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the Top SSD Companies

33rd quarterly edition - based on search metrics in Q2 2015

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - September 30, 2015

Over 8 years ago when I started compiling and publishing the Top SSD Companies lists I suggested that one of the reasons such a list would be useful is that the number of SSD companies would grow to a level which would make it impossible for most of us to track every new product and technology idea connected with the SSD market.

My thinking was that by using the crowd sourced intelligence of the SSD readers of - we might be able to abstract a shortcut of the most important companies which we should get to know for a variety of changing purposes.

Well - the success of that idea - has been demonstrated in more ways than I could ever have imagined at the outset - and as the sample size of the SSD companies population grew from its modest pilot episode cast of 55 then (2 years later) doubled to 112 , then (4 years later) exceeded 300 and 5 years later exceeded 400.

By 2011 and 2012 we were starting to see validation of this methodology with VC investments, IPOs and acquisition activity helping to calibrate and connect the advance signals from those earlier research based rankings.

And further confirmation and refutation of the market significance of SSD technology trend signals became clearer via news stories in subsequent years.

All of which demonstrates that one way or another if a new technology idea is going to be adopted widely in the SSD market - or if a company is going to be successful or acquired - it often shows up quarters or years before as a search signal in this list.

I stopped counting SSD companies over a year ago at the 600 or so level - although every week I still hear about newcomers to the market.

Like all good things that seemingly inexorable onward and upward growth in raw SSD company numbers will one day come to an end - and in a strategic article in April 2015 - I discussed the background pressures and market routes by which I expect (in the enterprise anyway) the raw SSD companies count would eventually come crashing down to a much smaller level.

How many SSD companies will that be?

Well -here's the thing...

Although I was using a completely different method of analysis developed and refined over many years (which analyzes uniquely useful architectures and use cases and projects 5 years ahead) I came to the conclusion that when consolidation does arrive - maybe 25 or so SSD companies is all that there will be to know.

In that respect there's a satisfying feel to the idea that the abstracted lists of "most important SSD companies to know" (sampled from a huge chaotic and changing market) will one day converge and become another list of "all the SSD companies which are knowable" (in a much more stable and predictable market).

For reasons I explained in my consolidation article. We're still on the way up (in SSD vendor population counts) as entirely new startups and existing companies scramble alike to react to new opportunites and market gaps which are being created to make the end point possible.

In the projected endpoint (2020 or so) vastly greater market revenue which will be shared by vastly fewer competitors - due to standardization and better marketing - what's not to like? - if you're one of the winners.

The SSD everywhere ecosystem is a strange kind of creature which has emerged as sufficiently big in scope to deserve its own (new dynasty) thinking as the only viable way forward and indeed the endgame - instead of merely being a collaborative vehicle to improve the ride for data safaris which were designed long ago with entirely different raw technology components in mind.

what's new in this edition of the Top SSD Companies?

Most of the companies in this edition of the list have been here before. But there's a significant newcomer too - Primary Data - which is at the forefront of a new wave of growingly sophisticated, SSD-aware, user-focused enterprise software - which is decoupled from the hardware it can manage.

While at the same time 2 of the fastest climbers in the list are players in the oldest game in SSD town - taking data to rugged hostile locations. I think there's more to this than simply an IoT issue. It's about SSDs getting everywhere, into new applications and not simply replacing hard drives.

the Top 25 SSD Companies - 2015 Q2

based on SSD search volume in the second quarter 2015

1 - Diablo Technologies - same as before

This was the 4th consecutive quarter at #1 for Diablo. Interest in Diablo continued to be at a high level - but the gap between Diablo and the #2 company and the others in this list had narrowed.

Diablo's search volume was 34% above SanDisk. And Diablo's search volume was 7x the level of the #20 ranked company.

In this quarter - Diablo was able to resume shipments of its flash based memory channel SSDs following an affirmative court outcome in a patent dispute with Netlist which had cast a long shadow of doubt over the future of this product line.

2 - SanDisk - same as before

In this quarter - SanDisk launched a long anticipated 3rd generation of Fusion-io PCIe SSDs but also cautioned that in its own customer base it was seeing that some of the business which had traditionally been implemented by its customers using PCIe SSDs was moving towards arrays of SATA SSDs.

3 - OCZ - up 1 place

In this quarter - OCZ revealed more details about its new 2.5" NVMe SSDs - among which were programmable power envelopes - with 15W, 20W and 25W settings - which makes them attractive denizons of high density, high performance storage arrays.

