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Toshiba says it will sell memory business to Bain led consortium
Editor:- September 20, 2017 - Toshiba today announced its long awaited decision about who it has chosen to sell its memory business to. It's a consortium led by Bain Capital using an acquisition cutout filter created for this purpose called K. K. Pangea. The transaction (worth about $18 billion) is "expected to close by the end of March 2018."

Editor's comments:- earlier reports which had speculated about the identity of members of the consortium named at various times Dell, Apple and Seagate.

Toshiba said in the above announcement "Western Digital has sought to prevent the sale of the interests of the joint parties (meaning Toshiba and WDC) to any 3rd party and Toshiba and WDC are currently engaged in litigation and arbitration."

An article on Bloomberg about the announced sale process says "The consortium members weren't named in Wednesday's statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange."
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"Recently DARPA come out with new initiative programs among which is:- 3D Monolithic System-on-a-Chip (3DSoC) - to develop 3D monolithic technology that will enable > 50X improvement in SoC digital performance at power.

At the upcoming IEEE S3S 2017 (October 16 to 19) - MonolithIC 3D Inc will present a monolithic 3D technology that is ready to be rapidly deployed using the current transistor process."
Zvi Or-Bach, CEO - MonolithIC 3D in his blog - DARPA calls for Monolithic 3D – 3DSoC Learn all about Monolithic 3D at IEEE S3S (September 19, 2017)

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"When Rob Commins, VP of marketing at Tegile looks into the crystal ball, he sees one large shared memory pool as opposed to a shared storage pool."
Above quote from the blog - How Will All-Flash Storage Look in 5 Years? - EnterpriseStorageForum.com (September 12, 2017)

Editor's comments:- The big tiered memory appliance having more capacity than today's AFAs was the home page blog on StorageSearch.com in April 2017 - see cloud adapted memory systems - "raw chip memory... how much as SSD? how much as memory?"

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Nimbus talks about SAS SSD array sauce
Editor:- August 30, 2017 - I had another conversation last week with Nimbus CEO Thomas Isakovich. My curiosity was roused by the company's recent entry into the SAS SSD market. And we had exchanged some emails about that but we both thought it would be nice to have a longer free flowing conversation. Here are some of the things we talked about:-
  • What's the new business plan for Nimbus? Does selling drives replace selling systems?

    Tom said Nimbus will do both. He sees the high capacity SAS SSDs as a new market opportunity.

    In the past competitors in the SAS SSD market have focused on performance rather than capacity and cost. Due to the predicted and actual impact of 2.5" NVMe SSDs the SAS market no longer has a performance reason to be. However even "slower" SAS SSDs provide useful life extensions and new market roles for makers of SAS arrays who previously used hard drives. A lot has changed in the SAS SSD market since the first drives were announced 10 years ago. Nimbus describe how and why they see a gap in the market today (pdf).

    Tom said - "One of the benefits we get from having alternative market outlets for our ExaDrive platform (the new no write limits SAS SSD) is that more minds take a close look at the design and operation (these being the flash drive partners Viking and SMART Modular). This and the higher volume of drives used will result in higher quality and more reliable SSDs compared to if we had just continued using the drives as a captive design in our own arrays."
  • Will the new drive business cannibalize Nimbus's array business?

    Tom said no.

    We were both on the same page about this agreeing on all the points we touched.

    We discussed how much more complicated the enterprise SSD arrays segments had gotten. Nimbus's drive customers can access as much of the software stack as they need.

    The ability for integrators to customize the array management of their SSDs has been a growing strategic shift in the market for several years. We've seen many different way of doing this.

    One trend has been for SSD makers to customize the controllers for their bigger cloud scale customers. But you can get better results more easily by customizing the data management of the SSDs and array using software which can intervene at the array and solo drive level.

    Nimbus uses standard flash controller IP to manage the flash (currently controllers from Hynix). Nimbus's software stack provides data management which is scalable to many petabytes in a small rack.
  • How has Nimbus been affected by the memory shortages and higher memory prices?

    Here's the gist.

    The efficiency of storage arrays - how many chips it takes to deliver storage with a given quality of performance and usefulness - has always been important in array designs.

    For as long as memory prices were falling then suboptimal architectures could still reach customers and satisfy the business plans of the companies which sold them. (The inefficiency hits were price, profit margin. electrical power and rack space. But the new systems would still look good compared to those they replaced.)

    Now with constrained supplies of memory everywhere - those designs which can do more with less - have a competitive advantage.

    Array-aware SSD controller software, coupled with scalable fault tolerant array architecture, are the how the efficiency problems are best managed.

    For customers of Nimbus's new SAS SSDs - the ability to use the efficiency mechanisms which come from its array level experience will mean that its customers could do more with less chips in their boxes.

