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SSD history
Memory Defined Software
industrial SSDs - boring right?
after AFAs - what's the next box?
3D nand fab yield - the nth layer tax?
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
who's who in the SSD market in China?
capacitor hold up times in 2.5" military SSDs
after 2017 - questions re SSD's onward direction
miscellaneous consequences of the 2017 memory shortages
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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 - A 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." ...read 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 the first DSP chips - 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.
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can memory chips be made in the wrong place?
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - April 30, 2018
Is a memory chip in Country A worth the same in Country B?

If supplies were plentiful, and if there was efficient and effective competition, and low barriers to free trade and market entry - then the answer would be:- Yes.

Superficially enough of those conditions seemed to prevail worldwide upto about 3 years ago that if anyone had tried to create a new mainstream civilian memory company (in the DRAM or nand flash markets) then the effort would have been viewed as maybe being nuts. Why bother? There would have been little appetite to invest in such a new semiconductor venture. The IP barriers alone were strong enough to deter such efforts and the risks and rewards from the competitive side (plentiful cheap memory and "forever downwards - like gravity" price projections) would have been sufficient deterrents to such investments.

Now fast forward to today.

The supplier position power exposed by the memory shortages coupled with geopolitical sensitivities which received serious airing and analysis in the 2017 beauty pageant of who might be a fit buyer of Toshiba's memory business exposed the strategic sensitivities of the memory business.

And recent actions by US regulators to block technology sales to significant China based technology companies which fell afoul of well known US sanctions on 3rd party countries (for example ZTE survival at risk amid US ban - said SeekingAlpha.com while ZTE says US penalties are 'unfair'- said ChinaDaily.com.cn) coupled with the recalculation of value effect inevitably inspired by asking what would happen if something like recently imposed US tariffs on photovoltaics were to be applied on memory chips by any country for any reason - is creating a climate in which the Country A versus Country B question may change the assessment of investing in new memory companies to include a stronger weighting to the geographic question of where the customers are compared to the factories which make the chips.

I'm also assuming here that another factor in reopening this type of question is that the imbalance between memory supply and demand may have changed from its historic pattern of quickly rebalanced balance - to becoming (for maybe several more years yet ) - unplentiful and higher priced memory becoming the new normal. Here are some articles which discuss the temperature of thinking.
  • A blog on AnandTech - Chinese DRAM Industry Spreading its Wings: Two More DRAM Fabs Ready (April 25, 2018) - says "Innotron Memory and Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit, are gearing up for volume production of computer memory in the coming month. Both manufacturers were founded with the help of the Chinese government, their output will initially be consumed locally."
Older readers will remember that the question of whether memory chips might need passports and visas to travel from one part of the world to the other (and the related question of what kind of buyer reception these coach class chip tourists would get when they arrived) was for many decades the norm. It was only in the dotcom era that we got used to just in time inventories for manufacturing and the free movement of consumer grade technology parts zigzagging their way around the factories of the planet like the shadows of drunken satellites.

Maybe there isn't enough effective competition in the memory market and it took the lack of headroom in supply to show our vulnerability to these strategic links and dependencies.
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what's some electrons more or less?

(sensitive nm meets 2/3D)
Editor:- April 26, 2018 - The sensitivity of progressively smaller nand flash cells to actual trapped charge (as measured by the number of electrons) has an immediate and direct bearing on the repeatability of data reads compared to writes. Hence the original need for adaptive and noise tolerant ECC technologies. And also playing their part - with the passage of time - the corrosive attacks on data integrity which accumulate in their effects due to leakage, disturbance etc - not to mention the damoclesean biggie of write cycle damage aka wear out (endurance) - have been summarized by many useful shortcuts in the past as part of the ongoing narrative associated with the pairing of SSD controller complexity growing as the necessary mitigating accompaniment (like a data integrity cop) to memory cell sizes shrinking - in the quest for ever cheaper naughty flash.

You can see some good recent examples of how these relationships pan out in a recent article by Andrew Walker - the Future of Non-volatile Memory (April 11, 2018) which is part of a series he's written on 3DInCites.

