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How do you recognize a military SSD? After 30 years of contact with MIL electronics customers and designers I find that easy. So I thought I'd try to compile a simple list of military SSD companies.
here's why I failed
Did SSD ads become obsolete because of the memory shortages in 2017?
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recently in the SSD news archives
January 2018 Foremay launched its new "Immortal" brand of radiation hardened military SSDs.
December 2017 Diablo Technologies ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy.

Toshiba and Western Digital buried the hatchet and resolved the disputes which had arisen from the changed ownership of Toshiba's flash memory fabs.
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.
December 2016 Violin sought bankruptcy protection.

4Gb MRAM prototypes unveiled by SK Hynix and Toshiba
November 2016 Silicon Motion announced the "world's first merchant SD 5.1 controller solution."
October 2016 Rambus announced it was exploring the use of Xilinx FPGAs in its Smart Data Acceleration research program.
September 2016 Everspin filed its IPO to expand MRAM
August 2016 Seagate previewed 60TB 3.5" SAS SSD

Nimbus demonstrates 4PB 4U HA AFA at FMS
July 2016 Diablo announced volume availability of its Memory1 128GB DDR4 DIMM
June 2016 Pure said its AFA revenue in Q1 2016 was more than leading HDD array brand
May 2016 efficiently coded memory architecture unveiled in systems by Symbolic IO

Encrip announces tri-state coded DRAM IP which can be used with any standard process
April 2016 Samsung began mass producing the industry's first 10nm class 8Gb DDR4 DRAM chips
March 2016 Cadence and Mellanox demonstrated PCIe 4.0 interoperability at 16Gbps.
February 2016 A Google field study of enterprise PCIe SSDs concluded it wasn't worth paying more for SLC reliability compared to MLC.
January 2016 Quarch said many SSDs fail their first hot plug design validation tests.
news archive 2000 to 2017

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Zsolt Kerekes - (editor linkedin)

SSD headaches?

On a particularly bad day after reading a lot of conflicting blogs - you may be inclined to ask yourself:-
  • what do I really know about the SSD market?
  • what are my safe assumptions?
  • in the event of major conflicts of opinion, market data and differences of interpretation - who can I trust?
These ideas are explored in my classic blog - can you trust SSD market data?

If you've never had an SSD concept induced headache then you aren't reading enough.

animal brands in SSD
The SSD market isn't scared of mice.

But mice aren't the only animals you can find in SSD brands.

There are many other examples of animal brands in SSD as you can see in this collected article.

And before the SSD market became the most important factor in the storage market there were also many animals to be found in other types of storage too.
.. is published by ACSL founded in 1991.

© 1992 to 2017 all rights reserved.

Editor's note:- I currently talk to more than 600 makers of SSDs and another 100 or so companies which are closely enmeshed around the SSD ecosphere.

Most of these SSD companies (but by no means all) are profiled here on the mouse site.

I still learn about new SSD companies every week, including many in stealth mode. If you're interested in the growing big picture of the SSD market canvass - StorageSearch will help you along the way.

Many SSD company CEOs read our site too - and say they value our thought leading SSD content - even when we say something that's not always comfortable to hear. I hope you'll find it it useful too.

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Memory Defined Software

yes seriously - these words are in the right order.

One day in years to come this could be the new data Valentine.

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - February 14, 2018
The existence of a market which provides independent software support for solid state storage, SSDs and tiered memory for enterprise use has a relativeluy short history (of only about 7 to 10 years) compared to SSDs themselves. A tremendous amount has been accomplished in that time (as you can see in the SSD news archives) as the computing industry transitioned from initially shoe-horning SSDs into storage software models which had originally been written for hard drives, then optimizing system software related code to detect and bypass hardcoded rotating drive delay asumption workarounds which had been buried in every type of application software and then finally creating a new foundation of software primitives (NVMe) which began with the assumption that storage could be solid state.

So far, so good - and there have been some very talented companies which have revisited storage software assumptions from inside the drive, outside in the array, in the interfaces, in the associated stacks below, above, around and from every angle so that today you can realistically expect to get operational characteristics from solid state storage assets which are considerably better than whatever came before. And although there is still work to be done the storage industry can congratulate itself for collectively having done a good job despite at the start thrashing around in a shambolic state of disarray because the usual suspects didn't see the SSD avalanche coming down the hill.

