose to assume that the company's revenue will continue to grow rapidly - then these front end loaded losses are not dissimilar to what we have seen in many previous enterprise SSD IPOs.

Interesting things which emerge from Pure's S1.
  • Pure Storage's revenue in the year ending January 31, 2015 was just under $155 million.
  • Pure Storage has over 1,100 customers. And coincidentally - 1,100 employees. (Is 1 to 1 a sustainable ratio?)

    Maybe because of that Pure has a good story to tell about repeat business - although warns that this is based on a short history of 27 months of selling systems and that things could change.
  • silliest statement in the S-1:- "We have pioneered the all-flash array category..."
  • most profound statement in the S-1:- "The market for all-flash storage products is rapidly evolving, which makes it difficult to forecast customer adoption rates and demand for our products."
Investors make decisions based on all kinds of criteria and sometimes these don't make sense to anyone else - or even to the same person when looking back later. So I'm not going to speculate on the gambling aspects of the IPO.

Instead this is a useful opportunity to remind you that in the timeframe of the next 3 to 5 years there will be a great deal of market change and consolidation in the enterprise flash array market for reasons and with possible transformation paths which I wrote about in a recent article.

So if I'm trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of how a company like Pure Storage might morph and survive into that kind of future market my guesses would hinge around these factors:-
  • hardware:- companies like Pure (and most others too) will be buying all their hardware boxes from 3rd parties in the future. Pure's hardware IP is minimal today. But this doesn't matter so much.
  • software and marketing:- these are the things which will matter.

    Pure has demonstrated that it can sell systems - although it's hardly unique in that. And while Pure is currently a small and costly sales channel compared to the rest of the market it competes with - some longer established competitors are much worse.

    So the question is - can its software (its real core asset) stand up competitively compared to new upcoming generations of industry standard enterprise flash management software which will become the norm?

    And an equally important question related to software - is what proportion of the future flash array market will actually need to be backwards compatible with legacy architectures?

    That after all is the main point of Pure's business model today.

    So you might think about scaling back down the IDC numbers mentioned in the S-1 or look at the detail or - better still - completely disregard them if you're looking at TAM for Pure style flash arrays.
Of course I'm posing these questions knowing that reliable answers are unknowable. But despite all the uncertainty the beauty of the competitive capitalist free market system is that useful stuff still gets done and when companies become publicly owned the market provides real time feedback of what investors think.
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"No one can hope to retain such a big market grab all for themselves for long. Many other SSD companies have been eyeing exactly the same applications problems which Diablo's Memory1 is designed to satisfy..."
Zsolt Kerekes, editor StorageSearch.com - in the new blog - Diablo's Memory1 how significant for the enterprise data ecosystem? and a list of potential competitors too - (August 13, 2015)
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Waitan has embeddable industrial grade ejector for 1.8" microSATA SSDs
Editor:- August 5, 2015 - I wasn't really expecting to see any major product innovations in the embedded 1.8" SSD market - but even long established markets can spawn specialized developments.
Something like that can be seen in the shape of the recent launch by Waitan of a patent pending 1.8" microSATA SSD ejector product with dual propel pedals for smooth and even ejection for use on PCBs.

Carina Li, Waitans Product Manager says the new connector will enable designers to deploy 1.8" microSATA SSDs with the same ease and serviceability and EMC shielding benefits as 2.5" SATA SSDs. ...more info (pdf)
news image Waitan 1.8 inch SSD ejector
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from the SSD history archive
July
2015
more lanes of SAS than anyone else in 4U SavageStor
June
2015
Altera launches adaptive DSP controller for PCIe SSD market

Nantero gets $31 million funding for 300 C retention nvram
May
2015
Tegile gets another $70 million funding

Nimble reports revenue growth of 53%

OCZ ships programmable power envelope 2.5" hot swap NVMe SSDs
April
2015
WD's enterprise SSD revenue $224 million / qtr

Diablo resumes shipments of MCS following legal victories

Silicon Motion agrees to acquire PCIe SSD maker - Shannon Systems for $57 million
March
2015
Toshiba samples 48-layer 3D nand

8TB 2.5" PCIe SSDs sampling soon from Novachips

SanDisk launches white box rackmount SSD - InfiniFlash
February
2015
Avago acquires Emulex for $600 million

FalconStor's FreeStor enters SSD platform market

$34 million funded Springpath emerges from stealth

Northwest Logic provides FPGA support for Everspin's MRAM
January
2015
Novachips acquires HLNAND

Toshiba shows 1st BGA PCIe SSDs
December
2014
Western Digital acquires Skyera

Kaminario gets another $53 million funding
November
2014
Steve Wozniak joins Primary Data

Foremay readies 8TB 2.5" military SSDs
October
2014
Netlist asks court to shut down SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM

Memblaze launches new 14S latency PCIe SSDs in Europe
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
35 years of SSD history

SSD market analysts



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90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive
In one of the most highly read articles on StorageSearch.com in recent years - I looked at drivers, mechanisms and routes towards consolidation in the enterprise SSD systems market along with some other outrageous and dangerous ideas. The conclusion?

