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miscellaneous consequences of the 2017 memory shortages

more sightings of little nv data critters in the wild anticipated in 2018

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - January 18, 2018
little non volatile data crittersIn my many years reporting on the SSD market here on the mouse site solid state storage has been a cleansing catalyst of change and breaking down doability barriers which have enabled the leveraging and repurposing of data wherever it may be. So if there is an economic value buried somewhere in the data it can be discovered, mined and delivered in ways which were previously impossible or unviable.

Last year the SSD market looked like it was morphing into the memoryfication of everything (storage, software and processing).

As we're all aware from the noise on linkedin / twitter etc the loudest action has been centered around making systems faster and cheaper and bigger in capability - but at the other end of the arena - the new lower capacity non volatile memory technologies are creeping into application roles with capacities which are maybe 1,000x smaller than a single nand flash or DRAM memory chip.

What useful things can you do with such small nvms?

Well... in the right places - little nv data critters can do quite a lot. And that's a direction I'll be writing more about too in 2018.

little nv data critters already sighted / cited in January 2018

Enabling technologies for ultra low power data critters were mentioned in several stories in SSD news in January 2018.
  • eVaderis has taped out an "MRAM inside" MCU with 3Mb of distributed nvm to support IoT applications which are - "normally-off/instant-on microcontrollers with near zero latency boot".
  • FRAM - which didn't gain traction in the let's-kill-flash / alt-nvm markets - has some potential inheritors being developed. But apparently you can still buy old style FRAM and power the devices from energy harvested from mechanical vibration and converted by piezoelectric transducers.
  • Longsys said it's offering customizable eMMC (8mm x 10mm) for smart wearable devices.
See also:- SSD on a chip, PBGA SSD, 1 inch SSD
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new edition of the Top SSD Companies
Editor:- January 19, 2018 - today published the Top SSD Companies in Q4 2017 - the 43rd quarterly edition in this market defining series.

There's a new #1 - which portends changes coming to the market soon.

Previous #1 SSD companies in the past 11 years (and the pivotal factors which escalated them to the top at that time) have included:-
  • SanDisk (enterprise SSDs - #1 in 2015)
  • Memoright (fastest 2.5" SATA flash SSDs - #1 in 2008)
  • BiTMICRO (first TB 3.5" SSD - #1 in 2007).
Want to know who moved up to #1 in Q4 2017? the article
"What goes around comes around... but oh so slowly."
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - commenting (January 18, 2018) on a blog post by Seagate - Multi Actuator Technology: A New Performance Breakthrough - which talks about "doubling the IOPS of hard drives" with its new Multi Actuator technology.

spinning down to HDD's retirement

Will there ever be 20K RPM HDDs? (February 2006)

Calling for an End to Unrealistic SSD vs HDD IOPS Comparisons (May 2008)
survey shows that most big data users are aware of the need for new processing/storage architectures
Editor:- January 3, 2018 - NGD Systems (formerly called NxGn Data) was one of the top SSD companies followed up by readers of in December 2017.

In December 2017 - NGD Systems published the results of a survey on the need for Intelligence storage for applications with large data sets.

The purpose of the study was to gauge whether the movement of large data sets across existing processing and storage architectures negatively impacts the cost and usability of the data by applications.

The results of the survey - Smart Storage Survey Report (pdf) - conducted by G2M Research for NGD - show that existing compute and storage architectures adversely impact the performance and cost of these applications, and that new architectures are needed if these applications are to continue to scale in size and capabilities.

NGD has been a pioneer of in-situ processing and their current approach is to leverage ARM processing cores within the SSD controller (although other types of implementation and tiering within the memory/ storage assets have been reported in these news pages from other researchers and developers).

Among other things the survey report says...

"Since the advent of digital computers, the IT industry has regularly oscillated between convergence and disaggregation, as well as how specific functionality has been packaged and delivered to those who use it. The movement of processing capabilities into storage media, as represented by in-situ processing in SSDs, represents a new evolutionary path in IT that has been made possible by the solid-state nature of SSDs." the article pdf)

Editor's comments:- 3 years ago I listed "in-situ SSD processing" as #1 of the 12 key SSD ideas which changed in 2014.