And it's because of the ubiquity of solid state storage assets in the enterprise and the promise shown by early generations of memory fabrics that the next phase of revolution in software is now underway - which is how we get to memory defined software.

Let's backtrack briefly to hardware - because hardware always comes first. Insofar (by way of an apology in advance) that you can write all the software you like which pretends that you're running a new computer business game on a new computing platform - but you only start getting the benefits and the thrills by doing it on the new hardware. Just over a year ago on this home page I wrote a blog - after AFAs - what's the next box? (cloud adapted memory systems) which hinted at the kind of brew we should expect to see after the earlier pioneering percolators of NVDIMM wars had settled their territory disputes with alternative memories, tiered memory's place relative to tiered storage and PCIe's transition from unruly invader to settler in the territory of big memory fabrics which had upto not long befiore been dominated by fast versions of very old interfaces (IB and GbE). (And just to warn you that like previous landgrabs - PCIe's position as a convenient gateway into big memory spaces - is no more sacrosanct that what came before - as Gen-Z may be a faster way to do things in future - although we have the lessons of Infiniband versus Ethernet to show that sometimes the new does not improve fast enough to displace what came before.)

You've had had plenty of warning that something is coming.

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. The special characteristics may take many forms:-
  • nvm inside processors to enable instant reboot or context switches.
  • trsusted persistent memory which is used an as application dependent fast look-up or code translation / computational acceleration / interpretive resource
  • memory which is bigger than traditional storage capacities - and which does not break when you hit it with zillions of memory intensive operations which require sub microsecond random read/modify/write latencies.
  • memory with embedded in-memory processing capability (acheived by FPGA or ASIC).
At first some of the new memory defined software which is designed to run on new memory systems may resemble the functional characteristics of software which was developed to run on tiered memory systems which include SSDs and flash as RAM virtualization. But just as storage software evolved so that code written for flash environments could no longer run with acceptable performance on HDD arrays - so too the split between true memory defined software and software written for solid state storage installations will become quickly apparent. I think sooner rather than later - as the stimulus driving new memory code is coming from newer faster moving users who are more nimble in their adoption of new platforms which solve data dependent problems and doesn't carry the same decades long baggage and requirement for of backwards compatibility.

Happy Valentine's Day.
Editor:- January 23, 2018 - recently published the Top SSD Companies in Q4 2017. One way to interpret the new #1 company (NGD Systems) is as a signal that the idea of in-situ SSD processing is close to moving into the mainstream. the article

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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trajectory of SSD market's onward rebound from memory shortages will be directed by existential questions

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - December 1, 2017
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Megabyte's December 2017 blog2017 was a year like no other in 40 years of SSD history. The trajectory of SSD market's onward rebound from memory shortages will be directed by existential questions.

For the first time since the modern era of SSDs (the no-turning-back years since 2003) the approximate number of SSDs shipped didn't rise substantially and instead remained essentially flat year on year.

The most obvious cause for SSD shipments flatlining seemed to be the much written about memory shortages. Memory chip shipments in 2017 were reported by market researchers to have been about the same or less than in 2016 due to worse than expected manufacturing yield problems associated with next generation memories. This was exacerbated by the impossibility of bringing new production capacity in place fast enough due to long lead times of production equipment and prohibitive investment risks.

While it's true that SSDs shipped in 2017 were on average bigger in capacity than in earlier years this was little consolation to those SSD vendors whose growth ambitions - if they didn't own wafer fabs - were shredded by circumstances seemingly outside anyone's control.

Stories from SSD companies coupled with rising memory and SSD prices gave credence to the notion that user demand for SSDs would have increased had supplies been available. Had user appetites for SSDs and memory been satisfied then prices would have fallen rather than risen and in that case the interpretation of shipment data would have led to a different market prognosis.

But don't expect business to pick up where it left off when the next memory boom bust correction kicks in. I think there are other factors already at work which point towards the shape of future SSD shipments being materially different in 2018 and 2019.

At the root of this are revisits to fundamental questions:-
  • what should memory systems should do?

    For example should in memory processing be part of the standard feature set?
  • what they should memory systems look like?

    In addition to the obvious form factor and interface issues which attached to DIMM wars and memory fabrics - another question is - should future memory arrays be optimized as storage systems which can emulate memory? or as memory systems which provide backwards emulation of legacy storage?
  • to what extent should new memory systems be compatible with past software investments?

