| leading the way to the
new storage frontier||...|
|ratios in SSD design
trust SSD market data?
how fast can your SSD
are we ready for
infinitely faster RAM?
can memory chips be
made in the wrong country?
re IBM's FlashSystem 9100
|Editor:- July 18, 2018 - A recent blog -
the FlashSystem 9100 NVMe with FCM - by Barry Whyte at IBM - provided for me - a
satisfying sequel and finale to the story of whatever happened to the longest
running enterprise SSD accelerator product line in the history of the market -
the SAM>RamSan>FlashSystem - which were all
fast big shared memory boxes.|
(The new heir in the family saga -
the FlashSystem 9100 is a 2U box with NVMe SSDs inside which provides 403TB
usable uncompressed - and GbE, FC or SAS host connectivity.)
get a taster of the family story in these 2 marker articles - selected from
my numerous scribblings.
IBM's FlashSystem 9100?
the same kind of horse show (in
role) but with a different technology animal inside and the recent
changes in the design architecture today in 2018 are as significant as when TMS
redesigned the main memory array in the RamSan product line from RAM to flash in
their 2007 model - the
Barry Whyte's new blog says among things:-
storage development team in Hursley started work on the design of a new
generation box back over 3 years ago when I was still based in the UK. The idea
was to build a low rack density, and high performance control enclosure that
could take NVMe Flash drives, both in terms of NAND Flash based, and look to the
future of SCM technologies, such as 3D Xpoint, Z-SSD and whatever else will
come along." ...read
Editor's comments:- throughout the 30 or so years
history of the RamSan and the multi OS supported SAM - Shared Access Memory
system which came before and the new FlashSystem (which cane after (and which
may have changed its name again depending on when you read this) is the the
idea of a product line which evolves to accomodate new memory technologies but
retains the legacy purpose of putting data in a box where it can be accessed by
many different servers at the lowest practical latency cost.
of LTO-8 tape may be a good thing|
|Editor:- July 14, 2018 - I haven't written much
about tape drives and
tape libraries in recent
years (less than 8 news stories in 8 years) because the writing which had
already been appearing on the wall for a long time -
about the mainstream
migration away from tape - was still clearly legible despite having been
written long ago and crumbling in the dusty vaults of web pages deep down in
the logfile statistics.|
But a recent blog -
Reasons To Purchase LTO 8 Tapes - by UK tape reseller ODSI - prompted me
on linkedin with this.
#4 for liking this tape / LTO-8 (resistant to instant malware attacks because
data on tape is effectively offline) is a clever way to argue that a negative
feature can have positive aspects when viewed in a particular context. Shows
that the art of tape marketing sophistry hasnt been lost despite the
demise in significance of the tape market itself."
roadmap to the
|"GridGain is to
defined software - what
Texas Memory Systems
was to SSD accelerators on the SAN, and
Fusion-io was to
server based SSD accelerators - a long term innovator and pioneer. So when you
see educational articles like this you know theres real authority."|
- editor - StorageSearch.com
- commenting on linkedin (June 21, 2018) about a new article -
Architectures: What's Next for In-Memory Computing written by Abe Kleinfeld,
President & CEO at GridGain
Systems - and published on The New Stack.|
comments:- among other things I liked (apart from the whole article) were the
examples of customer metrics using IMC.
For example:- Abe mentioned
"Workday uses its in-memory computing platform to process
about 189 million transactions per day, with a peak of about 289 million
per day. For comparison, Twitter does about 500 million tweets per day."
What I like about Abe Kleinfeld's market wake up
call articles about IMC is it shows the proven power of using this type of
In the early days of the mission critical SSD market
customers who got massive computing gains from using SSD acceleration preferred
to keep quiet about it - which could be frustrating for the pioneering vendors
who had educated them, analyzed their
and installed their impossibly faster systems. Users didn't want competitors
(or enemies) to learn what had been done.
why use SSDs?
(2003 to 2005)
|If you could go back in
time and take with you - in the DeLorean - a factory full of modern
memory chips and SSDs (along with backwards compatible adapters) what real
impact would that have? |
|are we ready for
infinitely faster RAM?
|To be or
not to be? |
Mice or mouseless? - that is the question.
|Editor:- June 18, 2018 - If you trawl the
archives of Shakespeare's scribblings (even the fake plays and musicals) I'm
pretty sure he didn't have anything to say about the
role of mice as icons
on a data storage web site. Although he did have a lot to say about life,
changes, revolutions, dynasties and successions. |
So why the question?
