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companies from SSD history
Editor:- the right hand side of this page shows the profile of a Top 10 SSD Company called SandForce - as it appeared here on StorageSearch.com in December 2011.

SandForce designed SSD controllers with these characteristics:- skinny RAM flash cache and small controller architecture.

The company's rise to fame and the change in widespread SSD market awareness of different SSD controller designs is discussed in the article - Imprinting the brain of the SSD

SandForce was acquired by LSI in October 2011.

Then in 2014 LSI was acquired by Avago Technologies and in the same month that transaction closed - May 2014 - Avago recycled LSI's flash SSD business - by agreeing to sell it on - to Seagate.
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SandForce - circa 2011

SandForce is transforming data storage by pioneering the use of commodity flash memory in enterprise and mobile computing applications with its innovative SSD (Solid State Drive) Processors. By delivering unprecedented reliability, performance, and energy efficiency, SSDs based on patent-pending SandForce DuraClass technology unleash the full potential for mass-market adoption of SSDs based on NAND flash memory.
 SandForce logo - click fto see  www.sandforce.com
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Founded in 2006, SandForce is funded by leading venture capital investors and first tier storage companies. For more information, visit SandForce at www.sandforce.com.
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LSI SandForce SSD processors - click for more info
the award winning silicon driving leading SSDs
up to 500MB/s & 60,000 IOPS
from SandForce

SandForce - addresses and links

..... Corporate Headquarters
SandForce Inc.
691 S. Milpitas Blvd. Ste 100
Milpitas, CA 95035-5476
USA
url:- http://www.sandforce.com
see also:- SandForce - editor mentions on StorageSearch.com
  • editor's comments:- December 2011 - SandForce is the best known maker of SSD controllers - and has achieved high rankings in StorageSearch.com's quarterly rankings of the top 10 SSD oems since early 2009 - when the company emerged from stealth mode.

    By talking openly about its SSD controller technology - SandForce has garnered interest from many stakeholders outside the set of those oems who may want to directly use its chip technology. Although not explicitly stated in this way - the company has cleverly leveraged the concept of "SSDs with SandForce inside". Therefore end-users who want to peek ahead at the SSD performance market roadmap can get a realistic idea of what may be coming - even if they aren't in the market for SandForce based products. (Many quarters after these comments were 1st published SandForce did launch an official branding program. See historic milestones below.)

    SandForce was the 1st company to offer symmetric R/W IOPS in a 2.5" flash SSD form factor.

    Who competes with SandForce?

    Although SandForce's market is high performance SSD controllers - their main competitors are other companies which sell high performance SSDs. That's because those competing SSD oems compete with SandForce's own customers - so if the alternative architectures sell more - then the size of the pot for SF partners reduces.

    In the 2.5" SSD market SF's main competitors are:- STEC, SanDisk, Hitachi GST (WD), and BiTMICRO.

    In the PCIe SSD market - SF / LSI's strongest competitors are:- Fusion-io, Virident Systems, Texas Memory Systems and STEC.
SandForce Milestones from recent SSD Market History

In April 2009 - SandForce unveiled its SF-1000 family of SSD Processors - aimed at oems building SATA flash SSDs. Its 2.5" SSD reference design kit is the fastest 2.5" SATA flash SSD on the market - with 250MB/s symmetric R/W throughput and 30,000 R/W IOPS.

I asked SandForce's President & CEO, Alex Naqvi, for more details about the various package of technologies which are bundled in the company's "DuraClass Technology" - which achieves impressively high IOPS without relying on over-provisioning or large external RAM caches. In particular I wondered what part, if any its choice of processor SoC (from Tensilica) had to play.

Alex Naqvi explained - DuraClass performance doesn't come from the choice of processor - but in the way that they have integrated various design techniques with very fast hardware (proprietary chips) which the company has designed to accelerate the core bottleneck functions of a flash SSD controller.

In concert with other techniques, such as the ability to reorder data before it is written to flash (thereby attenuating write endurance by 2 orders of magnitude), RAID like internal protection and very fast garbage collection SandForce's DuraClass Technology results in small form factor enterprise class flash SSDs which have no daily write limits for MLC flash and symmetric R/W IOPS.

In June 2009 - SandForce's VP marketing, Thad Omura published an article in Computer Technology Review - Making MLC Flash Practical for Enterprise SSDs.

In July 2009 - SandForce was ranked #2 in StorageSearch.com's list of the the Top 10 SSD OEMs based on search volume in Q2 2009. This is the 1st time that the top 10 SSD list has included a company whose primary business is designing SSD controllers.