    Or - given the market's recent willingness to engage with memory systems as the only way to advance affordable computer boundaries - should the market aim higher? Should the opportunities (of performance and cost) enabled by new memory system architectures change the shape of the very processors and software they are intended to work with?
You might say - why worry? As we've seen with the great solid state storage experiment it takes years to roll out new architectural dice and the winning patterns can't exert a backwards influence.

I would argue however that long before the truly revolutionary changes in memory systems architecture are stabilized we are already seeing new influences coming from pragmatic adaptations of currently shipping memory products (like NVDIMMs and SoC compatible nvms) which - with the right software - have the ability to change the ratios of other SSDs, memory and storage in the systems in which they appear.

These incremental technologies will change the patterns of use of memory in every kind of computing product.

Many SSD designers in the past decade have been nibbling away at issues of SSD efficiency - answering the crude question - what's the best way to use any given number of memory chips and if I can change the way they connect and the software. These improvements have typically accumulated in chunks from as small as 5% to as big as 50% in a single design feature (or patentable IP). As long ago as 2013 I hinted at the tremendous gap between where we had got to compared to what may be possible in my classic impacts of the SSD software event horizon. Recently heralded companies like Symbolic IO claim that they do can even better.

The new reality is that DRAM and flash are no longer the only defining memory types supported by useful software.

So called "emerging memories" - some of which had gotten to be teenagers before they quit their dark dens and emerged as data industry citizens - have this year been at the heart of claims by systems oriented memoryfication startups that they could change the world of storage and memory arrays arrays as much as SSDs changed the landscape before.

In April 2017 on this very home page - I asked the question - Are we there yet? - 23 years of SSD guides later... I concluded at that time the memory systems market and this publisher are still "under construction". Now with the benefit of hindsight it seems I was right.

Underlying the shaping of the SSD market's future I think we must anticipate bigger changes to come in the next few years.

2017 - adding new notes to the music of memory tiering

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - November 14, 2017
I think that developments in the SSD and memory systems markets in 2017 will have as profound an effect on the future of the data systems market and the direction of its architecture and software as the adoption of flash SSDs in enterprise storage had on the design of hard disk arrays and the design of server motherboards.

Although many of the influences to this new fork in the road had been nurturing for several years before this for example:-
  • competing software solutions for memory tiering
  • the availability of 3 to 5 nvm alternatives to flash, and
  • mainstream market acceptance of solid state storage at the heart of enterprise storage engineering
it was the accidental convergence or crashing together of alt nvms as usable modules (in DIMMs, M.2 SSD and PCIe SSD form factors) in the same year as the statistically inevitable but accidental and unpredicted market force - the shortage of flash (with its attendant price hikes which had the effect of making alt-nvms look 2 -3 years better and more competitive than they had been in the all the years before) - which made the lasting difference. From here on thinking about the internal make up and external presentation of memory systems would be materially different.

new notes in the memory systems songbookAfter 2017 - memoryfication solutions (tiering at the board, box and cloud level) will no longer be restricted to the same old tunes restricted by the paucity of melodies obtainable from DRAM, flash and the intervening interface dynamics.

Designers can now count on a new set of notes and arrangements to provide data harmonies which were hitherto extravagant to realize with the two old mainstay memory technologies with their well understood limitations of space, power consumption and raw latency. (Although many pioneering attempts at breaking these memory opera barriers came with a supporting cast of batteries and extra cooling technologies hidden behind the stage curtain.)

While no one can guarantee that MRAM, ReRAM or 3DX / Optane will all continue to be available and competitive in multiple future generations - the continued future existence of any one particular alternative to flash and DRAM is less significant than the balance of probability that there are enough technologies out there (and coming in the works) to make it worthwhile for software and hardware designers to apply their minds to enriching the vocabulary of their architecture song books.

If I can use another analogy - 19th century chemists made great strides in their anticipation of all possible elements when they constructed the periodic table. For over a decade the SSD market (and its SSD product atoms) has been both enabled but also limited by the combination of building blocks which designers could construct with 2 distinct memory types - subject to the constraints of the atomic forces (price, wattage and ratios of capacity and latency between DRAM, flash and all rotating storage) which set the boundaries of which architectural permutations of components were viable at any point in time.