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

Before publication - I discussed these ideas with various readers for about 3 months and since publication you won't be surprised when I tell you it has been at the core of many conversations since. ...read the article


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Once upon a time it was useful for so called "startup" enterprise SSD companies to make detailed EMC bashing product comparisons with pre-existing EMC systems. What do we learn when such comparisons are made today?
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com in his blog - some random SSD thoughts about EMC


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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
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SSD news

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


is the hyper convergence market over indulging in hype?

Editor:- August 18, 2015 - some interesting comments about the reputation inflationary role of market research soothsayers in the hyperconverged systems market surfaced in a recent blog by Chin-Fah Heoh, StorageGaga - who says - among other things:-

"Hyper Converged vendors spend a lot of their resources and marketing on hyping up performance, and little on everything else." ...read the blog


Microsemi fills key gap in TRRUST-Stor military SSD line

Editor:- August 14, 2015 - Microsemi recently added a low power MO-300 mSATA SLC SSD to its TRRUST-Stor® family of secure / military SSDs.

The MM3064AN2R-M001 can be sanitized according to the NSA 9-12 protocol in less than 2 minutes.
Microsemi rugged MO-300 mSATA SSD
"In the advanced deep sleep low power mode, the SSD is only using 150mW and can be 'instant on.' said Bill Sorrentino, tactical marketing manager for Microsemi's Memory and Storage business. "This feature will enable longer field life for battery powered applications. In addition, it will cut down on cooling required for products where heat is a concern."

...Later:- 2 weeks later - Microsemi expanded their secure rugged SSD range still further with a new XMC form factor SSD - the MXMCM256 - which has upto 512GB SLC in an air cooled or conduction cooled XMC mezzanine. Details include:-
  • XMC x2 PCIe interface per ANSI/VITA 42.3-2014
  • XMC SATA interface (configurable)
  • R/W speeds upto 185 MB/s
  • Continuously running built-in self-test



world's first M.2 MRAM SSD

Editor:- August 13, 2015 - Everspin Technologies and Aupera Technologies today announced the launch of the world's first all MRAM storage module in the M.2 form factor.

The AupM001 is equipped with Everspin's non-volatile, high endurance, 64 Mb DDR3 ST-MRAM devices and a PCIe backhaul interface. AupM001's capacity is 32MB and among other uses is used in Aupera's all Flash Array system for parity check and as a hardware accelerated engine for specific applications that require low latency and high performance.


BiTMICRO has new faster, denser PCIe SSD

news image Bitmicro SSDEditor:- August 11, 2015 - BiTMICRO announced the release of the company's MAXio Z-Series enterprise PCIe SSDs (gen 3 8 lanes) which are controlled by its patented Talino ASIC architecture. The new Z-Series provides up to 8.8TB in a PCIe edge card form factor and also includes military-class erase technology. For 4KB blocks the R/W IOPS and latencies are respectively - 430K 50µS and 150K 30µS respectively.

Editor's comments:- BiTMICRO which 10 years ago was a pioneer in the high performance enterprise flash SSD market got kind of swept aside from mainstream market view for many years as the market expanded and the rate of memory innovation seen in such SSDs changed too fast for most companies to keep up.

For years the company retrenched back into its safe roots in industrial military applications - and like many other SSD companies - it has had business setbacks. But it's also had some customer successes too with its newer SSD technologies in the China market in partnership with RunCore.

I previewed some of the things which BiTMICRO has been talking about this week at FMS. I was more interested in the company's technology and business than its new logo - and will say more about the first 2 of those as soon as I can.


Seagate enters 2.5" NVMe SSD market

Editor:- August 11, 2015 - Seagate today announced details of 2 new families of NVMe SSDs which will be available in 2.5" (October) and M.2 (in early 2016) form factors. Also new - the Seagate Nytro XP6500 - a PCIe SSD accelerator (which is currently available) delivers the lowest write latency within Seagate's Nytro product portfolio.

