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Februaries of yore in SSD market history
4 years ago - February 2012 - EMC and Intel joined the SandForce-inside crowd.

6 years ago - February 2010 - Silicon Motion said that its SSD controllers were ready for the 20nm flash expected later that year.

7 years ago - February 2009 - Steve Wozniak became Chief Scientist at Fusion-io.

13 years ago - February 2003 - 2 competing SSD companies announced the world's first terabyte class FC SAN SSD systems.

16 years ago - February 2000 - BiTMICRO unveiled a 3.5" PATA SSD with 19GB capacity and 9MB/s R/W.

"There is only one reason to buy SSD - performance!"
...thus spake an ad on this site for the RamSan-210 in 2002.

Since then we've found more reasons (6 in total).

Only 6? - Doesn't sound much - but they gave birth to all the business plans for all the SSDs in every market.

6 doesn't sound too difficult to understand does it?

But analysis of SSD market behavior becomes convoluted in the enterprise when you stir into the viable product permutations soup pot not only the raw technology ingredients (memory, software architecture etc ) but also throw in the seasoning desires of latent customer preferences.

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the memory boom bust cycle

(a simple explanation for non-technical readers)
Editor:- I recently discussed the memory boom bust cycle to a non technical reader who asked me to explain why high volume semiconductor memory makers get into the situation of oversupply and lossy pricing.

Here's some of what I said.

The semiconductor memory business has wavered between under supply and over supply since the 1970s.

In the 1980s the best analagy was what economists called the “hog cycle”.

But any study of memory market history for the past 40 years shows that there are also other competitive factors involved.

Simplest example – when suppliers choose to use price as a way to gain advantages in the market.

But another factor is that memory is not a usable product by itself. And memory technologies have to be designed to be optimal for end markets.

Memory makers have to guess years in advance what the mix of products in the market will be to ensure they will get a share of the end market.

If they get those guesses wrong – there is under / over supply – which impacts prices.

The investments which have to be made in manufacturing plants are huge and take place years in advance of even knowing in detail what the detailed mix of products will be.

Memory makers mitigate their risks by choosing manufacturing processes which have flexibility. (For example the ability to switch between making DRAM or nand flash using the same equipment). But even with long term roadmaps such plans can go wrong.

For example - sometimes technologies are harder to get working.

As a sanity check – FYI the entire SSD market wasn’t in any memory maker’s technology road map until recently. But it affects everything they now do.

In the long term – the risk of being uncompetitive (no one buys the memory and you certainly go bust) or the fear of being locked out of the SSD market counts as worse score than temporarily having too much product at too low a price. Because being in the game means you will get another opportunity to supply memory and adjust product lines in the next memory boom cycle.

You wouldn’t believe how much data the memory people suck in and analyze.

The problem is they are disconnected from the end markets and because of that cannot make optimal judgements.

They’re also biased by their interpretation of how they managed risks and investments in the past.

That’s one reason why all the big companies will want to become enterprise storage box suppliers. (It's more than branding, and involves assumptions about being able to raise the revenue ceiling from the same raw flash while also racking up incremental design efficiency gains which are only possible at scale.)

But the memory makers don’t understand enough at present to make it work. And they may have the wrong cultures too.

If the market stabilizes as I predict in this article then the enterprise SSD market may become as predictable as the PC and server market were in earlier decades.

But we’re not near stability yet.

Instead we need to go through more instability first.

(Because as I said a year ago - "I (still) don't think we've reached stability in reference enterprise SSD designs and use cases"

Later:- as you'd expect with such a big topic - the boom and bust business cycles in memory have been analyzed and dissected many times before.

Here are some links I found later which provide helpful guidance for those - like my reader - who want to get a better feel without being buried by semiconductor concepts.

For historic reasons - most such discussions focus on DRAM - because that was the dominant memory revenue earner in earlier decades - but the memory type makes absolutely no difference to the principles.
  • The life cycle of memory generations is related to price and volume in - DRAM Pricing - a white paper (2002) on the web site of Tezzaron - which says - "this life-cycle has been repeated often enough to exhibit some predictable patterns."

    I would encourage anyone (even experienced semiconductor veterans) to note the 8 patterns listed. This list includes almost everything you need to know to understand what drives the predictable aspects of memory market behavior.

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"We agree on nothing..."

Editor:- February 9, 2016 - In a new blog - Why Storage Switzerland? - W. Curtis Preston (who founded Truth in IT) uses some thought provoking examples from the tv series The West Wing to describe how he resolved anticipated differences and made the big step of joining the writing team and storage analysts at Storage Switzerland.

Kingston toughens up USB offerings with IronKey

editor:- February 8, 2016 - Kingston today announced it has acquired the USB technology and assets of IronKey from Imation.

Tegile trims fat in Europe

Editor:- February 8, 2016 - Tegile's headcount and costs in Europe were disproportionately high compared to revenue - according to a story in SiliconANGLE - Tegile slashes global headcount in pre-IPO cost cutting - which discusses layoffs by the company to improve its business efficiency.

