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can you trust SSD market data?
Ratios in SSD design architecture
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
can memory chips be made in the wrong country?
layer based exploits for SSD controllers proposed for 3d nand
If you could go back in time and take with you - in the DeLorean - a factory full of modern memory chips and SSDs (along with backwards compatible adapters) what real impact would that have?
are we ready for infinitely faster RAM?
ReRAM based architectures for Processing-In-Memory (guide to papers and deep thinking)
Editor:- May 1 , 2018 - Processing in memory and ReRAM are both making their mark independently as noteworthy technologies which each promise new fashions in the shape of future memory systems design. But how about combining both?

A new paper - A Survey of ReRAM-Based Architectures for Processing-In-Memory and Neural Networks (pdf) by Sparsh Mittal, Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad summarizes the state of art.

In his abstract Sparsh says "As data movement operations and power-budget become key bottlenecks in the design of computing systems, the interest in unconventional approaches such as processing-in-memory (PIM) and machine learning (ML), especially neural network (NN) based accelerators has grown significantly. ReRAM is a promising technology for efficiently architecting PIM and NN based accelerators due to its capabilities to work as both: high-density/low-energy storage and in-memory computation/search engine. In this paper, we present a survey of techniques for designing ReRAM-based PIM and NN architectures. By classifying the techniques based on key parameters, we underscore their similarities and differences." the article (pdf)

Editor's comments:- It's fascinating to see how researchers in computational memory architecture have blended techniques borrowed from classical analog computers with pragmatic local digital cleanup and pure digital logic to create hybrid analog digital computing elements which make the best use of latency and resolution to create multiplier accumulator and search by value blocks while using ReRAM.

My first reaction was like that when I saw the specifications of DSP chips in the early 1980s - not very good analog combined with not very good digital - but from those earliest days we got new industries.

ReRAM ML engines may have very niche uses and be incredibly difficult to design but it only takes one or two killer applications to make new technologies unignorable.

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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

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

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

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

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

earlier noteworthy stories in the SSD news archives
April 2018 A research study of Google consumer workloads showed that in memory processing could at the same time halve power consumption and execution time.
March 2018 Nallatech entered the in-situ SSD market.
February 2018 Gen-Z specification 1.0 released for futuristic memory fabric designers.
January 2018 Foremay launched its new "Immortal" brand of radiation hardened military SSDs.
December 2017 ChinaDaily reported that China's NDRC was looking at complaints about high prices in the semiconductor memory market to determine if there was evidence to open an antitrust inquiry.
November 2017 IntelliProp demonstrated a memory controller for the emerging Gen-Z memory fabric.
October 2017 Quarch Technology launched a test suite which measures real-time SSD watts.
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.
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.
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top SSD companies ..

archived storage news - this news page from 2000

SSD news - May 2018

NGD Systems announces GA of 16TB U2 in-situ processing SSDs

Editor:- May 31, 2018 - NGD Systems has announced the general availability of its 16TB Catalina-2 U.2 NVMe SSD which integrates the company's long anticipated and much discussed (Arm based) "In-Situ Processing" capabilities.

Burlywood says its software can save 40% of cloud flash

Editor:- May 22, 2018 - Burlywood - which emerged from stealth mode in August 2017 - today introduced its TrueFlash product a storage software and FPGA solution for cloud companies which uses flash more efficiently.

Tod Earhart, CEO of Burlywood said - "By using the latest flash available for a specific application, combined with an advanced programmable controller and Burlywood TrueFlash software, we are able to deliver an enterprise-class flash solution at a cost of up to 40% less while increasing performance and expanding capacity."

See also:- Efficiency as SSD competitive advantage (2012)

Micron samples industry's first QLC SATA SSDs

Editor:- May 21, 2018 - Micron today announced it is sampling the industry's first SSD built on next generation quad-level cell (QLC) NAND technology.

Micron's 5210 ION (2.5" SATA SSD) is intended to replace HDDs in read mostly cloud storage applications and will be available in capacities ranging from 1.92TB to 7.68TB.

Micron notes that the native endurance of the new 64 layer 3D QLC nand at the cell level is 1K P/E cycles. But for very low DWPD applications (0.3 for this product apparently) Micron indicates that QLC drives provides a more viable underlying technology to compete with and replace 7,200 RPM nearline hard drives than lower density TLC.

(For comparison - Seagate reported that the average capacity of nearline HDD it shipped in the first calendar quarter of 2018 was 6.5TB).