Looking ahead - the availability of new memories in the mix and the willingness of designers to leverage their features to create virtualizable benefits could be as significant to the datasystems market as the advent of additive technologies (3D printing) to the creation of new materials with characteristics which weren't imaginable with traditional elements and compounds.

miscellaneous consequences
of the 2017 memory shortages

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - September 7, 2017
Traditionally at this time of year I cast around for the the strategic threads which have underlied the stories reported in the SSD market. In 2017 there's no contest. There has been one factor which has dominated the fortunes and future directions of the entire SSD and memoryfication market. The memory shortages.

spellerbyte's SSD software factoryAs a long term evangelist of the SSD market and the rethinking of data architectures which it has enabled I have been naturally pleased to see that the adoption of solid state storage has gone so well.

We're now concluding series 19 of the SSD mouse site and the story line began before that with a different name but the same writer. If you missed those earlier story lines see why buy SSDs? - plot spoilers include - side-stepping the Y2K-CPU-GHz barriers to bring us faster applications processing, lowering the cost of big data and eliminating the software shackles of one more spin around the rotating media block which had fattened latencies and choked host interface arteries due to wasteful stuffit-just-in-case cache demands. But you don't need to know all those old episodes to appreciate where we are now.

SSD thinking is now at the center of all forward looking data architecture projects. SSD technology is the mainstream. Demand is high.

In many ways that's a good thing. But it's been a mixed blessing because production of memories has not kept pace with demand.

Some of the winners and losers from this have been easy to spot. But there have been new opportunities created by the memory shortages and higher prices of memory too. This has helped efficiency and utilization focused technologies to grab a hold on customer minds in ways which would otherwise have been harder or even impossible if memory prices had merely followed the decades old direction of travel.

effects on traditional memory makers

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.

In the first half of 2017 investment focused blogging sites were celebrating the increasing values of memory related companies on particular Micron which is a pure play memory stock.

And the upwards revaluing of memory fabs was a great help to the Toshiba group of companies which was looking to improve its solvency through the forced disposal of its memory business. (Think of how differently that prospect would have been interpreted if it had taken place against a backdrop of memory oversupply and plunging memory prices.)

For traditional memory companies the ability to allocate where its highly sought after memory chips were going in order to get the highest prices and establish influence in future strategic markets created opportunities for classic semiconductor game playing.

In the simplest business terms if a memory company has a choice of selling at a higher value - such as an enterprise SSD (instead of a consumer SSD) - then that's what it should do. Similarly systems such as AFAs and JBOFs start to look more attractive than selling drives. In reality none of the semiconductor companies had invested sufficiently in establishing viable systems brands before the 2017 shortages. But that didn't stop companies like Micron and Western Digital (which had a stake in Toshiba's fabs) from talking about it as a forward looking channel option.

re long time emerging memories

In the 13 years leading up to the memory shortages of 2017 there had been a variety of so called "emerging" alternative memory technologies including:- MRAM, PRAM, CMOx, PCM, ReRAM and others which at various times appeared in the SSD news pages - usually attached to a promise that one day soon they would fill an applications niche which upto that point had been dominated by nand flash. The perennial problem with those lookahead promises was that the density and cost of that pesky flash just kept improving (SLC, MLC, TLC, 4Xnm to 1Xnm and 2D to early 3D) so that the competitive comparison tipping point always lay at some point 2, 3 or 4 years in the future.

As the smallest capacity flash devices got bigger it was always possible that these other emerging memories might find small toe holds in the memory cliff face to which they could cling and attach but unless flash stopped getting better and stopped getting cheaper this looked to many observers like a race in freeze frame. The next generation flash was always more competitive than the next generation alternative nvm.

Aha! But then we had the 3D flash levels being stacked in a height busting tottering tower and the whole market edifice came crashing down with low yields and high prices and the evermore self improvement miracle of the flash market was caught in the spotlight of having been accidentally switched to pause.

In a news story in August 2017 commenting on this opportunity created by high traditional memory prices I said... "The unexpectedly higher price of DRAM and nand flash in the past several quarters due to demand and yield issues has been like manna from heaven to companies with alternative nvms. The change in relativistic competitive landscape has had the same effect as if the alternative nvms could time travel 2 years into the future while nand and DRAM have stayed looped in Groundhog Day."