- mice or mouseless?
is for sale.
I'm retiring - and I'm looking for a new owner for the
site who will value my readers.
I will stop updating StorageSearch.com on December 25, 2018.
And I'll freeze the site after that date - pending the formal closing of the
sales process.Mice or mouseless will be one of the
to be determined by the new owner in 2019 - whoever they may be.
part of this plan I have also told advertisers that the web ad model (which has
worked so well since 1996) is now EOL. This means the site will be offered for
sale without any ties. ...read more
Defined Software - a new market in the making|
|There's a new software idea that's been
experimented on in the AI skunkworks in the cloud and as patentable secret
enhancements in next generation embedded processor designs. This new concept and
exciting new market (for the VCs reading this) will be more significant than a
new OS and will mark a break in the way that the enterprise thinks about
You had had plenty of warning about the new chips but
memoryfication doesn't stop with faster storage. The idea didn't have a name
when I started writing about it. But what it should be called is obvious.
Defined Software doesn't have to work at being backwards compatible
because the legacy storage industry will import and export to it if they want
to play in data's future.
See more about this in my blog -
Memory Defined Software. (Sometimes you can change the world with software
which breaks all the rules - if you can find the right platform to run it on.) ...read the
|ReRAM based architectures
for Processing-In-Memory (guide to papers and deep thinking)|
| Editor:- May 1 , 2018 - Processing in memory and
ReRAM are both making their mark independently as noteworthy technologies which
each promise new fashions in the shape of future memory systems design. But
how about combining both? |
A new paper -
Survey of ReRAM-Based Architectures for Processing-In-Memory and Neural Networks
(pdf) by Sparsh
Mittal, Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of Technology
Hyderabad summarizes the state of art.
In his abstract Sparsh says "As
data movement operations and power-budget become key bottlenecks in the design
of computing systems, the interest in unconventional approaches such as
processing-in-memory (PIM) and machine learning (ML), especially neural network
(NN) based accelerators has grown significantly. ReRAM is a promising
technology for efficiently architecting PIM and NN based accelerators due to its
capabilities to work as both: high-density/low-energy storage and in-memory
computation/search engine. In this paper, we present a survey of techniques for
designing ReRAM-based PIM and NN architectures. By classifying the techniques
based on key parameters, we underscore their similarities and differences."
the article (pdf)
Editor's comments:- It's fascinating to see
how researchers in computational memory architecture have blended techniques
borrowed from classical analog computers with pragmatic local digital cleanup
and pure digital logic to create hybrid analog digital computing elements which
make the best use of latency and resolution to create multiplier accumulator and
search by value blocks while using ReRAM.
My first reaction was like
that when I saw the specifications of DSP chips in the early 1980s - not
very good analog combined with not very good digital - but from those
earliest days we got new industries.
ReRAM ML engines may have very
niche uses and be incredibly difficult to design but it only takes one or two
killer applications to make new technologies unignorable.
- what's next?|
| Throughout the
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. |
classic blog on StorageSearch.com
adapted memory systems - asks (among other things) if this will always be
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
|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. |
of the 2017 memory shortages|
news - this news page from 2000 to 2018
to be acquired by Intel|
Editor:- July 12, 2018 - eASIC has agreed to be
acquired by Intel
- it was
Editor's comments:- For Intel this will strengthen and lengthen
its architectural chip supply engagements with customers who are looking for
customizable extensions to their data processing chip sets and who are at the
stage where they have a proven proprietary concept which they want to use in an
energy and performance footprint which is better than the FPGA implementations
enabled by products like those from Intel's earlier acquisition
Intel's earlier history (1970s to 1980s) its chipsets which supported common
functions around its processors helped the company remain at the center of
design and architecture decisions made by its systems customers. But because the
company's PC and standard server business was so successful it decided that it
didn't want to get involved with idiosyncratic customized consumer platforms
- a strategy which lost it the mobile phone and tablet markets.
had dabbled in the server grade ASIC and gate array markets in the late 1980s
when it gained access to IBM's custom IP. That experience - which was judged to
be a failure - showed that the custom business was more competitive and
more difficult for Intel than the safer option of extending markets for its
own standard processors.)