SandForce's search volume was 72% higher than the #3 ranked company in this list indicating high reader interest in what the company has to say about SSDs.

StorageSearch.com attributes this to 2 main factors.

1 - Users are getting much more interested in educating themselves about what happens inside flash SSDs - to understand what factors affect performance and reliability - and in the hope of avoiding choosing the wrong suppliers.

2 - Thousands of designers in hundreds of companies worldwide are now investigating the option of designing their own SSDs as the technological barriers to doing this have crumbled way. (This is confirmed by pageviews for SSD SOCs and reader emails.) It means that if big computer oems are successful in the SSD market many will turn their attention to designing future SSDs in-house rather than buying commercial off the shelf products.

Commenting on the company's high ranking in these pages SandForce's VP of Marketing Thad Omura said - "We are delighted StorageSearch.com is raising the visibility of SandForce's innovative SSD Processors that enable the usage of commodity NAND flash memory in enterprise and mobile computing applications."

In August 2009 - SandForce announced the availability of the SF-1000 family Evaluation 2.5" SSD featuring 34nm flash from Micron.

In September 2009 - SMART Modular Technologies announced it has selected the SandForce SF-1500 SSD processor for use in its next-generation enterprise-class SATA SSDs sampling later this year.

In October 2009 - SandForce was again ranked #2 in StorageSearch.com's list of the the Top 10 SSD OEMs based on search volume in Q3 2009.

SandForce's dual frenemmy nature may be a factor in the high interest levels in this company. Even if you're not planning to use their products - you can't afford to ignore them - because their technology may pop up in another place close to your own interests.

Also in October 2009 - SandForce published a new article - here on StorageSearch.com. It's called - Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design. Written by Kent Smith Senior Director, Product Marketing at SandForce - the article describes what's needed inside the next generation of fast flash SSDs to ensure data integrity and to eliminate the risk of "silent errors."

In November 2009 - SandForce announced that it has closed $21 million in Series C funding.

In December 2009 - A-DATA announced it has joined the growing roster of SSD makers using SSD SoCs from SandForce. Products are now in the final testing stage and will be previewed at CES next month.

1st quarter 2010 - in this quarter PhotoFast became the first SSD manufacturer to market SSDs using SandForce controllers to end users. Previous SandForce inside SSDs from other companies were aimed at the server and industrial markets.

In May 2010 - SandForce announced that its SSD SoC technology had been used in a TPC-C benchmark recently published by IBM. The system used 10.5TB of MLC flash SSD capacity - implemented by 56 SSDs that use SandForce SF-1500 SSD processors.

Also in May 2010 - SandForce officially announced a branding program called - SandForce Driven SSDs.

This effectively confirms StorageSearch.com's analysis of the company's marketing efforts which we had described in the past year as "SandForce inside" SSDs.

SandForce was already the best known SSD SoC company in the SSD market - confirmed by its high listings in StorageSearch.com's quarterly Top 10 SSD Lists which have tracked the SSD search volume of millions of readers. The new branding campaign leverages this - and the company clearly aspires to maintain this early lead - in the same way that Intel did with it famous Intel inside program which was designed to obliterate the x86 microprocessor clone makers (and x86 licensees too).

But unlike the Intel program (which played on the fact that you did need an Intel architecture processor chip to run Microsoft's PC operating system) - you don't need a SandForce controller chip to make a fast SSD. That includes SSD companies like STEC, Pliant Technology, Density Dynamics, Micron, Fusion-io (and many other companies) who make SSDs which are faster than SandForce-driven products but use their own proprietary IP.

And even SandForce customers who find it convenient to fill product line gaps with SandForce driven SSDs - don't necessarily want to reveal that to the outside world.

There are many SSD companies I can think of who do use SandForce controllers - but may not wish to join a branding program like this which implies that their SSDs are the same as all the others listed. See also:- when the SSD brand sends the wrong signal

In July 2010 - A new set of the SSD Bookmarks - suggested by Michael Raam, CEO SandForce was published on StorageSearch.com.

In August 2010 - SandForce announced what their technology can do for Slim SATA SSDs. One of the advantages of skinny flash SSDs is the SSD controller fits into a smaller physical space - because it doesn't need external RAM chips.

