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what do enterprise SSD users want?

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - March 2012

And what do SSD companies have to do in the next few years to make it easier for wannabe SSD enterprise customers to buy more of their products and be happy?

You'd think that someone should know all the answers by now.

But they don't.

I talk to many thought leaders in the enterprise SSD market - and even when they have a clear idea of what they're doing and where their own roadmaps are going - they don't have spare time to figure out questions like - how are all these different parts of the future SSD jigsaw going to join up in the user enterprise?

If users pay the invoice and buy repeat systems - that's as good as it gets. The investors are happy. Why worry about SSD climate change?

Many SSD gurus have said to me recently - while catching their breath for the next sprint - it's a crazy market.

Succesful enterprise SSD businesses are working hard and racing fast.

The technologies which satisfied one SSD product generation's needs rarely sustain their reliability and competitiveness edge for more than a few years before needing to be reinvented.

But success in SSD generation X doesn't guarantee success in generation Y.

Looking back on the past 15 years or so of the enterprise SSD market you could say that SSD marketers had it easy.

As long as each new product was faster, denser, cheaper and more reliable than the one before - and came attached with the right interfaces - their job was mostly done - because that satisfied the needs of the market.

Today's SSD market is much more complicated.

Here's a simple example of top level market market fragmentation.

Suppose you're designing a new rackmount SSD...

In the old days they were all fast and all were compatible with FC SANs. Some were a shade faster than others. Others a tad cheaper. But within the market there wasn't the vast spectrum of capability you see today.

To compete viably today rackmount SSDs have to be design optimized to compete in one of the following top level market classifications:-
  • RAM rackmount SSDs
All those above are different market segments.

And you can furthermore divide each of the above categories into 2 parts - open vs proprietary architecture - which have different comfort zone acceptability with different customers. And then again - another division will be by interface (FC SAN, iSCSI, etc).

And that's just one part of the enterprise SSD market which users have to think about. I haven't even mentioned, above, subjects like Vendors don't need to know all the answers - because they can still sell SSDs easily anyway in this growth phase of the enterprise SSD market.

But users do have to worry about all these problems - because if they get it wrong and invest in dead-end architecture - then a few years down the road they'll have to rethink their solid state storage infrastructure all over again.

A facile answer to the question - what do enterprise SSD users want? - might be to say - give users some degree of certainty in a wildly uncertain world.

But that's not a practical formula either.

Is the solution?
  • better vendor communication about how they fit into the customer-centric and application-specific SSD ecosystem?

    (Efforts today in this aspect are mostly laughable.)
It could be all those things - but it could be more too. Because maybe those aren't even the most important questions.

As you can imagine - I get a lot of questions about the SSD market.

And these help me to understand what I should be writing about.

And as my readers include people in the SSD industry who make new products happen - that feedback process helps moves things in some directions which might be better than others. But it's not enough. And we can all do better.

So here's what I suggest.

During the next few quarters StorageSearch.com will be opening up the conversation re - what do enterprise SSD users want?

My aim will be to collect a coherent set of questions to design surveys which will inform, prompt and guide the SSD industry about what it can do better - as seen from your point of view.

Is this important? Does it really matter? Let me know what you think.


Here are some more articles in the "SSD thought leadership" series - which have appeared on the home page of StorageSearch.com
.
enterprise SSD stuff - more quick links
2.5" PCI express SSDs
3.5" SSDs
data integrity issues
fault tolerant SSDs
market size
PCIe
MLC & enterprise flash
rackmount SSDs
RAM vs flash
reliability
SAS SSDs
software and SSDs
.

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