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40 years of thinking about nvm endurance - selective memories
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if so - what'd it be worth?
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improving the latency and energy of commodity DRAM using adaptive architecture - a PhD paper
Editor:- March 13, 2018 - The enterprise flash SSD market has a long history of design advances which came from the cumulative understanding gained by the independent characterization of memories - this mostly having been done by independent SSD and controller companies rather than the original manufacturers of the flash memories themselves. But I haven't heard much in the past 10 years about similar activities related to DRAM - and part of the reason may well be that the companies which used to do such in depth RAM characterizations in earlier phases of SSD history - the RAM SSD companies like Texas Memory Systems and Solid Data Systems - had mostly stopped design work on new high capacity RAM SSDs by about 2008 due to the competitive advantages (in a storage array context) of enterprise flash.

So I was surprised and delighted to come across a new report - Understanding and Improving the Latency of DRAM-Based Memory Systems (pdf) - by Kevin K. Chang - Carnegie Mellon University (submitted December 2017 as part his PhD) which document (in 200 pages approx) describes his ongoing work and insights into DRAM characterization and system optimization opportunities.

Chang's research measured and analyzed the relationships between supply voltage and latency in commodity DRAM and explored ways to optimize latency while still maintaining data integrity and reducing power consumption. Among several schemes also described in this paper:-
  • an adaptive latency scheme he calls "Flexible-LatencY DRAM (FLY-DRAM)" which leverages the variation of latency that occurs within different locailities of DRAM chips.
  • Voltron - a new mechanism that improves system energy by dynamically adjusting the DRAM supply voltage using a new performance model which is based on a better understanding of the relationships between cell retention, refresh rate, temperature and other system factors. the article (pdf)

See also:- what's RAM really? - RAM in an SSD context

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Getting to 4
Editor:- March 21, 2018 - Re newsletters and blogs:- Carey Hedges founder - HN Marketing - told me 22 years ago (when I was starting an ezine called MarketingViews with tips for marketers to interface better with readers of my enterprise server publication which preceeded StorageSearch) that most most newsletters (and by inference - in today's world - blogs) rarely make it past 3 editions.

So this month when I saw Rohit Gupta - Segment Manager, Enterprise Storage Solutions at SanDisk saying on linkedin - "My 4th blog- NVMe Part II" - about his - Deep Dive - 6 NVMe Features for Enterprise & Edge Storage - I was reminded of that earlier 1996 PR related conversation and congratulated Rohit on having got to #4.

I said it looks like a valuable repository of ideas for people who are coming into the enterprise NVMe thought space.

In fact I had been alerted to one of Rohit's earlier blogs in November 2016 by Rebecca Parr who had been a customer of mine 6 years ago when she was Marcoms Manager at Virident Systems - which pioneered spikeless performance in fast enterprise PCIe SSDs using its big SSD architecture controller design - which was rare at the time but is now the kind of thinking which has become mainstream in large scale flash arrays.

It's strange how sometimes it's a series of accidental connections - spaced out over time - which trigger me to write something here - which in this case is to say - you might already have read plenty of blogs about NVME SSDs - but here's another one you might want to read to. And getting to #4 is noteworthy.

Among other things Rohit says..."Beyond performance, the NVMe protocol also supports IO multipath, which is particularly useful for redundancy and load balancing purposes... NVMe namespace sharing combined with multipathing builds the foundation for enterprise-class storage systems." the article, more blogs by Rohit Gupta

"In 2017, DRAM bit volume growth was 20%, half the 40% rate of increase registered in 2016. For 2018, each of the 3 major DRAM producers (e.g., Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron) have stated that they expect DRAM bit volume growth to once again be about 20%. However monthly year-over-year DRAM bit volume growth averaged only 13% over the 9-month period of May 2017 through January 2018."
Are the Major DRAM Suppliers Stunting DRAM Demand? - announcing the new 2018 McClean Report by IC Insights (March 6, 2018)

"There are a multitude of trends (way too many to ignore!) that are causing OEM Customers to start thinking about getting rid of traditional SSDs all together. Now you think Im crazy, right? As a matter of fact, its already started to happen and its about to become even more prevalent than you think."
Ryan Smith, (previously Director of Product Marketing - Samsung Semiconductor and now Product Strategist at Hitachi Vantara) in his article on linkedin -the SSD Market is about to collapse! Save $100M's by reading this (March 2, 2018)

prologing future application roles for FRAM
Editor:- March 1, 2018 - Applications for FRAM are discussed in a new article on EETimes. Among other things mentioned in the article - Cypress says its "FRAM line was designed specifically for the high-speed nonvolatile data logging needed for autonomous vehicles." the article - Cypress Sees a Future for FRAM

Editor's comments:- From a historic perspective FRAM (first mentioned in a news story here on StorageSearch back in November 2002 ) can be seen as a natural successor to the battery backed SRAM which became popular in industrial equipment designs including programmable controllers and process control instrumentation in the early 1980s.