    So the shortages will be good for the market because they will force customers to gravutate towards better designs and better software architectures.
  • Is Nimbus still averse to VC funding?

    Tom said it wasn't exactly like that because the company did have investors. The company has followed a cautious route of aiming to be funded by its customers rather than suck in huge amounts of VC cash which impose their own timescale pressures.

    Nimbus owns its software stack and has been cutomizing the SSDs it uses for many years.

    In effect - the multi year development and evolutionary improvement of the company's array technologies are things you can do if you don't have a VC checking every part of the business against a calendar which has an IPO question hanging over every future quarter.
Editor's comments:- I've been talking to Tom Isakovich about design and architecture in storage arrays since 2001. So we had many previous threads to pick up from which I haven't written about here.

Nimbus - which was already a leader in the petabyte scale SSD market now has a viable stakeholding in the commodity SAS SSD rack market too. The company is well placed at the intersection of several strategic pathlines to the future within which it can adapt and comfortably nest.

See also:- sauce for the SSD box gander


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Mangstor.com gets funds for reconstruction
Editor:- August 25, 2017 - Mangstor has (according to various reports such as StorageNewsletter - which lists an investment timeline and the Register - which says that's "not a great deal of money relatively speaking ") has raised $7 million from a recently filed stock issue.

Editor's comments:- I thought I'd look at Mangstor's web site but it's currently under reconstruction.

I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that Mangstor's business plan might be under reconstruction too - because the emergence of Excelero (in March 2017) made the early bright promises of low latency NVMe-like SSD fabrics based on proprietary designs by Mangstor and EMC (DSSD) seem expensive. You can now get similar performance with commodity hardware.

The new technical changes in the SSD industry last year, added to changes in strategic thinking (the slashing of locality related delay effects in the influence from hitherto distinct and uncoupled product segments) have been given a dose of steroids in business thinking circles due to the urgencies created by the memory shortages in 2017 which have obsoleted long cherished assumptions about "learning curve" based semiconductor pricing.

So we're seeing many companies (big and small) take unusual steps and directions to cope with the reshuffling of the new big system memoryfication architectures.
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Netlist readies itself for next phase of SCM DIMM wars
Editor:- August 22, 2017 - It's been an eventful past 30 days for Netlist. See also:- SCM DIMM wars news and stories
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Seagate renews custom supply agreement with Baidu
Editor:- September 18, 2017 - Seagate - which has admitted being negatively impacted by the memory shortages of 2017 and which sells SAS SSDs through its memory partner Micron (although "the quantity is not huge" - according to a recent article on SeekingAlpha.com) and anyway this legacy SAS enterprise segment is under attack from new competitors using Nimbus's reference design platform - today announced a new strategic agreement with Baidu which renews and expands an earlier collaboration agreement announced 3 years ago.

Among other things Seagate says - "With regard to new products, Baidu will be at the forefront of Internet users in China implementing Seagate's new storage products, and also the 2 sides will jointly develop customized systems to meet Baidu business needs. In addition, the procurement model for both companies will be further upgraded to save costs for each side."

Editor's comments:- In an SSD predictions article (Dec 2015) I said...

"The urge towards greater customization will be driven by the need to improve the efficiency of SSDs (cost of raw materials and competitiveness) and also technical characteristics (performance, power consumption, reliability etc) which are optimized specifically for well defined application specific needs."

Fast forward to now - In the next few years (2018/19) storage users and suppliers need to make plans for a memory ecosystem in which the traditional assumptions about downward memory pricing and ample availability may no longer be valid. These trends will drive all data-factory industries to look at opportunities to increase efficiency which - at system scales - will benefit from (and necessitate) custom rather than standard design products.

See also:- the business of custom SSDs


Mercury's 3D BuiltSECURE memory will take to the skies

Editor:- September 11, 2017 -Mercury Systems today announced it received a $8 million order from a leading defense prime contractor for BuiltSECURE high density secure memory devices manufactured at its DMEA-trusted facility in Phoenix, Ariz. The high-speed memory devices will be integrated into active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems deployed on an advanced airborne military platform.

BuiltSECURE high density secure memory devices use Mercury's 3D packaging technology to transform a 2D array of discrete memory devices into a single, vertically stacked, dense ball grid array (BGA) package. Delivering space savings up to 75%, the memory devices are also precision engineered to withstand the harshest of operating conditions encountered during military operations.

See also:- military SSDs, what's RAM really?


Series A funding for RISC CPUs in DRAM

Editor:- September 8, 2017 - UPMEM - a fabless semiconductor startup - today announced 3 million Euros series A funding for its Processing In-Memory technology.

This integrates user-API accessible RISC processors as SoCs in DRAM. The company has been reported in eeNews (Oct 2016) as saying...