Earlier - in May 2017 - in response to recent steps taken to productize and create sales channels for Everspin 's MRAM - I said - should we still be calling MRAM - emerging memory?

An advantage of the long emerging memories was that they could be manufactured in fabs which weren't already part of the DRAM / nand flash oligolopoly. And they were starting to clarify their suited application roles in the SSD and expanding SCM ecosystem:- as nvm in SoCs, caches in flash SSDs, low capacity SSDs, high temperature SSDs, persistent memory etc.

The exception was Optane / 3DX from Intel Micron which was evolved from and replaced Micron's earlier development of PCM. 3DX would have to fight internally for wafer starts in traditional memory fabs. The scale of how those internal priorities would be decided may be judged by the fact that Micron itself said in an earnings call in January 2017 that - "3D cross point is a very de minimis amount of revenue in fiscal 2017. We will ship for revenue, but it's actually a fairly small amount and then we've set the expectation for somewhere around 5% of company revenues in 2018."

And another difference with 3DX compared to other competing alt-nvms is that it apparently did not look like it would be any easier to make than the other 3D memories whose yields had caused the memory shortages. In January 2017 the CEO of BeSang said that looking at cross-point structure memories (such as Micron's 3DXpoint) - "is the worst nightmare for manufacturing".

re efficiency and utilization - subtext architecture, software and the cloud

What do I mean here by efficiency?

To put it crudely it's a comparison about the design and implementation of SSD drives and boxes.

I loudly called attention to this important business factor my 2012 article - Efficiency as internecine SSD competitive advantage. And I have often mentioned it in stories when praising one kind of design approach compared to another. But even though I thought this was a desperately important differentiator between competing product lines (as so did the innovative designers who had designed such products) you wouldn't have guessed this easily from the external signs seen in the rackmount SSD market. The reasons being that brand strength and actual bundled or implied software and services - coupled with the complexities of different use cases - were just some of the factors which could hide these internal differences from customers who were buying these systems.

Should they have guessed anyway - due to seeing different size boxes being offered to do exactly the same task? Don't blame the user for SSD box blindness. All they knew is what they were paying - and they weren't always too sure what they getting for their budgets anyway. Perhaps the investors in those AFA companies should have known - but they were usually the last to know anything. The street prices of enterprise flash storage arrays had become connected to chip headcount realities only by the most tenuous of formulas. And truth to tell - the difference between super efficient and less efficient designs and architectures didn't matter so much to small and medium users so long as the boxes they were buying today cost less than the boxes they had bought a little while before.

Designers of les efficient systems could argue - our boxes are more reliable (or some other distracting excuse) and by a process of waiting time - lo and behold - the chips got cheaper and the box was more profitable.

As long as you could buy all the chips you needed it didn't matter if some boxes used twice and many chips as others.

In contrast - in the mission critical embedded SSD drive market - where the power consumption of a single slot is looked at by someone who worries about watts in the box and what they do to reliability - the efficiency factor was a better appreciated personality trait of SSDs.

But let's get back to SSD boxes (hybrid arrays, AFAs etc).

Now in 2017 you can't get the chips - even if you can afford them. And maybe your customer won't like the price of the box even if you could assemble it.

Efficiency starts to matter more.

But there were some other words in the sub-headline too. Along with efficiency there was utilization.

What do I mean by that?

Utilization in this context is a measure of how much usefulness is delivered at the applications level by a particular raw size of installed flash. This usefulness benefit is usually delivered by a combination of software and firmware (and may also include within it a differently tiered and managed memory architecture). An extreme example of the the benefit can be where an existing flash array is improved to deliver significantly more reliability, performance or usable storage simply from a software update alone.

In the best designed systems efficiency and utilization tricks and tweaks are already integrated at many levels in the flash array.

Although software vendors like to talk about hyperconvergence, tiered memory, new stacks, memory defined storage etc - these can viewed as marketing and branding ideas. They will soon be as quaint sounding as the 1980s "RISC versus CISC".

During the years when new technology tricks do something better - their protagonists reap kudos. From the point of the memoryfication systems industry it doesn't greatly matter what label is given to a particular technique. The important thing is that the industry is working towards a better understanding of how to integrate very large populations of memory chips with diverse characteristics and grouped in historically defined interface combinations, and creating software bridges which satisfy legacy applications needs while also incorporating the newer memory focused demands of big data applications. In 10 to 20 years time all the best design ideas for memory systems will be mixed up in ASICs or FPGAs and seamlessly blended in the new standard software stack. The inventors may write blogs or books about how their IP babies changed the industry - but most people won't care.

