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In Q4 2004 StorageSearch.com ran the first major market survey designed to learn more about buyers needs and preferences in the SSD market. This article provides a summary of highlights from the survey results. It has identified technical gaps which require new product solutions and service gaps which require changes in the ways that SSD vendors do business. SSD vendors must take note of the signals flagged in this survey if they wish to transform this market segment from a niche technical market into a mainstream multi billion dollar pillar of the storage market.
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the SSD Buyer Preferences Market Report

Zsolt Kerekes, editor - January 2005
Clarifying SSD Prices - article on StorageSearch.com
. Clarifying SSD Prices
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The survey sample included a spectrum of various people with interests in SSDs.
  • 18% - said they already use SSDs
  • 22% - said they were planning to use SSDs
  • 46% - said they had a strong interest in SSDs
  • 4% - said they sell SSDs
  • 10% - said they were just curious about SSDs
Why Do People Use Solid State Disks?

The #1 reason given was - Application speedup - cited by 76% SSD buyers.

The #2 reason given was - Environment is unsuitable for hard disks cited by 31% SSD buyers.

Budgets and Cost Expectations

Responders had a realistic idea of how much they can expect to pay for a an SSD system.

40% of responders said they had an SSD budget above $10,000, while 21% said they had an SSD budget over $100,000.

The higher end of that budget range is the entry level for products like the Tera-RamSan from Texas Memory Systems. But it's clear that some users have multiple applications for SSDs. $100K can also buy a handful of 3.5" SSDs.

The main application environment for SSDs

Historically SSDs came from the military - and 19% said their main application was embedded (industrial or military tool / appliance). But the high growth in the market which many vendors cited in 2004 - is also due to the increasing use of SSDs in civilian commercial applications.
  • 14.9% - server - heterogeneous (mixed)
  • 8.5% - server - mostly Windows
  • 6.4% - server - mostly Linux
  • 4.3% - server - mostly IBM
  • 4.3% - server - mostly Sun
  • 2.1% - server - mostly Apple
It's clear that there's also a market opportunity for power desktop users in analytics and research and development type applications. 36.2% said their environment for SSDs was a single user PC or desktop.

User Experience with SSDs - How did they feel?

People who already used SSDs were asked to rate their experience of the benefits delivered compared to expectations.
  • 65% - said it greatly exceeded expectations (I advocate others to try)
  • 6% - said SSD experience exceeded expectations (I'd use SSDs again)
  • 6% - said SSD experience met expectations (my realistic goals were met)
  • 12% - said regarding their SSD experience they were mildly disappointed (some good results but not as advertised)
  • Nobody (zero percent) was strongly disappointed. That suggest that SSDs are not being mis sold into applications which are unsuitable. (Unlike many server products.)
It's unusual for high value computer products to get such enthusiastic responses from users. This suggests that user evangelism could be better employed by vendors to recommend the advantages of these products to other prospective users.

SSD Market Inhibiters and Disinhibiters

Why isn't the SSD market already a multi billion dollar market? That's a question that we've been asking for the past several years. Vendors have been very interested to learn what they need to change in the way they market their products to enable this technology to reach its true technical potential. This was one of the most important parts of the survey and we devoted a lot of time and effort to it.

We posed the question - What would make it easier for you to buy SSD technology and remove doubts and risks which currently act as roadblocks?

Here are some of the replies.
  • 52% - want performance guarantees. (...Later:- April 2005 - citing this survey as the cause - Texas Memory Systems offered the world's first performance related guarantees for SSD products.)
  • 44% - try before you buy.
  • 32% - buying from a big name company like IBM, HP, Dell and Sun or their VARs. This being ranked only #3 was a surprise and suggested that some of the channel strategies that SSD oems are pursuing may not be the best use of their resources. (...Later:- in January 2008 - EMC became the first "big name" oem to launch an enterprise SSD product - saying it would use SSDs from STEC in its Symmetrix DMX-4 high-end networked storage systems.)
  • 18% - want upgrade scalability roadmaps. That makes sense - because the investment in an SSD system can be the same order of magnitude as the investment in the attached server. (...Later:- in April 2008 STORAGEsearch.com published the Flash SSD Performance Roadmap - which predicts industry SSD performance upto 2012.)
  • 18% - supplying SSD installed with server.
Surprisingly only 6% cited lower prices - as a way to get their SSD business. This suggests that either the cost benefit arguments of SSDs compared to the technological (non SSD) alternatives (such as more servers) are already well understood - or that that the alternatives are just not feasible.

The fact that over half the responders cited performance guarantees as a gating factor to buying SSDs suggest that users have seen far too many unmet promises about performance in other aspects of their IT experience. They buy more storage - because they need it. They buy more servers - because that's the accepted thing you do when you need more performance. Nobody got shot for buying more servers. Users would like to buy into the SSD acceleration idea - but vendors are going to have to do more than publish attractive case studies and applications articles to get their business, although 20% said this was important too.

