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sTec

sTec is a leading global provider of solid state technologies and solutions tailored to meet the high-performance, high reliability needs of OEMs.

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See also:- Stec editor mentions on StorageSearch.com and - Stec's SSD blog

acquisitions in the SSD market in the modern era

sTec - is now part of HGST - the acquisition closed on September 12, 2013


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

Stec has been in the top 10 part the Top SSD Companies for most of the past 6 years. The company was an early pioneer in bringing the advantages of adaptive R/W flash IP into enterprise SSDs with what it branded as "CellCare" technology.

But - regarding its fortunes and outlook in the SSD market - Stec has seen better times.

When Stec headed the list of the Top SSD Companies in the opening edition of the series in early 2007 - the narrative around Stec was positive expectations about products, technologies and business growth.

In recent years- when Stec has been at the similarly high end of these lists - one of the factors driving readers to research Stec has been puzzling to understand the mystery of a company whose star has faded - and whose IP in the hands of other management might have been worth more. This is a narrative of shrinking revenues and seemingly naiive failures of top management to understand and invest in sales and marketing resources during a period when the SSD market changed in character from a cool technical niche to a hot spot bubbling towards the mainstream.

In the past decade total SSD market revenue has grown more than 100x bigger and the viable competitor count chasing customers with Stec-like (or better) SSDs has grown from less than 5 companies in 2003 to over 200 companies today. Yet Stec's sales and marketing resources stayed miniscule - as if the company's management had failed to notice the massive changes in the competitive environment for SSDs.

2 of the stark external manifestations of Stec's weaknesses in marketing are:-
  • Stec's SSD revenue in recent years has shrunk to a small fraction of its peak 4 years ago
  • Stec was years late launching a product for the PCIe SSD market which was a natural product type needed by users in the enterprise SSD market.



Here's an earlier assessment of Stec - from June 2012

Stec - is 1 of more than 200 SSD companies in these SSD market sub-segments:- military SSDs, fast purge SSDs, SAS SSDs, FC SSDs, SATA SSDs, 3.5" SSDs, 2.5" SSDs, 1.8" SSDs, RAM SSDs, PATA SSDs, industrial SSDs, SCSI SSDs, SSD ASAPs, SSD software and PCIe SSDs.

In a market where reputations for having the fastest SSDs can be shattered in days, Stec has established itself a reputation for designing high reliability flash drives which stretches all the way back to the 1990s.

Unfortunately the company's enterprise SSDs have also acquired an image of being expensive relative to competing products from newer suppliers.

Over a year ago Stec told me it hoped to change all that with its new generation of SSDs which leverage its CellCare technology to extract unusually high endurance and data integrity from low cost consumer grade flash.

But since then the SSD flash health care market is now crowding up into double digits with claims from competing companies who also say their SSD controllers are N times better than the so called "industry standard" at making consumer flash endurance last longer in enterprise apps using adaptive DSP technology. So even while all these claims have their own merits - the competitive advantages of being just 1 of a small group of companies which were able to do this even a year ago - have largely evaporated. Every good idea in the SSD market that can become a big business soon attracts many competitors.

For many of its investors Stec has been a frustrating and exasperating company in recent years because its SSD revenue effectively halved in the same 2 years that the SSD market more than doubled. I've discussed these problems in numerous articles and also with investors and with the company too.
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Stec's ziggy zaggy meanderings in the enterprise SSD market - (2007 to 2013)
This Stec narrative is assembled from snippets of Editor's contemporary comments (made at the time) from past quarterly editions of the Top SSD Companies.

2007 Q3 - In this quarter Stec's one time position as the oem with the fastest (announced) flash SSDs for the enterprise server market was severely dented by announcements of significantly faster flash SSD products from several newcomers to this market segment including EasyCo, Fusion-io and Texas Memory Systems.

2008 Q1 - In January 2008 - Stec announced it would be supplying its SSDs on an "exclusive" basis for use in EMC's Symmetrix DMX-4.

2008 Q2 - Despite significant growth in overall flash SSD market revenue in the first few quarters of 2008 that cake was being divided up among a lot more companies. Stec reported in May 2008 that its revenue had declined in successive quarters and the tone of a press release in early July (about a new credit facility) still talking about "anticipated" signifcant growth was starting to sound repetitious.

2008 Q3 - Stec offers SSDs in more form factors than any other company. Only BiTMICRO and RunCore come close to this breadth of products. But a lot of application slots means a lot of competitors too. So Stec is fighting battles in more turf wars than anyone else. In August 2008 - following 4 straight quarters of revenue declines, Stec reported 29% revenue growth for its most recent fiscal quarter. Can that last?

