SAN JOSE, Calif. – Here's a heads up on six things to expect at next week's Flash Memory Summit in Silicon Valley. The annual event has been growing in parallel with the rise of NAND flash chips that are plugging into an increasing variety of sockets in consumer and business systems.
1. Expect more details on vertical NAND. Samsung grabbed headlines last year when it unveiled the design of a 24-layer stacked 128 Gbit NAND chip. The chips are now shipping from Samsung. Others including SanDisk and Toshiba are jumping on the bandwagon of vertical NAND as the next big step in the flash roadmap.
The same Samsung execs who rolled out vertical NAND last year are back for a keynote next week. Expect incremental news about their work in the technology.
2. Expect more PCIe SSDs than you can shake a stick at. Fusion-IO pioneered the idea of plugging flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) into the PCI Express bus as a higher performance option than use of the serial ATA or serial-attached SCSI busses for hard-disk drives. Now just about everybody has jumped on the bandwagon.
SanDisk liked the idea so much it bought Fusion-IO in June and will give a keynote talk about the next steps for its PCIe SSDs at the event. Prior to the acquisition, tech celebrity and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joined Fusion in 2009, and he will also give a no-doubt passionate, visionary and well- attended talk at the event.
This event will be another coming out party for PCIe SSDs using the NVMe protocol defined by an Intel-led group. Overall when it comes to SSDs, expect "many more announcements with most of the news coming from software/system enhancements…[such as] virtualization, de-duplication, compression and encryption," says Alan Niebel, president of market watcher Web-Feet Research.
3. Expect more flash appliances than you can shake a stick at. By now, everybody and his brother has launched a startup that essentially wraps sheet metal around an array of flash chips, an ARM or x86 processor, and some new algorithm for accelerating datacenter apps or compressing storage networking.
In keynote talks and on the show floor you can hear about some of the latest and greatest of these companies. The big attraction lies in the high profit margins for systems aimed at apps where performance is so strategic users will pay big premiums for it.
IBM is one of the most high profile leaders here in the wake of its purchase of Texas Memory Systems in 2012. Nimbus Data Systems is one of the more high profile startups in the limelight after making its big debut at the event two years ago.
Violin Memory was one of the first to make a big hit with flash storage arrays.
Niebel of Web-Feet says startup Tegile will show some new flash arrays at the event. "Skyera will try to save face in showing their Skyhawk all-flash system, but they need to integrate it better within flash-enhanced applications," he added.
Next page: Beyond Flash and DRAM