Today the biggest users of processors and
memory are cloud scale companies which are all (already or soon) designing
custom accelerators and useful chips sets to improve the effectiveness of their
infrastructures. FPGAs, customizable controllers and ASICs are all part of that
product mix. IP solutions like those from eASIC can be useful in applications
where the volumes and changeability of designs make ASIC too slow to market and
expensive - but the energy footprint and memoryfication requirements make FPGAs
a less than optimal fit for large volumes.
This acquisition will give
Intel greater visibility and flexible capability in the next wave of
application specific memory and processor enhancers.
glue chips in the SSD and
Micron says patents claimed by UMC injunction in China were
already prior art in other countries
Editor:- July 5, 2018 - Micron
a statement about the recent injunction (see earlier story below)
related to the sale of certain memory chips and SSDs in China.
other things - Micron said...
- "The affected products make up slightly more than 1% of Micron's
- ""Micron is disappointed with the ruling by the Fuzhou
Intermediate People's Court. We strongly believe that the patents are invalid
and that Micron's products do not infringe the patents. The Fuzhou Court issued
this preliminary ruling before allowing Micron an opportunity to present its
- "Micron has submitted compelling evidence to the Patent Review Board
of China's State Intellectual Property Office demonstrating that the patents are
invalid because they are directed to technologies that were previously developed
and patented in other countries by other technology companies."
Micron memory sales in China at halt risk
July 3, 2018 - UMC today
the Fuzhou Intermediate People's Court of the People's Republic of China today
issued a preliminary injunction against Micron
Semiconductor - which effectively could prevent ongoing sales and
supply of 26 DRAM and NAND-related items in China.
UMC said - it
filed patent infringement lawsuits against Micron with the mainland China courts
in January, 2018, covering 3 areas, including specific memory applications
related to DDR4, SSD and memory used in graphics cards. "With today's
ruling, Micron's products now face injunction for violating UMC's patent rights
in a court verdict that applies to all of mainland China."
comments:-Just as tides follow gravity and the winds so too does geoplitics look
down from on high on the worldwide memory market which for many years had the
illusory guise of a defragmented, friction-free, borderless market. I wrote
about how those illusions were being blown away in my April 2018 blog -
can memory chips be
made in the wrong country?
Later:- (July 5, 2018) - Take a look
at this interesting comment from within the memory industry- from Sang-Yun Lee,
President & CEO at BeSang
today on linkedin ...
"I feel that it is a power game
between Micron backed by US government and UMC backed by China government and
its DRAM partner in China. In terms of memory IP, Micron should be much stronger
than UMC and its China DRAM partner. Though, intention of UMC and China
government is clear: cross license or settlement for the clear path to DRAM
market for China DRAM startups. Micron's intention was to give hard time to
China DRAM startups using its strong IPs. Unfortunately, Micron got a strong
counterpunch from China government." ...read
more comments related to this
despite over $1 billion / quarter in storage revenue
Micron remains a confident DRAM company at the core
June 24, 2018 - Micron
disclosed some useful metrics and opinions about the SSD and memory market -
related to its experience in the quarter ended May 31, 2018- in its recent
conference call (transcript on seekingalpha.com).
- 71% of Micron's revenue in the quarter came from DRAM. DRAM revenue grew
- Storage Business Unit revenue (mostly SSDs and managed nand) was $1.1
confident that demand for memory products will continue to grow faster than in
memory business cycles due to new usage factors (the memoryfication of
- 3DXPoint sales were "very little".
& CEO Micron - said - "...AI driven, AI training driven compute
workloads have like 2x the amount of DRAM and 6x the amount of SSD. So, these
trends are really secular in nature. We are at the very, very beginning. And
same way in mobile in terms of our low power DRAM where we have very strong
position, DRAM contents requirements are going, continuing, to
comparing new embedded memory characteristics
overview from Objective Analysis
Editor:- June 20, 2018 -
Memories for Efficient Computing (pdf) - is a free white paper by Jim Handy - Founder - Objective Analysis which
summarizes and compares the technology status (cell size, R/W, endurance,
retention, temperature and manufacturabilty) of all the main embedded memory
types which are competing for design wins with
DRAM, SRAM and
flash in the
memoryfication market today.
Among other things Jim notes this...
"Another important consideration is the scalability of the technology.
Certain emerging memory technologies, particu-larly FRAM and PCM, have proven
challenging to scale. FRAM has not been successfully scaled below 90nm and PCM's
"On" resistance increases as the cell size decreases, making the
technology more noise sensitive as the process shrinks, although PCM researchers
successfully successfully developed a 5nm cell over a decade ago.." ...
read the article (pdf)
Editor's comments:- Throw away your
dusty old text books and scrub the
bookmarks. Jim Handy's free 2018 memory selector guide lists all the
memories whose names you can't quite remember.
