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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2009 Q4 - 11th in this series

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SSD news
the Fastest SSDs
SSDs - reaching for the Petabyte
Branding Strategies in the SSD Market
Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise for more SSD boxes
the top 10 SSD oems
the top SSD companies
Megabyte announced future winners
in the SSD market, based on the
world's biggest focus group for SSDs.
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Who are the top 10 most important SSD manufacturers - the companies which you absolutely have to look at if you've got got any new projects involving SSDs? And who are the companies most likely to dominate this market?

As this is the 11th quarterly update in this series I've cut out most of the preamble which previously introduced this article. Check out the theory and rationale behind this method in earlier editions. believes that search volume data - is the best way to get near real-time indications of which way things are heading in the SSD market - when that volume is based on tracking the biggest focus group of movers and shakers in the SSD market.
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Here's the data you've been waiting for................................
Top 10 SSD OEMs - based on reader search volume in 4th Quarter 2009 - ©
rank manufacturer SSD technology notes re this quarter....................................................
1 Fusion-io PCIe SSDs This was Fusion-io's 4th appearance in the #1 slot.

Fusion-io is the only company so far to have achieved that feat. (In 2008 Memoright achieved 3 consecutive #1 listings - due to its performance leadership at that time in the 2.5" SSD market.)

Fusion-io's current success was helped by the company's strong brand awareness and partnerships in the PCIe SSD segment - which was the #1 most popular form factor based on search volume throughout the 4th quarter of 2009 (having knocked 2.5" SSDs off the #1 slot in September 2009.)

To give you an idea of the commanding lead of being in the #1 slot - Fusion-io's search score was nearly 4x that of #10 ranked Intel.

Key Fusion-io milestones in this quarter from SSD Market History

In October 2009 - Fusion-io published a case study showing how their ioDrive SSDs helped MySpace reduce server count, claim back 50% rack space while increasing application performance (compared to its legacy SAS RAID system) and massively decreasing electrical power. As a result of this initial project - MySpace plans to replace all remaining 1,770 2U servers with Fusion-io enabled servers as they reach their end-of-life.

Also in October 2009 - Samsung announced it has invested in Fusion-io.

In November 2009 - Fusion-io unveiled details of a very fast PCIe form factor, InfiniBand compatible, flash SSD designed for 2 undisclosed government customers. Each ioDrive Octal card, occupies 2 slots and delivers 800,000 IOPS (4k packet size), 6GB/s bandwidth and has upto 5TB maximum capacity (implemented by 8x ioMemory modules.

In December 2009 - Fusion-io announced that its ioMemory PCIe SSD technology has been adapted by IBM who will remarket these solutions (initially with upto 320GB capacity) as its High IOPS SSD PCIe Adapters for use in System x servers.
2 Foremay 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SSDs
3.5" SSDs
military SSDs
Up 5 places since the last quarter.

Foremay's fast rise in this quarter was due to product announcements related to both of the most popular SSD form factors - 2.5" SSDs and PCIe SSDs.

In my view it's very difficult - or maybe even impossible - for any single company to retain a commanding technical lead in 2 of the hottest segments of the SSD market. But what these results show is that if you have popular sounding products in several segments then the accumulated reader interest does add up. This is one of the factors which has helped STEC in years gone by.

Foremay milestones in this quarter from SSD Market History

In October 2009 - Foremay launched its EC188 Jaguar Series flash SSDs optimized for the Mac market. Form factors include 1.8", 2.5" and 3.5", interface types include SATA, micro SATA, SATA LIF, IDE and IDE ZIF/LIF. Capacties range from 64GB to 1TB and R/W speeds are upto 260/230MB/s.

Also in October 2009 - Foremay entered the PCIe SSD market with its EC188 Dragon series - which is now sampling.

Supporting both x8 and x16 slots - R/W performance is upto 1.5 GB/s and 1.3 GB/s respectively. Both MLC and SLC models are available. Capacities range from 128GB to 4TB. Sequential R/W IOPS is up to 90,000/80,000. Random R/W IOPS is up to 27,000/12,000.

Features include power outage protection, dual PCIe configuration through a built-in PCIe RAID controller, and active garbage collection. OS support includes Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris, Linux, and UNIX.

In November 2009 - Foremay announced it is shipping the world's fastest 2.5" SATA flash SSDs. The SC199 Cheetah Y-Series has R/W speeds up to 290/280 MB/s in 2.5" and 3.5" SATA form factors - which approaches the theoretical speed limit of the SATA-II protocol. It also delivers impressive R/W IOPS of up to 50,000/45,000 respectively.

Also in November 2009 - Foremay announced that secure erase and fast purge options are now available for most models in its SC199 SSD product family.
military SSDs
Same as before.

