It's really not a surprise to IT people in the know that solid-state NAND flash-based storage will soon displace spinning disk drives as the standard in the enterprise data storage industry. It might be a surprise, however, that this changeover is happening as fast as it is, because NAND flash always has represented a higher upfront cost.
But enterprises and their CFOs are starting to looking past short-term issues like those pesky startup costs and instead are gazing at a bigger picture. This is because NAND flash drives are proving themselves to be both performance- and endurance-worthy in production situations--making them a better buy over time than mechanical hard drives.
The flash-based storage market, founded by Toshiba in 1987 and which started getting serious traction in the mid-1990s, became an enterprise reality in late 2008, when EMC started providing SSDs as an option in its storage arrays. Since then the market, with media supplied mostly by Samsung, Toshiba and Micron, has not looked back.
NAND Flash Demand Continues to Rise
Since then, all the major storage players, including EMC, NetApp, Dell, Fujitsu, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, SanDisk, Seagate and others have joined smart new-gen companies such as Kaminario, Fusion-io, Nimble, Nimbus, Skyera, Pure Storage, Violin Memory, Tintri, OCZ, and others to try and quell the high demand. And demand is very high at this time, NAND flash analyst Jim Handy has said.
Two notable news events in late August have put exclamation points on this trend: the $150 million venture capital funding round announced by Pure Storage, which gave it an implied $1 billion valuation; and Violin Memory's $172.5 million initial public offering filing.
There’s more; news to come in the near future will be keeping NAND flash storage in the forefront, too. Specifically, this involves 3D flash, which is now ramping up in production. One example of this is Samsung’s V-NAND flash memory; this employs an up/down/across structure in which storage modules are stacked vertically, giving a whole new dimension to the popular solid-state medium.
Samsung’s, Toshiba’s and Micron’s 3D NAND flash chips are expected to reach early stage production during 2014-2015, where we'll see a commercial release in the years to follow, analysts say. The success of 3D NAND will come down to market adoption of new products featuring the flash memory, which will dictate when it is ready to take center stage for commercial-scale production.