Churchill said his
staff kept mixing up Iran and Iraq in WW2 so he insisted on them being called
Persia and Iraq in memos.
Likewise you may find FRAM, ReRAM MRAM
NRAM, PCM etc fading in and out of memorability in your organic brainspace
having waited nearly 20
years for them to become really emerged - which they finally did in 2017
thanks in part to the
price of flash and
DRAM having moved backwards in time and upwards in $/bit by 2-4 years
compared to earlier expectations as a result of business decisions by big
memory suppliers during the self inflicted
new report lists malware attack vectors for memory in
Editor:- June 14, 2018 -
Issues for Processors with Memory is a new report (90 pages, $975) by Memory Strategies International
with ramifications (I had to use that word) for the memoryfication of processors
The report includes a comprehensive list of the dimensions in
which security can be attacked and outline of design mitigation directions.
Among other things the scope includes:- "Issues of volatile
vs. non-volatile memory for cache and main memory involve consideration of
security hazards. Cryptography in multicore coprocessor systems are an issue.
Security of data on network buses is critical for military, medical and
financial systems with remedies suggested for replay attacks..." ...see more
about this report
remanence in persistent memory a new risk factor?,
CPUs for use with SSD architectures,
PIM, in-situ processing
and other SSD jargon
in-memory cache as a cloud service - beta from GridGain
June 12, 2018 - GridGain
the beta release and free trials of GridGain
Cloud - an in-memory cache-as-a-service that allows users to rapidly deploy
a distributed in-memory cache and access it using ANSI-99 SQL, key-value or REST
APIs. The result is in-memory computing performance in the cloud, which can be
massively scaled out and can be deployed in minutes for caching applications.
See also:- SSD
empowerment in cloud
DRAM costs lifted server revenues in Q1 - says Dell'Oro
June 12, 2018 - The top 4 Cloud Service Providers - Google, Amazon, Microsoft,
and Facebook consumed most of the 920,000 white box servers shipped in Q1 2018
according to a
by Dell'Oro Group who also
attribute higher average server selling prices to the DRAM price factor.
comments:- in recent
and other internet scale actors have switched roles from being early adopters
of SSD technologies (which they had been since the early 2000s) and - impatient
at waiting for big brand datasaurs to understand their requirements -
these big users have been at the forefront of designing new architectures to
increase the efficiency of storage and also push the boundaries of memory
who does storage market
dogs can sniff out USB drives and phones
June 11, 2018 - Police dogs have been trained to find hidden flash drives -
according to a recent
in the Verge.
consumer SSD guides,
fast erase SSDs
Memblaze launches new PPR enhanced 2.5" NVMe SSDs
June 8, 2018 - it seems like a long time since I heard from Memblaze. Today they
new dual port products aimed at the long established 2.5" PCIe SSD
market. (This form factor first headlined in SSD news pages and related events
Like many past products in this category from other
manufacturers - a key feature is the balance between raw data access performance
and power consumption the "performance-to-power ratio".
Excelero accelerates Ceph
Editor:- June 6, 2018 -
What would you do if you could find a way to reduce the latency of fault
tolerant distributed storage on commodity hardware by an order of magnitude?
Keep quiet about it and don't tell your competitors - would be a
Instead one of Excelero's
customers was happy to share their finding re
Ceph platforms in a joint
After researching NVMe-oF options the customer
(Germany based) teuto.net - tried iSCSI appliance-based storage solutions, then
vetoed them as limiting seamless growth and increasing costs as well as
vetoing Dell EMC ScaleIO, which didn't support NVMe-oF and was costly.
Using Excelero's software enabled a 10x reduction in Ceph
Flexxon's industrial SD cards show sophistication of a market
once seen as simple
Editor:- June 2, 2018 - Flexxon recently
a new family of industrial SD cards for use in automotive and medical markets.
Interesting to see that the range internal flash memories within this
single (superficially fairly simple standard) family includes:- SLC, pSLC (2D
and 3D), MLC, and TLC (which is 3D of course).
