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Pliant Technology

Pliant Technology is developing Enterprise Flash Drives (EFDs), a new class of solid state storage devices that integrate seamlessly into enterprise information systems (which StorageSearch.com calls "legacy SSD architecture" - editor's note) and dramatically improve performance, reliability, energy efficiency, and TCO. Delivering breakthrough improvements over today's highest performing hard drive and SSD storage solutions for a range of data I/O intensive enterprise applications, Pliant's solution is expected to be available to OEM and datacenter customers in the fourth quarter of 2008. The company was founded by a team of successful storage executives and engineers from Fujitsu, IBM, Maxtor, Quantum, and Seagate. Pliant is based in Milpitas, Calif. More information is available at www.plianttechnology.com.

see also:- Pliant Technology - editor mentions on STORAGEsearch.com



Pliant was acquired by SanDisk in 2011 for approximately $327 million.


  • editor's comments:- April 2011 - Pliant entered the SSD market in September 2009 with a family of small form factor enterprise SAS SSDs using its own controller design. Pliant's route to market is via 3rd party oems who embed its SSDs into their systems.

    Nowadays any competent storage oem can design its own SAS SSD using a variety of off the shelf controllers and interface IP. That puts pressure on companies like Pliant and STEC to ensure their products maintain a performance and reliability edge.

    As I see it Pliant's current business model is not sustainable as it has a very narrow channel into the enterprise SSD market which can easily be choked off by slot substitution. I'm sure that one escape route out of that trap will be to join the runaway PCIe SSD market. Another route may be to market integrated storage systems.

    In March 2011 - Pliant announced the retirement of its founding CEO and the appointment of Richard Wilmer .

    The SSD market has changed substantially since Pliant's original business plans were formed. The company has proved they can make a fast controller that works. But the SAS market is not the real future for very high performance SSDs. As I see it the challenge for the new CEO is to fugure out other attractive ways to leverage Pliant's technology assets and communicating better with the ultimate customers of their products.

    15 companies already market SAS SSDs or have said they will soon do so. So it looks like a small cozy niche. But if revenue in that segment picks up any one of more than 200 or so flash SSD oems could easily produce a fast SAS SSD within 3 months using a bridge chip and Sandforce controller making it look more look like the SATA SSD market.

    Pliant competes head to head for design sockets with the long established 2.5" SAS SSD leader STEC. But looking at the wider picture - Pliant's ideal customers compete with well established PCIe SSDs (within the DAS enterprise acceleration market) and racknmount SSDs in the SAN and NAS acceleration markets.
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Pliant's recent milestones in SSD market history

In March 2009 - Pliant Technology's VP of Marketing, Greg Goelz shared his SSD Bookmarks in the opening episode of StorageSearch.com's new classic series.

Also in March 2009 - Pliant Technology announced it has received $15 million in Series C funding. This will be used as working capital to support volume production of its SAS compatible flash SSDs.

In September 2009 - Pliant Technology started sampling its Lightning family of 2.5" (150GB) and 3.5" (300GB) skinny flash SAS SSDs. The SLC drives deliver R/W rates upto 525/340MB/s and 160,000 IOPS (for a 90% R, 10% W mix).


The realistically addressable market for native SAS SSDs in disk form factors looks a lot smaller today than 3 years ago when Pliant was founded. That's because SAS SSD opportunities have been shunted aside by PCIe SSDs and squeezed from below by fast SATA SSDs.

The result has been that SSD vendors have been reluctant to enter this part of market. But the good news for the handful of companies actually shipping such products is they don't have to worry about dozens of competitors going for every design slot. That means higher margins for the forseeable future.

In March 2010 - Pliant Technology published benchmark results to illustrate the capability of its 3.5" SAS SSDs when used in arrays. The measurements performed and validated by OakGate Technology were performed on an array of 16 SSDs and are summarized in a video.

In April 2010 - Pliant Technology announced the appointment of Frank Kull as VP of operations. He brings more than 15 years of experience in operations management for Google, Cisco Systems and other leading technology companies.

SSD companies Avere Systems and Pliant Technology were 2 of 5 companies named in an 8 page report published by Gartner - Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2010 ($495).

