A Leader Steps Forward to Advance Flash Memory Image
Superheroes – Check the movies coming out this year, people are packing theaters to see their superheroes in action protecting the innocent and taking on all comers. Flash memory has become a hero in its own right and people now believe their content/data will be saved. I have never understood why storage has never gotten the love and respect it deserves. The iNet has it with Vint Cerf (one of its founders). He fights for it, protects it, leads the charge for Internet everywhere. You know … peace, justice, the global way!
Sure, he now does it for Google where he’s the industry evangelist; but jeezz, he looks, acts, talks like a person who will lead the technology into greatness against all of the evil doers of the world (with the way governments, hackers, whackers, cybercriminals try to kill it, that’s no easy task). Rick Merritt (EE Times) and Chris Preimesberger (eWeek) agreed at this year’s FMS … a hero has emerged. Like most superheroes, it’s one you would least expect. Yes, it’s the likeable (O.K., loveable) Woz – Steve Wozniak — the technical whiz who set the pattern for Apple. O.K., he has a vested interest in flash because Fusion-io was bought by SanDisk, but techies listen when he talks. Even my kids understand him when he talks about flash for mobile devices, wearables and video production. Finally, a freakin’ champion has emerged! It’s about time! Of course, he also helped create the huge storage need we have today because Mac is the standard of the M&E industry. He helped make using a computer fun, cool — not just for work.
World of Things
Then Apple went on to make a bunch of computer-based things and the industry never looked back.
3rd Generation – Every time the industry makes a major leap forward, the new technology doesn’t replace the old technology; it simply multiplies the number of computing options by a factor of 10, according to Mary Meeker of KPCB. We outgrew the 2nd platform of PCs and servers and are totally into the 3rd platform of devices, things. Yes, billions of ‘em. They’re so good, so luscious, people are buying more smartphones and tablets than PCs. Don’t get too hyped, it will take my kids’ kids to get to the point where they can really do serious work on them.
World of Stuff
Sure, we’re already creating stuff with them – all of them:
- 2.5B GB of data every day
- 6M Facebook views
- 2+M Google searches
- 20M flickr views
- 100+ new LinkedIn accounts
- 100 hours of video to YouTube
- 1.3M YouTube views
- $83K in Amazon sales
We’ve done so much with these new enabled devices that 90 percent of the content/data being stored “somewhere” didn’t exist two years ago.
Data Explosion – According to IDC, people have created more content in the past two years than the previous 5,000 years. And the volume continues to expand. Superhero Vint’s good to shady team is telling us a fantastic tale about how good it is (will be) to put all that stuff in their cloud. They point out that 90 percent of that stuff is “just” personal information, emails, tweets and facebook posts; you know, space junk that is nice but all you really want to do is put it somewhere for … later. Unfortunately, not all of people using Vint’s solutions are “nice:”
- Between 2005-2013 – over 864,108,052 sensitive (personal) records had security breaches.
- Last year, businesses paid an average of $5.4M per breach, $188 per record.
- The Internet is kinda’ slow, sorta’ unreliable, totally crackable/hackable to 4-20 year-olds.
- Some of the sales types sold aluminum siding last year (just kidding. but maybe…)
Local storage looks a whole lot better and here you have two choices – HDs for cheap capacity and flash memory/SSD.
Storage Growth – While client PC and Cloud storage continue to be primarily reliant on high capacity, low-cost HDs and SSDs are making inroads when fast response is the overriding priority. But smartphones, tablets and personal devices overwhelmingly use light, rugged, low power consuming SSD and flash memory.
World of Needs
Woz does as much listening as talking, so he’s tuned in to what people want/need:
- Fast out-of-the-box performance
- Endurance – things that last for awhile
- Long device/data life
- Light devices that don’t use a lot of power
- Quick, easy, on-the-go solutions
- Storage, storage, storage
Getting Better – Semiconductor memory technology keeps improving while production/packaging costs continue to place added pressure on HD solutions to multiply capacity and drive down the cost per GB.
Increasingly, Flash memory/SSD is meeting a ton of those needs. Woz also concedes that semiconductor technology will probably never replace HDs. Since you can’t carry all your stuff in your device, you might as well have a cheap 1TB hard drive that can be carried in your pocket/backpack for back-up or to offload 2/3 of your stuff in your personal cloud/home cloud.