Among other things Andrew notes that...
  • In 2D nand flash at the 16nm nand flash level, less than 10 electrons will cause a 100mV threshold voltage shift.
  • Whereas in 3D (skyscraper) nand flash the total number of electrons stored in the silicon nitride reservoir (occupying a similar 2D planar footprint) is much greater resulting in more stability in the threshold voltage.
The main thrust of Andrew's article is to indicate that even 3D nand flash has shrinkability limitations because of the damage caused by writes. And this is one of the reasons that some memory companies have long been looking at other technologies which don't rely on trapped charges although regarding application roles he says - "STT MRAM is emerging as the embedded nonvolatile memory of choice for advanced silicon processes. It is also being touted as a replacement for SRAM and, with a small enough memory cell, DRAM. It is unlikely to replace nand flash." ...read the article

See also:- nvm news, storage reliability - news & white papers
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Toshiba memory sale reenters What If? zone
Editor:- April 24, 2018 - The sale of Toshiba's memory business still has the potential to unravel according to various reports which note that regulatory delays have delayed completion of the deal with Bain (announced September 2017) into a different market territory in which Toshiba's parent no longer needs the proceeds to remain solvent and the value of the flash memory memory business is not the same as it was.
  • JapanTimes - "Toshiba and Bain want to finalize the current agreement, but they can't wait forever..."
  • Electronics Weekly - "Activist investor Argyle Management of Hong Kong says the memory unit could fetch $40 billion in an IPO, whereas the Bain/Hynix sale will only bring in $18.6 billion."
  • ZDNet - "...the tech giant has missed a deadline of March 31, due to Chinese antitrust regulators, which are yet to permit the acquisition to take place."
timeline of Toshiba's forced memory sale
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research shows processing in memory can save power
Editor:- April 2, 2018 - Here's a new acronym for you and also a new way to think about the value of offload logic in memory arrays too. They both appear in a recent paper - Google Workloads for Consumer Devices: Mitigating Data Movement Bottlenecks (pdf) which started as a research project in Google.
  • First - the new (to me) acronym:- PIM - processing in memory.

    This is a synonym for "in-situ SSD / memory processing".

    This is a concept which has been associated with creeping refinements and various different implementations since it first came into common usage as one of the key SSD ideas in 2014.
  • Second - the new idea:- saving power.

    We're used to the idea that PIM (or in-situ memory processing) can provide substantial acceleration for applications when the core logic has been custom tuned for a particular set of applications.

    The new thing is that PIM can provide a worthwhile reduction in electrical power too - by reducing movements of data to locations outside the associated memory array. And a power optimized design can deliver useful acceleration at the same time.
The authors say... "Our analysis shows that offloading the primitives (for widely-used Google consumer workloads) to PIM logic.. eliminates a large amount of data movement, and significantly reduces total system energy (by an average of 55.4% across the workloads) and execution time (by an average of 54.2%). ...read the article (pdf)

SSD jargon
should we set higher expectations for memory systems? (2016)

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Getting to 4
Editor:- March 21, 2018 - Re newsletters and blogs:- Carey Hedges founder - HN Marketing - told me 22 years ago (when I was starting an ezine called MarketingViews with tips for marketers to interface better with readers of my enterprise server publication which preceeded StorageSearch) that most most newsletters (and by inference - in today's world - blogs) rarely make it past 3 editions.

So this month when I saw Rohit Gupta - Segment Manager, Enterprise Storage Solutions at SanDisk saying on linkedin - "My 4th blog- NVMe Part II" - about his - Deep Dive - 6 NVMe Features for Enterprise & Edge Storage - I was reminded of that earlier 1996 PR related conversation and congratulated Rohit on having got to #4.

I said it looks like a valuable repository of ideas for people who are coming into the enterprise NVMe thought space.

In fact I had been alerted to one of Rohit's earlier blogs in November 2016 by Rebecca Parr who had been a customer of mine 6 years ago when she was Marcoms Manager at Virident Systems - which pioneered spikeless performance in fast enterprise PCIe SSDs using its big SSD architecture controller design - which was rare at the time but is now the kind of thinking which has become mainstream in large scale flash arrays.

It's strange how sometimes it's a series of accidental connections - spaced out over time - which trigger me to write something here - which in this case is to say - you might already have read plenty of blogs about NVME SSDs - but here's another one you might want to read to. And getting to #4 is noteworthy.

