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Last week I was in Santa Clara, CA for the Flash Memory Summit. 


I’ve been attending this event for the past few years (see my Flash Memory Summit Highlights blog from August 2010), and have always been impressed by the energy and excitement of the presenters and attendees and the breadth of topics, but this year was better than ever. 


Over four days, the conference managed to pack in 180 presentations and more than 14 panels across 7 simultaneous tracks.  In addition there were 14 keynotes, and a pre-conference day of tutorials.  So, an incredibly comprehensive body of information was presented.  Check out the program and the session descriptions for details.


Attendance at the event has been growing rapidly from year to year.  This year attendance was around 4500 - up more than 30% over last year. That makes it significantly bigger than any other industry storage event.


Each year at the event there is considerable focus on the problems with NAND Flash – reliability, cost and limited headroom take advantage of smaller process geometries.  But each year we hear about new innovations around NAND that mitigate those issues.  In 2010 it was the concept eMLC; this year it was 3-D NAND.  In fact, my favorite presentation from the entire conference was the keynote by ES Jung, EVP at Samsung Electronics and General Manager of their Semiconductor R&D Center, announcing Samsung’s V-NAND Flash.  The technology clearly has legs.


Standards were well represented in the agenda, with a standards track and standards topics creeping into several other tracks.  Much of the discussion was around the various standards activities focused on PCIe-attached storage, and next-generation programming models for storage class memory. NVMexpress, the INCITS T10 work on SCSI Express, and the SNIA NVM Programming initiative all featured in multiple presentations.  Each of these standards is moving quickly, and fortunately the industry is now starting to view them less as conflicting efforts, but more as a portfolio of standards all of which are needed to drive a healthy ecosystem.


A couple of things really struck me this year.  The first is that the entire industry seems to have really grasped that non-volatile solid state memory is the biggest architectural discontinuity the industry has ever seen.  In 2010, I did a tutorial on the topic at this event and half the audience was clearly skeptical.  That’s no longer the case.


The other thing that struck me was that every vendor now has a comprehensive story and vision about the technology.  In many cases it’s more story than shipping product, but every keynote and many panel sessions featured vendors explaining how broadly they were embracing the technology.  Consequently I expect the pace of new product releases in this space to greatly accelerate in the course of the next 12 months.


Bottom line – for me, attending the show was time well spent. If you were not able to be there, but there’s something you want to know about solid state storage, I’d recommend you download the proceedings … it’s a veritable treasure trove of current information.


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