27th quarterly edition - based on search metrics
in Q4 2013|
editor - February 4, 2014
SSD Companies - researched and analysed by StorageSearch.com - is a long
running series (2007 to 2014) which has established a unique reputation within
the SSD industry for detecting and predicting significant new business and
technology transitions in the SSD market.
skepticism which I would urge you to consider about the reliability of any
kind of SSD market
research - in the current changing state of the industry - the Top SSD
Companies has nevertheless earned its place as a useful market decision
Here, without further ado then - is the list of the Top
SSD Companies ranked by analyzing the search volume of hundreds of thousands of
SSD readers on StorageSearch.com
in the 4th quarter of 2013.
|Top SSD Companies - ©
based on SSD search volume in the 4th Quarter
Same as before.
This was Fusion-io's 20th straight quarter at
the top of this list - confirming it's still regarded as an uber super
leading enterprise SSD company when it comes to ideas and products.
it remained an uncomfortable time for the company's business - as in the 2nd
half of 2013 - FIO continued to report revenues significantly lower than in
the year before.
Over and above the organic competitive pressures
arising from the greater competencies of competitors in the growing
PCIe SSD market -
Fusion-io (like some other companies in this market - such as
Stec) had risen high on
a tide supported by too narrow a customer base.
In addition -
Fusion-io had some self inflicted problems of having increased the utilization
efficiency of its products for its biggest customers too much too soon - which
meant they didn't need to keep buying more products. (Fusion-io was simply the
first vendor to hit this rock fast - but it's a factor which will haunt and
trouble all enterprise SSD vendors in various times in the future - as I
discussed in my article -
meet Ken - and the
SSD software event horizonn.)
In this quarter - under the guidance
of new CEO Shane
Robison - Fusion-io looked to me like a company with 2 main missions.
- A corrective action program - to learn how to work as a traditional
business (instead of an investment hungry startup) - and - to focus on the
discipline of extracting more money from a wider base of customers and
thereby increasing revenue (again) - but conditioned by the new discipline
(for FIO) of also aiming to be profitable - sooner rather than later.
- An identity correction program - (which the company was still thrashing
through as I wrote this - and which could take years rather than a few quarters
to resolve) - based on the corporate aspiration to change from being merely
regarded as the leading vendor of enterprise PCIe SSD modules and software
(which is significant enough in itself) - to add the new bold ambition
of also becoming regarded as a leading rackmount SSD systems company.
12 places from previous quarter.
November 2013 -
LSI launched the most ambitious design of single chip
SSD controller in the
history of the SSD market - which I described as having the aspiration of "SSD
market on a chip".
That was the origin of a huge spike in renewed
interest in the company. The later news (in
that LSI had agreed to be acquired (for about $6 billion) also caused some
ripples - but at much lower intensity and effect (partly due to timing within
For LSI - being in the #2 slot in the Top SSD Companies
List - is something which the company arguably had many sound reasons to
anticipate - not least of which being that
by LSI in January
2012) had itself been at the #2 slot itself in
apart from the obvious difference that the SSD market was smaller in those days
(there were only 300 SSD companies in the market back in
there's a special significance for LSI in being at #2 in the 4th quarter of
2013 - because the gap between the #1 and #2 companies in this list are much
smaller than it has ever been before.
This confirms that LSI has
vaulted into a new position occupying the minds of serious minded SSD market
participants - and (like Fusion-io before) is now seen as another elite
uber super leading SSD company. What do I mean by that? See the sidebar
article on the right.
Down 1 place from previous quarter.
In this quarter - investor
disillusionment with the value of Violin's shares immediately following the
company's IPO in
coupled with the realization that the first quarterly results reported in
didn't resemble the scale of business which many observers had
expected from earlier company pronouncements - meant there was little surprise
(in December 2013)
when the board announced it had terminated the employment of Don Basile -
who had been CEO of the company for the previous 4-5 years.
on this news December
16, 2013 I observed that Violin had established its business thinking during
a growth period when the segment of the market in which it operated was
relatively "uncontested". Violin operates in too many segments within
the rackmount market - many of which have their own leading specialist vendor
for whom this is their main business.
On the blunt front of warrring
fast SSD racks - we later learned in
January 2014 -
that the ghost of Violin's past hottest competitor
Texas Memory Systems -
while seeming quiet on the news front during its year long digestion and
absorption by IBM - had
in fact been eating large chunks of fast rackmount SSD market pie.