2008 Q4 -#4 - In December 2008 - Stec issued new guidance for revenue in Q4 2008. Stec downgraded its revenue guidance for the 4th quarter by 20% - which is unremarkable given the current state of the economy. Notwithstanding that - Stec said its SSD business was expected to have revenues in 2008 5x the level in 2007. That is remarkable - given the strong competition in the overall flash SSD market.

2009 Q1 - #7 - This is Stec's lowest ranking in 2 years. Although Stec has been successful in getting its products designed into storage arrays by large storage oems such as EMC - Stec's partners have not added enough value or IP to their own rackmount SSD offerings. Consequently these "Stec inside" SSD systems are weak in comparison to many competing systems which are faster or cheaper (due to better leveraged SSD technology). In the view of StorageSearch.com - Stec relies too much on market pull-through by partners who are me-too or weak in the SSD space. Unless it invests more in its SSD branding - its business is vulnerable to substitution and replacement by any new SSD kid on the block with a faster SSD controller.

2009 Q2 - Stec has been drip feeding reporters a stream of confirmations about design wins - which most of us already knew about anyway. In June 2009 - an article in The Register noted that Stec's Market capitalization had hit $1 billion. Also in June 2009 - an article in EnterpriseStorageForum.com posed the question - Can SSD Maker Stec Be Stopped? It was a good question and deserved a better analysis. So StorageSearch.com followed that up with its own SWOT analysis - which can be seen in the company's profile page.

2009 Q3 - In July 2009 - Stec announced it had received $120 million order for its ZeusIOPS SSDs from a single enterprise storage customer for delivery in the 2nd 1/2 of 2009. This followed an earlier announcement that the company has partnered with a leading defense systems contractor to supply its MACH8 industrial SSDs for integration into a platform designed on behalf of the U.S. Military as part of a 12 month, $28 million supply contract.

In August 2009 - Stec said it will ship 6Gb/s SAS flash SSDs in both 2.5" and 3.5" form factors in Q4. Stec's new ZeusIOPS SSDs will deliver 80,000 IOPS random read, 40,000 IOPS random write with transfer speeds of 550MB/s read and 300MB/s write. Stec also said it's sampling a faster version of its 3.5" FC compatible SSDs. Stec also announced a new policy of offering MLC flash in so called "enterprise class SSDs".

Over many years Stec has earned a good reputation for shipping boringly reliable, high-quality fast SSDs which its oem customers can install and forget. As the performance gap between Stec and rivals has narrowed I would have expected it to become vulnerable to its customers switching away to lower priced products. Instead - Stec has been gaining from all the bad news stories in the industry about badly designed and inadequately validated SSD products shipped by other companies.

Each time an oem customer sees another flaky flash SSD news story - that's another reason to worry about the dangers of using nouvelle SSDs. And that is reinforced by the growing awareness that many engineers can't even rely on their own benchmarks to filter and shortlist products they can depend on in real applications. These growing uncertainties mean that Stec may not have to worry unduly about Pliant Technology's long anticapted foray into SAS flash SSD turf.

2009 Q4 - In this quarter (2009 Q4) Stec was shipping the fastest 2.5" and 3.5" SSDs. Both are SAS SSDs with 80,000 IOPS random read, 40,000 IOPS random write and R/W transfer speeds of 550MB/s and 300MB/s respectively. Being at the top of the performance class always helps to attract interest and the company's PR machine continued to churn out stories about oem deals and partnerships.

Reputation for reliable performance (with no nasty performance black holes or flaky product recalls) will be an increasingly important theme for enterprise server buyers in 2010. This is an area in which Stec scores well. And it may help the company retain its high margins - because the risks of choosing the wrong SSD supplier can be catastrophic.

But there are problems in SSD Shangri-La. In November 2009 Stec disclosed that its biggest customer, EMC, hadn't sold as many of its SSDs as expected - and will carry inventory into 2010. If this was a surprise to anyone it's only because they didn't read my analysis (published April 1, 2009) in which I explicitly warned about Stec's over reliance on partners like EMC who were adding very little added value to their SSD offerings - and underperforming in the rackmount SSD market.

A legal company called Brower Piven said it was considering a class action lawsuit against Stec regarding what it called "misleading statement(s) to investors" (earlier this year) regarding the state of design wins and oem potential business related to Stec's ZeusIOPS.

