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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2010 Q1 - 12th in this series

April 8, 2010 - Zsolt Kerekes, editor
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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?
A decade ago there was an easy answer. "All of them!"

It wasn't till 1999 that our online SSD directory tipped over the 10 companies mark. By the end of 2010 there will be over 200 companies making SSDs - and I think that figure will grow to 1,000 SSD oems in 2013.

In the 1st wave of the SSD market bubble - the SSD marketing moths are being attracted by the prospect of multiple analyst predictions that the SSD market will top $10 billion / year. (Market size potential 1st published by in 2003.)

But the SSD market won't stop there.

The 2nd wave of the SSD bubble in 2015 to 2019 will see SSDs being at the center of a new data driven economy in which solid state storage becomes the prime lever of information systems - instead of microprocessors and operating systems - as the digital hardware market progresses on the roadmap to the petabyte SSD.

Who's going to dominate the SSD market?

Who are the companies who should be appearing on your partner or supplier shortlist for further qualification?

I believe that search volume is the best predictor of where the market is heading - unlike financial data which tells you where the market has been - typically 12 to 15 months before. The advance visibility from search volume data - if sampled and interpreted correctly - can give you a 2 to 3 year look ahead into emerging market trends.

Readers can interpret the listings in the current and past listings of this article in various ways.

Conservatively minded readers may prefer to look more closely at SSD companies who have consistently made good showings in these lists during the past several years.

On the other hand - early adopters - who are confident in their own abilities to manage the myriad risks implicit in dealing with newer companies - may prefer to look at the newest SSD oems who have made appearances in these lists in 1 or 2 recent quarters.
Top 10 SSD OEMs - based on reader search volume in 1st Quarter 2010 - ©
rank manufacturer SSD technology notes re this quarter....................................................
1 Fusion-io PCIe SSDs This was Fusion-io's 5th appearance in the #1 slot.

Being the best recognized brand in the #1 most popular form factor related to SSD searches once again secured the top slot for Fusion-io.

Fusion-io's search volume was 17% higher than the #2 company in this list and 4x higher than the #10 ranked company.

If you want to see just one of the many exciting trends which is driving Fusion-io's business take a look at my article SSD videos.

In March 2010 - Fusion-io disclosed it had experienced more than 80% quarter-over-quarter sales growth and more than 300% sales growth year-over-year.

...Later:- in April 2010 - Fusion-io announced another $45 million in series C funding led by new investor, Meritech Capital Partners.
2 Foremay 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SSDs
3.5" SSDs
military SSDs
Same as before.

In February 2010 - Foremay started sampling its EC188 D-series 2nd generation fast PCIe SSDs with capacity upto 4TB (MLC) and 1TB (SLC). The new SSDs deliver sequential speeds up to 1.6 GB/s for reading and 1.5 GB/s for writing, and R/W IOPS up to 200K/180K.

Foremay's new PCIe SSDs aim at the same kind of customers who currently buy from Fusion-io and Texas Memory Systems both of whom have been shipping this type of product for over a year already.

On the strength of its PCIe SSD product line alone Foremay wouldn't have reached the #2 slot in this list - but (unlike Fusion-io and TMS) Foremay also markets 2.5" SSDs which have creditable claims to high performance and it's this additional factor which boosted overall search volume.

...Later:- in April 2010 - Foremay started sampling SAS SSDs in its EC188 product line. The new models (available in 2.5" or 3.5" form factors, and available in commercial and industrial temperature grades) have R/W speeds of 250MB/s and 200MB/s respectively, random read/write IOPS up to 30,000/25,000 and upto 400GB capacity. That brings the number of SAS SSD companies listed on to 13.
military SSDs
Same as before.

STEC has been in the flash SSD market since the dawn of that market - and long before 2005 when Samsung declared SSDs to be a strategic market. STEC has a reputation (earned through its military roots) for shipping dependable, fast products. It has also made serious inroads into the server acceleration market via partners who oem its small form factor SSD modules in their rackmount arrays. 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.

In March 2010 - STEC started sampling a new family of SlimSATA and SATA-CF 32GB/64GB flash SSDs for use in embedded markets. Performance is 15,000 / 6,000 R/W IOPS and R/W transfer rates are up to 135MB/s and 130MB/s respectively.
4 WD Solid State Storage 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SLC SSDs
Same as before.

I've been speaking to the people in WD's SSD business since 2004 - and if you ask me what's so different about this company's approach to designing SSDs compared to all the other 80+ makers of 2.5" SSDs I know - I would say an obsession with reliability - which starts from analyzing what happens when power is switched on and frets about and tracks and controls every part of that SSD data integrity experience microsecond by microsecond through thousands of power cycles and doesn't stop worrying about what may happen - even years after the power has been switched off.

This cautious approach meant that for many years their SSDs were by no means the fastest or highest capacity in their class - but they made economic sense in some embedded products which had lifecycles several times that of the hard drives traditionally installed in them. That's why I felt confident ascribing to the company a cameo role in a futurological article I wrote in March 2010 - SSDs - reaching for the Petabyte.

