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Seagate gives new meaning to SandForce inside with $450 million acquisition.

see analysis in SSD news - May 29, 2014

Seagate Technology

Seagate is a world leader in hard disk drives and storage solutions.
.... Seagate logo - click for  more info

Seagate's business model leverages technology leadership and world-class manufacturing to deliver industry-leading innovation and quality to its global customers, with the goal of being the low cost producer in all markets in which it participates.

The company is committed to providing award-winning products, customer support and reliability to meet the world's growing demand for information storage. Seagate can be found around the globe and at

see also:- Seagate - editor mentions on and Seagate's SSD page

Seagate was ranked #19 in the Q1 2014 edition of the Top SSD Companies.

who's who in SSD? - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - February 2013

Seagate is a Top 20 SSD Company.

Seagate's position in the development of the SSD market upto now has been that of a follower of, investor in, and integrator of 3rd party SSD IP rather than an originator of leading SSD technologies. Seagate's highest rank to date in the top SSD companies list was #11 in Q1 2011.

Seagate was a comparatively late entrant to the SSD market launching its first SSDs in December 2009. But Seagate was already corporately aware of SSDs - having launched an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at STEC the year before.

Why didn't Seagate's dominance in the hard drive market translate into an early dominance in SSDs too?

(In case you need reminding - Seagate was the world's largest HDD maker during the time that companies like SandForce, Fusion-io and Violin were launching their first products.)

But Seagate's failure to engage constructively with the SSD market at a critical time in the modern SSD era was noted by many SSD market commentators.

Among the possible root causes for what SSD history will interpret as a missed early opportunity for Seagate to make its own mark in steering the direction of the SSD market are these factors.
  • Seagate misunderstood the potential size of the SSD market opportunity - and didn't think it was important enough compared to other business opportunities in hard drives.

    In early 2011 - in keeping with the tone of a multi-year series of "SSD-denier" style corporate marketing communications which started hitting newswires and blogs (and mysteriously disappearing again) in the apologetic years before before Seagate had any SSDs of its own to talk about ("but you wait and see - when Seagate does SSD - we will be the best") - Seagate in January 2011 - finally offered to the world a hard hitting rebuttal to the SSD-taking-over-the-world view in an economics focused paper which argued that the reason hard drives would remain the dominant storage technology was because - the company reassured us - it would cost far too much for the SSD market to invest enough resources into replacing hard drives. was not alone in thinking - but maybe was alone in asserting so aggressively - that Seagate's analysis and vision was NUTS!.

    We said - if users see unbeatable business advantages from SSDs (something we had already analyzed and demonstrated longe before) - then the necessary investments would be made to support the larger SSD ecosystem.
  • when Seagate did begin to realize that the SSD market wasn't going to go away - the SSD market had already grown too complicated for Seagate to understand what was going on and Seagate was in no position to entertain the idea of becoming a credible technology leader.
It's likely that a root cause of Seagate's wrong footedness in SSDs in the 2003 to 2011 years was due to the company's management mistakenly viewing SSDs as just an expensive specialized form of hard drive.

Seen from that perspective hybrid drives and co-existance look like a better solution than they do from a pure SSD perspective.

As Seagate didn't develop an adequate SSD IP set of its own - the company's first SSD products relied heavily on 3rd party IP from LSI and SandForce. However after LSI's acquisition of SandForce in January 2012 it soon became clear that LSI was perfectly capable of getting storage oem customers such as EMC and Intel on its own. It didn't need Seagate as a route into the SSD market.

More recently - 2012 and 2013 - Seagate has therefore been pursuing the only realistic options left to latecomers in the SSD market - acquisition, licensing 3rd party IP and badge engineering.

Examples of this activity include:-
  • - licensing IP from the adaptive R/W flash company - DensBits (announced in June 2012) and
  • and oeming the PCIe SSD product line and related enterprise SSD software from Virident (announced in January 2013)
I have applauded these recent steps as positive moves - either of which - if followed through - could improve Seagate's position within the SSD world.

But SSD is a very competitive and complex set of markets. Even pure SSD companies - which don't have other distractions - have a tough enough time understanding what's the right way to go with products and markets. And I'm still not convinved that Seagate takes SSDs as seriously as it should.

Looking ahead at the challenges and opportunities posed by the SSD market for Seagate - I think that having to share management time and investment resources between the mutually different interests of solid state and magnetic drive product lines will lead to tensions and conflicts for resources in which the corporate "compromize solutions" aren't always going to be the same as the best of class solutions which the SSD market expects.

What's still lacking at Seagate (and they aren't the only company in this predicament) is a fiery SSD core which has the ambition to take on the (SSD) world.