One reader commented that it would be useful to have independent information which reviewed the performance of SSDs from various companies. One problem with this approach is that the application speedup you get in practise is going to vary according to the hardware environment and application. The pure performance of the product doesn't tell you the whole story. For example product A may be 50% faster than product B - but if the I/O is constrained by other elements in your own system - then there may not be a worthwhile difference in the application performance between the two products even though there's a big difference in price. Using a car analogy - the theoretical difference between the top speed capability of a Porsche and a Jeep is academic if you're driving all the time in city traffic jams, or on speed restricted roads. Then again your choices will be different if you're driving off-road. If your application needs a rugged SSD then low weight, low acoustic noise (for use in submarines - suggested by one responder) and low power consumption can be just as important as speed.

General information such as Storage Performance Council (SPC) benchmarks or magazine reviews while providing an independent guide to SSDs, won't answer these kinds of questions. There's no substitute for benchmarking in your system (try before you buy) - or vendor guarantees - if the vendor feels confident enough that they know enough about your type of setup.

User Needs by Interface Type

This is a bewildering time of choices in the high performance storage market - because new interface types now overlap in performance with the long established legacy duo of Fibre-channel and parallel SCSI. Therefore SSD vendors must either offer more connection options to users - or risk losing customers as the market for SSDs fragments among many competing high speed standards. As SSDs are a very technical buy it was clear from the survey results that users are already making plans which will use emerging new standards and render obsolete many older product lines.

We posed the question - Which interfaces best suit your current or future SSD requirements?
  • 53% - Serial ATA (SATA) (...Later:- no SSDS were available with SATA interfaces when this survey was conducted. A year later - the market had responded - and in Q405 - there were 4 SSD manufacturers offering SATA.)

    ...Later:- as predicted by this survey - the most popular interface type based on STORAGEsearch.com's reader pageviews in the summer of 2006 was SATA. Sample size over 20,000 SSD content readers)
  • 27% - Parallel ATA
  • 25% - Bus (includes PCI, PMC, SBus, VME etc)
  • 20% - Ethernet (includes NAS, iSCSI and IP/SAN)
If these results - which show users future needs - are compared to the actual current market availability of products as listed in the Solid State Disks Buyers Guide it will be observed that a considerable gap exists in the areas of SAS and SATA - which could significantly impact the businesses of companies which are able to fill them with suitable products during 2005.

SSD Packaging and Form Factors

The survey also asked - Which SSD form factor(s) are most suitable to your requirements?

Not surprisingly - the #1 most popular cited - by 75% of responders - was "traditional hard disk package (2.5", 3.5", 5.25" etc)"

Rackmount came in 2nd - suiting 30% of users. This represents a smaller market by volume. But most rackmount SSDs cost a multiple of a single SSD price - so the total market value may be similar.

Adapter cards (PCI, cPCI, VME, PCMCIA etc) came in 3rd - suiting 23% of users.

SSD Brand Awareness

The SSD market is still at a small size (around $1 billion annual revenue) but it's growing fast (50% per annum in 2004) and like many disruptive markets has the potential to pick up speed and grow even faster. Measuring brand awareness in the early stages of a disruptive market isn't a reliable pointer to which companies will actually end up dominating the market. But measuring how brand awareness changes over a period of years can be a useful indicator to vendors, business partners and users.

Users were asked - When thinking about SSD vendors - which company would you think about first to seek more information?

In order to minimise bias and skew in these answers - links to the survey were randomly varied over time and position to provide equal visibility to SSD content to advertisers and non advertisers. (Approximately one third of all SSD vendors worldwide were advertisers at some time during the period of the survey.)

The best known SSD brand was - BiTMICRO Networks (22% of responders). The second place was tied between M-Systems and Texas Memory Systems (10% each.)

As a quality check on the survey we deliberately left out some very small SSD vendors from the named list - but this didn't stop them getting mentions in the "other" input box. This was useful to us as a publisher too - because some of the "other" vendors suggested by readers were companies we hadn't heard about. So we checked them out and added them to our SSD directory and buyers guide.


Update on SSD Brand Strength

In 2007 we started publishing a quarterly updated list of the Top 10 Solid State Disk Companies based on search volume. That provides a more reliable and up to date snapshot of SSD brand awarenes.


Geographic Distribution of SSD Responders?

Responders to the survey were asked - Where are you normally based?

Replies were as follow:-
  • 57% - USA
  • 16% - EU
  • 14% - Asia
The percentage in the US is about 10% below what we estimate to be the distribution of US readers for STORAGEsearch as a whole. But this discrepency is not thought to be significant in this content.

Overall Summary

The Q404 STORAGEsearch.com Solid State Disk Buyer Market Survey - has provided useful information to vendors about what they have to do to meet buyers' needs better. If vendors take note and change the way they market and fill the technology and service gaps which have been identified - it's likely that the market will grow even faster in the year to come.

