strategic bifurcations in SSD market history4 ways to split SSD
history into "before and after" to understand now
editor - StorageSearch.com -
October 29, 2018
I published the first version of my popular article
Rise of the SSD Market in October 2004
wasn't the long rambling messily formatted historical narrative which you see
|we're going to
add the comments |
to the source code later
In 2004 I and my readers in the SSD market had already lit the
fuse for the market explosion which I predicted would inevitably follow - based
on a market adoption and "why buy SSDs" user value propositions which
were completely different to anything which the industry had thought about
I was too busy then changing all my plans to reduce my
editorial coverage of all other storage subjects to focus all my energies on
the SSD market. I was more interested in the
future than the
past. And I wondered if I'd be able to keep up with tracking market and making
a difference to it.
|So in 2006 when when I was looking ahead at my
predictions about the growing number of SSD companies which no one had heard of
(and which would need a
new series called
the Top SSD Companies) I realized that SSDs was a market without a reliably
written history. |
How would newcomers understand it? And we needed
those newcomers to make the market work. And they as early adopters were
already facing a big barrier of challenging intertwined technical issues in
processors, memory, storage and software which was did not have any clear
Due to my past experience with another growing
market before that -
- the quickest way to write the first draft of history is to repurpose
you've already written into a simple timeline. So in October 2006 my
charting the rise of the SSD market article was repurposed to look a bit like
the history article today. You can see that version
after that quick and dirty first version of SSD market history (based on what I
had experienced first hand) I continued to be busy writing about current
and forward looking stuff. So my history article just became a dumping ground
for adding more stories each year.
It also became a fertile source
from which other publications extracted timelines and sometimes entire clumps
of text. Irritating for me that so few acknowledged what their source was -
but hey that's the internet.
interpeting SSD history on a rolling
Something which every market analyst and editor does at many
times in their working lives (if they're any good is to try and interpret for
their readers how news stories relate to the emerging market context. That's
how we get all those end of year "looking back" and predictive "looking
foward" articles which seasonally become increasingly common as December
I was doing exactly the same kind of thing and in some
years I would confidently assert "this will be or has been the year of such
and such important emerging trend".
So I added those into my
history article too.
And because I care about authenticity (and because I was simply short
of time) I just cut and pasted those present tense analyses into the growing
narrative - whether they were right or wrong - was another matter.
is how we get to this point here.
As I'm retiring from such
active involvement in the SSD market in 2019 (which may already have happened
by the time you read this) I was looking back at SSD history and asking myself
- is there a story which I can wrap around the past 40 years of rambling
anecdotes and an interpretation which might help a modern reader to appreciate
what happened - without having to know all the details?
That was my
eureka moment - when I realized - I've been doing the same kind of thing to
explain SSD controller
ratios and design
symmetries etc for many years. And technology experts who know far more
than me about what goes on inside semiconductors and systems have told me they
found my simple splits of architecture into different sets have been handy ways
of thinking about stuff.
So how to split SSD history?
are my 4 proposed strategic splits.
before and after the Modern Era of SSDsBefore the Modern Era - the
enterprise SSD market wasn't a sticky market.
After the Modern Era -
And the only thing likely to replace an enterprise SSD was
another SSD or memory system.
In my article
first decade of the Modern Era of SSDs I placed the tipping point at around
Before the Modern Era - even if an end user had deployed
SSD accelerators to fix performance problems in one key application the balance
of probability was that for future applications the users would turn back again
to legacy solutions such as faster clocked servers and storage. But those
legacy options stopped getting faster in a series of steps:-
- server processor makers had begun telling me in 2000 that future clock
speeds couldn't keep growing in the same kind of way which had been an
associated assumption of semiconductor design shrinks and Moore's Law since the
start of the microprocessor era.
For processors this aspect of
Moore's Law (incrementally faster clock speeds) broke in 2000 to 2003.
wrote about this problem in a spoof article April 1, 2002 -
Technologies Announces the 3GHz hotSPARC 9000 and more strogly later -
Why Sun Should
Acquire an SSD Company (May 2004) in the SPARC Product Directory.
didn't realize in 2000 that clock speeds would stay at the same kind of speed
limits for the next 20 years.
But the good thing about the failure
of these legacy markets to deliver ever faster solutions was it forced more
people to look at SSDs - despite the steep initial learning curves involved.
before and after Fusion-ioIn
September 2007 -
the ioDrive - a PCIe form factor flash SSD with upto 640GB capacity and 100K
That event created the
PCIe SSD market which
soon after became a key focal point for innovations in enterprise SSD
architecture and SSD systems software due to the combined efforts of the many
competitors which entered that market.
There are many strands of
SSD market history associated with Fusion-io. In this article about strategic
bifurcations I'm just going to mention 2 of them.
must-have options in server product lines
Before 2009 -
when Fusion-io began announcing a series of design wins for its ioDrives in
enterprise servers made by HP, IBM and Dell - big server manufacturers didn't
offer SSD accelerators as standard options in their product ranges.
these initial design wins - it became
for all server manufacturers to offer an SSD solution embedded in future
products if they wanted them to look competitive. (This tipping point - if one
does it they'll all have to do it - was predicted in my 2003 article -
could enterprise SSDs become
a $10 Billion Market?)
the strategic importance of SSD software
Fusion-io there wasn't an SSD software ecosystem. And the lack of automatic
software tools for integrating SSDs into caching and other acceleration roles
meant that deploying SSDs as accelerators required expensive and
skilled manual hot
One of the spin offs from the standardization of SSD
integration in servers was that it inspired a wave of
SSD software startups
which had never been viable before.