Because in the modern era of SSDs - the only thing which can beat an SSD in the market - is another - better SSD. In that context - knowing how to design and build the best or cheapest hard drives - and having routes to market for hard drives is - frankly - irrelevant.
Seagate SSD milestones from 30 Years of SSD Market History

In April 2008 - Seagate launched an SSD patent suit against STEC. This attempt to stall the SSD market by scaring wannabe oems was unsuccessful.

In December 2009 - Seagate entered the SSD market and announced details of its Pulsar SSD - a 2.5" SATA SLC SSD with 200GB capacity.

Sequential R/W rate is upto 240MB/s and 220MB/s respectively, R/W IOPS are 30,000 and 25,000 respectively. Aimed at the server market the BER is quoted as 1 sector per 10E16. Seagate says it has been sampling the new drive - its 1st SSD - since September 2009.

Editor's comments:- the remarkable thing about Seagate's 1st SSD is that it took the company so many years to enter the market. Technically - it's unremarkable.

Will it succeed in the market? In my view it would be unrealistic to assume that Seagate's long running dominance in the hard disk market will translate to dominance in SSDs too - because nearly all its potential oem customers have already been evaluating or using SSDs from other sources for upto 4 years.

And even if Seagate's new product succeeds in filling holes in design slots in 2010 - its oem customers can always replace this product with their own designs leveraging the merchant market for SSD controllers & IP.

To succeed in the SSD market - Seagate will have to demonstrate unique mastery in some aspect of SSD technology which customers value. The most attractive area will probably be in the area of reliability.

In recent quarters we've seen a spate of flaky SSDs get to market. This tendency will rise in 2010 as many storage oems - racing to join the SSD market bubble - decide that shipping untried products is a lower risk to their businesses than losing out on customer mind share. Each bad news story helps companies who have a clean reputation. But as a newcomer to the SSD market Seagate may have to wait years to establish its own reputation.

It's tempting to compare Seagate's entry to the SSD market with Western Digital. But the 2 cases are completely different. When WD acquired SiliconSystems in March 2009 - it got a business which had started marketing SSDs in August 2004. That gives WD's product marketers 5 years of market experience they can talk to customers about - compared to 3 months for Seagate. Nevertheless - being late is better than never.

In January 2010 - LSI and Seagate announced they have collaborated on designing PCIe SSDs for the enterprise accelerator market which will sample in Q2 2010.

In May 2010 - Seagate launched the Momentus XT a 2.5" hybrid drive - for the notebook PC market - which internally has a 500GB HDD cached by a 4GB SSD ASAP controller. Seagate said the new drive is OS agnostic and delivers SSD-like performance at the lower price of a hard drive.

In August 2010 - Samsung and Seagate announced they will jointly develop SSD controller technologies to operate with Samsung's 30nm-class MLC NAND. The jointly developed controller will be used in Seagate's enterprise-class SSDs.

In January 2011 - Seagate was ranked #13 in the top 20 SSD companies list - its highest position since the series began 4 years ago.

In March 2011 - Seagate announced details of new 2.5" SAS SSDs - marketed under its Pulsar brand - which will ship in the 2nd quarter.

Available capacities are 400GB (SLC) and 800GB (MLC). R/W speeds are upto 360MB/s and 300MB/s respectively. Sustainable random R/W IOPS are 48K and 22K respectively.

InJune 2012 - Seagate announced it will use DensBits's flash care technology in the design of forthcoming consumer and enterprise SSDs. Seagate has also made an equity investment in DensBits.

In January 2013 - Seagate made a strategic equity investment in Virident as part of a new collaboration agreement which includes remarketing Virident's PCIe SSDs and working together to design new SSDs for the enterprise market. However, despite that - Virident Systems was later acquired by WD's enterprise SSD subsidiary - HGST for approximately $685 million in cash.

In May 2014 - Seagate agreed to acquire LSI's flash business for $450 million.
how big will the SSD market be when SSDs replace all enterprise hard drives?
meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon - October 2013
Seagate chooses DensBits for TLC and 1Xnm
Editor:- June 25, 2012 - Seagate announced today it will use DensBits's flash care technology in the design of forthcoming consumer and enterprise SSDs.

Seagate has also made an equity investment in DensBits.

Editor's comments:- I've already written more than enough about about this technology trend recently the article - Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP in SSDs.

As DensBits told us a few months ago - their business plan is work with companies which sell complete SSDs - instead of licensing their technology to other controller makers. DensBits's technology spans the widest spectrum of adaptive DSP flash SSD applications from consumer and industrial to fast-enough enterprise SSDs.

If Seagate leverages DensBits's flash technology successfully - the result will be tougher competition for companies like SanDisk in the consumer SSD market and tougher competition for STEC and SMART in the fast-enough enterprise SSD market.
don't all PCIe SSDs look pretty much the same?
When you look at the photos and headline specs for high speed PCIe SSDs - it's easy to come away with the impression that they all look the same and have about the same performance.