This shows how
sophisticated and nuanced the embedded market has become at analyzing value and
selecting the operating parameters for different use cases.
also:- tell the buyer
there's no such thing as a simple standard industrial SSD
NGD Systems announces GA of 16TB U2 in-situ processing SSDs
May 31, 2018 - NGD Systems
the general availability of its 16TB Catalina-2 U.2 NVMe SSD which
integrates the company's long anticipated and much discussed (Arm based) "In-Situ
Burlywood says its software can save 40% of cloud flash
Editor:- May 22, 2018 - Burlywood
- which emerged from stealth mode in
August 2017 -
its TrueFlash product a storage software and FPGA solution for
cloud companies which
uses flash more efficiently.
Tod Earhart, CEO of Burlywood said - "By
using the latest flash available for a specific application, combined with an
advanced programmable controller and Burlywood TrueFlash software, we are able
to deliver an enterprise-class flash solution at a cost of up to 40% less while
increasing performance and expanding capacity."
Efficiency as SSD
competitive advantage (2012)
Micron samples industry's first QLC SATA SSDs
May 21, 2018 - Micron
it is sampling the industry's first SSD built on next generation quad-level
cell (QLC) NAND technology.
Micron's 5210 ION (2.5" SATA SSD)
is intended to replace HDDs in read mostly cloud storage applications and
will be available in capacities ranging from 1.92TB to 7.68TB.
that the native endurance
of the new 64 layer 3D QLC nand at the cell level is 1K P/E cycles. But for
very low DWPD applications
(0.3 for this product apparently) Micron indicates that QLC drives provides a
more viable underlying technology to compete with and replace 7,200 RPM
nearline hard drives than lower density TLC.
(For comparison -
that the average capacity of nearline HDD it shipped in the first calendar
quarter of 2018 was 6.5TB).
Editor's comments:- While the availability
of QLC SSDs provides another hummable tune in the great solid sate storage
songbook I think that storage systems users may not exactly leap into the air
with unbridled joy at this announcement - coming as it does after 2 years of
much higher ASPs for value based
SATA SSDs than the market would have expected prior to the
And while the technical challenges of making QLC a working
technology are awesome (and industry accolades should go to the designers of
the memory internal P/E and read circuits and accompanying data integrity
framework in the controllers) the battle lines for opening new markets in next
generation memory systems are at the other end of the latency spectrum - in the
application zone of
is to replace RAM - and how much of it will even
to an degree which is recognizable.
no more anti-trust wait states
Toshiba Memory sale
clear to close June 1
Editor:- May 17, 2018 - Toshiba Corp today
it has received all required regulatory approvals for the sale of Toshiba
Memory Corp. The sale to the Bain led consortium is expected to close on June
SSD beauty pageant - timeline of stories
Dell EMC adopts M.2 SSD array concept
17, 2018 - The idea of using M.2
SSDs as the raw flash elements mounted on
enterprise PCIe SSD
carriers and trays has gaining ground since it was proposed as an evolutionary
step by Liqid in
The M.2 array concept has the performance benefit of proportionality
(from NVMe PCIe scalability) coupled with the strategic business merit that M.2
is a competitively priced,
high volume form
factor which ensures that such modules will be at the forefront of new
technology adoption while also including within its ranks good value for money.
recent story -
EMC Takes a Stab at 1PB/1U With High Density M.2 Sleds (on
StorageReview.com) - shows a picture of a Dell EMC module with upto 10 M.2
SSDs in a single sled. ...read
Crossbar will demonstrate ReRAM AI accelerator chip
May 14, 2018 - Crossbar
that it will demonstrate a test chip showing the capabilities of its ReRAM
technology for AI in the form of a facial recognition accelerator at the
Embedded Vision Summit
next week in Santa Clara, California.
VP Marketing at Crossbar said - "The biggest challenge facing engineers
for AI today is overcoming the memory speed and power bottleneck in the current
architecture to get faster data access while lowering the energy cost. By
enabling a new, memory-centric non-volatile architecture like ReRAM, the entire
trained model or knowledge base can be on-chip, connected directly to the neural
network with the potential to achieve massive energy savings and performance
improvements, resulting in a greatly improved battery life and a better user
Editor's comments:- It's a great idea for Crossbar to
integrate the capabilities of their SoC compatible ReRAM technhologies into a
demonstration accelerator like this as it cuts out a lot of guesses and the
requirement to imagine what can be done with the new architectures so enabled.
an example of this powerful business development idea from
all know (or have heard of)
They're the company(founded in December 2005) which transformed the enterprise
server market from SSD deniers into born again
PCIe SSD acceleration
evangelists. Fusion-io was acquired for $1.1 billion in
might be surprised to know that despite its huge market impact Fusion-io's
original business plan wasn't the one which they later followed.
they became successful the founders told me their original idea had been to
operate as a software and IP licensing company.
