Flash Memory Summit – from Strength to Strength

Originally published to the Standards Watch blog by David Dale, Director of Industry Standards at NetApp


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. Better yet, download the proceedings … if there’s something you want to know about solid state storage, it’ll be in there.


Attendance at the event has been growing rapidly from year to year.  This year was up more than 30% over last year – I’d guess there were at about 4500 attendees in total.  That makes it one of the industry’s leading storage events, which makes sense given how important the technology has become.


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.


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.


Sometimes, when you attend conferences in important and fast-moving technology areas you come away with the feeling that it’s going to difficult for your company to hold its own in the face of rapidly changing conditions and increased competition.  I came away from this conference feeling better than ever about NetApp’s flash agenda.  We have been shipping flash-enhanced solutions for longer that almost everybody; we have the broadest portfolio of currently-shipping flash products in the industry; and we have exciting plans to capitalize on our lead.


We’ve been saying for quite some time that “Flash Changes Everything”, and we did something about it. The bulk of the industry seems to have just figured it out this year.