2010 Q1 - Despite fierce and growing competition Stec remains defiantly entrenched near the top of any short list of potential SSD suppliers in these core market segments - military and server. In February 2010 - Stec reported that its revenue for full-year 2009 grew 55% to $354 million.

Stec used to be the company which every other SSD company wanted to beat - owning (as it did for many years) the top performance slots for HDD compatible server flash SSDs - and a sizable chunk of the military SSD market too

2010 Q2 - Stec doesn't sell enterprise SSDs directly to users, instead its route to market has been to rely on oems to design its SSDs into their systems - and wait for the sales ramp to happen. The initial advantage of that approach (when the SSD market was smaller than it is today) is that the company did not have to invest in developing its own routes to market and related marketing competencies. The disadvantage - in the current SSD market - is that the company is vulnerable to being swapped out in design sockets. Additionally - Stec is poorly positioned to acquire expertise about rackmount SSDs (an important market in which its server SSDs are deployed and compete) - because the company doesn't supply integrated solutions.

2010 Q3 - Stec announced it is sampling a new 3.5" dual port SAS compatible RAM SSD - the ZeusRAM SSD - with 8GB capacity and under 23 microseconds average latency and internal flash backup. RAM SSDs don't have the "play it again Sam... as time goes by" syndrome inherent in flash SSDs - because they have genuinely low repeat write latency and can be 10x to 20x faster. In some applications that's a difference worth paying for.

2010 Q4 - Stec announced that MLC versions of its ZeusIOPS SSDs are being used in IBM's Storwize V7000 (RAID systems).

2010 Q4 - Stec has particular weaknesses in the enterprise acceleration market because it does little or no effective marketing to the end users who actually buy their products and relies instead on indirect marketing done by its partner oems - who in the main - have lagged behind the top SSD companies in capturing the market's imagination - and (as we have been finding out recently in various Petabyte shipment announcements) have not been doing as well as they thought in comparative shipments either.

Stec used to be the company which every other SSD company wanted to beat - owning (as it did for many years) the top performance slots for HDD compatible server flash SSDs - and a sizable chunk of the military SSD market too. The SSD market is much bigger now - and the agenda in different market segments is being set by many different companies - rather than by any single company.

If you try this thought experiment you'll see what I mean. If Stec suddenly ceased making SSDs - then all its main customers would have little or no problem adapting their designs to use alternative competing products without negatively impacting competitive performance.

2011 Q2 - Stec has been making flash drives for embedded applications for 15 years - but although their SSD technologies have changed a lot in that time you could easily be forgiven for thinking that the thinking behind their marketing hasn't changed much since the mid 1990s. By which I mean - they still behave as though they were swimming in an SSD pool of 5 sharks rather than hundreds.

Nowadays many people who look at the markets which Stec helped to pioneer learned their own SSD market education from competing SSD companies - and they don't buy into the Stec implied concept of "trust us - we're an SSD company and know best" argument which in the absence of any other clear messages (or hard technical data) - has been the inferred marketing groove which Stec has been stuck in for the past several years.

And potential customers aren't impressed by the fact that EMC might have designed Stec's SSDs into its storage boxes a few years ago - because they also know from Stec's financial reports that EMC didn't sell them fast enough. And anyway EMC isn't a leader in the SSD market - and could buy a different bunch of SSDs - or a different SSD company - next week. EMC's endorsement or lack of it doesn't count for much in the SSD world - because EMC is a long way behind the installed capacity of SandForce or Fusion-io's various partners.

Instead what people want to know are hard facts and better reasons why they should be looking at Stec. And that analysis starts with comparing Stec to other companies. Some of the questions I've been asked recently - have been.
  • how does Stec compare to Fusion-io?
  • how does Stec compare to SandForce?
  • is SanDisk's acquisition of Pliant a big threat to Stec?
Stec does have a good story to tell - although why they've left it so long to begin talking about their internal flash technology assets is a real mystery to me.

2011 Q3 - 2012 will open a new chapter in high performance 2.5" SSD marketing - which can best be described as the "enterprise MLC credibility wars". The winners will be decided as much by marketing as by technology. Stec is a major participant in this debate - which I have described in more detail in sugaring MLC for the enterprise.

2012 Q1 - Stec continued to frustrate and astonish investors and analysts by reporting 38% year on year decline from the year ago quarter - at a time when the enterprise SSD market appeared to be in stampede growth mode.

I said to one (of many) such SSD investment analysts who sounded me out on Stec's business performance - "I've been talking regularly to Stec about the SSD market for about 8 years. So my frustrations in what they have'nt done and lost opportunities are bigger than those of any investors. (Despite that)...I think Stec could still get much higher multiples of its current revenues than it has achieved in recent quarters but it needs better marketing to do this."