1 place from previous quarter.
Stec had been acquired by
WD just before this
quarter - with the intention of merging it into
as has often been the case with other
acquisitions, the transition to new branding and business models had barely
begun to have any impact on Stec's market in the first quarter of its life as
a WD owned business entity. Search volume for Stec in its own right within our
qualified SSD search universe in Q4 2013 was 5x as high as that for
To understand the business case for this acquisition see
these articles which predated the announcement:-
flash care management & DSP IP in SSDs (explains the key technology
acquired), and hostage
to the fortunes of SSD (explains the strategic rationale for many of the
acquistions which took place or were being considered in the SSD market in
5 places from previous quarter.
In the preceding quarter
SanDisk completed its
acquisition of SMART
Storage Systems which had begun sampling
SSDs (DDR3 flash DIMMs) as a competitive alternative to high end
PCIe SSDs. This was
a significant milestone for SanDisk along the way to repositioning itself as a
leading entity in the enterprise SSD market.
In December 2013
-StorageSearch.com's home page blog
changed in SSD year 2013? said - "The most significant new SSD form
factor in the enterprise market has been the architecture designed by
Diablo Technologies -
which was brought to market by SMART Storage (which is now part of the
enterprise SSD business at SanDisk)."
During this quarter the
growing importance of leveraging and integrating
was one of the top editorial topics aired on the home page of
from SanDisk is one
of a handful of known leaders in the SSD software platform market.
However with new companies still entering this market every week -
no current position can be regarded as secure. It won't be certain who the
final winners in this aspect of the SSD market will be for many years - as
some anticipated permutations of SSD software, storage and server
architecture haven't even been launched in the market yet.
rank as in the quarter before.
October 2013 -
Cisco completed its
for approximately $415 million.
Some of the market background to that
acquisition was a growing realization by SSD system architects that the true
limits of SSD enhancement (measured in terms of
can only be reached by integrations at the
rackmount SSD system
level - and this paradigm was discussed in the article -
thinking inside the box - exciting new directions in rackmount SSDs.
problems facing users who need to anticipate what new products will do - in the
context of seeing bewildering changes in the identity and very purpose of such
systems was discussed in this article -
clues to Users playing the enterprise SSD box riddle game.
Down 3 places from previous quarter.
In this quarter
Skyera didn't make
any significant product announcements.
In October 2013 - after
publishing my home page blog -
meet Ken - and
the enterprise SSD software event horizon - which looked at the future
market effects of improving SSD utilization ratios - I
interviewed Skyera to
get an idea of their views on this important aspect of
SSD design efficiency
- as I thought they were one of the leading companies driving the pace of
change in thinking about this particularly in
new rackmount SSD
designs - even though they were having little or no impact on market share
(at that time) with their first generation of products - for the
described in the article.
Up 5 places from previous quarter.
In this quarter -
OCZ announced that it would
file for bankrupty and also said it had received an offer from
acquire substantially all of its assets (which did happen in January 2014).
than 3 weeks before OCZ was tipped over the financial cliff by the closing of
its credit lines - I initiated and interview with OCZ's CEO Ralph Schmitt
and also with Alex Mei,
CMO of OCZ - because I wanted to disambiguate some important working
assumptions I had been making about the company's business penetration in the
enterprise and role of its controller technology. What I learned suggested to
me that if and when the financial brakes were ever lifted off OCZ's SSD business
(and its flash memory supply chain) the company would be in a very interesting
position of opportunity in some markets.
My interview was written
and published on the main SSD news page of StorageSearch.com on November 21,
2013 with the title -
"So - you think
you already know this leading SSD company? What can I say to change your mind?"
Even from the perspective of today - I think it remains an invaluable
reference point from which to understand and anticipate possible
trajectories of future business from the new OCZ.
Up 2 places from previous quarter.
At the start of
this quarter in an interview with Tom Isakovich,
CEO and founder of Nimbus
- which was reported on the SSD news page
October 1, 2013 -
readers of StorageSearch.com learned that:- Nimbus was profitable, their
sales had tripled in the current year and sales were expected to triple again
in the following year.
Down 4 places from previous quarter.
November 2013 EMC launched a legal suit
against Pure Storage
alledging that former EMC personnel had taken with them detailed customer
related market information. Pure Storage responded that the complaint was
2 places from previous quarter.
In this quarter IBM didn't make any
significant SSD product announcements.