But looking ahead - if there's a need for reliable fast data logging to enable crash recovery and instant restart and resume state of random state of play operations in IoT and machine applications which require small scale speed and reliability rather than masses of streaming data (a role where the capacity of flash compensates for its poor random write latency) then FRAM is one of several contenders for designers.

custom SSDs
SSD customization ..
image shows mouse building storage - click to see industrial SSDs article
industrial SSDs ..
pcie  SSDs - click to read article
PCIe SSDs ..
military storage directory and news
military SSDs ..

SSD news - March 2018

more pages like this?
Micron hints at AI assisted porting of compute intensive models to FPGA-inside memory array accelerators

Editor:- March 30, 2018 - A new blog - Why Memory Matters in Machine Learning for IoT - by Brad Spiers - Principal Solutions Architect, Advanced Storage at Micron reveals significant progress in software tools development which is intended to reduce the time and complexity of porting machine learning models onto in-situ memory accelerators implemented by FPGAs embedded into DRAM arrays. The blog makes specific reference to applications with Micron's PCIe connected Advanced Computing Solutions (pdf) - which provide FGAs integrated with either DDR-3 or HMC and a design, simulation and runtime support tools.

Among other things - Brad Spiers says... "Micron is engaged with machine learning experts, like FWDNXT, to enable seamless transfer of machine learning models onto FPGAs. Models are first created in the normal way, using the same software that data scientists use every day—Caffe, PyTorch or Tensorflow. The models output by these frameworks are then compiled onto FPGAs by FWDNXT's Snowflake compiler." the article

Editor's comments:- creating AI based software productivity tools which could cut many months off the design time to create FPGA based in-situ memory based application accelerators is an extreme case of Memory Defined Software. Such developments could become as significant for startups creating blue sky HPC based knowledge enabling tools as was the availability of microprocessor development systems for the democratization of digital electronics in the 1970s.

Gb NRAM chips could sample in 2019 - says Nantero

Editor:- March 29, 2018 - NRAM (a non volatile memory technology which has been in commercial development since 2001) by Nantero may be sampling next year with chip densities of 16Gbit - according to an interview article - Nantero's CEO says NRAM production is close on - which says the memory technology supports 5nS write speeds and retention of more than 10 years at 300°C.

Nallatech enters the in-situ SSD market

Editor:- March 19, 2018 - A new entrant to the in-situ SSD processing market is Nallatech which has launched its 250 series of NVMe storage accelerator modules which include application programmable FPGAs closely coupled with memory. Among the models announced today:-
  • 250S+ - HHHL PCIe SSD accelerator featuring up to 4x M.2 NMVe SSDs and 4GB SDRAM coupled on-card to a fully programmable Xilinx FPGA.
  • 250-U2 - A 2.5" U.2 hot swappable fully-programmable accelerator features a Xilinx Kintex UltraScale+ FPGA and 8GB DDR4 SDRAM memory.
Nallatech provides consultancy services assisting customers in the porting, optimization and benchmarking of applications executed on Nallatech FPGA accelerators.

Nimbus samples 100TB SAS SSDs

Editor:- March 19, 2018 - Nimbus Data Systems has made another significant advance in the development of multipetabyte energy-efficient solid state storage racks with the announcement today that it's sampling 100TB 3.5 SAS SSDs with unlimited DWPD.

The ExaDrive DC100 has balanced performance 100K IOPS R/W and up to 500 MBps throughput and consumes 0.1 watts/TB - which Nimbus says is 85% lower than competing drives used in similar array applications - such as the Micron's 7.68TB 5100 SATA SSD.

Nimbus says the use cases are:-
  • Data centers and cloud infrastructure (scale, efficiency)
  • Scale-out systems (object and file storage)
  • Edge computing (IoT, embedded applications)
General availability is expected to be summer 2018.