2012 Q2 - I said in our main SSD news pages that the company had "improved its enterprise marketing" and that "the company has doing new things which it didn't do before - rather than just doing the same old things better."

That was after years of eviscerating comments about the company's routes to market and marketing. So if you believe that marketing can have a beneficial effect on company performance you should expect to see better results from the company in the coming year (compared to what it would have achieved otherwise.)

In this quarter - Stec announced the general availability of the company's EnhanceIO SSD Cache Software for Linux and Windows environments.

I'm not convinced about the long term sustainability of a hardware SSD maker offering their software for use to accelerate competing SSDs. And I know that many other SSD ASAP products provide better performance - because they use more complex hot spot algorithms. Nevertheless - Stec has opened the SSD software gate as a new portal for customers to do business with the company. And that will lead to new business opportunities.

2012 Q3 - Although Stec's reputation suffered in this quarter from miserable revenue shrinkage and a "temporary" step down by its CEO - the company continued to advance its belated marketing efforts into PCIe SSDs and software.

Growing industry awareness of the advantages of adaptive R/W DSP flash IP - a technology pioneered within the enterprise SSD context by Stec - may have been a positive factor in reassessment of the company in critical segments.

2012 Q4 - In this quarter STEC announced that its revenue for the quarter ended September 30 was 57% lower than the same quarter 3 years before. In contrast to this - during the same 3 year period the available SSD market had grown about 8x bigger.

2013 Q2 - In this quarter STEC rebranded itself as sTec and announced its entry into the rackmount SSD market with the launch of an iSCSI COTS array. Important details were vague and missing and I didn't get any replies to my questions about the product.

Also in this quarter - WD announced that it had agreed to acquire Stec for approximately $340 million. On closing - Stec would be absorbed into HGST.
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selected Stec milestones - from SSD Market History.

Stec's formative SSD years

Like many other memory companies in the late1990s Stec's product range included ATA flash drives - but its earliest standard SSD product was a rugged SCSI SSD launched in June 2001.

Thereafter Stec strengthened its SSD technology and established its core SSD business using acquisitions - Memtech (a well established military SSD company - acquired 2005) - and Gnutek (a startup high IOPS enterprise SSD maker - acquired 2006).

But Stec's early SSD history is more complicated than that - because in 1994 it had started an oem memory products business called SiliconTech which was spun off as a separate business in 1998 headed by the (then) newly recruited from SanDisk - Michael Hajeck who later - with Dave Merry (coming in from Centennial Technologies) and John Conklin together cofounded SiliconSystems in October 2002. SiliconSystems came to the attention of my readers in 2004 and was acquired - in 2009 - by Western Digital.

more recently

In August 2009 - an article in the Shanghai based 21st Century Business Herald (Chinese language) discussed Stec's share price and competitive environment, quoting many SSD analysts, including the editor of StorageSearch.com.

In February 2010 - Stec reported that its revenue for full-year 2009 grew 55% to $354 million.

In May 2010 - Stec confirmed that its revenue for the 1st calendar quarter of 2010 decreased 39% (to $38.8 million) compared to the year ago period. Poor results had been anticipated and flagged in guidance due to the company's over strong dependence on a single oem customer - EMC.

Also in May 2010 an article in TheRegister.co.uk suggested that Stec may soon launch a PCIe SSD to compete with the likes of Fusion-io and Texas Memory Systems. That's not a real surprise. The enterprise server acceleration market is Stec's biggest market. And the PCIe SSD market has - in less than 3 years - established itself as the most important enterprise SSD form factor - based on SSD search volume.

In August 2010 - Stec announced details of 2 technologies the company is using to improve data integrity and reliability in its enterprise market MLC flash SSDs. These are called CellCare and S.A.F.E.

In September 2010 Stec announced it is sampling a new range of fast enterprise optimized 1.8" and 2.5" SATA SSDs - called the MACH16 which is available in SLC and MLC versions for commercial and industrial temperature operation. The SLC models have upto 200GB capacity, R/W speeds of 240Mbytes/sec and 190Mbytes/sec respectively, average latency of 50 microseconds and 30,000 / 10,000 sustained R/W IOPS.

Also in September 2010 Stec announced it is sampling a new 3.5" dual port SAS compatible RAM SSD - the ZeusRAM SSD - with 8GB capacity and under 23 microseconds average latency and internal flash backup.