The implementations of this new architectural idea has had to adapt pragmatically to changes in the SSD market - notably the emergence of standards like NVMe and associated fabrics - but also to other technologies which have been introduced to enable memory systems to work better such as NVDIMMs, tiering software and rethinking the relative size and roles of memory compared to local storage (cloud adapted memory architecture).
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"Almost all modern computers, and future AI machines in particular, will be defined by their power requirements. - Tell me your energy budget and I can tell you pretty accurately how much computing youre going to be able to get done..."
Dave Ditzel, President and CEO at Esperanto Technologies (RISC CPU company) in the article - Esperanto Intends to Create the World's Best AI Processor - in (December 13, 2017).

See also:- SPARC history
optimizing CPUs for use with SSDs

The intertwined and evolving actual and mythical relationships between the write endurance of raw flash memory chips and the reliability of the SSD drive / array in which they are used as the primary storage components - has been been one of the most popular topics read by readers of for over 12 years.

However my own editorial coverage of that subject started before that...
selective memories from 40 years of thinking about endurance

2017 in the SSD news archives
December 2017 Diablo Technologies ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy.
November 2017 IntelliProp demonstrated a memory controller for the emerging Gen-Z memory fabric.
October 2017 Infinidat announced a $95 million funding round round.
September 2017 Toshiba announced the winner of the $18 billion beauty pageant to find a suitable buyer for its memory and SSD business.
August 2017 Western Digital agreed to acquire Tegile which had pioneered innovative "utility" based customer pricing models in the hybrid storage array market.
July 2017 Viking shipped 50TB planar MLC 3.5" SAS SSDs based on a controller platform designed by rackmount SSD maker Nimbus.

Micron's Inotera fab scrapped 60,000 wafers - equivalent to 1 month of worldwide 3D nand flash wafer starts.
June 2017 Toshiba began sampling the world's first 64 layer QLC (x4) nand flash memory. The 768Gb chips were the highest density nvms available.
May 2017 Micron enters the rackmount SSD market.

Everspin's MRAM exits emerging status.
April 2017 IP-Maker released NVMe FPGA IP to enable use of enterprise performance SSDs in low wattage "no CPU" embedded systems.

Rambus said it was working with Microsoft on the design of prototype super cooled DRAM systems to explore avenues of improvement in latency and density due to physics effects below -180 C.
March 2017 Excelero - emerged from stealth.

Everspin began sampling an NVMe PCIe SSD based on its ST-MRAM.

Intel began sampling an NVMe PCIe SSD based on Micron's 3DXpoint memory.
February 2017 Tachyum emerged from stealth mode
January 2017 Pure Storage said the "new stack" is becoming the standard thing.

Crossbar announced it was sampling 8Mb ReRAM based on 40nm CMOS friendly technology.

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?


SSD SoCs controllers
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SSD news - January 2018 / SSD history / more pages like this
84% revenue growth for GridGain Systems

Editor:- January 24, 2018 - GridGain Systems today announced that sales grew 84% YoY in 2017 and the company ranked #2 on the Silicon Valley Business Journal list of Fastest Growing Private Companies.

"2017 was the year when in-memory computing achieved mainstream adoption for accelerating and scaling out data-intensive applications driven by digital transformation, omnichannel customer experience, and real-time financial regulations," said Abe Kleinfeld, president and CEO of GridGain.

Among other things GridGain is a founder member and organizer of the In-Memory Computing Summit which first took place in June 2015.

Editor's comments:- Unlike memory companies (for whom high double digit YoY revenue growth in 2017 was a serendipitous outcome from a broken pact with industry roadmaps) the noteworthy thing about GridGain is that unlike many other storage software companies it does have real customers and a long track record of pioneering a computing context which was once considered esoteric (like SSDs 20 years ago) but which real soon will be the mainstream.

no write limits (Men in Suits) good

immortality (Mad Max country) better

Editor:- January 23, 2018 - Foremay today announced the availability its new "Immortal" brand of radiation hardened SSDs for the military and aerospace markets.

