Breaking News: Snapshots No Good In Flash Market!

Well of course I picked my words in the title to get some attention. When I say ‘snapshots’ I’m not talking in terms of instant-storage-system-replication, but I’m talking more about a snapshot of the flash storage market. It has to be one of the most dynamic market segments I can recall seeing…. every day you turn around, something else has happened. So any snapshots are instantly out of date. This blog is a bit more like looking at the family album for 2013 so far (of course I’m sure I’ll have missed plenty but I’m not trying to be a news service, more aiming to convey the types and breadth of changes that are occurring.

  • Landscape Pictures – what’s clear is that there is a lot of vendor consolidation (see below) and an increasing trend towards solid-state being used as either a cache and/or as a dynamic tiering tool. There are still plenty of known start-ups vying for attention (whether all-flash or hybrid) and another tranche of stealth players yet to be seen. There’s a river of VC money running through this busy landscape, and a forest of hundreds of PBs of installs and deals.
  • Family Get-Togethers and Marriages – in terms of new link-ups Violin purchased GridIron; the latter probably needed a suitor - as the inline appliance model hasn’t gained traction – but nonetheless it brings some very impressive ‘smarts’ to Violin in terms of learning algorithms to speed applications. Also ‘married’ earlier in the year were Imation and Nexsan – and that was followed pretty quickly by news of the much-enhanced NST5000 hybrid system. While the ceremony for Intel taking the hand of Nevex happened in 2012 it felt like more of an elopement, and so the first many will have heard of their joint status was the announcement of the arrival of the first child – Intel CAS (cache acceleration), showing the vendor's determination to play in the new generation of ‘enabled’ flash, not merely the commodity side of things. Finally the news of a link-up between Seagate and Virident might not be a full marriage but they probably changed their Facebook pages to ‘in a relationship’….and the $40m welcome investment from Seagate will no doubt help as the new couple attempts (along with many others such as Intel and EMC) to take server-based PCIe market-share away from FusionIO.
  • Close Ups – Taking a look at a handful of individual poses: Whiptail continues to make good progress – sometimes quieter than some, it has been in the game all along, and is heading towards having shipped 4PB of its all-flash arrays! Another all-flash player, the erstwhile TMS, got married to IBM last year, and announced 1PB shipped in just Q4. Meantime in the hybrid space, Nimble just ‘came of age’ in reaching a $100m annual run rate. All these numbers are impressive – and while they would be eclipsed by the revenue $ and shipments of the big oligarchs in the storage family – their significance is that, as a whole, they demonstrate where the world is heading. Not to be out-done the ‘big-boys’ are all making moves too: for instance, just this week IBM’s XIV enhanced its SSD caching, and EMC is expected to deliver its XtremIO offspring later this year. It’s also worth noting that ‘hybrid’ is beginning to mean more than just SSD + HDD….a new entrant this year is Marvell with its DragonFly DRAM + SSD. Expect more solutions that mix various solid-state media types and software functionalities as the year progresses – all of which will benefit too from the better/cheaper/faster media and devices themselves that are due to be unveiled in the coming months.

There you go! And we’re not even at Valentine’s Day yet – maybe there’ll be move love in the flash air as a result of that. One thing is for sure….between the time that I wrote this and the time that you’re reading it, something changed in the solid-state market!

Topics: Storage Cybersecurity IT Infrastructure