Category: Storage

Enterprise back up appliance sales stay strong

EMC logoFactory revenues in purpose built backup appliances (PBBAs) amounter to £719.3 million in the first quarter of this year – growing 6.9 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

EMC is the king of the PBBA market and has 52.4 percent share of the market, followed by Symantec (18.5%), IBM (5.2%) and HP (4.5%).

That’s according to a quarterly survey from IDC, which said Barracuda, Quantum and Dell had 3.5%, 3.3% and 2.9% market share, respectively.

This is all good news said Liz Conner, a senior analyst who minds storage systems at IDC.

“Vendors continue to focus on enhancing and updating their PBBA product portfolios. The results are more flexible, agile and now, typically hybrid, products that are helping to meet a wider range of data protection needs.”

Worldwide PBBA capacity in the first quarter reached an astonishing 647 petabytes, up 32.3 percent compared to the same quarter of 2014.

Contour Semi RIP?

Contour-Semi-RIP-2Contour Semiconductor Inc. located in Billerica, Massachusetts, a venture-backed company founded to produce the world’s lowest-cost, high-volume, non-volatile memory chips appears to have ceased operations. Founded in 2001 the company received its first funding in 2004 and had offices in Billerica, Massachusetts and San Jose, California.

Former President, CEO and Board of Directors Saul Zales is now looking for his next challenge. Chief Technology Officer Daniel Shepard and Vice President of Product Development Tom Trent find themselves in new gigs at HGST, a Western Digital Company. Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Bob Witkow, is no longer listing himself with the company.

What happened?

Contour’s technology focus on taking phase-change memory technology forward to a marketable commodity status never achieved traction with any of the oligarch producers. The company was in development of vertically stacking the phase-change elements to achieve high density devices. The company filed 45 patents on the technology.

An important Contour patent is the Diode Transistor Memory (DTM™) architecture that reduces the number of mask and process steps by as much as 65 percent compared to NAND flash – this results in a nearly three-fold improvement in fab capacity throughput with a corresponding 65 percent reduction in wafer cost compared to NAND.

Contour has been using phase-change as the storage element in their development work. The company indicated that future iterations of DTM™ could include magnetic or carbon nanotube storage elements. In addition to the memory cell, the streamlined fabrication process also includes a single type of n-channel transistor and non-memory diodes which are used for address decoding. Contour’s proprietary circuit techniques have been designed to optimize compatibility with existing CMOS processes.

With its cross-point array architecture, Contour’s NAND-alternative solution supports word, sector, and page-level erase commands to supplement the normal NAND flash specification, allowing significant improvement to system-level performance. Latency is minimized as the chip can directly access and modify any addressable location. With phase change material, individual cell program and erase performance is greatly improved and write endurance has been tested for up to 1 billion cycles.

The company presented at SNIA’s January 2015 Storage Industry Summit indicating that they were working on a 3rd generation device at 4 Gb using 52 nm technology. Sub Rosa commentary indicates that a key portion of the circuitry failed and would require a complete redesign – thus convincing the investment community that any further funding for Contour was not in their best interests. We’ve no reports (as of this writing) that the company’s patent portfolio has been placed up for sale or has been bought.

TechEye Take

One sign the company was in search mode was the admonition that the technology really didn’t necessarily need to use phase-change as the storage elements – offering magnetic and carbon nanotube storage elements instead. The carbon nanotube storage elements most likely resulted from discussions with nearby Nantero in Woburn, Massachusetts.

One rather knotty issue is that Phase-Change has been supplanted by other non-volatile memory technologies. Once a highly proclaimed successor to NAND-Flash it fell to the wayside when it was found that the device would become erased if passed through a solder reflow machine in a production environment preventing them from being gang-programmed prior to the assembly process. The other issue was the high write currents that were not conducive to sub 20 nm scales. The company failed to bend with the will of market expectations until the bitter end – by then it was too late to recover from.

The level of scuttlebutt regarding Contour’s fortunes has been barely audible. The fact that they went out without a whimper is somewhat out of the ordinary – a kind of a “no one left to turn out the lights” situation. The fact that HGST, a Western Digital Company, picked up Contour’s technology people is indicative of Western Digital’s intentions to further establish their own non-volatile research operation.

Enterprises buying more server based storage

EMC logoFigures for the first quarter of this year show that factory revenue from enterprise storage systems worldwide rose by 6.8 percent, quarter on quarter, year on year, to stand at $8.8 billion.

IDC said that total capacity shipments rose 41.1 percent year on year to stand at 28.3 exabytes. An exabyte is one quintillion bytes, or one billion gigabytes (GB).

IDC said that spending on “traditional” external arrays fell during the quarter but demand for server based storage and hyperscale infrastructure rose strongly.

EMC help the pole position in the storage rat pack, collecting 17.4 percent of all spending in the quarter. HP was second with a 14.6 percent share, while Dell had 10.2 percent share.

But original design manufacturers (ODMs), such as Taiwanese firms like Quanta selling directly to data centre customers was 12.6 percent during the quarter.