After all - how different can they be?

But don't let the experience of the 2.5" SSD market - in which clusters of consumer SSD vendors use the same or similar controllers and hover close together inpopular (consumer) performance rankings - give you the wrong idea about PCIe SSDs.

In this market the performance limits and capabilities of the SSD aren't set by an old hard disk interface and package limitations.

In the PCIe market the products you get are limited only by the imagination of the designers - tempered by the guesses of marketers who are trying to predict the optimum (most salable) features for an ideal SSD.
click to read the article And because server apps vary - so too do those idealized designs too. the article
suggested SSD articles on
Enterprise SSDs - the Survive and Thrive Guide - some simple rules to help you stay on the safer side of the tracks in this maddenly unruly market.

how fast can your SSD run backwards? - 11 Key A/Symmetries in SSD design - what they are and why you need to know

2012 SSD market milestones - if you're getting up to speed with the SSD market - lists significant products, suppliers and changes in the past year.

what do enterprise SSD users want? - and why vendors aren't asking.

The big market impact of SSD dark matter - As Fusion-io found out years ago, and OCZ and STEC are reportedly seeing now - some of the very biggest direct customer opportunities for SSDs aren't the big name computer and storage oems.

Where are we now with SSD software? - (And how did we get into this mess?)

adaptive R/W flash care management IP (including DSP) for SSDs - what is it? and who does it? This will be a disruptive transition.

enterprise SSDs - exploring the limits of the market in your head - is about enterprise SSD futurology.

Can you tell me the best way to SSD Street? - I'm like the Old Woman of the SSD Village who talks to everyone that passes through. No wonder I have a unique perspective. It would be strange if I didn't.

comparing the SSD market today to earlier tech disruptions - applying a sense of perspective to what's happening now with SSDs

anticipating - this week's big story - in SSD news - one of the new realities of the SSD market is - there's nearly as much interest in SSDs as $$Ds (lucrative investment vehicles) as in SSDs as business improving technologies.

storage search banner

"In a way none of those valuation theories matters - but in another way they do - because understanding LSI's weaknesses as an SSD company stretched in too many markets takes us neatly onto - what I think could be the real synergy between Seagate and LSI's controller business...."
Seagate to acquire LSI's flash business - analysis from
LSI SandForce SSD processors - click for more info
the awards winning silicon
accelerating world's leading SSDs
from LSI
SSD revenues don't figure in Seagate's results
Editor:- January 28, 2014 - Seagate said yesterday in its earnings conference call it expects the average capacity of the hard drives it ships in 2014 will exceed 1TB per drive (up a little from 920MB / drive already in the recent quarter.)

Re SSDs - nothing of note was revealed because Seagate "sees a need for confidentiality due to competitive concerns." Seagate said it continues to look at organic growth and inorganic growth (acquisitions) in its SSD product portfolio.
SSD ad - click for more info
Seagate invests in eASIC
Editor:- August 5, 2013 - eASIC today announced it has got a strategic investment from Seagate.

eASIC has demonstrated innovative custom silicon technology with our... solid state hybrid drives said Rocky Pimentel, chief sales and marketing officer at Seagate. eASICs ability to quickly develop custom solutions while meeting stringent cost, power and performance requirements will enable us to rapidly improve our product position in both SSD and SSHDs.
SSD ad - click for more info
Seagate's new SSDs
Editor:- May 8, 2013 - "Seagate is Serious about SSD and Flash Technology."

That's the headline of a new SSD products overview page mentioned in a recent press release about 3 of the company's newest SSDs. It's the SAS product which to my way of thinking is the really new thing here.

Until now if you wanted a 1.8" SSD with a SAS interface you had to go to SMART to get one.

The SAS drives market - which Seagate helped to create - used to be seen by external commentators as a strategic market for Seagate. (And no doubt it's still regarded that way by SAS product managers within the company.)

But Seagate's tardy entry into the enterprise SSD market (December 2009) which happened only after many of its own enterprise customers had already responded to the SSD wake up call by making their own arrangements - meant that Seagate's continuing existence as a long term enterprise drive supplier in a world which was rapidly adopting SSDs was called into question.

Then when Seagate's first enterprise SSD dance partners (SandForce and LSI) eloped to re-emerge as rival competitors about a year ago - Seagate was left in such a sorry state that some well meaning stakeholders and seld serving investors were trying to pair the company off in rumor blogs with OCZ or STEC (neither of which were looking for such a hook up).

Instead - as we learned recently - Seagate found a very suitable match in the PCIe SSD market with Virident. And it's safe to assume that if they have any children as a couiple they will look like 2.5" PCIe SSDs.