Finally I'd like to thank everyone who helped design the survey, all those who responded, our SSD advertisers and content contributors, and all the readers whose growing interest in this fascinating subject triggered off the idea to do the survey in the first place and made it worthwhile possible. Thanks to you all.

Zsolt Kerekes - Editor/Publisher [ Zsolt@STORAGEsearch.com ]

...Later:- many SSD oems told me they found the results from this survey invaluable.

Some of the links back here include:-
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storage search banner

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...Later:- in November 2005 - STORAGEsearch published a highly acclaimed SSD market penetration model which analyzes the "user value proposition" in the 4 main segments in which SSDs will be used in the period 2005 to 2008. This (below) is how we announced it.

Why are Most Analysts Wrong About SSDs?

Editor:- November 24, 2005 - STORAGEsearch.com today published a new article about the SSD market called- "Why are Most Analysts Wrong About Solid State Disks?"

Most analysts and editors of other computer publications don't really understand the solid state disk market. They show their ignorance and naivete by prefacing every discussion of SSDs with a superficial analysis which compares the cost per byte of storage between flash and hard disk drives.

That's the wrong answer to the wrong question. And it's far removed from why the SSD market is racing to become a multi billion dollar market seemingly in blithe ignorance of the cost per byte proposition.

This new article tells you what's important to users and the main applications in which SSDs are already being used and new applications where they will be used in the next 3 years.

In 2003 I predicted that "the SSD market is going to be a much bigger market than the NAS market is today." I realize now that was an understatement. So why are most of the analysts wrong? There's a simple explanation. ...read the article, Solid State Disks



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What's the risk with today's devices?

This article looks at the current generation of products and calculates how much (or how little) you should be worried.
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RAM based SSDs have been used alongside RAID for years - but flash SSDs are physically smaller and have bigger capacity (upto 412G in 2.5", 832G in 3.5") and are lower cost than RAM-SSDs and could actually be configured in standard RAID boxes. F-SSDs aren't as fast as RAM based products but a single flash SSD can deliver 20,000 IOPs - which when scaled up in an array - starts to look interesting. ...read the article, storage reliability solid state disks




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the Solid State Disks Buyers Guide
This is the 5th annual edition of this very popular report.

The earlier edition of this article was the #1 most popular storage article viewed by STORAGEsearch.com's readers in the previous year.
the solid state disks buyers guide
The SSD Buyers Guide lists all SSD products commercially available in the market by form factor, interface type and memory technology. It also includes a summary of key milestones in the SSD market in the past year. ...read the article, solid state disks
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Z's Laws - Predicting Future Flash SSD Performance
A few months ago a reader asked me a very good question.

"Is there an industry roadmap for future flash SSD performance?"

That prompted other questions like...
  • How fast are flash SSDs going to be in 2009?, 2010? or 2012?
  • What are the technology factors which relate to flash SSD throughput and IOPS?
  • How close will flash SSDs get to RAM SSD performance?
There wasn't a simple answer I could give at the time. Clues lay scattered all across this web site and in my many one on one discussions with readers about the market...
But I agreed there should be a single place on the web where these answers could be found.

Forget Moore's Law. That gives you the wrong answer, and this article explains why. ...read the article
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which technology to choose? - read the article It starts down a familiar lane but an unexpected technology twist takes you to a startling new world of possibilities. ...read the article
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How We Conducted the SSD Survey

I
n the summer of 2004 STORAGEsearch, the leading publication in the SSD market, announced in its news pages that it would run the SSD Survey. We contacted every known SSD manufacturer (including some which were then in stealth mode) by email to ask them to suggest questions which would be likely to help them understand the needs of users better. After designing a draft version of the survey questionnaire, we went back to vendors to ask them to comment on the questions in more details. We incorporated some of the suggested changes and froze the design of the survey.

Here is an archived version of the online questionaire.

The web based survey ran in the 4th quarter of 2004 on STORAGEsearch.com. Respondants got to the survey by seeing a link or image based message on our SSD web pages. We varied the exposure during the period to avoid annoying readers. Approximately 0.5% of readers who saw the image link clicked to reach the survey - which was signalled as taking a few minutes to complete. In fact the 10 question survey may have taken longer. Over half the people who saw the size of the survey dropped out and are not included in the results.

There are 2 factors which indicate the high quality and reliability of this data.

(1) - the percentages to the key answers didn't change much in month 2 and 3 of the survey. That shows a consistent view in the market.

(2) - some of the responses given in the "others" box are also valid and give confidence in the sample of responders.

We used cookies to deter readers from completing the survey more than once, and also monitored the responses daily to guard against unusual atcivity. We chose the sample period of a calendar quarter to make sure that this would not reduce sampling errors. Our web logs had previously indicated that this type of high value product has a degree of seasonal interest related to user budgets.

In total 50 completed questionnaires made up the raw data for the survey.

...Later:- in later years we published SSD buyer preference market reports using search-volume based stats.

They were based on the biggest SSD focus group in the world - over 1 million readers / year.
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