RAM SSDs don't have the "play it again Sam... as time goes by" syndrome inherent in flash SSDs - because they have genuinely low repeat write latency and can be 10x to 20x faster. In some applications that's a difference worth paying for.

The 1st 3.5" RAM SSD featured on these pages - was the MegaRam-35 (in June 2002) which was a parallel SCSI SSD from Imperial Technology. A year later in 2003 - Curtis marketed a 3.5" fibre-channel RAM SSD - the HyperXCLR - which for many years held the speed records in that form factor. The Curtis unit is still available as too is a similar product from Density Dynamics.

In October 2010 - A new edition in our SSD Bookmarks series was published with suggestions by Scott Stetzer, VP Marketing Stec.

In March 2011 - Stec was one of the many companies named as potential enterprise SSD competitors in Fusion-io's Form S-1 registered with the SEC for a proposed IPO. The document also includes a scholarly assessment of the state of the enterprise SSD market, key competitors and risk factors. This makes better reading than many SSD analyst press releases and blogs.

In May 2011 - Stec announced it will transition the hardware used in its high performance ZeusIOPS (2.5" and 3.5") SSDs from a dependence on FPGAs to ASICs. And the same ASIC design will be used in new PCIe SSDs later this year. Stec also announced that its revenue in the most recent quarter was back in alignment with the growth rates for the enterprise SSD market - following a decline in the preceding year attributed to over stocking by its biggest customer EMC.

In August 2011 - Stec announced it is sampling a new software SSD ASAP product - called EnhanceIO - a cross-platform cache solution that works with any SSD to accelerate enterprise applications, however, it is optimized for Stec SSD devices. Stec has also started sampling its previously unveiled PCIe SSD family.

In November 2011 - Stec started sampling a new high endurance MLC SSD - based on its proprietary CellCare technology - the new ZeusIOPS XE (Extreme Endurance) is a 6Gbps SAS SSD family, available in 1.8", 2.5" and 3.5" sizes (300GB or 600GB) and supports at least 30 full capacity writes per day, every day, for 5 years. Latency is 50 microseconds max. Sustained R/W throughput is upto 500MB/s and 275MB/s respectively and random IOPS is upto 38,000 8K (70R/30W).

In February 2012 - Stec reported that its revenue for Q4 2011 was $58 million, a decrease of 38% from the year ago quarter and a decrease of 20% from Q3 2011. Revenue for the full-year 2011 was $308 million, an increase of 10% compared to 2010.

In June 2012 - Stec announced the general availability of the company's EnhanceIO SSD Cache Software for Linux and Windows environments with pricing starting from $295 and $495 (per server) for a 1 year subscription.

In December 2012 - Stec announced that the company's interim CEO, and former CEO and founder Mark and Manouch Moshayedi have reduced their salaries to $1 to help the company reduce its operational costs.

In June 2013 - WD announced that it had agreed to acquire Stec for approximately $340 million. Stec will be absorbed into HGST.

In September 2013 - The acquisition of Stec by WD closed - and the process of integrating it into WD's enterprise SSD business - HGST began.

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earlier editor's (who's who in SSD) comments:- October 2011
Stec is one of the industry's best known, widely respected and longest established makers of flash SSDs. (See history notes below for more about Stec's complex SSD roots.)

Stec has appeared regularly in StorageSearch.com's fastest SSDs list and in every one of the past quarterly editions of the top 10 SSD companies.

Despite its strong SSD heritage, however, the company has in my view had weaknesses in its business plans and routes to market - which I have commenetd on in previous years. These are symptomatic of classic "engineering led" high tech companies -who believe that developing technology and talking to engineers in a bunch of customer companies is all they need to do to grow and maintain their business. When competitors come along with products which are nearly as good, as good, cheaper or even better - these tech-led companies often wake up too late and realize that they haven't invested enough in their business channels and brand marketing - and that their previous leadership position can be blown away in a few quarters. Contrary to their beliefs (established when their markets were smaller) they don't know who all their potential customers are - and they can't fix sales blips by arranging customer meetings for their managers and technical gurus - or presenting a few more white papers.

Stec offers SSDs in more form factors than any other company.

Stec has many competitors in the military, industrial and enterprise SSD markets (PCIe SSDs, SAS SSDs etc). To achieve its fair share of enterprise SSD market growth - in my view Stec has to offer credible alternatives (which are fast and competitively priced) to these companies.

