10 July 2012

Flying Monkeys

Once again, boys and girls, we're into quarterly reporting. If it seems like we always are, well, yes sort of. The "season" often drags on nearly two months. But the really important folks generally report in the first month following. Which brings us to SSDs. The sector is bifurcating in two directions: standalone versus teeny part of MegaCorp and consumer versus enterprise. There is also the private/public split, but the MegaCorps (and a few midgets) are buying the privates up.

OCZ is the first up, sometime after 4 pm EDT today. The share has been on the decline for a couple of months. OCZ hasn't made money for a while, and keeps floating stock to stay above water. They claim to be the leader and all that, but a sector leader who can't seem to make a buck selling its wares? The share fell to $4.14 in June and has been up a bit and down a bit since. Why this all matters to database geeks (such as humble self) is this: for SSD to be used as primary storage of High NF relational databases, SSD has to be seen as mainstream storage, and so much better at what it does as to compel developers to embrace it. More than just faster sequential passing of Big Data. For a sector that the public meme says is cutting edge, a fair amount of IT is antediluvial. Well, only if you count social networking as cutting edge in any technical sense. I don't, but there you are.

Some may remember that MicroSoft, a few years ago, was going to release a new Windows with a relational database built-in; much like OS/400 of a couple of decades earlier. Didn't happen. With SSD as standard storage medium, it makes perfect sense. There were rumours starting last year that some/all of winFS would be in 8, but nothing official that I could find. Too bad.

What gives me agita is the thought that SSD will be treated as DASD was versus tape drives way back when: just a faster sequential store. So, it is in the best interest of database geeks for OCZ, and the other standalone SSD vendors, to prosper. They don't seem to be. If they fail, then SSD becomes the same sort of oligopoly that HDD is now. For SSD, that would be Intel and Samsung, and possibly Hynix which recently bought a private controller maker. On the enterprise side, life is a bit murkier. If STEC and Violin (still private, as of today) also stumble, and STEC isn't showing well, then enterprise SSD supply won't be enough to generate much demand. Texas Memory is still around, but not well known outside of glass house companies. EMC is definitely enterprise and recently bought a controller company; to the extent that EMC brings flash implementation in-house, SSD vending loses yet another client. And you thought I scoffed at supply side economics? Mostly, yes, but in an emerging sector, a tsunami of supply benefits consumers be they humans or the proto-human corporations. DRAM vendors know the problem, but that's a discussion in investment theory for another time and venue.

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