Returning to the memory shortages... If - like me - you believe that the industry will most likely remain in a state where demand exceeds supply for a significant period (years rather than months of quarters) then the only affordable way that enterprise users will satisfy their needs is to head towards solutions suppliers which have the best efficiency and utilization stories to tell.

At its simplest - that will accelerate integration with the cloud - because for the past 10 years the cloud and webscale integrators have been ths companies with the sharpest focus on extracting value from improvment granularities which traditional box makers didn't care so much about.

But there are still huge opportunities in the enterprise box markets for companies ranging from JBOF to multipetabyte singing and dancing storage arrays to demonstrate by their pricing and their ability to satisfy shipment demands from repeat customers - that doing more with less flash is at the core of their thinking.

Software companies which promise they can upscale memory systems to do more with less chips in the box will be hot prospects. Symbolic IO was much praised in 2016 before the memory shortages. Their IP is bundled with hardware. But new memory efficiency partnerships can be software-only or software tied to a fab.

re hard drives and the memory shortages

In April 2017 Seagate was quick to squelch expectations in the investor community that a shortage of memory chips to make SSDs would have a positive impact on the sales of enterprise hard drives. Although there may have been some small changes of ordering patterns in the hybrid storage systems base Seagate wanted to dispel analyst expectations that there is equivalency in these markets and that an SSD sale won is an HDD sale lost.

This publication has noted that it is realistic for hard drives to retreat towards safer application roles which are compatible with but don't aim to challenge the clear and present reality of a confident SSDwards direction in server and storage markets. (Hard drives in an SSD world.)

And another factor is SSD-everywhere software. We've now in the post-HDD referential era of enterprise software. Most enterprise applications either doesn't work in a pure hard drive environment or if it did the performance would be so bad that you wouldn't want to use it.

In consumer markets particularly in PCs the deployment of HDDs and SSDs has evolved to be a horse of a different color . Nowadays SSD based PCs win or lose sales compared to other flash based devices such as tablets. The hard drive based PC - which survived SSD encroachment better than the unsuccessful market adaptation of the hybrid - was already on its way to becoming a vanishing species with or without nudges from the 2017 memory shortages.

re SSD manufacturers without captive memory fabs

The memory shortages of 2017 have highlighted the differences between those few SSD manufacturers who have their own captive source of memory and those others (the majority) which don't.

The common message I've heard from SSD makers in the latter category is that they could have sold more SSDs (and SSD based systems) if they had gotten more supplies of memory.

Another consequence of the shortages is that those without their own memory fabs have felt the squeeze most from pricing pressures.

Long before these recent shortages I had observerd that the memory fabless SSD companies tended to be those who had better designs and who invested most in both value added and innovatively efficient designs.

I also noted that in times of semiconductor memory gluts the fabless SSD companies were better positioned to grow market market share while remaining more profitable.

The memory shortages has been opening up cracks in SSD business plans which were too heavily predicated on expectations of falling costs.

An interesting development has been that even industries which weren't expecting to use the newest generations of highest density 3D flash - such as the industrial and military markets - have been hit by shortages in mature planar (2D) memory. You might have expected them to be immune to leading edge 3D TLC yield problems - because this is type of memory they are unlikely to use. The cascade of shortages into users of bigger line geometry components is partly because memory makers were already underway with hard to reverse plans to migrate most of their production to 3D before they realized the unprecenteded scale of associated problems. And also systems companies with SSD product lines which were ready to ramp to newer memories reacted by extending the shipments of older SSDs with as much memory as they could get until supplies dried up.

re phones, PCs and consumer gadgets

Industry reports said that PC makers were among the big consumer casualties of the 2017 memory shortages. Were users going to be happy to pay significantly more for the same old SSD based PC? No way. They didn't get the choice. The long decline in the PC market due to more than 10 years of badly designed SSD based notebooks was not an attractive enough market proposition to warrant high allocations of memory.

But the phone market was different.