Stec's toughest competitors in the traditional 2.5" etc enterprise SSD markets are:-
  • SanDisk (Lightning range acquired from Pliant) - if SanDisk can get its marketing act together and convert from being a consumer company to an enterprise company. Frankly I have some doubts about that.
  • BiTMICRO - whose new controller architecture looks like the fastest in this segment (if they can ship it as promised in 2012)
Stec's toughest competitors in the PCIe SSD market are:-
  • Fusion-io - who dominates the PCIe SSD market and mostly sells to big server oems. Stec was 4 years late entering the PCIe SSD market - and has missed out on this important source of enterprise SSD revenue.
  • OCZ - who hinted in its December 2011 earnings report that it is getting good design wins for its enterprise PCIe SSDs
Stec also has indirect competitors in the rackmount SSD market.

That's because if Stec's rackmount SSD customers like EMC lose market share to companies like Violin and Texas Memory Systems - then there's less business to be had for Stec too.

Stec used to be the company which every other SSD company wanted to beat - owning (as it did for many years) the top performance slots for HDD compatible server flash SSDs - and a sizable chunk of the military SSD market too.

The SSD market is much bigger now - and the agenda in different market segments is being set by many different companies - rather than by any single company. If you try this thought experiment you'll see what I mean. If Stec suddenly ceased making SSDs - then all its main customers would have little or no problem adapting their designs to use alternative competing products without negatively impacting competitive performance.
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Stec's revenue shrinks again
Editor:- August 7, 2013 - Stec today announced that its evenue for the quarter ending June 30 declined 42% year on year to $23.5 million.

Editor's comments:- I enumerated Stec's 3 main defficiencies in sales and marketing in my comments November 8, 2011.

An anti-sales and anti-marketing culture was embedded in the company's management DNA as I was able to learn from my own contacts with the company over many years.

Looking ahead if WD proceeds with its announced plan to acquire Stec - it will be getting some SSD design files and some patents - but not a quick turnaround platform for a viable enterprise SSD business.

Anticipating this kind of conclusion in August 2011 - I said on these SSD pages - "STEC is now cheap to buy - but would be very expensive to own..."
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Stec to be acquired by WD
what will happen to Stec's military SSD business?
Editor:- June 24, 2013 - WD today announced it has agreed to buy Stec for approximately $340 million. Stec will be acquired by WD's subsidiary HGST - which is already active in the enterprise SSD market.

Editor's comments:- Stec is a company which knew how to design some types of enterprise SSDs - but didn't have the know-how and channels to sell them and adapt them better to market needs.

WD knows how to sell drives - but even with its HGST subsidiary - only has a weak SSD product line. So in that sense there's a good fit.

In the hard drive world WD has often talked in the past about the importance it attaches to business value and efficiency. And if you look at the price it paid for Stec - the valuation it has placed on Stec - with its ongoing business, people and brand was probably less than half of what Stec's controller IP (on its own) would have been worth a year ago.

My guess is - it's only because WD / HGST already has enough people with a good understanding of SSD IP that they can tolerate the high risk of acquiring Stec - and filtering out the good bits of technology while having the focus to discard dead-end products and pie in the sky thinking.

It's easy to see how enterprise users would benefit from this acquisition - but less clear is the future of Stec's military product lines. The acquisition related faqs document (pdf) doesn't mention Stec's non enterprise SSD products at all. It merely indicates that the status of all products will be reviewed in the period after the acquisition closes.

My guess is that any company acquiring Stec for its enterprise assets would probably divest the military SSD product lines. (This isn't a new idea. I first touted it in a much earlier round of speculation about Stec's future.) Another possibility is that the military business might be assisted to do a management buy-out.)

Later:- July 7, 2013 - Stec announced the appointment of a new VP for Government and Defense related aspects of its business.
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"We're not going to sit back and wait for oems to bring us our share of the business opportunities in the enterprise SSD market any more" - says Stec
Editor:- June 11, 2013 - The above is my paraphrase of an open letter to shareholders published today by Stec - which states the company's new business goal is to achieve a sales mix with approximately 50% of its future enterprise SSD revenue derived from new, non-OEM customers....read more in SSD news
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Stec's profiler removes guesswork in sizing SSD caches for hybrid storage pools
Editor:- May 21, 2013 - Stec today announced that it's offering a free profiling tool - EnhanceIO Profiler - which can enable users to determine how much benefit they would get from using its EnhanceIO (SSD caching software) - before they even install any SSDs.