Among other things Rohit says..."Beyond performance, the NVMe protocol also supports IO multipath, which is particularly useful for redundancy and load balancing purposes... NVMe namespace sharing combined with multipathing builds the foundation for enterprise-class storage systems." ...read the article, more blogs by Rohit Gupta

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improving the latency and energy of commodity DRAM using adaptive architecture - new research
Editor:- March 13, 2018 - The enterprise flash SSD market has a long history of design advances which came from the cumulative understanding gained by the independent characterization of memories - this mostly having been done by independent SSD and controller companies rather than the original manufacturers of the flash memories themselves. But I haven't heard much in the past 10 years about similar activities related to DRAM - and part of the reason may well be that the companies which used to do such in depth RAM characterizations in earlier phases of SSD history - the RAM SSD companies like Texas Memory Systems and Solid Data Systems - had mostly stopped design work on new high capacity RAM SSDs by about 2008 due to the competitive advantages (in a storage array context) of enterprise flash.

So I was surprised and delighted to come across a new report - Understanding and Improving the Latency of DRAM-Based Memory Systems (pdf) - by Kevin K. Chang - Carnegie Mellon University (submitted December 2017 as part his PhD) which document (in 200 pages approx) describes his ongoing work and insights into DRAM characterization and system optimization opportunities.

Chang's research measured and analyzed the relationships between supply voltage and latency in commodity DRAM and explored ways to optimize latency while still maintaining data integrity and reducing power consumption. Among several schemes also described in this paper:-
  • an adaptive latency scheme he calls "Flexible-LatencY DRAM (FLY-DRAM)" which leverages the variation of latency that occurs within different locailities of DRAM chips.
  • Voltron - a new mechanism that improves system energy by dynamically adjusting the DRAM supply voltage using a new performance model which is based on a better understanding of the relationships between cell retention, refresh rate, temperature and other system factors.
...read the article (pdf)

See also:- what's RAM really? - RAM in an SSD context
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SSD news

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Toshiba Memory sale clear to close June 1


Editor:- May 17, 2018 - Toshiba Corp today announced 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 1, 2018.

See also:- Toshiba's SSD beauty pageant - timeline of stories


Crossbar will demonstrate ReRAM AI accelerator chip

Editor:- May 14, 2018 - Crossbar today announced 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.

Sylvain Dubois, 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 experience."

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.

Here's an example of this powerful business development idea from SSD history.

You all know (or have heard of) Fusion-io right?

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 June 2014.

You 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.

After 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 got started.

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)

Editor:- May 1, 2018 - Mercury Systems today announced 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.

Mercury 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."

Editor's comments:- It is a notable milestone that a pedigree 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 a Survey of Techniques for Architecting SLC/MLC/TLC Hybrid Flash Memory based SSDs (27 pages pdf) - which I mentioned in a news story last December.

Re 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.

Traditionally consumer SSDs used to be the first target for new memories . Because consumer products have lower data integrity standards. Then some time later enterprise, followed by industrial and 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.

As a yardstick for how long these successive adoptions can take...

It's 2018 now and this is the first news story about a significant military SSD using TLC. In my timeline sugaring flash for the enterprise - it was 2015 when TLC was considered good enough to ship in high quality enterprise all flash arrays.


did leading DRAM makers collude to protect high prices?

Editor:- May 1, 2018 - One of the almost predictable consequences of the memory shortages and price hikes centered around 2017 has been greater scrutiny of the memory market by regulators and now - a class action lawsuit (pdf) filed against the 3 largest DRAM makers (Samsung, Micron, and Hynix) which dominate the market.

Among other 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.

The 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 "DRAM".

See also:- RAM news - ain't what it used to be

a history of understanding and misunderstanding SSD pricing


Spin Transfer Technologies says its breakthrough tweak to MRAM structure will enable new uses in datacenter ASICs

Editor:- April 30, 2018 - Although it can be an enigmatic challenge figuring out what the market positioning and application roles of some alternative nvms really is - Spin Transfer Technologies left no room for doubt in press releases today about recent enhancements in their (ASIC compatible) MRAM technology.