Neither Pliant nor STEC found homes in the SAS SSD sockets of a new rackmount system launched by Nimbus Data Systems this month. Instead Nimbus designed its own - because it's easy to do - and much cheaper.

In August 2010 - Pliant Technology announced the appointment of Mark Delsman as VP of engineering. Prior to joining Pliant, Delsman was VP of software engineering for Dot Hill.

In September 2010 - Pliant Technology announced it is sampling MLC versions of its 2.5" SAS SSD family with upto 400GB capacity and >10K sustained IOPS.

Editor's comments:- new dynasty SSD maker Fusion-io has successfully demonstrated that there is a healthy market appetite for MLC SSDs in some "enterprise apps". How many is "some"? Enough to make a VC wake up in your powerpoint presentation!

Most new 2.5" SSD makers are taking the opposite route to Pliant in that the majority started with consumer grade (MLC) SSD products with SATA interfaces and are busily reworking their products to add SAS (spelt $A$) so they can charge higher prices.

Pliant - on the other hand - made a conservative choice by launching only SLC SSDs when it started sampling its 1st SSDs 12 months ago. Will Pliant add SATA SSDs to its line up too? - Unlikely it could survive in that fiercely competitive market. But if the company is still around in another 12 months - I wouldn't be surprised to see them extend their range with a PCIe SSD. Because you have to give enterprise customers what they want. Even if the market appears inconsistent about what it wants. If the money is there you have to pay attention.
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SanDisk acquires Pliant
Editor:- May 16, 2011 - SanDisk announced a definitive agreement to acquire Pliant Technology for approximately $327 million.

Editor's comments:- I had some time ago made these strong comments in the profile pages of the respective companies.

"As I see it Pliant's current business model is not sustainable as it has a very narrow channel into the enterprise SSD market which can easily be choked off by slot substitution." and

"Despite occasional talk about "enterprise SSDs" - SanDisk is culturally rooted in the consumer electronics market. That's a very competitive market in which few companies are making profits."

This acquisition theoretically fixes complimentary strategic weaknesses for both companies:- no customers (Pliant) and no enterprise IP (SanDisk).

Looking back at SSD market history -5 years ago tossed away a viable foothold in enterprise SSD technology which had been established by an earlier acquired company M-Systems - preferring to focus instead on its MLC flash patents and IP.
SSD SoCs controllers Looking forward Pliant's SSD controller will enable SanDisk to enter fast growing markets without having to join the SandForce inside set.
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the Problem with Write IOPS

the "play it again Sam" syndrome
Editor:- Flash SSD "random write IOPS" are now similar to "read IOPS" in many of the fastest SSDs.

So why are they such a poor predictor of application performance?

And why are users still buying RAM SSDs which cost 9x more than SLC? - even when the IOPS specs look similar.
the problem with flash SSD  write IOPS This article tells you why the specs got faster - but the applications didn't. And why competing SSDs with apparently identical benchmark results can perform completely differently. ...read the article
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"In an ideal world - symmetry considerations would be on page 1 of the - how to design an SSD cookbook."
11 key symmetries in SSD design architecture
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What's the best way to design a flash SSD?

and other questions which divide SSD opinion
More than 10 key areas of fundamental disagreement within the SSD industry are discussed in an article here on StorageSearch.com called the the SSD Heresies.
click to read the article - the SSD Heresies ... Why can't SSD's true believers agree upon a single coherent vision for the future of solid state storage? ...read the article
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Who makes the fastest SSDs?

Speed isn't everything, and it comes at a price.........
But if you do need the speediest SSD (chip, card, module or rackmount) then wading through the web sites of hundreds of SSD oems to shortlist products slows you down.

And the SSD search problem will get even worse as we head towards a market with over 1,000 SSD oems.
the fastest SSDs  sorted by interface and form factor - click to read article ... Relax - I've done the research. And this whizzy wish list is updated daily from storage news and direct contacts from oems. ...read the article,
STORAGEsearch.com 1.0" SSDs 1.8" SSDs 2.5" SSDs 3.5" SSDs rackmount SSDs PCIe SSDs SATA SSDs Can you trust flash SSD specs & benchmarks?

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