The company says that the "non-disruptive installation" can save hours of administrative trial and error by recommending the optimal block size, and the capacity and type of SSDs to be used for maximum performance gain. See also:- auto-caching SSDs, SSD performance testing, will SSDs end bottlenecks? - and cure all my server speed worries?
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the SSD thoughts of Stec's "interim" CEO
Editor:- January 8, 2013 - Stec's definitely "interim" CEO, Mark Moshayedi, tells readers about the customers who initiated the designs of its main enterprise SSDs in an interview published today on StorageNewsletter.com - in which, on the subject of being an acquisition target, he says - "Why would Dell be interested in acquiring an SSD company? Seagate haven't contacted us. Western Digital always tries to buy things for nothing."

Editor's comments:- this is a great scoop by StorageNewsletter.com 's editor Jean-Jacques Maleval - and because the quotes are so long - you can draw your own conclusions about some of the questions discussed.

Do you remember one of my earlier home page blogs about the competitive advantage of SSD design efficiency? This is one of Stec's strengths. And here's what Mark Moshayedi has to say on this subject

"Certain companies that we compete with sometimes spend 120% of what we spend in the flash side of it. That's because of the way they do the design and the over-provisioning to meet certain customer requirements."

On the other hand Stec's corporate failure to invest adequately in sales and marketing and business intelligence resources over many years are also demonstrated in this article.

For example - when talking about Fusion-io - Mark Moshayedi admits - "From what I understand today, Fusion-io has 180 sales people that just sell to enterprises. We have today less than 10."

Overall I think the interview will make interesting reading for Stec observers, and will confirm many things they already suspected.

When you're a stakeholder in an SSD company - the people who manage the company - and their outlook on this uncertain market - are just as important as the technology. ...read the article
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despite all those design wins...
still no rebound at Stec
Editor:- November 7, 2012 - Stec yesterday announced that its revenue for the quarter ended September 30 was $42 million - 42% lower than the year ago period (and 57% lower than the same quarter in 2009).

The company's guidance for the next quarter is in the "range from $36 million to $40 million".

In the related conference call Stec said that it had 3 customers each of which accounted for over 10% of revenue. One of these was an end user which builds its own systems for cloud / web apps - (SSD dark matter segment).

Stec also said it will invest more resources into sales and hopes that next year over 50% of its revenue would come from large enterprise end users. The key product areas in which it pins these hopes are PCIe SSDs and SAS SSDs.

Stec said that customers are telling them about their horrific endurance experiences with using consumer SSDs in enterprise apps and saying they want to buy in future from a "real SSD company."

Editor's comments:- in August commenting on Stec's previous quarter I said that while I was pleased to see many signs that the company had made visible changes and improvements in its marketing - "years of neglect won't be cancelled out in 1 month or 1 quarter."

Stec's latest results would have been even worse if they they hadn't already reached out to more people in the SSD market with their marketing efforts earlier this year.

So much of the management's time - for as long as I can remember - is spent wooing and placating shareholders and analysts and cleaning up legacy legal challenges - you have to ask - is there enough energy and talent going into understanding what's happening in the SSD market?

Even before their star faded - they were an inward looking company with little idea of who their competitors were and the significance of what other SSD companies were doing.

You don't have to look far for evidence.

This text below is the meta description tag on Stec's own home page - which tells Google's readers that - "Stec is the leading global provider of Solid State Drive (SSD) solutions tailored to meet the high performance and reliability needs of original equipment manufacturers."

I think it's time to change "the leading" to "a leading" - if the company is to retain credibility.
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"In July 2009 - Stec announced it had received $120 million worth of orders for its ZeusIOPS SSDs from a single enterprise storage customer (later confirmed to be EMC) for delivery in the 2nd 1/2 of 2009."
SSD market history
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Stec has improved its enterprise marketing
Editor:- June 18, 2012 - Extrapolating too far from small data samples is dangerous - and the warnings I give about this in the monthly real-time updates to the quarterly Top SSD Companies List - takes up almost as much space as the list itself.

But when - what appears to be - a small movement for a company in the top 5 end of the list is accompanied by a narrative of significant market activities - then I think it's worth sticking my neck out and mentioning it.

So I'm going to say something positive about Stec - and specifically about the way they interact with the SSD market via their routes to market and general marketing.

Long time readers of the mouse site (as well as investors) have for the past few years seen this company lose its way through what I interpreted as being an outmoded way of doing business - which was suboptimum for the enterprise SSD market. As a result of those factors (over reliance on too small a customer base, being difficult to do business with, and being out of touch with enterprise user adoption trends such as PCIe SSDs) Stec's quarterly SSD revenue approximately halved in the 2 year period from early 2010 to 2012 - at a time when the available enterprise market quadrupled.