Re applications SRAM is one of the target markets. STT says its improved MRAM - with Precessional Spin Current (PSC) structure - lengthens retention time by a factor of over 10,000 (1 hour retention becomes more than 1 year retention) while reducing write current.

STT says the new PSC structure is compatible with most MRAM processes, materials and tool sets and adds only about 4nm to the height of the pMTJ deposition stack. PSC decouples the static energy barrier that determines retention from the dynamic switching processes that govern the switching current. Among the improvements:- PSC reduces read disturb error rate up to 5 orders of magnitude.


no magic bullet to shorten how long it takes to test and verify Bullet Train SSDs

Editor:- April 26, 2018 - Aspects of the journey to get TB industrial SSDs approved for use in China's bullet trains were announced today by CoreRise which beat 7 other competitors and has been supplying batches of its SSDs for onboard use in these world's fastest running (200 mph) passenger trains since 2016.

CoreRise's Product Manager said - "Before mass production, there are more than 500 items of the tests in 57 categories to be passed. Moreover, the test standard is very strict. It need not only to conform to the customer requests or nominal standards, but also enough safety redundancy, and guarantee the reliability and consistency of technical performance."

Editor's comments:- The interesting thing in this story is how the customer qualification processes and verification tests for reliable operation in harsh environments for electronics take longer than the original design of the SSD. That's one of the distinguishing characteristics of the industrial SSD business and sets it apart from consumer and enterprise markets.

See also:- industrial SSDs, the business of custom SSDs


Hynix says DRAM prices will stay high due to continuing growth in demand

Editor:- April 24, 2018 - SK Hynix today announced it will enter the enterprise PCIe SSD market as one of several plans to diversify its product portfolio.

Re its DRAM business in the quarter ended March 31, 2018 - Hynix reported - "Quarter-over-quarter, DRAM bit shipments decreased by 5% due to weak mobile demand and lessened production days nevertheless of sustained robust server demand. However, the average selling price rose by 9% through evenly increased price for all DRAM product categories."

Hynix said in a related conference call (audio) / (transcript - on SeekingAlpha.com).

"(Global) demand for DRAM is expected to grow by low 20% level this year. Supply growth will not be enough to ease the price supply situation, even if suppliers accelerate their migration to 1Xnm and continue to add wafer capacity by increasing investment."

"For the NAND market the demand growth continues around SSD. Enterprise SSD in particular is expected to drive growth." ...read the article

Editor's comments:- As the continuing ripple effects of the memory shortages are now in their 3rd calendar year of impact you have to ask yourself - is this the new "business as usual?"

I said on linkedin:- For those suckled on the "memory as commodity" business model of semiconductor product marketing the current surreal competitive landscape must make them feel they were suckered.

See also:- a historic view of memory boom bust business cycles.


a NAS / AoE view of no SPOF

Editor:- April 19, 2018 - No Single Point of Failure + Golden Images is one of a series of recent blogs by Brantley Coile, Founder/CEO at Coraid (see also older Coraid 2009 to 2015) about topics mostly related to good software design in the context of network storage appliances.

Editor's comments:- Brantley's musings about the storage software industry from a historic perspective have become a regular and enjoyable read for me in recent months. He's written about topics as diverse as the history of hard drive interfaces to the ideal size of software teams.

See also:- high availability enterprise SSDs


what's the value of infinitely faster RAM?

Editor:- April 17, 2018 - A recent blog on StorageSearch.com - are we ready for infinitely faster RAM? - asks - among other things - what's the value of having very much faster memory?

Looking at past decades for clues - there was limited scope for being able to change the world of computing by simply having faster memory. Even if you could go back in time and take compatible chips or SSDs from today's market and retrofit them - you wouldn't change very much - because the nature of applications and bottlenecks were a quagmire of limited thinking and finite lookalike expectations.

The enterprise computing market of today is different as it's not just the actions of people which create workloads but the economic value of machines which create data from inventing and discovering new relationships in data anywhere which can be leveraged into monetizable opportunities - provided that the results can be computed quickly enough.