In March 2010 - WD Solid State Storage began shipping a new range of 2.5" 128GB SATA SLC SSDs - for high reliability 24/7 embedded markets - called the WD SiliconDrive N1x. R/W speeds are upto 240MB/s and 140MB/s respectively. Write endurance is quoted as 701GB/Day - compatible with 5 year limited warranty. And data integrity (non-recoverable error rate) is better than 1 in 10exp15 bits read. WD also announced its entry into the SSD notebook market. WD's SiliconEdge Blue 2.5" MLC SSDs offer capacity upto 256GB (MSRP $999), R/W speeds of 250MB/s and 170MB/s.
5 SandForce flash SSD Controllers Same as before.

SandForce has - in less than a year - become one of the best known makers of SSD controller chips.

Most people don't buy SSD chips - they buy complete SSDs - which have controller chips embedded inside. But end-users who want to peek ahead at the SSD performance market roadmap can get a realistic idea of what may be coming - by reading about SandForce's technology - even if they aren't in the market themselves for SandForce based products.

Many (but by no means all) high performance 2.5" SSDs now shipping - incorporate SandForce's controller.
6 Texas Memory Systems Rackmount SSDs
Same as before.

Texas Memory Systems, has been operating continuously in the SSD market longer than any other company. Despite that the company has often surprised me with its technical and marketing innovations. TMS was the first oem to deliver an SSD product line which spanned both RAM SSDs and flash SSDs - when in 2007 it added rackmount flash SSDs to its pre-existing RamSan product line.

Texas Memory Systems is often listed in - the Top 10 SSD Companies and the Fastest SSDs.

InJanuary 2010 - Texas Memory Systems announced it is delivering open source drivers on Linux and Solaris for its RamSan-20 PCIe SSD accelerator.

In April 2010 - Texas Memory Systems announced the availability of the RamSan-630 an FC / InfiniBand compatible 3U SLC SSD with 4 to 10TB capacity, 500,000 IOPS, 8GB/s bandwidth, and R/W latency of 250 / 80 microseconds in a 450W power budget.
7 RunCore 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SSDs
3.5" SSDs
Up 2 places since the last quarter.

RunCore entered the international SSD market (in August 2008). Its roots lie in developing SSDs for defense applications in China. It developed a 400MB/s SSD for defense applications in 2006.

RunCore's 1st listing (of many) in these top 10 SSDs lists was a year ago in 2009 Q1.

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.

Also in January 2010 - a benchmark review article in concluded that RunCore's upcoming Pro V 2.5" SSD - which uses SandForce's SF-1500 SoC is the fastest SATA 2 SSD they have tested.

In March 2010 - RunCore showed an Express Card flash SSD designed for notebooks this month at CeBIT 2010. As well as providing upto 64GB capacity (R/W speeds 120MB/s and 90MB/s) - the Express 34 module also provides 2x USB 3.0 ports with connectors for linking the notebook to external devices.

...Later:- in May 2010 - RunCore started sampling i 2.5" and 3.5" SAS flash SSDs for the enterprise server market. The Kylin II product line, available with MLC, EMLC or SLC flash, has R/W speeds upto 270MB/s and 260MB/s respectively, R/W IOPS of 30,000 and 25,000, upto 400GB capacity and 3 years warranty.
8 Intel 2.5" SSDs Up 2 places since the last quarter.

Intel is one of the world's best known brands. So the company doesn't need an introduction from me. But what about its role within the SSD market? It's a complicated story with some twists and turns as you'd expect with such a long established large company. You can see a fuller description by clicking and reading their company profile.

In February 2010 - Intel and Micron announced they were sampling the world's 1st 25nm NAND flash memory. This gives 8GB MLC (classic 2 bit) flash memory in a stackable TSOP. The new chips will enable higher density SSDs to ship in volume in Q2.
9 Micron Technology 2.5" SSDs
flash memory
1st appearance in the top 10 SSD oems list.

For such a large a semiconductor company Micron was a late entrant to the SSD market - having announced its intentions to do so only in November 2007.

Since then the company has kept the RSS SSD news feeds well fed with a mixture of vaporware, market positioning pre-announcements (related to the PCIe SSD market in particular) and some actual real fast 2.5" products and flash memory technologies.
10 PhotoFast 1" SSDs
1.8" SSDs
1st appearance in the top 10 SSD oems list and up 1 place from the previous quarter.

A company spokesperson told me that 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.

PhotoFast didn't make any significant product announcements in English language publications - but they got some mentions in Japanese language websites in January and February.
Waiting in the wings - just below the top 10 in this period were:- SanDisk (down 3 places at 11), Seagate (best ever result at 12) and Pliant Technology (still waiting to get into the top 10 list at 13), Samsung (down 7 places at 14).
How to interpret the rankings?

The most important thing is being included in the list rather than the position within it. As the number of SSD oems has grown - it's much harder than it used to be to break into the top 10.

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.

Click here for the most recent version of this top SSD companies article.
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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