These rugged SSDs incorporate Foremay's proprietary, patented and patent-pending technologies, including a rugged honeycomb shaped protruded hard shell, a heavyduty solid body, waterproof features, and radiation hardened processes, which enables Immortal SSD drives to be deployed in air, space, sand, muddy & wetland, and underwater applications.
immortal brand SSDs from Foremay - Jan 2018

The Immortal series military and industrial SSD tolerates extreme vibration and shock operating conditions that far exceed MIL-STD-810G standards. These SSDs operate in extreme cold and hot temperatures from -55ºC to 125ºC (optional feature).

Currently in production the Immortal™ series include a 2.5" SATA with a capacity up to 16 TB, 2.5" NVMe U.2 with a capacity up to 16 TB, and 1.8" microSATA with a capacity up to 2 TB. more (pdf)

Editor's comments:- in Q3 2017 the enterprise SSD market saw the arrival of the first "no write limits SAS SSDs" (see DWPD for more) and that has reset expectations in the storage array market. But the enterprise is an easy environment for solo SSDs compared to the rugged military and space markets where lone wolf SSDs have much closer proximity to unprotected phsyical stresses while being a long way from the helping hands of on call service engineers.

The new Immortal series of SSDs from Foremay looks like it consolidates many years of listening to customer experiences and also indicates a renewed confidence that having the right stuff in a difficult to design and manufacture SSD is a worthy endeavor - because there is a real and present market for such drives.

In 2017 the SSD market was awash with SSDs which had exactly the same specifications as their predecessors but cost much more because of the shortages in the memory market. Now Foremay's new product demonstrates that sometimes it's worth paying considerably more for an SSD which has in effect an integrated defense shield of design features.

I will - of course - soon add Immortal to my classic reference article - inanimate Power, Speed and Strength - Metaphors in SSD brands.

TechCrunch says Primary Data is shutting down

Editor:- January 23, 2018 - Primary Data is closing down according to a recent article - by Connie Loizos, Silicon Valley Editor - TechCrunch who says among other things:- "Primary Data's lofty valuation out of the gate also apparently worked against the company. Though it announced funding this summer from insiders... we're told that its backers more recently decided they'd rather shut down the company than re-invest on terms they found disagreeable.."

Connie Loizos concludes:- "...The VCs said no. Soon afterward, the company's website went blank." the article

Editor's comments:- Primary Data's web site was indeed blank when I read the article last night - but it has since returned to its previous condition this morning. How significant that is remains to be seen during the next few days.

Kaminario no longer wants to supply hardware

Editor:- January 17, 2018 - 2017 was a difficult year for AFA vendors whose primary IP was software - as they couldn't be sure how much they would have to pay for their memory based hardware and couldn't be sure either if and when they would get it. However, even without the memory shortages it was inevitable that vendors would one day have to align themselves with new trends towards more strongly delineated standard product roles.

That day has dawned for Kaminario - which had already churned its hardware deliverables suppliers several times since entering the rackmount SSD market in June 2010.

Kaminario today announced it is exiting the hardware market as a supplier and is switching to a software business model. The company's K2 arrays will be supplied in future by Tech Data. Kaminario will continue to provide centralized support management for all datacenter implementations based on Kaminario software.

...Elsewhere:- I commented on linkedin to Eyal David, CTO - Kaminario - who had posted a link to The Register's - coverage of this news - Leading the Software Defined initiative: Kaminario exits the hardware business.

I said - "Yup it's the same reason that wordprocessors became floppies on pcs and CAE became tapes for workstations instead of both being boxes. If you can't design hardware and chips then don't expect your customers to keep buying someone else's better box just to get to use your software." The Register article

See also:- Kaminario Goes Software-Defined by Chris M Evans on his site - Architecting IT.

Chris says among other things... "As NVMe becomes widely available as a storage protocol, NVMe over Fabrics allows high-speed communication between servers, controllers and storage. The logical conclusion is that we will see hardware distil down to racks of enclosures and servers with high-speed networking in between. The Software Defined Data Centre will allow these hardware components to be aggregated into storage arrays, disaggregated solutions or HCI as required." Chris's article

Violin launches new sales model

Editor:- January 16, 2018 - Following its bankruptcy in December 2016 and re-energizing under new ownership Violin Systems today signalled a new way it wants to do business with the announcement of various utility based purchase and leasing options for rackmount SSDs.