But would you recognize a new memory accelerator if you saw it? Faster memory systems may nhot even look like traditional memories and their "fastness" will be application and context dependent. ...read the article


unveiling a 200TB hard drive for cloud apps - the Titanosauros 1

Editor:- April 1, 2018 - Triassic Peripherals today exited stealth mode and announced its first product - a 200TB hard drive aimed at cloud applications.

The Titanosauros 1 has a dual port SAS interface, spins at 5,000 RPM and comes in a classic 8" form factor. Triassic says that a 1U rack can provide 1 petabyte of raw storage. Despite being optimised for electrical power the outermost cylinders of the drive can provide data throughout faster than a 15k 2.5" drive. Pricing data is available on request.

One of the co-founders - Fred Spinstone said that in a previous company his team had been supporting legacy EOL 8 inch IPI-2 hard drives for military customers but using flash inside. (Similar in business concept to the EOL mitigation solutions offered by Reactive Group and others.)

The idea for Triassic was - hey let's put a hard drive in a hard drive enclosure. Random access time isn't great at 50 mS but in a cloud system the metadata knows where the chunky data lives and systems performance is tiered through servers and flash anyway.

The patents for the 8" platters have expired so Triassic isn't expecting patent suits from the usual suspects. ...readers' comments and more info

See also:- HDD articles & news on StorageSearch,


Micron hints at AI assisted porting of compute intensive models to FPGA-inside memory array accelerators

Editor:- March 30, 2018 - A new blog - Why Memory Matters in Machine Learning for IoT - by Brad Spiers - Principal Solutions Architect, Advanced Storage at Micron reveals significant progress in software tools development which is intended to reduce the time and complexity of porting machine learning models onto in-situ memory accelerators implemented by FPGAs embedded into DRAM arrays. The blog makes specific reference to applications with Micron's PCIe connected Advanced Computing Solutions (pdf) - which provide FGAs integrated with either DDR-3 or HMC and a design, simulation and runtime support tools.

Among other things - Brad Spiers says... "Micron is engaged with machine learning experts, like FWDNXT, to enable seamless transfer of machine learning models onto FPGAs. Models are first created in the normal way, using the same software that data scientists use every day—Caffe, PyTorch or Tensorflow. The models output by these frameworks are then compiled onto FPGAs by FWDNXT's Snowflake compiler." ...read the article

Editor's comments:- creating AI based software productivity tools which could cut many months off the design time to create FPGA based in-situ memory based application accelerators is an extreme case of Memory Defined Software. Such developments could become as significant for startups creating blue sky HPC based knowledge enabling tools as was the availability of microprocessor development systems for the democratization of digital electronics in the 1970s.


Gb NRAM chips could sample in 2019 - says Nantero

Editor:- March 29, 2018 - NRAM (a non volatile memory technology which has been in commercial development since 2001) by Nantero may be sampling next year with chip densities of 16Gbit - according to an interview article - Nantero's CEO says NRAM production is close on eeNewsAnalog.com - which says the memory technology supports 5nS write speeds and retention of more than 10 years at 300°C.


Nallatech enters the in-situ SSD market

Editor:- March 19, 2018 - A new entrant to the in-situ SSD processing market is Nallatech which has launched its 250 series of NVMe storage accelerator modules which include application programmable FPGAs closely coupled with memory. Among the models announced today:-
  • 250S+ - HHHL PCIe SSD accelerator featuring up to 4x M.2 NMVe SSDs and 4GB SDRAM coupled on-card to a fully programmable Xilinx FPGA.
  • 250-U2 - A 2.5" U.2 hot swappable fully-programmable accelerator features a Xilinx Kintex UltraScale+ FPGA and 8GB DDR4 SDRAM memory.
Nallatech provides consultancy services assisting customers in the porting, optimization and benchmarking of applications executed on Nallatech FPGA accelerators.


Nimbus samples 100TB SAS SSDs

Editor:- March 19, 2018 - Nimbus Data Systems has made another significant advance in the development of multipetabyte energy-efficient solid state storage racks with the announcement today that it's sampling 100TB 3.5 SAS SSDs with unlimited DWPD.

The ExaDrive DC100 has balanced performance 100K IOPS R/W and up to 500 MBps throughput and consumes 0.1 watts/TB - which Nimbus says is 85% lower than competing drives used in similar array applications - such as the Micron's 7.68TB 5100 SATA SSD.