4 - HGST - down 1 place

In this quarter - HGST announced volume production of its recently sampling NVMe SSDs - the Ultrastar SN150 HHHL and Ultrastar SN100 2.5".

5 - Seagate - up 1 place

In this quarter - Seagate announced another significant design win for its Nytro SSDs in the China cloud market.

Answering a conference call question to elicit Seagate's comments re SanDisk's reported experience of customer drift away from PCIe SSDs to SATA and SAS - Steve Luczo, CEO Seagate said - "I wouldnt pick one against the other, although Id say that maybe some of the growth of the PCIe space was a little overblown in the past. Its very customer and application specific."

See also:- estimating future SSD capacity ratios in the server, SAN and cold storage

6 - Virtium - up 2 places

In this quarter - Virtium announced it had extended its distributor relationships to include Arrow (EMEA and APAC) and MEV in Germany.

7 - Microsemi - up 4 places

In this quarter - Microsemi acquired Vitesse for $389 million.

Microsemi also introduced a new 64GB BGA SLC SSD - the MSM064 - (aimed at the military market) which like other Microsemi SSDs doesn't use super caps or batteries in the design.

See also:- to be or not to be? - hold up capacitors in 2.5" military SSDs

8 - Tegile Systems - up 2 places

In this quarter - Tegile closed a $70 million Series D funding round bringing the company's total capital raised to $117 million.

See also:- VCs in SSDs

9 - Violin Memory - same as before

In this quarter - Violin reported that revenue for the quarter ended April 30, 2015 had declined 33% year on year to $12 million and was 41% less sequentially compared to the previous quarter.

So in that respect Violin was lucky to maintain its interest in the SSD reader base. My guess is this has something to do with 3 factors...
  • Violin still has a strong brand - due to its prominence in the early phases of the enterprise flash array market
  • Violin was one of the pioneers in big controller SSD architecture. And as that kind of approach has been adopted successfully by more and more leading vendors - there's still a kind of expectancy that this gives vendors some kind of competitive edge. (Which - generally - it can do with the right investment of technical effort and marketing.)
  • But I also think that Violin now holds the same kind of gruesome but hopeful fascination for investors which used to prop up STEC in this Top SSD Companies series during the fading years of its business prior to acquisition.

10 - Pure Storage - up 4 places

In this quarter - Pure Storage said it had raised another $225 million in funding - bringing the total in all rounds to $470 million.

more SSD funding stories

11 - Cactus Technologies - up 8 places

In this quarter - Cactus launched a new range of extremely reliable industrial Grade SD Cards available in capacities from 512MB to 16GB with an expected life of at least 5-7 years.

Cactus - whose VP of Engineering (in 1994) led the design team of the world's first single chip flash card controller enabling the CompactFlash card market - has produced some outstanding educational materials about long term flash reliability and cost of ownership issues. The company was very active on the blog front in this quarter - having written over 10 new technical blogs on topics related to industrial SSDs.

12 - Kaminario - up 3 places

In this quarter - Kaminario announced the appointment of a new board member - a partner at Menlo Ventures - whose past sales leadership roles included recently famous storage companies:- Fusion-io and 3PAR and way back before then - one of the ancestors of the RAID industry - Data General's Clariion line.

13 - Micron - same as before

In this quarter - Micron announced it was in production with 2D 3 bits per cell (TLC) 16nm nand flash memory with 16GB capacity. Micron said it believed that TLC would account for almost 50% of the total NAND gigabytes shipped in 2015.

14 - Samsung - up 2 places

In this quarter - Samsung announced it had started mass production of the fastest M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs for the PC market.

15 - InnoDisk - up 9 places

In this quarter - InnoDisk launched a new family of skinny (DRAM-less ) SSDs for embedded applications in a variety of form factors including mSATA, M.2, SATADOM, CFast, and SATA Slim.

InnoDisk (which was best known for industrial SSDs) had also developed (in 2013-2014) a seemingly out of context range of enterprise rackmount SSDs. After discussing this with the company I thought it significant enough to mention the seldom written about market segment for which this had been optimized as one of the segments in my article - Decloaking hidden and missing segments in the analysis of market opportunities for enterprise rackmount flash.

So... a noteworthy product concept - I had been wrong to dismiss it before. But how about the differences in marketing - between industrial components and enterprise systems? I wondered how that would work in the confused babble of the modern SSD market?