But - given the date at which
I'm writing this - it would be remiss of me not to mention here that IBM made
some very big enterprise SSD product announcements in January 2014 - and you can
read my coverage of that - which includes interviews with key product
evangelists in this article -
IBM SSD Jim - but not as we know it.
To give you an idea of
the scale of that interest in the new SSD born again IBM...
this Top SSD
Companies List was based on a single month - rather than a single
quarter (then while cautiously acknowledging the series-historic evidence that
a quarter is a more reliable sampling period) - then I can reveal that - for
the single month of January 2014 (based on data from Jan 1 to 11:00 GMT
on Jan 31) - IBM would be ranked the #1 SSD company,
ron Fusion-io would
be #2 and LSI would be
#3 - all closely packed in a trio of uber super SSD leadership - all the while
with the #2 company having grown its own absolute search volume from the
preceding month (December 2013) - just in case you wondered if any dips in
search activity interest were involved.
While you shouldn't read
too much into the significance of a single month's ranking - because these
temporary news spike based re-orderings do happen from time to time - it's a
pointer (along with other narratives and market analysis) that rankings at the
top end of the top SSD companies list - are no longer as sticky and impregnable
as they seemed to be for the past few years.
BTW that was one of my
forecasts in my December 2013 article -
changed in 2013? - but unlike you - I have the advantage that I'm looking at
this type of data all the time - and it's been guiding my work as a market
analysts since long before I started publishing these lists.
Down 4 places from previous quarter.
October 2013 -
HGST began the process
of ingesting the newly acquired Virident.
Down 1 place from previous quarter.
In the quarter ended November 28,
2013 - Micron said that
about 50% of its nand flash
memory bits wound up in SSDs.
Micron also reported significant
growth in its server RAM
business in this quarter.
However, in the next few years I think it's
likely that this server DRAM business will be impacted by the growing adoption
of server based flash - initially by
PCIe SSDs (a market
itself participates directly) and later to a growing extent by
flash SSDs in the form represented by flash DIMMs from competitor
general effect of server based flash on server DRAM is to reduce the number of
servers required to service like for like apps and users. (SSD-CPU equivalence)
In the past few years the RAM impact of this transition has mostly
been limited to the movement of more RAM into fewer servers.
the next few years, however, flash SSDs may also begin to replace a
proportion of memory capacity which was previously done by DRAM.
doesn't currently have a low latency, high capacity, flash DIMM SSD technology
platform in its product line. But I think it's inevitable that Micron will - at
some stage in 2014 or 2015 - have to publicly address this product gap /
opportunity / threat to maintain confidence in its server customer base.
ways of doing this are:-
- ammending the Hybrid Memory Cube architecture to support internal flash
controllers (a possibility I wrote about back in 2011)
- licensing or acquiring a similar flash DIMM interface controller
- developing something similar internally
patent and IP decks in readiness for the above options for that may have been
one of the factors in the
2013 patent deal with Rambus.
- launching patent lawsuits to slow down competitors
a related conference call - Satish Rishi,
CFO - Rambus said "we haven't licensed the entire controller space...
besides DRAM, and on that side of the industry, we're looking to have more
licensees... ...Today most of our patents do not read on the interfaces for
non-volatile memory... But over time, I think that's going to change and we
expect that some of the novel technologies in the non-volatile space as the
speeds get higher will probably adopt the type of interfaces that the DRAM
industry has used. So we have a lot of upside potential." (...read
My guess is that - Micron will be conflicted about
investing too much, too soon in memory channel SSDs for the same reasons that
hard drive vendors
originally ignored SSDs.
In the present state of the
SSD market -
Micron may regard the short term market opportunity of memory channel SSD as
- being small compared to something they already do (PCIe SSDs) and - in the
long term - as damaging to their DRAM revenue if it succeeeds.
presentation (pdf) delivered to investors in November 2013 - Diane Bryant,
Senior VP & GM Data Center Group, Intel said the company estimated -
it was the #1 supplier of SSDs to the datacenter - with
SSD drive business worth around $1 billion."
Up 4 places.
In this quarter Kaminario reaffirmed the legitimacy of
its claims to be faster - by announcing its results in 2 audited benchmarks:-
price performance - in which the same Kaminario system (above) beat a bunch
of named competitors in a cost effectiveness comparison for high end
Up 8 places.
EMC launched a
legal suit against Pure
Storage alledging that former EMC personnel had taken with them detailed
customer related market information.
Up 6 places.