Nimbus says the use cases are:-
  • Data centers and cloud infrastructure (scale, efficiency)
  • Scale-out systems (object and file storage)
  • Edge computing (IoT, embedded applications)
General availability is expected to be summer 2018.

ExaDrive technology and reliability?

I asked Thomas Isakovich, CEO and founder of Nimbus some questions about the new ExaDrive technology.

Editor - The 50TB models announced by your flash partners last year used planar 2D flash. Does the 100TB family use 3D flash? Knowing the answer one way or another will enable some people to make their own judgements about incremental upsides in the next year or so's roadmap. And also form a view about specification stability and reliability.

Tom Isakovich - Yes 3D flash for the ExaDrive DC.

Editor - The issue of cost per drive is an interesting one too. But the companies you were working with last year have experience in processes which can produce a high confidence reliable SSD for high value, mission critical markets (like military) in which the reliability of every single SSD is critical. So my guess would be that for integrators who have a serious interest in the ExaDrive DC100 – they will be looking at the cost of drive failures on a system population basis – and the value of less drives and less heat per TB is more important than the headline cost of a single failed drive.

Tom Isakovich - I have an interesting subject for you to consider on the topic of "reliability". Namely, is an SSD any less reliable than an all-flash array? I contend that it is not. In fact, an SSD is more reliable.
  • Our ExaDrive DC has flash redundancy internally, with the ability to lose about 8% of flash dies without any downtime, data loss or capacity reduction. This is analogous to RAID in a traditional all-flash array that protects against media failure. So on the notion of media redundancy, they are equally redundant.
  • The ExaDrive DC has a 2.5 million hour MTBF with no moving parts. That is about 6 times longer than the typical all-flash array (which includes) many active and moving parts. All-flash arrays have integrated power supplies, active controllers, fans, and other components prone to failure.
I'm thinking more on this. But empirically, an SSD is more reliable than a System. The user can achieve desired redundancy in their overall architecture, taking this into consideration.

See also:- rackmount SSDs


what's the cost of deciding what is to be done?

Editor:- March 10, 2018 - "In any computer architecture, it takes a lot more energy to fetch and schedule an instruction than it does to execute that instruction" says Rado Danilak, founder and CEO - Tachyum - in his new blog - Moore's Law Is Dying - So Where Are Its Heirs? - which among other things - shows how the transactional costs of fetching instructions and data in classical processors. ...read the article

Editor's comments:- the needs of the cloud, coupled with growing understanding between the tradeoffs between processors, memory, controller dynamics, software and energy consumption since the widespread deployment of solid state storage have been the inspiration for rethinking all the classical elements of computer architecture. Some of that thinking has been rooted in the memory space but just as significant has been a rethinking of what processors should aim to do.

Tachyum announced external funding for its Cloud Chip last month. And as with previous disruptive technologies - part of the warm up process for the market - is to educate more people about how things work now so they can better appreciate what the new technologies offer.


WDC's enterprise flash hopes which were pinned on SanDisk are evaporating - says The Register

Editor:- March 8, 2018 - If you're interested in seeing market share charts for the biggest enterprise SSD drive companies then take a look at a new entertaining article - 2 years and $19B later: What happened to WD's SanDisk enterprise flash advantage? on The Register by Chris Mellor who says among other things:- "WDC bought SanDisk in October 2015 for $19B. The deal closed in May 2016. Since then SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra and a string of other execs have joined Micron, now run by Mehrotra. It's tempting to see much of Micron's gain as WDC's loss." ..read the artticle

Editor's comments:- If the enterprise SSD market was expected to stay the same in terms of architecture, software and purpose then today's market shares would mean more.

But as you know I think the next advance towards supporting big memory apps may make AFAs and enterprise SSDs seem as quaint as optical drives. Enterprise SSDs won't EOL overnight - storage history suggests that AFAs and other storage arrays will continue to exist for another decade or more but as a progressively declining percentage of the memoryfication systems market. And eventually enterprise storage systems may just head towards being a legacy emulation in software defined memory systems and the cloud rather than real actual Storage PHY and on-premises boxes.