Editor's comments:- until this announcement it wasn't clear how Seagate would deal with an issue which has been problematic for other competitors too - that of introducing SSDs in form factors and interface types which can (at the fringes) compete with pre-existing product lines.

But because there is clear customer demand for both SAS SSDs and PCIe SSDs in 2.5" form factors for example - then it would be a mistake for any vendor with large scale market ambitions to opt out of supplying such products despite the potential risk of some cannibalization.

Nevertheless - the order in which we see enterprise SSDs being introduced in various form factor and interface combinations (different for each supplier) tells us what they consider are their native strongholds.


HGST's IB fabric leverages PCM

Editor:- August 11, 2015 - The 3 strongest contenders for ultra-low latency rack to rack memory fabric have been FC SAN (traditionally popular in traditional business sites), InfiniBand (popular in HPC and research sites) and (emerging recently in product form since 2014 - due to the widespread penetration of PCIe SSDs) - PCIe fabric.

Until recently the memories in these solutions were predominantly mainstream RAM or flash or combinations.

Now after more than a decade of crying wolf by alternative non volatile memories - there are indications from several SSD companies that the gaps in the market represented by the application spectrum (latency combined with capavity and cost) are seen as big enough business opportunities to justify the introduction of new memory types.

Fitting into this category - a thoughtful preview article re new PCM IB fabric from HGST is discussed in this recent article - HGST To Display PCM Fabric at FMS 2015 on Tom's IT Pro


Viking aims to design ReRAM NVDIMMs

Editor:- August 10, 2015 - Viking Technology and Sony today announced a collaboration agreement to develop the next generation of Non-Volatile Dual in-line Memory Module (NVDIMM) products leveraging ReRAM Storage Class Memory from Sony Corporation.


new ORG - Drive Trust Alliance seeks sponsors

Editor:- August 10, 2015 - if you didn't think there were already enough ORGs related to the storage market - then a new one today has been proposed by Coughlin Associates and (new to me) Bright Plaza, Inc.

The Drive Trust Alliance at http://www.drivetrust.com (which currently redirects to http://www.brightplaza.com/products/#tdta) is "an alliance of companies, organizations, and individuals that will benefit from cost efficiencies in marketing on-going education and the creation and support of open source software for managing Self-Encrypted Drives". See also:- SSD security


you can pick almost any DWPD you like in a SAS SSD - says Toshiba while also introducing new NVMe PCIe SSDs in 4 form factors

Editor:- August 10, 2015 - Toshiba today announced details of 3 new NVMe PCIe SSD families which will sample in the next quarter.

2 of these are aimed at the consumer market and come in variants of the M.2 form factor - with upto 4 lanes of PCIe 3.

More interesting, however, are the new enterprise products - model PX04P - in 2.5" or HHHL form factors.

A few days earlier - Toshiba also reaffirmed its commitment to the SAS SSD market with the launch of 4 new models optimized for a spread of different DWPD profiles from 1 to 25 to economically fit a wide range of application slots.


Virtium gets growth investment

Editor:- August 5, 2015 - Virtium today announced it has received an (undisclosed amount) growth investment from L Squared Capital Partners which the company says "will be used to enhance Virtium's product portfolio and strengthen its application engineering and SSD firmware development teams."

See also:- L Squared 's other investments, VCs in SSDs

Editor's comments:- In the past year or so I've spoken to a bunch of investors who said they were looking at industrial SSD companies.

I can't tell you who they were or if this was one of them. But the impression I got was this.

Adding together a lot of small rational investments in customized long term relationship markets like industrial SSDs is an alternative strategy to gambling on a small number of risky big technology bets.

The big bets are risky because bigger monolithic market opportunities for standard products attract and suck in more competitors - which - with low entry barriers and customer churn - can tend to rapidly invalidate the initial investment assumptions.
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SSD jargon



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the enterprise SSD story...
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the golden age of enterprise SSDs
The Golden Age of enterprise SSDs?



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hold up capacitors in 2.5" MIL SSDs

do you really need them?
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics
0 to 3S
Editor:- I've been looking at different aspects of power hold up schemes in mission critical non volatile memory systems for over 30 years.

But every time I revisit this vast topic and compare fresh examples from the market - I learn something a little bit new.

My new blog - Zero to three seconds - demonstrates the extreme range of hold up times now in the market inside leading edge 2.5" military flash SSDs. ...read the article
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