I've written more than enough about that in the past and am not going to repeat the analysis here.

What's been different about Stec's marketing in the past few months is that the company has doing new things which it didn't do before - rather than just doing the same old things better.

In the past few months ads for the company's enterprise SSDs have started to appear on various websites - although Stec has never been an advertiser on StorageSearch.com. - 2012 was our 13th year running enterprise SSD ads.

Another factor is that Stec has gotten into the SSD software business. And if you want users to download your software - then you have to make yourself more approachable.

These little factors are necessary hygiene factors for business success in today's enterprise SSD market. Although they aren't sufficient.

My brutally harsh perspective of Stec - reflected in my editorial and market analysis in recent years - has been that the company was at one stage 5 years behind the curve when viewed from an enterprise SSD marketing perspective compared to its competitors. The company survived - because in some aspects of its flash management technology - as applicable to enterprise SSDs - it was a few years ahead of its competitors. Although that lead has evaporated now.

The business steps the company has taken recently - have moved it forward from being an electronic component biased SSD company into an enterprise systems oriented SSD company.

SSD readers are reacting to these differences too - and that's why Stec looks like it is nudging back up towards the sharp end of the top SSD companies list. 5 years ago - Stec was #1.

The SSD market is much more competitive now. Wherever it ends up - these search stats indicate that Stec - competing with itself - is on a better course now than it has done for many years. That should bode well for the company's long term future outlook too.

PS - added November 6, 2012 - after Stec reported revenue 42% lower than the year ago period.

Stec's results would have been even worse if they they hadn't reached out to more people in the SSD market with their marketing efforts earlier this year.

So much of the management's time - for as long as I can remember - is spent wooing and placating shareholders and analysts and cleaning up legacy legal challenges - you have to ask - is there enough energy going into understanding what's happening in the SSD market?

Even before their star faded - they were an inward looking company with little idea of who their competitors were and the significance of what other SSD companies were doing.
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Stec enters the SSD caching software market
Editor:- June 6, 2012 - Stec today announced the general availability of the company's EnhanceIO SSD Cache Software for Linux and Windows environments with pricing starting from $295 and $495 (per server) for a 1 year subscription.

Stec says its SSD cache software can used with any vendor's SAS, Fibre Channel, PCIe or SATA SSD.

In addition, a Linux version of EnhanceIO SSD Cache Software, based on Facebook's Flashcache caching module, will be made available under a general public license (GPLv2).

"As one of the original architects of Flashcache, I'm extremely pleased to see this technology being enhanced and supported by Stec in their EnhanceIO software," said Mohan Srinivasan, software engineer at Facebook. "Flashcache has proven to be an invaluable tool for accelerating application performance at Facebook."

Users can choose from a selection of caching schemes and block sizes to suit their preference and SSD's capabilities. Stec stores the metadata for the cache in system DRAM rather than in the SSD. The DRAM required for the cache is 0.1% of the cache size so a terabyte of SSD cache requires about 1GB of DRAM support. Product support tools include a profiler which can collect user data and suggest the best policy option parameters for the cache setup.

Editor's comments:- irrespective of the technical strengths and weaknesses (and pricing model) of this new product compared to other competing SSD ASAP / caching offerings - some questions immediately spring to mind.
click here to see our directory of SSD market analysts How serious is Stec about making this software work as a standalone product? And if it becomes successful will the company be tempted to bundle it free with its own SSDs?
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"Only 2 other companies have anything close to our DSP SSD technology - Anobit and Stec. I was relieved when I heard that Apple had acquired Anobit - because that effectively removed their technology as a potential competitor in the enterprise market."
John Scaramuzzo, President - SMART Storage Systems - talking to StorageSearch.com in February 2012.
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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. ...read the article
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SSD uncertainty - what's the best eMLC?
Editor:- July 25, 2011 - Stec is lifting the veil off how it manages MLC flash inside its enterprise and industrial SSDs - as part of a new positioning gambit that warns customers - not all so called enterprise MLC SSDs are created equal.

You're thinking - isn't it all MLC management in enterprise SSDs pretty much the same? - Just a variation on what SandForce and Fusion-io already do? (Only Stec is more expensive than SF, and not as fast as FIO...)

That's what I thought too - but I was wrong.

This will be the start of new enterprise MLC branding wars in which SSD designers and memory makers battle it out to try and convince you...
click to read the article ... that their own (very different) ways of doing enterprise MLC SSDs - as they head towards 1X nanometer flash - is better than all the others. ...read the article
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