Mobile Capacity – Because of the limited storage capacity in most mobile devices, consumers want to free up device storage space while still having data and content readily available. Rather than store the content in the unpredictable cloud, more people are using light, portable personal storage devices. Woz is only a so-so dancer, but he’s as geeky as they come when it comes to building new, cool stuff that he built for himself that makes others go,”Wow, that’s cool!” At FMS, he noted that’s why Tesla is such a great car. Elon built it for himself, his family and millions want to have that experience. Woz noted that was why the iPhone was, and still is, great compared to the nearest competitor – Samsung Galaxy (he does like some of the stuff they’ve done though) and the myriad of knock-offs. The iPhone rose to the top because it was designed/built to Steve Jobs’ definition of a good product. While he thinks we’re becoming way too attached to our devices – tablets, smartphones – he still thinks wearables – even with a ton of flash memory – have a long way to go.
Holding Court – Steve Wozniak (The Woz) gave a wide-ranging discussion at this year’s FMS where he talked about the trends and potential applications of flash memory and the need for engineers to strive to develop unique products, not just copies and tweaked options. Obviously, he has and/or played with every personal device that comes along, but feels most of them are just weak ideas developed for others – market researchers, focus groups, “them.” He has tried about every smartwatch out there and is still … waiting. He has tried the majority of wearables and sees a lot of potential for those targeted at personal healthcare monitoring, management, communications in the coming years. He has tried a lot of the fitness devices; but, well there are some things even the best technology can’t seem to do for you. They aren’t innovations, they’re things that are modified for others. As a result, they are clumsy efforts. But like a true champion, he gives the engineers, designers, developers and solution providers hope by noting that killer ideas are going to come in the future if the industry (and storage) can stay focused on their own course. Woz sees a world of storage potential ahead for NAND (negated AND or Not AND) memory that is used in flash drives, SSDs (solid-state drives) and other storage products. The technology is so widely used today that it’s the cheapest memory available and he feels that it won’t be long before we see one and two TB SSDs that will be very economical (cheap even).
But he does admit there are two challenges:
- Cost has to be equal to or better than other storage technologies (HD).
- Engineers are running out of physical space on the chips to store more stuff.
World of Content
One of the market areas that quickly adopted Woz’s flash memory is M&E (media & entertainment). Moderated by Larry Jordan (host of Digital Production BuZZ radio show), the FMS M&E panel unanimously agreed about one thing … storage, storage, storage. Cirina Catania, founder of the Catania Group, emphasized the point by noting that shooting 4K content consumes 72GB–a minute. Jordan added that SSD would be the platform of choice IF!!! it was more affordable and supported larger storage sizes. The two are limiting except in very specific circumstances. Video Production – While high-quality cameras are increasingly affordable to enable almost anyone to become a cinematographer, professionals like to point out that there’s a lot of time and work involved between the great shoot and a great movie. That brought tears of joy to FMS attendees’ eyes until Cirina explained that most of the copies are kept on HDs:
- Original content (RAW) as shot
- Protection clone (never touched)
- Worker copy (files renamed, organized)
- Protection copy of worker
- Studio copy of worker
- 3rd clone of worker … just in case
- Output of the project
- Clone, 2nd protection
The result is that a project will end up consuming 10X the amount of storage capacity as the original shoot! Neil Smith, of LumaForge; Tony Cacciarelli, of AJA and Matthew Rehrer, of Harmonics; reinforced her analysis:
- While most new cameras today use SSD for capture, only a few offer the option of using conventional drives like the OWC 6G drives she uses but noted that “may” change as they incorporate industry-standard interfaces
- Storage requirements are growing so rapidly that physical content management is becoming a major issue
- SSD is the solution of choice for high-speed/hot data and HD are used for high- capacity/low-cost in the field and in the studio
- Organizations – of all types – have to implement object-based storage for global content distribution
Woz, the storage/flash industry superhero, sees video content as a way for people to reach out and communicate with people in a new, more effective way. He sees a new generation of innovators emerging who will deliver new ideas/products for themselves and others.
World of Content – People increasingly want to be able to tap into the world of information, news and content with their mobile devices in addition to staying in contact with friends, family anytime, anyplace. Me? I didn’t understand 70+ percent of the FMS technicalese sessions. But I sure hope they deliver for Woz soon. I’m about out of storage capacity.