InnoDisk's rackmount SSD product line was quietly spun off without fanfare at the end of 2014 and then re-emerged from stealth mode in Q2 2015 as a new company called AccelStor

16 - Intel - up 4 places

In this quarter - Intel launched a new range (750 series) of NVMe PCIe SSDs available in HHHL and 2.5" form factors and also a new family (535 series) of SATA SSDs in M.2 and 2.5" form factors for consumer applications.

Intel was also one of the investors in a Series C funding round of Coho Data.

17 - IBM - down 10 places

In this quarter - IBM announced it had been the number #1 all-flash storage array vendor in 2014, shipping more petabytes and units for Solid-State Arrays than any other competitor. IBM said that in 2014 it had sold more than 2,100 FlashSystems, totaling 62 petabytes of capacity.

At around the same time 2 competitors made similar claims for enterprise flash array market leadership in 2014 citing different data and counting different types of products.

18 - Nimbus Data - up 5 places

In this quarter - Nimbus didn't make any product announcements. But the company's products had been rated #1 (compared to 39 competing products) according to a proprietary scoring system in a 2014-2015 buyers guide published by DCIG

19 - Foremay - up 2 places

In this quarter - didn't launch any new products.

20 - EMC - up 2 places

In this quarter - EMC doubled the capacity of the X-Brick building blocks used in its XtremIO flash arrays and confirmed that the XtremIO product line on its own accounted for EMC's #1 market share position in 2014 - which had been reported in this period by Gartner.

21 - BiTMICRO - reappearance in this list

In this quarter - BiTMICRO announced new management software called DriveLight to monitor the health of its MAXio E-Series PCIe SSDs.

22 - Marvell - up 3 places

In this quarter - Marvell sampled a new PCIe Gen2 SSD controller claimed to be the industrys first to be fully compliant with the SATA Express standard and which will allow SSD manufacturers to offer PCIe SSDs at price parity to SATA SSDs.

23 - RunCore - reappearance in this list

In this quarter - RunCore - which since 2013 has marketed SSDs under a special brand called V&G for SSD customers in the military and enterprise markets in China - exhibited at the Defense Information Technology & Equipment Exhibition in Beijing.

24 - Maxta - reappearance in this list

In this quarter - Maxta was named a 2015 Cool Vendor in Storage Technologies by Gartner.

25 - Primary Data - 1st appearance in this series for the company (although the "gang" of founders have been at the top of the list in a previous incarnation).

What's all about?

Making it easier for users who have big data assets to decouple their data from whatever hardware it was accidentally created on - and extracting more business value from it by being able to deploy it on whatever happens to be the right latency of hardware which is thought to be appropriate at the time.

At the heart of this is the ability to not just migrate data - but to understand architecture and metadata and being able to automtaically repackage it in new ways - which virtualize the data assets in ways which can efficiently be exploited by any new or future SSD server storage resources which may come into your possession or be under your own control.

Who dropped out of the list from the previous quarter?

Most noteworthy was Cisco - which having exited the SSD market - has dropped out of the reckonings entirely.

Others which dropped out of the list were:- A3CUBE, Avago (PLX) and PLDA - any of which could return in future editions.

So - which companies lay just outside the top SSD companies list in Q2 2015?

The next 10 companies (listed in ranking order) were:- That's it from me for now. Digesting the implications from the above will keep you busy. I will return in the next few days to add more narrative commentary.

For more like this take a look at these resources:-
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It looks like you're seriously interested in SSDs so if you've got the time - you might also want to take a look at the home page of which - unlike most home pages - also includes some real content.
About the publisher - 23 years guiding the enterprise market

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the top 10 SSD oems

the Top SSD Companies
When I listed "adaptive intelligence flow symmetry" as one of the 11 key design symmetries in my 2012 classic article - how fast can your SSD run backwards? - it was located pretty close to the end of the article. That didn't signify its relative importance in SSD architecture. But it was a topic whose significance at that time was relatively little appreciated...
there's no single best place to locate all the IO and management intelligence of a big SSD.