In this quarter
Seagate didn't launch
any significant SSD products and the company didn't do anything newsworthy
related to the SSD market.
Despite that lack of proactive SSD market
activity - Seagate was often named in speculative rumors on the internet as
being involved in so called "acquisition" talks with various
distressed SSD companies. As a sanity check here - I'd like to say that if even
a small percentage of these rumors which have appeared in recent years (linked
to Seagate) had any serious foundation - then statistically by now Seagate
would be the unhappy owner of more unsynergistic SSD companies than they would
know what to do with. It's sometimes laughable to see the incompatible
pairings which get floated in such SSD stories on some SSD news sites.
Seagate doesn't publish data about its SSD revenue or shipments. In an earnings
conference call in January 2014 - when asked specifically about the SSD market
Seagate said it "sees a need for confidentiality due to competitive
Seagate also said in the same earnings call that it
continues to look at organic growth and inorganic growth (acquisitions and IP
licensing) in its SSD product portfolio. (Sadly that's all the excuse needed
by some SSD bloggers to start new rumors on any given slow news day.)
Up 2 places.
didn't make any significant new SSD product announcements in the 2nd half of
Up 7 places.
Systems is the highest ranked vendor in this edition of the Top SSD
Companies List whose primary business is
hybrid SSD arrays -
rather than SSD drives or SSD systems.
In this quarter Tegile continued
to feed the newswires with stories about "awards" from various
hybrid SSD storage pool
market / SSD ASAP market - which began with the first auto caching
appliance shipments in
- remains a business opportunity which is still largely under exploited.
of the reasons for this is the bewildering number and nature of different types
of solutions being thrown at users - mostly as opportunistic line extensions by
vendors whose core products are really (at heart) something else.
such a market - a focused and integrated vendor like Tegile - for whom this is
their main product - has all the marketing communications advantages of a
single superhero technology narrative. (And it doesn't hurt that this superhero
is presented as helping underdogs get results which they know they can't
otherwise afford - and also without having to place their trust in the
performance outcomes of a multi-vendor integration casino.)
Frst appearance in these lists.
In this quarter
that Michael Nilsson
(who had previously been VP of sales at
Stec) had joined Virtium
as senior VP of sales.
Down 4 places.
In this quarter
RunCore didn't make any
significant SSD announcements.
Down 1 place.
In the 2nd half of 2013 - WD was a
company which was busy acquiring even more SSD companies than it had
done before. Its
SSD reprocessing center - for the enterprise market anyway - seemed to be
this going to work?
We'll have to see in future editions of this
But if it doesn't - you have to give credit to WD's management
that they have been putting a lot of effort into inflating the SSD life raft -
in readiness for the predicted and inevitable market floods which will one
day wash away the enterprise
hard drive market -
even if those SSD clouds still seem far away right now.
Down 5 places.
In this quarter - you might interpret the market's
downgrading of HGST in this way...
WD had confirmed (by spending
all that money on other enterprise SSD acquisitions) - that the SSD assets it
had gotten in acquiring HGST (a
SAS SSD product and an
enterprise SSD controller
- which HGST had also supplied to Intel for use in PCIe SSDs) still fell a
long way short of being enough to provide an adequate enterprise SSD
Up 1 place.
In this quarter
ISO 9001:2008 Certification.
In this quarter
Toshiba agreed to
acquire the SSD assets of OCZ.
was discussed in more detail earlier in this article.
And you can see
how I thought it might change things for each company by clicking on the
profile pages for each company and reading the recent articles in there.
And what about all those other (575+) SSD companies not named
The SSD market is now big enough to enable many SSD
ecosystem companies to have very viable businesses - even when they aren't 1
of the top 25 or so SSD companies.
If you work at a company which isn't
in the list yet - but would like to be - here's some simple advice.
from me - as usual on the SSD
news page etc.
- get better
- work harder
- remember to let people know when you have exited stealth mode
Note:- Rankings above are based on analyzing the search activity of
SSD readers on StorageSearch.com who came from over 148,000 different servers
which accessed our SSD content in the 3 months period ending December 31, 2013.
The rankings above are based on multiple types of search and
browsing activity - and after filtering out unreliable and fake searches
coming from robots and spam intended to subvert rankings for criminal or
malicious reasons. Our rankings and tie breakers also use data from some other
SSD related internet sources from time to time.
You can read more
about the significance and track record of this methodology in predicting and
observing SSD market intentions in
earlier editions of this