ExaDrive technology and reliability?

I asked Thomas Isakovich, CEO and founder of Nimbus some questions about the new ExaDrive technology.

Editor - The 50TB models announced by your flash partners last year used planar 2D flash. Does the 100TB family use 3D flash? Knowing the answer one way or another will enable some people to make their own judgements about incremental upsides in the next year or so's roadmap. And also form a view about specification stability and reliability.

Tom Isakovich - Yes 3D flash for the ExaDrive DC.

Editor - The issue of cost per drive is an interesting one too. But the companies you were working with last year have experience in processes which can produce a high confidence reliable SSD for high value, mission critical markets (like military) in which the reliability of every single SSD is critical. So my guess would be that for integrators who have a serious interest in the ExaDrive DC100 – they will be looking at the cost of drive failures on a system population basis – and the value of less drives and less heat per TB is more important than the headline cost of a single failed drive.

Tom Isakovich - I have an interesting subject for you to consider on the topic of "reliability". Namely, is an SSD any less reliable than an all-flash array? I contend that it is not. In fact, an SSD is more reliable.
  • Our ExaDrive DC has flash redundancy internally, with the ability to lose about 8% of flash dies without any downtime, data loss or capacity reduction. This is analogous to RAID in a traditional all-flash array that protects against media failure. So on the notion of media redundancy, they are equally redundant.
  • The ExaDrive DC has a 2.5 million hour MTBF with no moving parts. That is about 6 times longer than the typical all-flash array (which includes) many active and moving parts. All-flash arrays have integrated power supplies, active controllers, fans, and other components prone to failure.
I'm thinking more on this. But empirically, an SSD is more reliable than a System. The user can achieve desired redundancy in their overall architecture, taking this into consideration.

See also:- rackmount SSDs

what's the cost of deciding what is to be done?

Editor:- March 10, 2018 - "In any computer architecture, it takes a lot more energy to fetch and schedule an instruction than it does to execute that instruction" says Rado Danilak, founder and CEO - Tachyum - in his new blog - Moore's Law Is Dying - So Where Are Its Heirs? - which among other things - shows how the transactional costs of fetching instructions and data in classical processors. the article

Editor's comments:- the needs of the cloud, coupled with growing understanding between the tradeoffs between processors, memory, controller dynamics, software and energy consumption since the widespread deployment of solid state storage have been the inspiration for rethinking all the classical elements of computer architecture. Some of that thinking has been rooted in the memory space but just as significant has been a rethinking of what processors should aim to do.

Tachyum announced external funding for its Cloud Chip last month. And as with previous disruptive technologies - part of the warm up process for the market - is to educate more people about how things work now so they can better appreciate what the new technologies offer.

WDC's enterprise flash hopes which were pinned on SanDisk are evaporating - says The Register

Editor:- March 8, 2018 - If you're interested in seeing market share charts for the biggest enterprise SSD drive companies then take a look at a new entertaining article - 2 years and $19B later: What happened to WD's SanDisk enterprise flash advantage? on The Register by Chris Mellor who says among other things:- "WDC bought SanDisk in October 2015 for $19B. The deal closed in May 2016. Since then SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra and a string of other execs have joined Micron, now run by Mehrotra. It's tempting to see much of Micron's gain as WDC's loss." the artticle

Editor's comments:- If the enterprise SSD market was expected to stay the same in terms of architecture, software and purpose then today's market shares would mean more.

But as you know I think the next advance towards supporting big memory apps may make AFAs and enterprise SSDs seem as quaint as optical drives. Enterprise SSDs won't EOL overnight - storage history suggests that AFAs and other storage arrays will continue to exist for another decade or more but as a progressively declining percentage of the memoryfication systems market. And eventually enterprise storage systems may just head towards being a legacy emulation in software defined memory systems and the cloud rather than real actual Storage PHY and on-premises boxes.

Going back to WDC and SanDisk... with acquisitions come patents too. Maybe they will prove to be more valuable than product lines.

See also:- SSD company acquisitions - 2000 to 2017

mouse site readers not scared by memoryfication of content

Editor:- March 1, 2018 - Strange as it may seem - article views on in February 2018 were 23% higher than the year ago period.

Having written for so long about SSDs and the impact of flash on the enterprise it would be ever so easy to just rest awhile longer in those comfortably worn grooves.