And they said that
their prototype PCIe SSD cards - the ioDrives - had been intended simply to
demonstrate the concept of what Fusion's software and architecture could do.
The founders had expected that server makers would license the technology but
build their own cards. However, when server customers saw what this acceleration
technology could do for their own server sales (or those of competitors if they
adopted it) they chose to buy cards instead. And that's how the PCIe SSD market
It's possible that with the AI memory accelerator market
we're going to see application specific products born out of demonstrators which
are too good to stay in the labs. And that's a proposition which I also
mentioned in my recently completed blog -
are we ready for infinitely faster RAM?
Mercury says TLC can be used in avionics (if you know how)
May 1, 2018 - Mercury
it is offering TLC flash in a new SSD on a chip (22mm x 32mm BGA) for secure
storage roles in SWaP constrained environments such as aircraft, unmanned
systems and mobile ground applications including secure laptops and tablets.
says - "While TLC flash technology is ideal for high-capacity data storage
in a smaller footprint than MLC and SLC technologies, its reliability and
performance in military operating environments has been disputed until today.
Mercury has eliminated these threats by custom-engineering a new variant of its
ARMOR processor specifically for this new commercial memory technology enabling
it to operate in SLC mode for high reliability and long-term endurance while
sustaining high-speed read/write operations."
It is a notable milestone that a
military SSD company like Mercury is using TLC in SLC mode for secure
applications. The technique of virtual SLC and its reliability aspects is one
of several described in this academic paper
of Techniques for Architecting SLC/MLC/TLC Hybrid Flash Memory based SSDs (27
pages pdf) - which I mentioned in a news story
the adoption of TLC nand (or any new mainstream memory) into successive markets
SSD history demonstrates a timetable of adoption determined by how long it
takes for the new devices to shake out processing fluctuations and how long it
takes for application markets to deteremine they're good enough.
consumer SSDs used
to be the first target for new memories . Because consumer products have lower
standards. Then some time later enterprise, followed by
military (subject to temperature compatibility) and maybe later still - medical
markets. At the latter end of this list the later adoptions are due to longer
design times (to evaluate and integrate with other reliability features) and
longer customer qualification times. However in recent years the order of memory
adoption has changed with big
cloud users jumping
right in at the start contemporaneously with consumer. Clever cloud architects
can live with and work around infant media defects - and are willing to put
design effort into using new technologies - provided that the system
benefits provide a statistically significant improvement in their systems costs.
a yardstick for how long these successive adoptions can take...
2018 now and this is the first news story about a significant
military SSD using
TLC. In my timeline
for the enterprise - it was 2015 when TLC was considered good enough to
ship in high quality enterprise all flash arrays.
importance of being earnest about 3DXPoint |
and other SSD
editor - StorageSearch.com
- June 5, 2018|
thinking back about the top level differences between raw data storage
media in the 1990s one easy way to differentiate them was by latency.|
So an ordered list from fastest access time to slowest would run something
like:- SRAM, DRAM, flash (those were the main memories in those days) then
winchester disks (the magnetic hard drives / disks we nowadays call HDD),
optical drives and finally tape. And if you were sorting this list according to
the cost per byte stored then no surprise it would be read about the same.
Like all such lists this is a simplication.
Optical drives of
various flavors fought hard to be recognized as viable alternatives which could
sometimes be cheaper or faster than hard drives - which sounded more plausible
when drives were commonly moved from place to place as part of the data recovery
plan in the days before fast internet brought us the cloud. And there were
also many long battles in the early 2000s between
hard drives and tape
to determine which type of magnetic media delivered the lowest cost of archive.
That's the kind of thing which used to be the subject of storage news pages like
The main lesson from being at the sharp end of such discussions
history is that the tidy ordered
family trees which we see written by the inheritors of such technology
wars do not sufficiently capture the confusion and strength of arguments which
led to them.
That's because other issues which we take for granted
later (like - how fast do we actually need the data? and what's the consequence
of not getting it when we need it?) change over time as part of the evolution of
And even when everyone is approximately agreed on a general
future direction - such as towards more solid state storage - the differences
in approach can seem like ocean wide chasms.
As part of my reporting
on the new era of SSDs and talking to many evangelists in the SSD market I came
up with a phrase - the
SSD heresies - to describe how fierce these genuinely held
differences in belief could be - even when designers were contemplating
solutions to similar perceived product gap problems.