Editor's comments:- While the availability of QLC SSDs provides another hummable tune in the great solid sate storage songbook I think that storage systems users may not exactly leap into the air with unbridled joy at this announcement - coming as it does after 2 years of much higher ASPs for value based SATA SSDs than the market would have expected prior to the shortage fiasco.

And while the technical challenges of making QLC a working technology are awesome (and industry accolades should go to the designers of the memory internal P/E and read circuits and accompanying data integrity framework in the controllers) the battle lines for opening new markets in next generation memory systems are at the other end of the latency spectrum - in the application zone of what is to replace RAM - and how much of it will even resemble RAM to an degree which is recognizable.

no more anti-trust wait states

Toshiba Memory sale clear to close June 1

Editor:- May 17, 2018 - Toshiba Corp today announced it has received all required regulatory approvals for the sale of Toshiba Memory Corp. The sale to the Bain led consortium is expected to close on June 1, 2018.

See also:- Toshiba's SSD beauty pageant - timeline of stories

Dell EMC adopts M.2 SSD array concept

Editor:- May 17, 2018 - The idea of using M.2 SSDs as the raw flash elements mounted on enterprise PCIe SSD carriers and trays has gaining ground since it was proposed as an evolutionary step by Liqid in January 2016.

The M.2 array concept has the performance benefit of proportionality (from NVMe PCIe scalability) coupled with the strategic business merit that M.2 is a competitively priced, high volume form factor which ensures that such modules will be at the forefront of new technology adoption while also including within its ranks good value for money.

A recent story - Dell EMC Takes a Stab at 1PB/1U With High Density M.2 Sleds (on - shows a picture of a Dell EMC module with upto 10 M.2 SSDs in a single sled. the article

Crossbar will demonstrate ReRAM AI accelerator chip

Editor:- May 14, 2018 - Crossbar today announced that it will demonstrate a test chip showing the capabilities of its ReRAM technology for AI in the form of a facial recognition accelerator at the Embedded Vision Summit next week in Santa Clara, California.

Sylvain Dubois, VP Marketing at Crossbar said - "The biggest challenge facing engineers for AI today is overcoming the memory speed and power bottleneck in the current architecture to get faster data access while lowering the energy cost. By enabling a new, memory-centric non-volatile architecture like ReRAM, the entire trained model or knowledge base can be on-chip, connected directly to the neural network with the potential to achieve massive energy savings and performance improvements, resulting in a greatly improved battery life and a better user experience."

Editor's comments:- It's a great idea for Crossbar to integrate the capabilities of their SoC compatible ReRAM technhologies into a demonstration accelerator like this as it cuts out a lot of guesses and the requirement to imagine what can be done with the new architectures so enabled.

Here's an example of this powerful business development idea from SSD history.

You all know (or have heard of) Fusion-io right?

They're the company(founded in December 2005) which transformed the enterprise server market from SSD deniers into born again PCIe SSD acceleration evangelists. Fusion-io was acquired for $1.1 billion in June 2014.

You might be surprised to know that despite its huge market impact Fusion-io's original business plan wasn't the one which they later followed.

After they became successful the founders told me their original idea had been to operate as a software and IP licensing company.

And they said that their prototype PCIe SSD cards - the ioDrives - had been intended simply to demonstrate the concept of what Fusion's software and architecture could do. The founders had expected that server makers would license the technology but build their own cards. However, when server customers saw what this acceleration technology could do for their own server sales (or those of competitors if they adopted it) they chose to buy cards instead. And that's how the PCIe SSD market got started.

It's possible that with the AI memory accelerator market we're going to see application specific products born out of demonstrators which are too good to stay in the labs. And that's a proposition which I also mentioned in my recently completed blog - are we ready for infinitely faster RAM?

Mercury says TLC can be used in avionics (if you know how)

Editor:- May 1, 2018 - Mercury Systems today announced it is offering TLC flash in a new SSD on a chip (22mm x 32mm BGA) for secure storage roles in SWaP constrained environments such as aircraft, unmanned systems and mobile ground applications including secure laptops and tablets.

Mercury says - "While TLC flash technology is ideal for high-capacity data storage in a smaller footprint than MLC and SLC technologies, its reliability and performance in military operating environments has been disputed until today. Mercury has eliminated these threats by custom-engineering a new variant of its ARMOR processor specifically for this new commercial memory technology enabling it to operate in SLC mode for high reliability and long-term endurance while sustaining high-speed read/write operations."