As far as external disk storage systems are concerned, EMC was the clear leader (27.3%), followed by Netapp (13.6%), and HP and Hitachi holding 9.1 percent and nine percent share of worldwide revenues.

Oracle commits to custom Xeons

Consulting-the-Oracle-JWW-1884Oracle has announced that its glorious alliance with Intel has resulted in a custom built Xeon which is 100MHz faster than the E7-8890 v3.

The E7-8895 v3 has 18 cores and 36 threads based around an X5-4, a four-socket server. It has 96 DIMM slots for 3TB of RAM and NVMe for in-memory workloads.

Oracle said that its new servers can “vary the core count and operating frequency … without the need for a system level reboot”.

It claims that it has the highest uptime x86 server based on Intel’s Xeon E7 v3 processors, with hot-swappable and redundant disks, cooling fans, and power supply units.

Intel and Oracle have been working on this relationship for more than a year now with customisable chips popping up from last year. Intel tinkered with its E7-8890 by adding features that let the silicon switch cores on and off which Oracle’s software demanded. The chips can also vary their clock speed to suit loading.

Still it all does show a glorious alliance in the making, with Intel and Oracle working hard for each other.

Personal storage shipments fall

Hard driveThere was a decline in the number of personal and entry level storage devices shipped in EMEA during the first quarter of this year and much of that can be attributed to the increasing use of the cloud for data back up.

According to IDC, the decline in shipments was 8.8 percent, compared to the same quarter last year. However, there’s a greater decline in revenues with a fall of 14.7 percent.

Revenues in the EMEA region amounted to $512 million.

IDC said that hard drive vendors dominate the sector, with shipments of 1TB to 3TB accounting for 70.28 percent of the entire sector.

Here are IDC’s figures for the sector for the first quarter.

Entry level storage Q1 2015

Sandisk steps into the external storage market

Sandisk extreme SSDsMemory company Sandisk said it has introduced a family of high performance flash drives including portable solid state drives (SSDs).

The families are called the Extreme 900 and the Extreme 500 portable SSDs – the latter being pocket sized rugged drives.

Sandisk claims the Extreme 900 will perform nine times faster than a portable hard drive while the Extreme 500 is up to four times faster.

The company is aiming the drives at photographers, film makers, and techn enthusiasts. The drives use USB 3.0. The 900 can deliver speeds of up to 850MB/s, it is claimed.

The Extreme 900s come in capacities of up to 1.92 terabytes (TB) which Sandisk said gives people an edge when they’re working with big multimedia files.

The Xtreme 500 comes in sizes of up to 480GB and can shunt data around at a claimed 415MB/s.

Pricing? The 500s at capacities of 120GB, 240GB and 480GB cost $100, $150 and $240 respectively.

The grown up 900s at capacities of 480GB, 960GB and 1.92TB cost $400, $600, and $1,000 respectively.

All drives carry a three year warranty.

Samsung announces IMDB memory

Bentley-Reserve-SFSamsung, for the second year in a row, selected the Bentley Reserve (Old Mint) in San Francisco as the venue for announcing a series of products ranging from IoT Artik single mini board computing systems to support for massive In-Memory Database (IMDB) DIMMs with Near Data Processing (NDP) support.

The company covered 3D NAND-Flash or V-NAND as they like to call it which is marching along the road from MLC to TLC. Also appended in this section of the presentation was something that they’re calling Universal Flash Storage (UFS) directed toward supporting mobile applications.

What surprised several of the gathered analysts was the IMDB with NDP support – surprised from the point of view that this was something most had placed into the 2016 timeframe at the earliest. The fact that Samsung is supporting this segment upsets more than a few excel spreads. Forrester Research found that if SAP’s HANA IMDB appliance were to affect 2% of their market it would represent an equivalent 500 Million Smart Phone DRAM memories. This is the type of numbers that gains the undivided attention of a memory producer like Samsung.

One of the complaints currently in the Hadoop Massively Parallel Processor market (IMDB) is that it becomes bogged down with even a small number of users. The user performance penalty has stalled the market penetration growth to around 18% currently. What’s required is a near real time environment regardless of the number of users.

The reason for poor throughput is that multi-core CPUs experience data starvation in their attempt to service multiple users. Near-Data-Processing (NDP) solves this by allowing the search function to be executed in parallel and in memory. The entire system memory in effect becomes a massively parallel processor – this is the type of memory execution required for real time IMDB systems loaded with 64 Terabytes of DRAM. NDP is thought to be the missing link required for the Hadoop and the In-Memory Database market to gain traction and grow.

The NDP function is implemented in the form of a programmable FPGA at the bottom of stacked DRAM. Samsung did not go into details as to the DRAM type they intended to use in the stack though it could range from some of the advanced architectures like HMC and HBM though it’s most likely a modification of the currently ramping DDR4. The memory still functions in legacy mode allowing the new application base to be introduced concurrently with existing application software loads. Note also that the programmable function of the FPGA can be changed at will allowing for a wide range of software defined functionality.