STEC has been in the top 5 rankings for 9 out of the last 11 quarters. Its highest rank, #1, was in 2007 Q2.

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.

SSD ad - click for more infoReputation 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) which appeared in the 8th quarterly edition of the top 10 SSD oems 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.
4 WD Solid State Storage 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SLC SSDs
Up 1 place since the last quarter.

This is the highest rank which WD has achieved in these tables.

If you look at the list of SSD white papers on WD's site - it's no coincidence they are all about various aspects of storage reliability and data integrity. WD has continued along the same groove as the founders of SiliconSystems which started marketing SSDs in 2004.

The SSD business unit founders have always had an obsession with reliability.

They told me back in 2004 that having a bullet proof reputation for dependable operation would be a higher priority for them to achieve long term success in the SSD (hard disk replacement) market - than having the cheapest or fastest products.

That was many years before most people in the industry realized that not all flash SSDs were created equal. That field proven reputation (based on millions of working SSDs) coupled with increased investments in long term reliability programs scaled up after WD's acquisition create more confidence in oem designers than Powerpoint presentations from new SSD startups talking about projected lifetimes which are extrapolated from a handful of working prototypes.
5 SandForce flash SSD Controllers Down 3 places since the last quarter.

SandForce's ranking in these tables went down in the same quarter that its business revenue was shooting up into the early part of the hockey-stick curve. So you may ask where's the correlation?

Well it's precisely those high rankings in these tables starting from 2009 Q2 - when the company exited stealth mode - which predicted the bursting bag of design wins which followed.

I've commented before that it's unnatural for an SSD SoC company to be so famous. Now that everyone in the industry knows who SandForce is - and what their technology is about - SandForce can go back to concentrate their communication messages on SSD designers (their real customers) and don't need to worry quite so much about visibility to their customers' customers.

I'm sure we'll see occasional flare-ups in interest in SandForce again in the future, for example if and when they announce a 500MB/s SATA SSD kit, or expand into the PCIe SSD market or get acquired. (These are all hypothetical examples BTW - just to demonstrate the range of events which can lead to sustained search spikes for this type of company.)

Even if SandForce drops further down this list - it has still achieved the success of being the best known merchant market SSD SoC company. It doesn't need to be any better known for its business model to work - unless it changes course and decides to compete directly with its customers by marketing its own brand of SSDs.

SandForce milestones in this quarter from SSD Market History

In October 2009 - SandForce published a new article - here on 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.

Also in December 2009 - SMART started sampling the XceedIOPS SATA - SLC and "enterprise grade" MLC flash SSDs in 1.8" and 2.5" form factors - based on the SF-1500 processor from SandForce.
6 Texas Memory Systems Rackmount SSDs
Same as before.

Texas Memory Systems has been supplying very high performance solid state storage for over 30 years. Their SSDs appeared in my Sun SPARC Buyers Guide in 1994 - the same year I published my first fibre-channel adapter guide.

Texas Memory Systems highest ranking in's search volume based tables was the #1 slot in 2004 Q3. In those days that was for any type of storage company - not just SSD oems.

The company's highest ranking in these top 10 SSD lists was #4 - in 2009 Q2.

Texas Memory Systems milestones in this quarter from SSD Market History

In October 2009 - Some of the technical folks at Texas Memory Systems contributed to a new book called - Oracle Performance Tuning with SSDs - written by Oracle expert, Mike Ault. This is part of an august collection of Oracle tuning books published by Rampant Press.

Also in October 2009 - Texas Memory Systems announced that its RamSan-620 - (2U 5TB SLC flash SSD, price $220,000 approx) - achieved a record setting SPC-1 result. It produced 254,994.21 SPC-1 IOPS with average response time of 0.72mS and at a cost of only $1.13 per SPC-1 IOPS - which is better than any competing RAID or Flash solution.

In November 2009 - NextIO entered the rackmount SSD market via an oem agreement which leverages multiple 225GB / 450GB PCIe SLC SSDs made by Texas Memory Systems. The 14 slot NextIO application acceleration appliance can be configured and reconfigured with any mix of servers and TMS SSD cards depending on system demands. Pricing for a basic configuration starts at $19,500, which includes implementation, training and onsite application or database tuning assistance.
7 Samsung notebook SSDs Down 3 places since the last quarter.

When I wrote the headline summary for the year 2005 in SSD Market History - it was "Samsung declares SSDs a strategic market".

In May 2005 when reporting this news I commented - "This is the first time in this phase of the SSD market's development that a multibillion dollar company (Samsung's 2004 revenue was $55.2 billion ) has entered the market.

It has not been an easy task to transition one of the world's largest makers of flash memory into one of the largest makers of SSDs. Upto 2006 the parts costs for all SSDs were dominated by the cost of memory. But as memory costs came down users showed they were still willing to pay a premium for higher performance products. In 2007 in the 2.5" SSD market - the popularity of a succession of products from Adtron, Mtron and Memoright demonstrated that if designers could offer higher capacity or faster SSDs in a given form factor (and preferably both) they could command higher prices and bigger markets.