The company says - "Standard buying options include both outright purchase and pay-as-you-grow offerings with smaller upfront fee and additional capacity invoiced over time. Lease options are available after qualification from Violin's preferred financial partners. Violin's subscription model allows organizations to pay on a monthly basis for storage used. All options include support, installation and optimization as part of the purchase price."

Editor's comments:- With today's announcement Violin has joined mainstrean pricing models which were innovated by various AFA and hybrid appliance vendors in 2014 - for reasons analyzed in my article at that time - Exiting the Astrological Age of Enterprise SSD Pricing.

The timing of this new pricing approach from Violin may signal a judgement that the upward movement of memory prices makes it a good time for the company to re-engage proactively with the competitive AFA market.

The industry has been through a difficult year of "upwards" movements in raw memory pricing. And one of the consequences of the memory shortages was that utility led pricing models and leasing projections for flash based enterprise storage - which had been set during the downward curve decade - led to problems with companies whose businesses and brading propositions had been so closely tied to them. That is what - I believe led to the necessity of Tegile's acquisition / rescue last summer.

small can be beautiful - wearable SSD tech at CES

Editor:- January 11, 2018 - Among the conventional SSDs at CES this week - Longsys on its booth has been talking about software and hardware customizable eMMC such as small form factor (8mm x 10mm) for smart wearable devices and small capacity eMMC (128MB / 256MB / 512MB) for industrial control, security surveillance and IoT applications.
Longsys at CES 2018
Editor's comments:- The role of pSLC in mission ritical SSDs has been written about on StorageSearch from time to time.

Indiustrial SSD vendors used to be divided in their opinions about its merits but pSLC has been gaining traction due to its contributions to reliability and speed.

For more details about how this is done see - a Survey of Techniques for Architecting SLC/MLC/TLC Hybrid Flash Memory based SSDs (27 pages pdf).

Longsys said this week that it uses pSLC in its new industrial memory cards and this improves the write performance upto 6x

See also:- this is not your grandfather's industrial SSD market

SMART Modular gets patent for truly autonomous NVDIMM save/restore

Editor:- January 8, 2018 - flash backed DRAM NVDIMMs aren't new but an interesting subtlety in the design emerged in a press release today from SMART Modular Technologies who announced that its (optionally encryptable) DDR-4 NVDIMMs (8GB to 32GB) now feature Autonomous Self Refresh - the new thing being that a patent is involved.

"SMART's patented ASR feature (patent number 9,779,016) allows SMART's NVDIMM to independently initiate a backup after an event which results in a system freeze or "hang" without power loss. Active data in the NVDIMM is saved and recovered in events such as an OS crash, CPU fault, MCU fault, BIOS hang, blue screen, or other motherboard failures."

As I understand it - the patented issue is that the NVDIMM system itself detects that power has failed or recovered to a critical threshold - and that the save and restore operations are performed "without any intervention from outside the memory unit".

Among other things - the advantage is that the data in the NVDIMM can be trusted to a higher level of confidence than if the power disturbance was detected at one location in an array of chips on a motherboard - which may have happened after the power event had already corrupted data in a DIMM elsewhere - or if the external event was detected too late for the attached controllers to shut down writes in a guaranteed manner.

See also:- is data remanence in persistent memory a new risk factor?

Micron and Intel will pursue different flash futures in 2019

Editor:- January 8, 2018 - Micron and Intel today announced that they will work independently on future generations of 3D nand flash after having shipped the last jointly developed products in early 2019.

However, both companies will continue to jointly develop and manufacture 3D XPoint at the Intel-Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT) joint venture fab in Lehi, Utah, which is now entirely focused on 3D XPoint memory production.

is FRAM museumware?

Editor:- January 7, 2018 - It's been a long time since I heard anyone advocating FRAM.

A recent news update from Fujitsu Semiconductor says that its FRAM devices are displayed in an exhibit called "New Electro Hall (Link to Cyberspace)" in the Science Museum, Tokyo.

Fujitsu's current FRAM products have very low capacity (kb upto 1Mb) and low speed (1 to 3.4MHz) but they have very low power operation too and can be used in "batteryless" systems which harvest power from non traditional power sources such as vibration - using piezoelectric transducers.