As to Seagate taking the SSD market seriously - which is where I began this - you could ask - who doesn't?

To misquote Jane Austen - "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a storage company in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an SSD product line."

On the other hand - I would take Seagate's sentiments about SSDs more seriously if they had been expressed on instead of on the less imposing address where it currently resides -
Fusion-io fast SSDs - click for more info
the standard for enterprise PCIe SSDs
by which all others are judged
ioDrives from Fusion-io
How "solid" is an SSHD? - when less than 2% of the capacity is solid state
Editor:- March 5, 2013 - Seagate would like you to believe that the best way to make a consumer SSD better (more affordable) is to put it in a hard drive.

The company describes this as "SSD + HDD = the best of both worlds."

Seagate's latest offerings at the hybrid drive altar - Seagate SSHDs (Solid State Hybrid Drives) - which are designed to deliver "SSD-like response from your favorite applications and files" are now shipping in 2 main wrapper styles:-
  • Seagate Desktop SSHDs - are similar to the notebook drives and have upto 2TB magnetic capacity in a higher package (26mm rather than 9.5mm).
"Seagate's engineers have really out done themselves this time" said Scott Horn, Seagate's VP of marketing in a press release today.

"Our new SSHDs serve up your favorite content with the lightning-fast performance you have to experience to believe. With these new drives it's like adding a turbo-charge to your PC, without having to sacrifice capacity, at a price that's easy on your wallet. Now consumers can create, store and consume digital content like a pro without having to spend like one."

Editor's comments:- Hybrid drives like this are aimed at the benchmark experience. Seagate says they'll boot 5x faster than a 5,400 RPM HDD based notebook. But will that translate into the kind of product which users will rave about?

Ask yourself this question.... If this kind of flash to HDD caching ratio (125 to 1) works so well - how come the enterprise rackmount storage market isn't dominated by racks stuffed full of Seagate hybrids - using an enterprise-adapted version of Seagate's Adaptive Memory Technology?

What are all the clever people in the enterprise storage market doing wrong? - with their different ways of doing Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage?

That's the question I asked myself about the viability of hybrid drives on these pages back in 2005 - when the hybrid drive market began. And I concluded that - if as a user you want better performance - you will generally get better results and economics by using vanilla HDDs in your HDD+SSD mix.

That doesn't mean to say that millions of people won't buy hybrid based PCs. The question is - would they choose to buy the same product again? And would they recommend it to their friends?

If you really want park bench performance in the PC experience- rather than benchmark experience - here's 2 ways to dissect and improve the Seagate SSHD.
  • lose the SATA interface
  • lose the hard drive
image for ULLtraDIMM IBM article
Seagate invests in Virident's big SSD architecture
Editor:- January 28, 2013 - Seagate today announced it has made a strategic equity investment in Virident as part of a new collaboration agreement which includes remarketing Virident's PCIe SSDs and working together to design new SSDs for the enterprise market.

"Seagate is thrilled to team with Virident, a technology leader in one of the fastest growing markets in enterprise and cloud computing," said Gary Gentry, senior VP and GM, Solid State Drives at Seagate. "Together, we are working to develop the next-generation hardware and software solutions in the PCIe space."

Editor's comments:- it was obvious a year ago that Seagate's earlier marriage of SSD IP convenience with LSI wasn't going to last long or remain monogamous - as LSI and Seagate would be competing for the same oem design slots in the enterprise market and furthermore LSI's small architecture SandForce controller isn't efficient for multi-petabyte scale fast SSD installations. (And in the consumer market LSI didn't have the adaptive controller IP - which is what led to Seagate's stake in DensBits)

Virident - a top 10 SSD company - has a roadmap scalable big architecture enterprise SSD controller and drive family which has been developed in a cleanroom environment - where all the critical IP has been devleoped by the company.

The obvious gap in the Seagate / Virident product line is a 2.5" removable PCIe SSD (to compete with Micron) - and it's a no brainer to see that Seagate's experience with this form factor - coupled with Virident's SSD design skills could quickly result in viable products for this new market - which will replace upto 25% of the projected market for fast SAS drives.
Seagate names new VP SSD
Editor:- July 30, 2012 - After 6 years at other companies Gary Gentry has rejoined Seagate to lead its SSD business as senior VP SSD.

He was recently GM of the Enterprise SSD Division at Micron.
"In April 2008 - Seagate filed suit against STEC alleging patent infringements related to hard disk interfaces. The case was seen by many SSD proponents as a potentially deadly but seriously misguided missile launched at the entire SSD market. It was later dismissed without merit."
...from:- SSD market history
1.0" SSDs 1.8" SSDs 2.5" SSDs 3.5" SSDs rackmount SSDs PCIe SSDs SATA SSDs
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