In September 2010 - SandForce announced it has closed $25 million in Series D funding. - Michael Raam, president and CEO of SandForce said - "This new funding will help us bring our next-generation products to market, expand our customer and partner support infrastructure, and accelerate our core technology development that will extend our market leadership." See also:- Michael Raam's SSD Bookmarks, SSD Controllers / IP, VCs in storage

In October 2010 - SandForce announced availability of its next generation SF-2000 family SSD processors - for oems designing SAS 3 class (6Gbps) enterprise acceleration SSDs. The SF-2000 supports 500MB/s sequential R/W, 60,000 sustained random IOPS, wire speed encryption, end to end data integrity checks and industrial temperature operation in a skinny flash SSD architecture. Also new in this controller generation is support for sector sizes additional to 512-bytes e.g., 520, 524, 528, 4K, etc., with Data Integrity Field (DIF) for true enterprise-class SAS drive behavior and performance.

In December 2010 - I accidentally discovered a well structured profile of SandForce on Wikipedia. That profile page is new to me - but probably has been around for a while.

In January 2011 - an article published in Electronic Design revealed more about the thinking behind SandForce's SSD controllers. Among other things it confirmed they do compression and dedupe as some of the tactics to manage flash endurance.

In February 2011 - SandForce said it had shipped more than one million of its SF-1500 and SF-1200 SSD Processors since they were released into production in 2010. SandForce Driven SSD Manufacturers shipped more than 100 Petabytes of NAND flash into the mainstream computing markets.

In May 2011 - SandForce named DriveSavers (a data recovery company) as a member of its trusted partners program.

In June 2011 - SandForce announced that a single SSD using its SF-2000 SSD Processor along with 25nm MLC flash memory has achieved the highest possible WEI score of 7.9 for the disk data transfer rate in a Windows 7 environment (3.5GHz AMD CPU with 8GB 1.3GHz RAM). The company also announced that Kingston Technology has joined the SandForce Driven SSDs group - bringing the membership upto 30 companies.

In August 2011 - SandForce announced that it has shipped over 2 million SSD processors in the past 18 months - and the company also demonstrated its controller compatibility with 24nm MLC flash made by Toshiba.

In October 2011 - LSI announced a definitive agreement to acquire SandForce for approximately $322 million. The transaction is expected to close early in the first quarter of 2012. SandForce president and CEO, Michael Raam will become General Manager of LSI's newly formed Flash Components Division.

In November 2011 - SandForce was nominated for the 2011 Global Semiconductor Alliance Awards - in the category "most respected private semiconductor company."

In January 2012 - LSI announced it has completed the acquisition of SandForce.
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significant upside for SandForce inside LSI
Editor:- March 14, 2013 - For many years SandForce was the best known brand of SSD controller. What happened after it was acquired by LSI at the beginning of last year?

An insider's view was published in a new blog recently - Surviving post-acquisition employee attrition - written by Kent Smith - who explains why he thinks things are better now for SandForce customers.

Among other things he says - "Enterprise storage manufacturers have... their reputation at stake when they select new and emerging technologies like flash memory to provide storage for their customers. There is always a level of concern when these companies work with smaller startup organizations." ...read the blog
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SandForce joins LSI's new Flash Components Division
Editor:- January 4, 2012 - LSI today announced it has completed the acquisition of SandForce.

"Customer response to the announcement has been very positive and we are pleased to now be able to fully demonstrate the benefits of the combined technology capabilities of LSI and SandForce," said Jeff Richardson, executive VP and COO. "Together, we offer the broadest storage technology portfolio in the industry, and are well positioned to help customers manage their growth and the explosive growth in data across enterprises and the cloud."

Editor's comments:- most of the leading companies in the earth shaking PCIe SSD market use large architecture controllers or software - which provides cost and efficiency advantages when you compare usable capacities with maximun fault protection enabled.

That puts competitors who use small SSD architecture (such as OCZ and LSI - who use SandForce's controller - and STEC which has yet to establish a stronghold in this market with its own ASIC) at a potential disadvantage as capacities scale up.

One of the design challenges for LSI will be to see if they can extract the proven flash management features in past SandForce controllers and scale them up to support bigger capacities and faster throughput without adding latency penalties (which currently accrue with arrays of SFPs) or which uses a new processor core or split controller architecture to better support larger flash chip populations.

Make no mistake about it. This acquisition is about developing better tools for the enterprise SSD goldrush.
pcie  SSDs - click to read article And the truest seams that vendors are looking for are the user server caverns that will be stuffed with PCIe SSDs. Billions of dollars of revenue will be the prizes for the lucky strikers.
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" SandForce's shipments growth in 2010 surprised analysts because it grew so much faster than anyone had wildly predicted..."
...Editor:- from - the Top SSD Companies.
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Who's who in SSD?
Editor:- November 30, 2011 - SandForce is 1 of 29 companies in the SSD controllers and IP list, a frequent high flier in the top 20 SSD oems list and the company has also had many honorable mentions in past editions of the fastest SSDs.