"The fundamental benefit of processing-in-memory is the combination of DRAM and CPU. We attach 1 DPU per DRAM bank. It means 16 cores per 8Gbit DRAM chip. On a 16Gbyte DIMM, we deliver 256 cores, and 8 of them can be added to a standard CPU socket. We end up with a co-processing system of 2048 cores together with 128Gbytes of DRAM per socket."

The PIM chip, integrating UPMEM's proprietary RISC processors (DRAM Processing Units, DPUs) and main memory (DRAM), is the building block of the first efficient, scalable and programmable acceleration solution for big data applications. Associated with its Software Development Kit, the UPMEM PIM solution can accelerate data-intensive applications in the datacenter servers 20 times, with close to zero additional energy premium.

"We are no longer in an era were CPUs and other hardware getting continuously faster would mask the slow speed of inefficient software," said Reza Malekzadeh, General Partner at Partech Ventures (among the investors). "UPMEM's solution addresses the performance needs of modern scale-out applications while preserving datacenter and infrastructure hardware investments."

Editor's comments:- As a fan of ratios in assessing new technologies - on linkedin I said...

"A simple way to understand the kind of application opportunities and limits of Upmem's solution is to look at the ratio of CPU cores to GB of DRAM. That gives you the power envelope and tells you what problems it's best suited for. The articles linked on Upmem's web site are very informative as far as they go."

Upto this announcement the spectrum of in-situ SSD processing solutions in the market had ranged in latency and benefit terms from:-
  • adding user deployable API and RAM in the flash controller (NxGn - which exited stealth July 2014),
The memoryfication of the enterprise and the aspiration towards doing more within memory systems (which will lead to storage systems being an emulation in memory and the obsolescence of the AFA as we know it) is being driven by new storage applications for big apps (as described in a slides by Parallel Machines in February 2017 .

PS - "The first time I suggested to a processor design team that they should look at adding support for solid state storage in their new CPUs instead of just adding more cores was about 2000. I got the response at that time - what's an SSD? And nothing more came of the matter." - from the blog - optimizing CPUs for use with SSDs in the Post Modernist Era of SSD and Memory Systems


recent updates on Toshiba's forced memory business sale

Editor:- September 6, 2017 - here's a noise filtered reduced summary of recent news reports about the continuing saga of Toshiba's forced memory business sale.

Reuters (September 1, 2017) quoted extracts from a letter written by WDC's CEO to Toshiba - in August - which regrets the "significant ill will" felt by Toshiba caused by tensions between the 2 companies which have arisen as a result of the sales process.

Among other things WDC employees had been locked out of Toshiba plants and databases which had shared ownership in July according to a report by Silicon Valley Business Journal (July 19, 2017).

Coming up to date (September 6, 2017) Nikkei reported that WDC "has asked to buy some chip production capacity at fabrication facilities in Yokkaichi, Japan, in which it jointly invests with Toshiba" to guarantee its share of memory chips produced at the plant.

This nice legalistic distinction of owning machinery is described as a possible way to avoid delays in transferring funds to Toshiba which would be inevitable due to regulator scrutiny if WDC were to purchase the company.

A fascinating noisier picture of how WDC and Toshiba have been dancing around these issues in recent weeks can be seen in this new (September 5, 2017) timeline on SeekingAlpha - WDC and Toshiba - Why This Time is Different.


Micron sells Lexar to Longsys

Editor:- September 4, 2017 - Longsys (which already sells over 100 million flash-based products / year) recently announced it has acquired the Lexar trademark and branding rights from Micron.

"The Lexar brand has long been recognized as a leading brand for high-performance, high-reliability removable storage solutions for a wide variety of applications, such as the professional photography market."

"We are very honored to acquire the Lexar brand," said Huabo Cai, CEO of Longsys.

Editor's comments:- with the recent shortages in the memory market it's not worth Micron having any focus in the retail consumer market compared to other higher value opportunities like the cloud and enterprise.

Longsys is better placed to make the Lexar brand work in the current difficult market conditions because it's a specialist in this type of supply chain.

Lexar - history on Wikipedia
branding strategies in the SSD market
SSD company and IP acquisitions and reasons from 2000 to 2017

Later:- (Sep 18, 2017) - An article on DigiTimes clarified some of the future plans for Lexar quoting statements from Cai Huabo Chairman Longsys. Among other things Huabo indicated that Lexar will be positioned as a high end supplier, will diversify its chip base, include new high end executives who have been recently headhunted from leading SSD companies and will not overlap with Longsys's oem business.


Western Digital buys Tegile

Editor:- August 29, 2017 - Western Digital announced today that it has agreed to acquire Tegile. The price was not disclosed.

Editor's comments:- Tegile was already using a customer of WDC drives (SSDs, HDDs and the InfiniFlash white box SSD array from SanDisk). So Tegile's flexible pricing models for buying storage were already a good showcase for how to integrate these technologies in a user friendly way.