Most of the early SSD software
pioneers were acquired
by SSD manufacturers as the market learned that having compatible software for
virtualization and caching
made it much easier to sell their SSDs.
Although it's hard to
believe it now - this was still a time when there was a
vacuum in the
space where the SSD software brain might have been expected to be in the
vision of legacy giants in the enterprise software, processor chip and array
storage markets - who were all taken completely by surprise by this new
before and after Diablo Technologies' Memory1 Diablo Technologies was a
pioneer in shipping SSDs and DRAM emulation products which consisted of flash
memory and controller IP integrated in a DRAM compatible DDR3 or DDR4 bus slot.
Although Diablo's products failed to achieve any significant market
traction and the company was involved in a series of patent disputes and went
bankrupt - there were important market lessons to be learned from the outcome of
what I called in August 2015 the first salvo of
Class Memory) DIMM Wars.
Before Diablo's Memory1 (announcement,
shipping and customer benchmarks) there had been a genuine belief in the SSD
industry that new types of non volatile memory memory products shipped in DRAM
compatible bus slots would plausibly launch the next wave of performance
improvements in the server market - in a similar way that the PCIe SSDs had
done earlier - and that somehow - the latency differences of these 2 types of
busses and the ability to place more emulated memory in server motherboards
would make an order of magnitude difference and help to create substantial new
The immediate effect of the Memory1 announcement was to set
off a spate of competitor announcements about NVDIMM based products aiming at
the same idea but based on a variety of design approaches and memory
technologies (not just flash).
After the market failure of Memory1 my
analysis of the SCM DIMM wars phenomenon is that the architectural promise of
such products was fatally flawed and delivered marginal incremental benefits
sometimes rather than sustainable order of magnitude improvements of the types
promised by the initial hype.
The main reasons for the past failure and
future limitations of such products are (in my view) the misconception that a
single component type of solution is in itself enough to take computing
performance to a sufficiently high next level - compared to the comparison point
of an already sophisticated SSD infrastructure.
Instead - what I call
the "memoryfication" of enterprise computing - at the next level of
performance will require changes in processor, memory and software architectures
working together in new conceptual schemes.
And I think such
solutions will be agnostic with respect to form factors and may not indeed look
anything like a DIMM. Indeed they may work just as well delivered in PCIe slots
(like Google's TPU) or be implemented at rack scale in fabrics.
discussed these ideas in a bunch of articles including:-
CPUs for use with SSDs
Memory Defined Software
in the post modernist SSD and Memoryfication Era
should we expect
more from memory? - after AFA's what's next
are we ready for
infinitely faster RAM? (what would it be worth)
before and after the memory shortages in 2017Although the silicon
based semiconductor memory industry had experienced
periods of under supply and over supply capacity since its formation - the
shortages of nand flash and DRAM which began in the 2nd half of 2016 and lasted
through to the first half of 2018 were like no other which had happened before
- in strategic impact and lasting consequences.
Before the memory
shortages of 2017 - there had been a bunch of non volatile memories which (in
some cases for more than
a decade) had failed to ever emerge into sticky design wins and market
adoption from their seemingly never ending "emerging" status - due
to their lagging too many years behind successive improvements in mainstream
memory pricing per bit.
During the memory shortages - the effect of
rising prices in flash and DRAM and the realization that those legacy
memory roadmaps could no longer be relied on to follow the historic
expectations set by past experiences were beneficial to the competitive
comparisons with emerging competing nvms. It was as if the emerging nvms had
got into a time machine and emerged looking 2-4 years better.
memory shortages of 2017 - it became clear that (as I phrased it in
a 2017 article)
"new notes had been added to the music of memory tiering. And while we
still can't be sure which of these "no longer emerging but emerged"
memories will have lasting power in the memory and SSD markets - it is clear
that a significant change had occurred and (for a forseeable bunch of years)
there is no going back to the just 2 main types of memory model for future SSD
designers and memoryfication architects. Memory designs will change. Processor
designs will change. Architecture will change to incorporate the capabilities of
new types of memory.
A much longer list of market impacts can be seen
in my article -
consequences of the 2017 memory shortages.
The causes and
analysis of market events leading up to the shortages along with
contemporaneous commentaries can be seen in the
news archives of
StorageSearch.com and other historic web sites which discussed the memory
and SSD markets at that time.
split 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10...
insert your own hereI'm sure that many of you having reached this
point may be wondering - why didn't I mention a particular thing which you
believe is just as important as those above.
I'd like to think that
having written so many articles about SSDs - maybe I already did write about
some of those other things before. But if I didn't - then I'm sorry. I'm glad I
finished this one. It's the last main article about SSDs I'll be writing about
SSDs this side of retirement. (Or maybe ever.)
Thanks for reading it.
And if it's given you some ideas - then that's what I was hoping.
a very old article I feel proud to have written.
why buy SSDs? -
pioneering use value propositions
Bye for now and take care.