What did the SSD market look like in 2006 when SandForce was born?

In my history of the SSD market - I said that 2006 was the year SSD awareness flared into the notebook user market. Samsung had already declared SSDs to be a strategic market the year before.

At the start of 2006 there were only 36 companies actively marketing SSDs - of all types - including rackmounts - but by the end of the year that had grown to 44.

Memory prices had dropped to the point where SSDs would be attractive to new markets. And in 2007 - the year of SSD architecture revolutions - flash SSDs proved they could beat the performance of hard drives and start to challenge RAM SSDs when they were deployed in arrays - once again pushing the boundaries of what SSDs could do and redefining who could afford them.

It was clear to SSD market experts that the SSD market could grow to 100, 150 or more companies within a short time. (That's why I started the top 10 SSD companies list in 2007.) In such a market - where would the expertise come from to deliver the state of the art performance that could be packed into 2.5" SSDs?

Only a handful of US military SSD companies like STEC and BiTMICRO (and their counterparts doing similar things for universities and technical incubators in China) had the expertise.

Most of the new companies coming into the SSD market would be faced with the problem that they didn't have the technical expertise to develop competitive SSDs and if they did invest the design effort - the market was still too small to guarantee they could make any money out it sustainably after paying for all the R&D and all the marketing costs too.

That's the gap which SandForce filled when they came to market in April 2009.

Alex Naqvi - who cofounded the company told me at the time of their launch that SandForce had started out from the perspective of looking at the silicon.

What could they do with it? How could they design storage drives which would be faster than anything else, but also more reliable and cheaper to make?

The company used a variety of state of the art architectural techniques which have since been well documented.

Looking back on what SandForce has disclosed about its technology in recent years I know that many of these specific techniques had been used before by other companies.

For example RAIC technology for memory chips by Solid Data Systems in the 1990s. And wear leveling was first used by M-Systems. And using compression to create flash buffer space - was a technique used inside the Managed Flash Technology from EasyCo which came to the SSD market in 2007. Also skinny RAM cache flash architecture was integral to the design of the SiliconDrive family (now part of WD) which came to market in 2004.

But it was the combination of all these technical factors and great management and ambitious marketing (documented in my article - Imprinting the brain of the SSD ) which made the difference from - Who cares?

to - You care! - about the about the identity of SSD controllers.

SandForce has become one of the best known of all SSD brands - and not just the best known brand of controllers.

How much is that worth?

Well - LSI - thought it was worth over $300 million when they agreed to acquire SandForce in October. So that tells you.

For related articles about SandForce here on the mouse site - take a look at the SSD Bookmarks - suggested by SandForce and SandForce - editor mentions on StorageSearch.com.

I currently talk to more than 300 makers of SSDs and another 100 or so companies which are closely enmeshed around the SSD ecosphere - which are all profiled here on the mouse site.

I learn about new SSD companies every day, including many in stealth mode. If you're interested in the growing big picture of the SSD market canvass - StorageSearch will help you along the way. Many SSD company CEOs read our site too - and say they value our thought leading SSD content - even when we say something that's not always comfortable to hear. I hope you'll find it it useful too.
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Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design
Editor:- Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design is an article - written by Kent Smith Senior Director, Product Marketing, SandForce.

Reliability is the next new thing for SSD designers and users to start worrying about.
SSD   controller article A common theme you will hear from all fast SSD companies is that the faster you make an SSD go - the more effort you have to put into understanding and engineering data integrity to eliminate the risk of "silent errors." ...read the article
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Surviving SSD sudden power loss
Why should you care what happens in an SSD when the power goes down?

This important design feature - which barely rates a mention in most SSD datasheets and press releases - has a strong impact on SSD data integrity and operational reliability.

This article will help you understand why some SSDs which (work perfectly well in one type of application) might fail in others... even when the changes in the operational environment appear to be negligible.
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics If you thought endurance was the end of the SSD reliability story - think again. ...read the article
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Imprinting the brain of the SSD
Editor:- How did the SSD market change from:- Who cares? to You care! about the identity of SSD controllers.
click to read the case study - about the SandForce Driven program My article - Imprinting the brain of the SSD - compares SandForce's SSD processor branding program with previous examples in chip history and analyzes key business success factors.

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