People love their phones and it's a crisis if they can't get new ones.

re Samsung's phone business and memory

For Samsung which at the same time was one of the world's leading phone makers and memory makers the memory shortages provided opportunities to increase market share and profitability. (And maybe to expunge the negative market images of exploding batteries and recalls from its 2016 Galaxy 7's.)

re Apple's phone business and memory

Meanwhile centered around Apple (the other big phone maker - but without its own memory fabs - why? - because memory is a commodity Darling - which is also why Intel stayed so long out of the memory market which it created) the talk and speculation in the 3rd quarter of 2017 about the effects of the memory shortages on Apple were split between:- should Apple risk buying memory from its competitor Samsung? (When this story surfaced in 2016 Samsung was optimistically anticipating a glut in its nand availability.) Or should Apple join a consortium to acquire Toshiba's memory business - and thereby secure its memory supplies?

These outcomes were still unknown at the time of writing this. For samples of the reported Apple memory mood music see WDC asks Apple to join its bid for Toshiba (Sept 6), Apple says it won't buy Toshiba products if WDC gains control (Sept 8), Apple in talks with group which includes Dell and Seagate to buy Toshiba (Sep 14).

clarification - re the 2017 memory shortages

If you're being pedantic you may ask why did I keep referring to the "2017" memory shortages in the notes above - didn't the shortages begin in 2016?

You're right they did. But it wasn't clear in 2016 just how long the shortages would last and how much of a lasting impact they would make. Based on the experiences of past memory business cycles and the upbeat messages from the memory market it would have been reasonable to anticipate a quicker supply correction. That didn't happen and so instead of being a blip caused the industry's changeoever to next generation chip capacity - the shortages and higher costs of memory became the new normal.

how long until there's a correction?

look to software mitigation as a memory shortage fixer

In July 2017 the measure of what do we mean by "2017 memory shortages" was succintly stated by market research company IC Insights which said in a report - "DRAM, unit shipments are actually forecast to show a decline this year (2017). Moreover, NAND shipments are forecast to increase only 2%."

There you have it. Even after bringing new production capacity onstream the effect of yield (usable chips versus defects) is that the number of memory chips coming out of the world's semiconductor fabs was about the same as it had been the year before. And although a proportion of these were higher capacity the demands for memory were for both more chips and higher density chips.

I dealt at length with "no easy fix at the fab level" nature of the flash memory shortages in a blog in July 2017 - 3D nand fab yield - the nth layer tax - are more dimensions of analysis needed to get a clearer picture of future 3D nand successions?. That analysis underlies my belief that for the remainder of 2017 and 2018 we can't realistically expect the semiconductor memory market to return to oversupply and plunging prices from efforts and resources under its own control.

Having read this far you won't be surprised that I think the biggest contribution to mitigate pain for users and producers of memory systems will come from better architecture based efficiencies and firmware and sofware based utilization improvements rather than more precise deposition in the wafer fabs.

By their very natue (being tightly coupled to controller IP and software cycles) these solutions will take time to prove their worth and further time to gain wider market acceptance. Think of it as a software correction to this memory supply cycle problem and you'll get a better feel for the dynamics. This is completey different to the traditional semiconductor fab based (tweak the machinery settings to up the yield) which provided quick market corrections in past decades.

PS - the main fault with this new article is that it's too short and as with all my new blogs has been published with its rough edges still visible. I'm confident that I will find much additional material to add to it as the memory shortages of 2017 unfold into 2018. And if I am in a position to do so I promise to write a retrospective look back from the post shortage viewpoint when that inevitably occurs.

Hmm... it looks like you're seriously interested in SSDs. So please bookmark this page and come back again soon.

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The convenience of DWPD as a way of selecting SSDs for application roles meant it quickly gained widespread adoption in the enterprise and cloud.

Indeed it was so useful that within 3 years it was adopted in most of the other SSD markets too.

Now before this starts to sound too much like a DWPD fan club I'd like to say that - like all technical specifications - DWPD has its uses but also has its limitations too.
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Momentum has been building during the past 4 years with signals coming from the appearance of memory channel SSDs, talk of in-situ SSD processing, and much practical rethinking about RAM architecture.

And as I indicated in an earlier article - All Flash Arrays - what next? (January 2017) - I think the next foreseeable staging point will be that storage becomes less relevant as a product and will instead become a supported legacy emulation concept within persistent memory systems.

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