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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2010 Q2 - 13th in this series

July 6, 2010 .....by Zsolt Kerekes, editor .....click here for the most recent version of this article

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 due to the business attractiveness of a fast growing multi-billion dollar SSD market and easier ways of getting into it 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 StorageSearch.com 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.
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RamSan-70 - very fast PCIe SSD from Texas Memory Systems
RamSan-70 very fast 900GB PCIe SLC flash SSD
from Texas Memory Systems

2.5" SATA 3 enterprise SSDs from OCZ -
2.5" SATA 3 SSDs for enterprise apps
Deneva 2 C Series - from OCZ

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Top 10 SSD OEMs - based on reader search volume in 2nd Quarter 2010 - © STORAGEsearch.com
rank manufacturer - click for profile and analysis SSD technology notes re this quarter....................................................
1 Fusion-io PCIe SSDs
This was Fusion-io's 6th appearance in the #1 slot.

Fusion-io's search volume was 4x higher than the #10 ranked company, and 77% higher than the #2 ranked company in this top 10 list.

The prophetic vision Fusion-io proposes for the future of SSDs is a break away from the ties of legacy HDD form factors and interfaces as a prerequisite to get the full benefits of the transition to the SSD accelerated economy.

Regardless of whether they believe in Fusion-io's version of the SSD Heresies lots of other SSD companies are seeing an alluring business opportunity to be had by following what they do - and the PCIe SSD market is starting to resemble the 2.5" SSD market in the number of companies participating.

The PCIe SSD market is attractive to vendors because technical barriers to entry are low - and the average selling prices are multiples of what vendors can get for small form factor SSDs. But with more than a 2 year market lead, a clutch of important customer qualifications, an energetic management team and strong funding - this is a company which new entrants to the market will find tough to beat.

Competitors will probably have to wait for Fusion-io to make mistakes and stumble - to have realistic hopes of achieving the same mind share - or else market in the gaps which Fusion-io has left behind. These gaps include different channels to market and selling products to the competitors of Fusion-io's own oem customers.
2 STEC SAS SSDs
military SSDs
PCIe SSDs
Up 1 place since the last quarter.

STEC has been featured in StorageSearch.com's Top 10 SSD Companies List - for all 13 consecutive quarters. Its best previous rank was the #1 top spot in Q2 2007.

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

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.

One factor which has helped STEC in recent quarters has been a growing awareness in the SSD customer community that the company's ability to put on a good show in the ballet of solid state storage - has been due to hard training and scientific expertise. A lot of newer entrants to the SSD market thought the SSD dance was a lot easier than it actually is - and have come crashing down onto the market stage after performing a few short pirouettes. Competitors may learn a few more technical tricks - but they cannot easily contend with the mystical nature of STEC's legendary reputation for performing impressively season after season.
3 SandForce flash SSD Controllers
Up 2 places since the last quarter.

This is SandForce's 5th consecutive appearance in this top 10 list - though not its highest rank.

SandForce is now the best known maker of SSD controllers.

By talking openly about its SSD controller technology - SandForce has garnered interest from many stakeholders outside the set of those oems who may want to directly use its chip technology.

In May 2010 - SandForce officially announced a branding program called - SandForce Driven SSDs. This effectively confirmed StorageSearch.com's analysis of the company's marketing efforts which we had previously described as "SandForce inside" SSDs.

The arcane world of SSD controllers - which was once invisible to most end users - with critical product data safely hidden behind firewalls - is now turning into a merchant market with nearly 30 companies supplying the critical IP needed to design your own SSD.

SandForce was the 1st company to offer symmetric R/W IOPS in a 2.5" flash SSD form factor in Q2 2009 - and its products offered impressive performance.

In June 2010 - a new SSD company - called Anobit announced technology which encroaches on SandForce's market turf. Will Anobit become as well known as SandForce? Unless you're an SSD designer - your brain has no real need to hold 2 such pieces of information.
4 WD Solid State Storage 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SLC SSDs
Same as before.

WD made no significant new SSD product announcements in this quarter.
5 Foremay 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SSDs
3.5" SSDs
military SSDs
PCIe SSDs
Down 3 places since the last quarter.

Foremay made no significant new SSD product announcements in this quarter. But a lot of other SSD competitors in the 2.5" SSD market did announce product plans to ship PCIe SSDs and join Foremay in this dual play hedge your bets SSD marketing game.
6 Texas Memory Systems Rackmount SSDs
PCIe SSDs
Same as before.

Texas Memory Systems, has been operating continuously in the SSD market longer than any other company. The company is often listed in the Fastest SSDs.

TMS made no significant new SSD product announcements in this quarter.
7 RunCore 1.8" SSDs
2.5" SSDs
3.5" SSDs
PCIe SSDs
Same as before.

In May 2010 - RunCore started sampling 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 Same as before.

In June 2010 - Intel announced that its SSDs were now available in 800 Best Buy stores across the US and on BestBuy.com.
9 Micron Technology 2.5" SSDs
flash memory
Same as before.

In June 2010 - Micron owned Lexar Media offered consumers a 64GB version of their 2.5" 6Gb/s SATA SSD for $149.99 - with R/W speeds upto 355MB/s and 75MB/s respectively.
10 OCZ 2.5" SSDs
PCIe SSDs
1st appearance in the top 10 SSD oems list.

Despite my initial skepticism about OCZ's stated aspirations to become an "enterprise SSD" company - the company's has continued knocking on the door which leads to the datacenter market with a series of gradually better product announcements - undeterred by my reactions to its embarrassingly inappropriate initial models.

But can a company - which has only been in the SSD market a short time (since March 2008) really persuade conservative enterprise buyers that it should be taken seriously? A lot of OCZ's SSD technology is bought in from various sources in the SSD IP market - and tailored for what the company's marketers think customers will buy. The ability to spot a real market gap and fill it quickly with sound products - will be one of the key factors determining success in the fastly inflating SSD market bubble.

In June 2010 - OCZ unveiled the RevoDrive a bootable PCIe SSD with R/W speeds up to 540MB/s and 530MB/s respectively and 75,000 IOPS.

Waiting in the wings - just below the top 10 in this period were:- PhotoFast (down 1 place at #11), Violin Memory (#12 - possibly heading for a re-entry after a long absence), and Pliant Technology (#13 - still waiting to get called onto the top 10 stage).

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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