It's no surprise
then that the enterprise memoryfication market has advocates pulling towards
different priorities as the memory systems IP soil is fertile with
opportunities created by new product gaps created by the mainstream
adoption of SSDs while also benefitting from newly redefined value roles for
older media types too.
The battleground for converts is a proactive
cloud economy which is willing and able to measure and leverage the (lowest or
highest) random asset value of entire populations of drives and will move
towards exploiting valuable incremental differences with the currency of new
has the jury reached a verdict on flash tiered
In 2015 - the opening salvo of
SCM DIMM wars
- it seemed plausible that flash tiered as RAM might pose an existential threat
to growth in the DRAM market. The argument at the time offered by companies
like Diablo Technologies
being that a DIMM based solution which could transparently replace 80% or so
of DRAM with tiered flash instead (while delivering similar and sometimes higher
application performance - due to the affordability of bigger "RAM")
would be a market changer because flash had much higher capacity than DRAM at
lower cost. History (so far) shown us that such a transition didn't happen as
predicted - even when the price and availability of DRAM escalated to the pain
levels caused by the
shortages of 2016/7.
Knowing as we now do that users in the
market didn't all rush in droves to adopt the new flash DIMMs tiered as RAM -
the evidence suggests a reinterpretation of the technology is due. And I
think it would go as follows:-
- flash tiered as RAM in DIMM form factors (from a cloud use perspective) is
an incremental rather than a disruptive technology.
application benefits (when they occured) were typically a small improvement
(maybe 20 to 30%) compared to tiering flash as RAM in other form factors such
as PCIe SSDs or SATA SSDs. So the risk of switching to single source premium
devices in DIMMs wasn't worthwhile compared to using "generic" SSDs in
cheaper form factors.
- software plays a big part in new hardware adoption.
that it works takes years.
Memory products interface with more
types of software than storage products. Therefore proving that a new memory
defined software can be trusted requires either a very long time (for general
solutions) or a narrower captive application set.
approval and verification time to reach critical mass for general adoption by
users is longer than the lifetime of a single memory product generation.
That makes it difficult for a single memory product startup with its own unique
software requirements to reach a stable funding level unless it has a cash cow
Intel vs Micron - emerging
differences in assessing the near term strategic importance of recently
- the RAM market itself is changing - so the ideal direction of change for
users is memory solutions which can deliver applications outcomes in
consistently shorter times while analyzing bigger datasets.
itself has an intrinsic value. And my blog -
are we ready
for infinitely faster RAM? - explains why there was a limited appetite for
memory accelerators (much faster than DRAM) in the past - and why this appears
to be changing significantly.
As I hinted above we shouldn't be surprised
that the SSD design
heresies (what's the best way to design an SSD system - given all the
permutations of memory, interface, software and controller IP) has - like a
rolling stone gathering up sticky new moss - inevitably drifted into the
memory systems design heresies.
On a note of
SSD jargon - re the
evolving change of use in
what's an SSD?
- for me - as everything involving memory systems design nowadays is intricately
linked to controller design and software and architecture - I still think the
term "SSD" covers it. Unless "memoryfication" catches on.
SSD has the vitue of being short. (Rob Peglar, President at Advanced Computation
and Storage LLC on seeing this
on linkedin - "I think you just invented a new word" - but
actually - due its convenience as a shortcut spanning a wide slice of memory
architecture trends - I've been
it since 2017.)
Going back to emerging differences of opinion re
memoryfication futures - my point is that whatever any particular manufacturer
may tell you about the overwhelming superiority of their own approach to memory
product design (and whether they're a fabless IP startup or a memory T-Rex)
the memory is still just a part of a data system - and in the rich memory sea we
now have - other design approaches to memory soup may do the same job just as
well. (This is exactly the same advice as the first bullet point - don't
believe everything SSD companies tell you about the past, present or future of
the SSD market - in my 2012 article -
SSDs - the Survive and Thrive Guide.)
A recent example is the
differences in the strategic outlook for memories between Intel (infatuated
with 3DXpoint) and Micron (still in love with DRAM) which have been aired
in public statements about policy, investment directions etc.