One of the business risks of Tegile's business model was that its ideal customers were buying usable storage based on utility model pricing and cost expectations which seemed predictable and scalable upto about the tail end of 2016. Unfortunately those cost predictions have been shattered and ruined by the rising prices of memory and associated shortages in 2017.

A few years ago I discussed the risks of the utility model with Tegile - which at that time seemed to be containable technically (because they were obviously related to expectations of reliability, learning from similar customers doing similar things and efficiencies). Tegile's business model meant that external finance could depend on a predictable curve of customer value and cost.

When memory prices rise by 50% or more (instead of going down) those curves mean that repeat customer sales can't follow smoothly from what happened before.

Who's to blame for the costs? Well the SSD companies which were getting most of the benefit. So that's why I think Tegile couldn't sustain itself as an independent company.

For WDC you could interpret this acquisition as a long delayed response similar in thinking to Seagate's acquisition of Dot Hill Systems.

Tegile can provide Western Digital with a workable platform and channel to get SSDs and HDDs into the low end enterprise.

Analyzing where the costs should fairly be allocated between different business units and comparing those to what the market will tolerate while satisfying ant-trust regulators will fuel some interesting questions for the new owner when it takes hold next week.

How much did WD pay for Tegile?

Later:- August 30, 2017 - WD Expands its Graveyard with Tegile Acquisition - a blog written by AFA competitor Nimbus - says this...

"It's widely known that Tegile was running out of cash. No acquirers showed up as the product is ill-suited for the cloud. Existing VC's saw Tintri's horrific IPO and concluded that unprofitable storage companies are DOA in the public markets. The Tegile deal was a loss for the VC's that pumped $175 million into it (WD being among them). Rather than take the full loss, WD paid well under $100 million to acquire it."
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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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SSD news in Septembers of yore
  • September 2000 - M-Systems' Diskonchip SSDs appeared on Linux SBCs made by VMIC.
  • September 2005 - SimpleTech launched the world's first dual interface SSD.
  • September 2011 - Kaminario announced it was using Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs as a new option in its K2 rackmount SSD product line. Before that the K2 had been RAM only.
  • September 2013 - Micron began sampling the first implementation of its Hybrid Memory Cube - a DRAM architecture concept - which had been launched 2 years before.
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"Productization of Gen-Z (a next generation uber PCIe memory fabric) is expected to happen in late 2019 and maybe early 2020."
Gen-Z Stitches a Memory Fabric - TheNextPlatform (September 5, 2017)

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"The unexpectedly higher price of DRAM and nand flash in the past several quarters due to demand and yield issues has been like manna from heaven to companies with alternative nvms.

The change in relativistic competitive landscape has had the same effect as if the alternative nvms could time travel 2 years into the future while nand and DRAM have stayed looped in Groundhog Day."
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com commenting on - Making money is so DRAM easy for some memory-flingers - the Register (August 17, 2017)

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"Western Digitals Strength Revealed by Apples Tantrum"
headline of a blog on Barrons.com (September 11, 2017) reporting an analyst opinion from BTIG Research

Editor's comments:- In this context the rights to access memory supplies is like access to water rights in arid zones. I'm thinking - the Big Muddy in the Big Country (the western starring Gregory Peck).

See also:- salami slicing the memory delicay of Toshiba

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Top SSD Companies in Q1 2017
In this 40th quarterly edition shortages in memory, who owned the memory companies and the future memoryfication of the enterprise were ever present ingredients in the SSD news mix. ...read the article

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

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

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Despite the bewildering range of products in the market - the performance characteristics and limitations of ALL flash SSDs are determined by a small set of of architectural parameters.
understanding flash SSD performance limitations

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

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

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

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related guides

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Are we there yet?
After more than 20 years of writing guides to the SSD and memory systems market I admit in a new blog on StorageSearch.com - Are we there yet? - that when I come to think about it candidly the SSD industry and my publishing output are both still very much "under construction". ...read the article

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SSD jargon

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RAM has changed from being tied to a physical component to being a virtualized systems software idea - and the concept of RAM even stretches to a multi-cabinet memory fabric.
what's RAM really? - RAM in an SSD context

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If you're trying to predict and anticipate how the supply of next generation nand flash will ramp up in the next year compared to how you've seen memory successions before then the 3D nand flash market has presented many problems of analysis and interpretation.
3D nand successions?- more dimensions of analysis

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

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I think it's not too strong to say that the enterprise PCIe SSD market (as we once knew it) has exploded and fragmented into many different directions.
what's changed in enterprise PCIe SSD?
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the SSD news archives
Can you trust SSD market data?
what's RAM really? - RAM in an SSD context
Can you tell me the best way to get to SSD Street?
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