Almost incidentally the company announced their High Bandwidth Memory market introduction. Now used by AMD, Nvidia and even Intel (by some sources) this is considered the On Processor I/O (OPIO) replacement to SGDDR5 – there will be no SGDDR6. Again, details were missing.

Techeye Take Away

There are a lot of details still not vetted in these announcements. It does place Samsung as being the first to announce their IMDB NDP entry. There is another major player preparing to announce and Samsung simply wanted to be first. Samsung promised a copy of the foil set tomorrow and we’ll follow up on sorting out the details as they become available.

The IMDB NDP technical discussion has been a hot topic but to this point has not entered the public arena – private discussions now at an end, the world et al will now weigh in on what’s good for the future and it is beginning to look good if you’re a memory producer.

I think the Kiehung crowd at Samsung has found a new calling – it is even better than April 1992 when Windows 3.1 was introduced and an entire PC market began an overnight memory upgrade cycle. They were all whistling Dinah Washington’s, “What a difference a day makes” – play it again Sam…,

Cloud hits storage market

Cumulus clouds - Wikimedia CommonsPersonal and entry level storage shipments fell in the first quarter of this year by 6.4 percent – with 17.6 million units shifts.

According to market research company IDC, the size of the market hasn’t changed that much for the last two years, but the decline is due to people using public clouds and because there’s a change in the way people use media.

Jingwen Li, an analyst at IDG, said that while this sector has shown a decline, there are growth opportunities, particularly for personal and entry level NAS units.

Even though the overall market showed a decline, dual interface products grew by 56.7 percent year on year. This sector consists of USB-Thunderbolt and USB-WiFi products.

An IDC chart shows the way things have changed in this market, which is still worth a great deal of money.

Storage market Q1 2015

Speech recognition could be a matter of a hologram

obe-wan-hologramBoffins from the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering and the Russian Academy of Sciences have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a new speech recognition system based around a magnonic holographic memory device.

Pattern recognition focuses on finding patterns and regularities in data and in this case the input patterns are encoded into the phases of the input spin waves.

Spin waves are collective oscillations of spins in magnetic materials. Spin wave devices are advantageous over their optical counterparts because they are more scalable due to a shorter wavelength. Also, spin wave devices are compatible with conventional electronic devices and can be integrated within a chip.

The researchers built an eight-terminal device consisting of a magnetic matrix with micro-antennas to excite and detect the spin waves.

The experimental data they collected for several magnonic matrixes show unique output signatures correspond to specific phase patterns. The microantennas allow the researchers to generate and recognise any input phase pattern, a big advantage over existing practices.

It takes about 100 nanoseconds for recognition, which is the time required for spin waves to propagate and to create the interference pattern.

Holography is a technique based on the wave nature of light and is recognized as a future data storing technology.  If it starts recognising your speech, there could be no end to what the technology can do.  However I bet it cant identify a Kiwi accent.

SanDisk delays Analyst Day – Toshiba shares skid daily limit

Toroid-Composite-Render-Sea-Inlet_5Toshiba shares skidded 17 percent  ($2.5 Billion) to its daily limit Monday on the Tokyo Exchange after the company reported after market close Friday, that it was withdrawing its earnings guidance for the fiscal year ended March and cancelling a year-end dividend due as it expanded a previously announced investigation.

This is Toshiba Corp’s second probe into its own accounting in two years leaving analysts and investors in doubt as to just what the root problem is and its long term consequences on operations.

Toshiba said it is setting up a third-party committee for further investigation, and that it could not report its financial results for the year ended in March, normally announced around this time, until June or later.

SanDisk, Toshiba’s partner in NAND-Flash, announced on the 16th of April that the company was “postponing” their financial analyst day meeting. No future date was set by Sanjay Mehrotra CEO of SanDisk. SanDisk has missed their earnings estimates for the last three quarters and according to downgrades by market analysts appears to be suffering from poor execution on a number of fronts:

• Loss of Apple’s SSD business
• A too optimistic Enterprise strategy – missing 2TB SATA drive solution
• Poor integration of the Fusion I/O acquisition
• 3D NAND migration uncertainty – late entry position
• High margin retail business is slowing
• SanDisk must renegotiate licensing revenue with Samsung (Aug-16, now 40% EPS)
• Poor inventory management
• SanDisk was granted only 5 patents last year

Techeye Take

To be fair Toshiba’s problems are said to stem from accounting missteps in infrastructure projects – on the other hand “infrastructure projects” is a fairly inclusive term and could mean any number of things. Toshiba and SanDisk are in the midst of building new fabrication facilities in Japan. To date, there is no news that the accounting issues involve the semiconductor side of operations. The fact that building fabs is extremely expensive and requires a lot of cash on top of a mountain of debt has not been lost on those in the investment community. The negative reports from both companies has set off alarms in the analyst community which is now guarding against any “surprises” that might be in store.

Toshiba’s accounting shortfalls has placed the two companies in the crosshairs of the investment community given that the technology partnership may be exhibiting strains between the two competitors. Both are joined at the “hip” with production responsibilities and are in the throes of “reimagining” just how the combination can adjust before embarking on telling the world just exactly why either entity is a good investment choice going forward…,