Editor's comments:- Having said that - don't dismiss FRAM as this may be a type of museumware whose glory days are yet to come.

A new article this week - A New Memory Contender? - in surveys the history and technology trends in ferroelectric memories and describes potential successors to FRAM called "FeRAM".

Microsoft acquires NASA's cloud hybridisor - Avere Systems

Editor:- January 3, 2018 - Microsoft today announced it has agreed to acquire Avere Systems.

Ron Bianchini, President and CEO - Avere Systems said - "When we started Avere Systems in 2008, our founding ideology was to use fast, flash-based storage in the most efficient, effective manner possible in the datacenter. Along the way, our team of file systems experts created a technology that not only optimized critical on-premises storage resources but also enabled enterprises to move mission-critical, high performance application workloads to the cloud." more from Ron Bianchini

Editor's comments:- There was a lot of deep thinking in Avere. I wish them luck in the reset and recompile chaos-sphere.

the SSD empowered cloud
after AFAs what's next? - cloud adapted memory

eVaderis tapes out "MRAM inside" MCU

Editor:- January 3, 2018 - One of the directions of future processor travel - with the enabling of intrinsic nvm features is towards the design of ultra low power "normally-off/instant-on microcontrollers with near zero latency boot".

Aligned with that idea - eVaderis yesterday announced it has taped out a fully functioning and licensable platform which leverages sub 40nm STT-MRAM.

eVaderis says that 3 Mb of on-chip memory are fully distributed across the system though different instances, covering different functions such as working memory, configuration, state retention, code execution and data storage.

"The tape-out of this innovative MRAM-based, memory-centric MCU demonstrates our proficiency in disruptive, non-volatile embedded IP design and flow for low-power, digital devices," said Virgile Javerliac, deputy CEO and head of technology and marketing at eVaderis. "We now plan to license the underlying IP to semiconductor manufacturers making sub-40-nm chips."

See also:- optimizing CPUs for use with SSDs
say farewell to reassuringly boring industrial SSDs

an overview of storage and nvm trends by Tom Coughlin

Editor:- January 2, 2018 - "Optane NVMe SSDs (using the 3D XPoint technology) from Intel introduced in 2017 do not appear to have caught on with enterprise companies the way that Intel had originally hoped..." says Tom Coughlin, President Coughlin Associates in his wide ranging new article - Digital Storage Projections for 2018 (on Forbes,com). the article
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"China can't support three DRAM companies, but it's likely that one of them will be successful."
Joanne Itow, Managing Director - Semico Research in her blog - Memory Market: Will History Repeat Itself? - (January 24, 2018)
storage market research
who's who in the SSD market in China?
an SSD view of boom bust cycles in the memory market
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SSD news in Januaries of yore
January 2000 The world's first online ads for SSDs appeared on

The ads were for a 5.25" SCSI RAM SSD called the Clipper 2 from Curtis.

more about SSD ads
January 2001 M-Systems sampled the world's smallest 16MB single-chip flash disk, the DiskOnChip 2000 TSOP.

more about SSDs on a chip
January 2005 published results of the world's first SSD user adoption preferences survey.

more about SSD market research
January 2006 NextCom was the first notebook maker to qualify flash SSDs for use in Windows XP, Linux and Solaris notebooks.

The drives used were BiTMICRO's E-Disks.

SPARC notebook history
notebook SSD market timeline
January 2009 pureSilicon began sampling the highest density 2.5" SSD - with 1TB capacity in a 9.5mm high form factor.
January 2011 We learned that Fusion-io shipped 50% more enterprise flash capacity than EMC in 2010.
January 2016 Plexistor released its Software Defined Memory. This seemed like such a good idea that NetApp acquired the company in May 2017.
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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 - 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". the article

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

I love ratios as they have always provided a simple way to communicate with readers the design choices in products which tell a lot to other experts in that field."
re RATIOs in SSD architecture

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

What do I mean by Memory Defined Software? Simply this... Software which has been deliberately written to take advantage of the computational realities of memory with special characteristics in order to get behavior which was not possible before.
Memory Defined Software

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 - 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. the article