In today's server acceleration market - the most important subsystem which determines the personality, performance and marketability of an SSD is the SSD controller and interface - and not the price of the attached memory.

For many years Samsung's controller technology was average and far below the best available in the industry. That meant it couldn't get the best prices for its SSDs. It has tried to fix this problem - with variable success - by acquisition and technology partnerships. But Samsung still has many strategic gaps in its SSD business - which make its products vulnerable to supplier substitution.

In October 2009 - Samsung announced it has invested in Fusion-io.
8 SanDisk MLC Flash SSDs Same as before.

SanDisk's highest rank in these tables was the #1 slot - which it attained in 2007 Q3.

SanDisk is the leading company in advancing the use of MLC technology in SSDs, a technology which it inherited from it acquisition of SSD pioneer M-Systems in 2006.

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. In the past year or so SanDisk has tried to differentiate itself from other SSD makers by hinting about the future possibilities of scaling MLC SSDs to x4. The difficulties of producing workable devices are something I discussed in a spoof article (March 2008 ) about XLC technology. This is a zone where physics, manufacturability and data integrity collide with different agendas.

In November 2009 - SanDisk announced that its 64GB (9,000 vRPM) pSSD module has been selected as a standard SSD option in Sony's new VAIO X ultra-thin laptop.
9 RunCore 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SSDs
3.5" SSDs
Same as before.

In November 2009 - RunCore announced availability of the Runcore Pro IV Light mini-SATA 50mm PCI-e SSD - a regular flash SSD design and small form factor - which is designed to accelerate netbooks. Capacity options include:- 16GB (32MB cache), 32GB and 64GB (64MB cache) with smaller capacity drives for oems available on request. Sustained R/W speeds are 125MB/s and 80MB/s. Random R/W speeds (4K blocks) are 18MB/s read and 5 MB/s respectively. RunCore says it's compatible with all major OSes and installs easily via its USB slave port.

Mobile computing blogger has created many videos about upgrading notebook PCs with SSDs - here's an example with an earlier model from RunCore.

In January 2010 - RunCore started shipments of the 1st SSDs aimed at the PXI Express market (a standard which brings PCIe performance and functionality into the robust modular form factor popular in automated instrumentation test systems). RunCore's 3U CPCIe\PXIe SSD card provides upto 768GB MLC or 384GB SLC capacity and has sustained R/W speeds upto 400MB/s. Available with industrial operating temperature range and MIL-STD-810F processing, the module provides a fast purge rate of 5GB/s.
10 Intel 2.5" SSDs Same as before.

Intel has already earned itself a negative reputation in the SSD market due to variety of factors including:- shipping flaky products with design defects (which needed user firmware upgrades or recalls) and designing products whose specs looked good on paper - but which didn't perform consistently as well as its most demanding customers expected.

Intel is not alone with this problem. There are plenty of other SSD companies in this unenviable situation too. And the negative reputation SSD segment could eventually include over 50% of companies in the market in 2010 / 2011. The problems stem from pressures in the SSD Market Bubble.

Companies need to ship products quickly to secure their place in their customers' mind share. For less experienced SSD designers this means learning what the market needs in a high volume production environment at internet speed - rather than having the luxury of learning in small controlled environments during the years when the market was smaller and your company didn't actually have an SSD plan.

Companies like Intel have the scale of resources where they may survive trial and error product "experiments" due to their ability to fix problems fast. But it's uncomfortable thinking that essential storage hardware reliability might dip to the levels once seen in the PC software market.

In October 2009 - Intel joined the growing roster of SSD companies who have announced support for Trim functions. These benefit flash SSDs which don't have internal fast active garbage collection. The company recommends users install the firmware update and toolbox, and run the Trim function daily to ensure best performance.
Waiting in the wings - just below the top 10 in this period were:- PhotoFast (11), Pliant Technology (12) and KingFast (13).
How to interpret the rankings?

The most important thing is being included in the list rather than the position within it. Having said that there's a 4x difference in pageviews between companies at the top or bottom.

I sometimes get emails from SSD product managers griping about the validity of these lists. My reply is that it's a marketing reality they have to live with. Just as being ranked #1 or #90 on Google could make a big difference to your company - our SSD rankings have tracked millions of readers since they started.

High rankings mean that more people in the market are interested in learning more about what you're saying. On the other hand - if your business plan is to be a leading shaker in the SSD market and your company has never appeared in these lists - then you have an uphill struggle - and success could take a lot longer than you think.

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If you're new to the SSD market and want to learn how it got here, take a look at these articles.

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