Going back to WDC and SanDisk... with acquisitions come patents too. Maybe they will prove to be more valuable than product lines.

See also:- SSD company acquisitions - 2000 to 2017


mouse site readers not scared by memoryfication of content

Editor:- March 1, 2018 - Strange as it may seem - article views on StorageSearch.com in February 2018 were 23% higher than the year ago period.

Having written for so long about SSDs and the impact of flash on the enterprise it would be ever so easy to just rest awhile longer in those comfortably worn grooves.

To be truthful it's been a struggle for me to visualize and try to anticipate the important next step trends of the memoryfication of everything. Unlike storage - which was relatively simple and well bounded by latency tiers and interfaces and form factors - the new threads of architectural data system change are appearing in disparate places - such as memory systems, inside the dark spaces of processors and slashing across the legacy imaginings of system software.

Unscrambling the next generation possibilities isn't straightforward - because ever since about 2016 new developments in rackmount boxes and NVDIMMs and SSD controllers have not been so isolated in their immediate market impact as they used to be.

So I'd like to say thanks to my readers for keeping up your interest and thanks too to the many industry muses who by what they do and say and talk about - keep me thinking about the next thing. And thanks too to my customers (advertisers past and present) without whom my web publishing career would have been 22 years shorter.
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Branding Strategies in the SSD Market
Animal Brands and Metaphors in the Storage Market
How did Mice become the face of StorageSearch.com?
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Mays of yore in SSD market history
May 2003 - Imperial 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 2011 (when 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 acquirers.

May 2007 - MOSAID announced its HLNAND flash technology which could sustain 800MB/s.

May 2010 - SandForce announced the first branding program for SSD controllers.

That 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.
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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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after AFAs - what's next?
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 classic 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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Targa removable storage module for avionics with 3 interfaces  ethernet   USB and RS-422 for SWAP  under 5W
fits in the palm of your hand
removable 128GB rugged military storage
all in one Ethernet+USB+RS-422 < 5W power
from Targa Systems
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Don't expect business to pick up where it left off when the next memory boom bust correction kicks in.
questions re trajectory of SSD market's onward rebound
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Flexxon SSDs for indistrial medical and automotive applications - overview image

IMA (Industrial, Medical & Automotive)
XTREME series SSDs - from Flexxon
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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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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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industrial mSATA SSD
industrial grade mSATA SSDs
>2 million write cycles per logical block.
from Cactus Technologies

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Memory 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 software.

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.

Memory 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 - introducing - 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 article

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SSD news in Aprils of yore
April 2005 Texas Memory Systems offered the world's first performance related guarantees for SSD products.

TMS promised they would outperform any competing storage system, or meet the customer's agreed application speedup expectation - or the customer would get their money back.

This approach was partly inspired by market research data from StorageSearch.com's Q405 SSD User Survey - which said that users would be more likely to try SSD systems if vendors offered such guarantees.

The perceived risks for users associated with buying (what seemed to be) relatively expensive enterprise SSD systems from (mostly little known) vendors to obtain business benefits from poorly understood and likely-to-change installed assets -based on pre SSD thinking - continued to dampen adoption of SSDs by mainstream users for the next decade - because it required considerable technical expertise to understand what was being offered.

Eventually the enterprise flash market chose the route of creating plausible sounding pricing models as the way to bypass technical performance unknowns - a marketing trend which I wrote about in my article - Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.

Although the utility pricing model - based on memory pricing roadmaps - didn't prove to be sustainable when memory costs increased in 2017) this didn't halt the onward progress of memoryfication because the widescale adoption of flash meant that flashless users could see evidence of the benefits in industries which they understood.
April 2006 Solid Access Technologies became the first enterprise SSD manufacturer to display end user pricing online for the full range of its SSD arrays.

Before this date the volatile nature of memory pricing and fear of price led competition had meant that most SSD oems declined to publish any pricing data.
April 2008 Seagate filed suit against STEC alleging patent infringements related to hard disk interfaces.

The case was seen by many SSD proponents as a potentially deadly but seriously misguided missile launched at the entire SSD market. It was later dismissed without merit. And later - helped by the acquisition of LSI's SSD business - Seagate itself became a significant supplier of enterprise SSDs and SSD controllers.
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