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SSD news
SSD history
market research
DWPD - state of the market
Imprinting the brain of the SSD
the Top SSD Companies - series overview
about the publisher - 24 years guiding the enterprise
consolidation in enterprise flash arrays - why? when? analysis
there's more to future change in SSD and SCM than DIMM wars
What were the key SSD market developments in this quarter?
The background to search activity is always better informed when you interpret them by these perspective:-
  • what was happening in the market at the time (news)
  • reaction to what had been happening just before?
But in an interconnected world it's not that simple - because readers are also influenced by stuff they read elsewhere - which may not have been reported here, or maybe they read about issues which were discussed here at different points in time.

These sampling biases and analysis errors - as they relate to the SSD market -are discussed in this article - Can you trust SSD market data?

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SSD news highlights in Q2 2015
April highlights - click for more
WD's enterprise SSD revenue was $1 billion / year run rate

Diablo resumed shipments of MCS following legal victories.

Silicon Motion agreed to acquire PCIe SSD maker - Shannon Systems for $57 million.

Although I couldn't write about it at the time - in April 2015 I noticed the start of a new trend - military SSDs wearing DWPD badges too. This was a result of enterprise-like data architectures being designed for off-grid powered systems in hostile environments with a new design concept. The use of native military grade SSDs instead of repackaged (higher swap footprint) enterprise systems. See my later blog about this - toughening up DWPD

In April - the home page blog on said - "Now consider this... 90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive." - It came with the warning that it was the "most dangerous new article of the year" (and it became onf of the most popular too) - drivers, mechanisms and routes towards consolidation in the enterprise SSD market .

May highlights - click for more
Tegile got another $70 million funding.

OCZ shipped 2.5" hot swap NVMe SSDs with programmable power envelopes.

Nimble's CEO commented in an earnings conference call about the problem of his company being perceived as only a hybrid storage supplier by potential customers who had what they considered to be all flash applications. (Nimble started with hybrids but now does AFAs too.)

"We're #1 in flash arrays."

"No we are."

"You're both wrong - because we are."

3 different vendors announced enterprise flash array leadership at around the same time based on similar raw market data. These claims were swiftly dissected and disambiguated in a blog by Objective Analysis This story exemplified one of the problems discussed in my classic article - Can you trust SSD market data?

June highlights - click for more
Nantero got $31 million funding for 300 C retention nvram.

Altera launched an adaptive DSP controller for the PCIe SSD market in the same month it was acquired by Intel.

"51% of enterprise flash arrays customers expect to see an ROI in 12 months or less" - according to survey results sponsored by Tegile.

"The classic bath tub failure curve is not the most useful way of thinking about PCIe SSD failures" - according to a large scale study of PCIe SSD failures used in Facebook's infrastructure over a 4 year period.

34% of FC SAN sites used custom performance scripts as part of their pre purchase and deployment evaluations - according to a survey by Load DynamiX

"Longsys is the biggest buyer of Samsung flash in China, and our revenue is $800 million /year" - a spokesperson from Longsys informed the editor of who up to that time hadn't heard of the company before. (Shows how big the market really is.)

see also:- What were the big SSD ideas of 2015?

We're now nearing a pivotal point in the enterprise SSD market where the long held assumptions I helped to encourage (especially how many leading systems vendors there will be in the market at the same time) are about to change dramatically.
90% of the enterprise SSD companies which you know have no good reasons to survive

The enterprise flash story... why is the plot so tangled?
The enterprise flash story... A lot has been written about it. But have you ever wondered - why did the plot get so complicated? And have you seen some of the recent episodes? Many of these new characters just aren't believable. But the SSD startup scriptwriters keep adding new heroes and villains and twists.

Which got me thinking. Was there ever a best past time to simplify the whole series? And was there ever a heroic golden age of enterprise SSD? By which I mean - when was the most exciting episode at which to get started? the article

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Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise
Some of the world's leading SSD marketers have confided in me they know from their own customer anecdotes that there are many segments for enterprise flash arrays which aren't listed or even hinted at in standard models of the enterprise market.

Many of these missing market segments don't even have names.

Hey - that means SSD-world is like a map of the US before Lewis and Clark.

If you're a VC should this make you anxious or happy?

If you're a user - maybe that's why no one is delighting you in the way you think you deserve.

That's what led me to write the article - Decloaking hidden segments in the enterprise for rackmount SSDs

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For many AFA startups a single customer like that is bigger than their whole business plan.
what can you infer when all flash array startups compare themselves to EMC?

Unlike old jokes - old SSD market models aren't always the best - even if some of them have surprisingly well withstood the test of time.

That's why there are so many on this site (market models - not jokes - sorry.)
hostage to the fortunes of SSD


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