Dreams: Intel And Micron Diverge by analyst William Tidwell on
SeekingAlpha.com - examines the "stark differences between the two
companies". And among other things he says - "Intel has never ceased
aggressively hyping the technology... projectecting up to $8 billion in XP DIMM
revenue in 2021. Micron, on the other hand, has been almost completely silent,
revealing little other than its branding and its confidence that the new
memory has great potential." ... ...read
This evoked (on linkedin) a reaction by Sang-Yun
Lee the founder of BeSang
(a let's make memory chips better IP company) who asked on
- "Why Intel is so obsessed with 3DXP?..."
I replied like
"Agreed that 3DXP doesnt deliver many benefits now. But it
could be used as an incubator technology which enables software developers to
explore new systems level optimisations which play around with closer
integration of processors and low latency big local memory having fewer caches.
defined software platforms will create big market opportunities as
significant as Wintel, Unix, http were before. The new software doesnt need to
be Intel memory based (could be done better today with other combinations of
memory). But 3DXP provides ISVs a convenient reference point which is good
enough to make such experiments easy to try. Intel needs just one of these
experiments to succeed to save its processor future.
Big gamble? -
sure. 3DXP is a honey trap for new software. Maybe not the best memory
technology today but the software industry can still remember how sweet Intels
past roadmaps used to taste.
That's despite Intel having been absent
at the conception or birth of the
enterprise PCIe SSD
accelerator market which was the first transformative step in the
memoryfication of the enterprise."
who d'you call
for the SSD crystal ball?,
why did we get
into such a mess with SSD software? (2012),
hostage to the
fortunes of SSD (2013),
SSD story - why's the plot so complicated? (2015)
DRAM makers collude to protect high prices?|
| Editor:- May 1, 2018 - One of the almost
of the memory shortages and price hikes centered around 2017 has been
greater scrutiny of the memory market by regulators and now -
class action lawsuit (pdf) filed against the 3 largest DRAM makers
(Samsung, Micron, and Hynix) which dominate the market.|
things the plaintiff document alleges - "Defendants combined and
contracted to fix, raise, maintain, or stabilize the prices at which DRAM was
sold in the United States from at least June 1, 2016 to February 1, 2018 (the "Class
Period"). Defendants' conspiracy artificially inflated prices for DRAM
throughout the supply chain that were ultimately passed through to Plaintiffs
and the Class, causing them to pay more for DRAM Products than they otherwise
would have absent Defendants' conspiracy."
As with many legal
documents this one is a long read. In it the plaintiffs suggest that these
memory companies communicated their strategies by means of public investor
statements - "During the Class Period, Defendants continued their efforts
to coordinate their DRAM supply decisions, as reflected in public comments by
Defendants that urged each other to keep industry supply in check. Defendants
each made public statements affirming their commitment to the common plan to
curtail supply, and to not compete for each other's market share by supply
expansion. For example, Defendants informed the other Defendants through public
statements, that they would keep total wafer capacity flat in order to constrain
DRAM supply growth, they would only grow DRAM supply between 15-20% in 2017,
even as DRAM demand grew 20-25%, and that they would refrain from taking each
other's market share." ...read
the lawsuit (pdf)
Editor's comments:- The tactics each sales
force used to decide allocation between different customers and bundling deals
(if any) may come under scrutiny. Dealing fairly in a shortage requires very
strong controls to avoid tipping into anti competitive behaviors.
history of the memory market does include proven examples of past
price fixing. You can read more about them by visiting
https://www.justice.gov and searching for
RAM news - ain't what it used
history of understanding and misunderstanding SSD pricing
Mays of yore in
Technology launched WhatsHot SSD - a hotspot analysis and tuning
tool for fast rackmount SSD accelerators. |
It would be another 6 years
before the first storage arrays became available which integrated automatic
caching of data between solid state storage and hard drives. That was the
XcelaSAN launched in
September 2009. But it wasn't till
new SSDcentric software companies were entering the market at the rate of one
each week) that the SSD
software market became valued enough by
investors and wouldbe
its HLNAND flash technology which could sustain 800MB/s.
announced the first branding program for SSD controllers.
marked a turning point in how flash controller technology was viewed by the
mainstream storage market. In less than 3 years (2007 to 2010) the perception
changed from "who cares?" to "You care!" - which I wrote
about in Imprinting
the brain of the SSD.
May 2013 - Micron
began sampling a new hot swappable 2.5" PCIe SSD with 1.4TB MLC
capacity and 750K R IOPS.
May 2016 - Symbolic IO emerged
from stealth mode unveiling an enterprise server/storage architecture which
leveraged embedded persistent memory coding to provide data materialization,
dematerialization and acceleration.