Editor's comments:- It is a notable milestone that a pedigree military SSD company like Mercury is using TLC in SLC mode for secure applications. The technique of virtual SLC and its reliability aspects is one of several described in this academic paper a Survey of Techniques for Architecting SLC/MLC/TLC Hybrid Flash Memory based SSDs (27 pages pdf) - which I mentioned in a news story last December.

Re the adoption of TLC nand (or any new mainstream memory) into successive markets SSD history demonstrates a timetable of adoption determined by how long it takes for the new devices to shake out processing fluctuations and how long it takes for application markets to deteremine they're good enough.

Traditionally consumer SSDs used to be the first target for new memories . Because consumer products have lower data integrity standards. Then some time later enterprise, followed by industrial and military (subject to temperature compatibility) and maybe later still - medical markets. At the latter end of this list the later adoptions are due to longer design times (to evaluate and integrate with other reliability features) and longer customer qualification times. However in recent years the order of memory adoption has changed with big cloud users jumping right in at the start contemporaneously with consumer. Clever cloud architects can live with and work around infant media defects - and are willing to put design effort into using new technologies - provided that the system benefits provide a statistically significant improvement in their systems costs.

As a yardstick for how long these successive adoptions can take...

It's 2018 now and this is the first news story about a significant military SSD using TLC. In my timeline sugaring flash for the enterprise - it was 2015 when TLC was considered good enough to ship in high quality enterprise all flash arrays.

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did leading DRAM makers collude to protect high prices?
Editor:- May 1, 2018 - One of the almost predictable consequences of the memory shortages and price hikes centered around 2017 has been greater scrutiny of the memory market by regulators and now - a class action lawsuit (pdf) filed against the 3 largest DRAM makers (Samsung, Micron, and Hynix) which dominate the market.

Among other things the plaintiff document alleges - "Defendants combined and contracted to fix, raise, maintain, or stabilize the prices at which DRAM was sold in the United States from at least June 1, 2016 to February 1, 2018 (the "Class Period"). Defendants' conspiracy artificially inflated prices for DRAM throughout the supply chain that were ultimately passed through to Plaintiffs and the Class, causing them to pay more for DRAM Products than they otherwise would have absent Defendants' conspiracy."

As with many legal documents this one is a long read. In it the plaintiffs suggest that these memory companies communicated their strategies by means of public investor statements - "During the Class Period, Defendants continued their efforts to coordinate their DRAM supply decisions, as reflected in public comments by Defendants that urged each other to keep industry supply in check. Defendants each made public statements affirming their commitment to the common plan to curtail supply, and to not compete for each other's market share by supply expansion. For example, Defendants informed the other Defendants through public statements, that they would keep total wafer capacity flat in order to constrain DRAM supply growth, they would only grow DRAM supply between 15-20% in 2017, even as DRAM demand grew 20-25%, and that they would refrain from taking each other's market share." the lawsuit (pdf)

Editor's comments:- The tactics each sales force used to decide allocation between different customers and bundling deals (if any) may come under scrutiny. Dealing fairly in a shortage requires very strong controls to avoid tipping into anti competitive behaviors.

The history of the memory market does include proven examples of past price fixing. You can read more about them by visiting and searching for "DRAM".

See also:- RAM news - ain't what it used to be

a history of understanding and misunderstanding SSD pricing
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Mays of yore in SSD market history
May 2003 - Imperial Technology launched WhatsHot SSD - a hotspot analysis and tuning tool for fast rackmount SSD accelerators.

It would be another 6 years before the first storage arrays became available which integrated automatic caching of data between solid state storage and hard drives. That was the XcelaSAN launched in September 2009. But it wasn't till 2011 (when new SSDcentric software companies were entering the market at the rate of one each week) that the SSD software market became valued enough by investors and wouldbe acquirers.

May 2007 - MOSAID announced its HLNAND flash technology which could sustain 800MB/s.

May 2010 - SandForce announced the first branding program for SSD controllers.

That marked a turning point in how flash controller technology was viewed by the mainstream storage market. In less than 3 years (2007 to 2010) the perception changed from "who cares?" to "You care!" - which I wrote about in Imprinting the brain of the SSD.

May 2013 - Micron began sampling a new hot swappable 2.5" PCIe SSD with 1.4TB MLC capacity and 750K R IOPS.

May 2016 - Symbolic IO emerged from stealth mode unveiling an enterprise server/storage architecture which leveraged embedded persistent memory coding to provide data materialization, dematerialization and acceleration.