Implementing XTS-AES for SSDs on Xtensa Processors

storage security articles and news
SSD security
Editor:- February 5, 2016 - "An XTS-AES engine based on the Xtensa processor can provide performance that rivals most hardware solutions, but retains the ease of design and flexibility found in software based solutions."

That's the summary of a paper - Implementing the XTS-AES Standard on Xtensa Processors (pdf) - which is one of several resources recommended in a new set of the SSD Bookmarks today on the home page of

The new bookmarks were suggested by Neil Robinson who is Product Marketing Director, Tensilica Processor IP, Cadence. ...see the suggested links

top storage companies in 2015

editor:- February 5, 2016 - StorageNewsletter recently compiled a list of the Top 12 Storage Companies in 2015 (ranked by revenue).

This isn't the same as top SSD companies (by revenue or search volume) but there will be a degree of convergence between the 2 during the next 5 years.

market research
market research
Back in January 2001 I launched a series called the The 10 biggest storage companies - in which I tried to predict 2 years in advance who the top 10 would be (based on revenue).

That worked surprisingly well - but I EOLed the series when my primary focus became SSDs.

Interesting from today's perspective that in 2001 Dell wasn't regarded as a serious storage company - and including them in my list stirred the enterprise pot.

never fear 15nm TLC is here

with consumer facing DWPD ratings

Editor:- February 3, 2016 - TLC was originally intended as a consumer SSD technology (not that you'd realize this from reading about all the enterprise arrays which have assimilated it).

OCZ recently announced availability of a 15nm TLC based consumer range of 2.5" SATA SSDs - the Trion 150.

One of the interesting things about how the marketing of consumer SSDs has evolved is that these new SSDs come with DWPD guidance ratings which are 0.25 DWPD.

Be aware, however, when comparing DWPD ratings for consumer, enterprise and industrial SSDs that the warranty periods for these different classes of drives - are different.

The Trion 150 warranty is 3 years - which is typical for client SSDs - rather than 5 years (as for enterprise drives).

Endurance related marketing messages have come a long way in the past 12 years or so.

In October 2014 IBM said (in effect) "You don't need to worry about the endurance of our FlashSystems." That was my summary of an IBM blog at the time.

Nowadays OCZ says this about their Trion SSDs...

"Never Fear, OCZ Endurance is Here."

In one way I've got to admire the reckless implied simplicity of OCZ's endurance message. But I also groan in anticipation of how other vendors will retaliate with similar endurance messages of their own.

I think OCZ's "never fear" tagline may have been around since last summer (for the earlier Trion 100 - which OCZ says "quickly became a top seller for us") but as I don't visit consumer SSD pages any more than I have to (even my own) I didn't see it until today.

See also:- Branding Strategies in the SSD Market, razzle dazzling SSD care claims

Avalanche Tech completes $23 million funding round

Editor:- February 2, 2016 - Avalanche Technology today announced it has completed a $23 million funding round which will enable the companys transition from R&D to commercialization and production of patent-backed discrete and embedded non-volatile memory products based on STT-MRAM.

Editor's comments:- Avalanche has raised more than $80 million of funding since being founded in 2006 (see ChruchBase for summary).

Flash Memory
flash & SSD nvms
In past years Avalanche has made some immoderate claims about the future storage market potential for its technology - which in my view were not sufficiently tempered by adequate competitive market knowledge of the complex RAM, enterprise SSD and DIMM wars ecosystem in which it finds itself today.

Avalanche's recent showcase product has been a 32Mb NVRAM based on STT-MRAM Technology. Key features are:- 50nS, no wait writes, low standby current, 1 Trillion R/W cycles endurance, > 10 years data retention: @ 85C.

Avalanche has recently positioned its AvRAM as occupying a memory role for SoC designs which combines several desirable aspects of SRAM and traditional nvm in a single technology.

Xitore decloaks into SSD DIMM wars market

memory channel storage
memory channel SSDs
Editor:- February 1, 2016 - Another new name coming into in the SSD DIMM wars saga is Xitore which exited stealth mode today with an announcement about their NVM-X technology - which promises "sub-2 microsecond latency" and 25GB/s bandwidth.

Editor's comments:- Xitore's web site currently has almost no information about its product details beyond the headline claims.

The company, founded in 2014, and whose management team includes experience in SSD companies related to enterprise acceleration (including STEC and Netlist), says it's looking for first-round funding.

In outline Xitore's technology mix sounds similar to Diablo - but with these apparent differences:-
  • shipping sampling status - Diablo has been shipping and sampling products, whereas Xitore doesn't say anything about that yet
  • form factor for end product - Diablo's form factor ambitions start and end in DIMMs. Xitore's web site implies that it is aiming to provide storage in a box - which sounds like an SDS box in which the RAM tiering is the key element but not the whole solution. (Maybe the flash is implemented by COTS SSDs.)
We'll have to wait for more details to emerge.
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