To be truthful it's been a struggle for me to visualize and try to anticipate the important next step trends of the memoryfication of everything. Unlike storage - which was relatively simple and well bounded by latency tiers and interfaces and form factors - the new threads of architectural data system change are appearing in disparate places - such as memory systems, inside the dark spaces of processors and slashing across the legacy imaginings of system software.

Unscrambling the next generation possibilities isn't straightforward - because ever since about 2016 new developments in rackmount boxes and NVDIMMs and SSD controllers have not been so isolated in their immediate market impact as they used to be.

So I'd like to say thanks to my readers for keeping up your interest and thanks too to the many industry muses who by what they do and say and talk about - keep me thinking about the next thing. And thanks too to my customers (advertisers past and present) without whom my web publishing career would have been 22 years shorter.
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Branding Strategies in the SSD Market
Animal Brands and Metaphors in the Storage Market
How did Mice become the face of
after AFAs - what's next?
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 classic 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

Compared to EMC...

ours is better
can you take storage startups seriously?

Don't expect business to pick up where it left off when the next memory boom bust correction kicks in.
questions re trajectory of SSD market's onward rebound

how can a custom SSD cost less?
some thoughts about SSD customization

If you're one of those who 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.
re autonomous data destruct flash SSDs

The need for fast data erase - in which vital parts of a flash SSD are destroyed in seconds - has always been a requirement in military projects. That's because if a disk falls into enemy hands the data protection offered by encryption is not safe enough. Encryption can be defeated in a short period of time by brute force methods and also by master keys being stolen.
RAM disk emulations in "flash as RAM" solutions

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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

Memory Defined Software - a new market in the making
There's a new software idea that's been experimented on in the AI skunkworks in the cloud and as patentable secret enhancements in next generation embedded processor designs. This new concept and exciting new market (for the VCs reading this) will be more significant than a new OS and will mark a break in the way that the enterprise thinks about software.

You had had plenty of warning about the new chips but memoryfication doesn't stop with faster storage. The idea didn't have a name when I started writing about it. But what it should be called is obvious.

Memory Defined Software doesn't have to work at being backwards compatible because the legacy storage industry will import and export to it if they want to play in data's future.

See more about this in my blog - introducing - Memory Defined Software. (Sometimes you can change the world with software which breaks all the rules - if you can find the right platform to run it on.) the article

SSD news in Marches of yore
March 2005 Curtis (which at that time had shipped over 15,000 accelerator SSDs worldwide) revealed that its Nitro SSDs (3.5" FC RAM SSDs) had accelerated the network infrastucture in a major phone provider in China. The customer, the GuangDong Branch of China Mobile was the biggest provincial branch in the Chinese Telecom industry, with over 30 million users.
March 2006 noted that the number of SSD manufacturers listed on its SSD directory page (at that time) had grown to 35 companies.
March 2010 Pliant Technology published a benchmark which showed that an array of 16x SAS SSDs could achieve similar IOPS as a proprietary architecture rackmount flash array from Texas Memory Systems, or an array of PCIe SSDs from Fusion-io
March 2014 Samsung said its new 2.5" NVMe PCIe SSD was 3x faster than 12Gbps SAS SSDs.
March 2015 SanDisk entered the enterprise rackmount SSD market - with a 3U 512TB array of 8TB SAS SSDs called InfiniFlash.
March 2017 Intel began sampling its long awaited first enterprise SSD which used 3DXpoint (Optane) memory and which was aimed at the HHHL PCIe SSD market.

classic articles from SSD history
9 years ago (March 2010) I published - this way to the petabyte SSD - which predicted that flash storage arrays would create a new market in the enterprise for storage with a lower cost of ownwership than hard drives - despite the higher cost of flash media. I showed that the pivotal issues were storage density (petabytes per U) and electrical power. And I argued that even if hard drives were free - they would still be replaced by flash.

Re a new business model for the SSD data economy I said...

"More data is better - not worse. Data volumes wll expand due to new intelligence driven apps. But the data archive will be seen as a profit center - instead of a cost overhead."

I got some of the detail wrong in that 9 year lookahead article but the key ideas proved to be right. Talking to founders of enterprise SSD companies at the time my argument about zero cost (to buy) HDDs nevertheless giving way to SSDs - was the one which they liked best. the article