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the Top SSD Companies - Q4 2015

35th quarterly edition - based on search metrics in Q4 2015

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - February 25, 2016
The Top SSD Companies is invariably one of the most popular articles here on the mouse site. Its usefulness over a period spanning nearly 9 years has been discussed before so I won't repeat those points here.

What were the back stories which drew SSD readers to these companies?

Clues to reader search gravity can be seen in the archived news for this period (October, November and December 2015) although expectations set by earlier events and things going on elsewhere in these markets also play a part. And for a summary of critical change factors in this calendar year see what were the big SSD ideas to learn and forget in 2015?

Enough of the preamble. Here's the list.

the Top 25 SSD Companies - Q4 2015

based on SSD reader search volume in the fourth quarter 2015

1 - SanDisk - same as before

In this quarter Western Digital announced it would acquire SanDisk for $19 billion. It was a popular quarter for SSD related acquisitions and the scale of SSD M&A in 2015 dwarfed anything seen before.

2 - Diablo Technologies - same as before

Diablo has been higher - but maintaining the #2 slot (with only a 25% gap in search volume behind SanDisk) at a time when the markets it hoped to dominate (memory channel SSDs and cheap dense NVM as tiered DRAM replacement) suddenly became sprayed with announcements of intent from a scatter of potential competitors was no mean feat.

3 (tied) - Pure Storage - up 7 places

This is the best ever ranking for Pure Storage in the history of this series (which was tracking enterprise flash array market leaders for years before Pure was founded.) I think that part of the mood leading to this high degree of interest in Pure was curiosity as to whether the (recently public) company's results would show that there was a new type of flash based business miracle to be revealed by a company which didn't have its own flash technology and had already told investors in its IPO documents that its ratio of customers to employees was close to an unsustainable 1 on 1.

3 (tied) - Violin Memory - up 4 places

I sometimes have to stop myself writing the epithet "troubled" as a prefix to stories about Violin Memory. And even though I think it and write about it - my cut and paste tool hasn't bonded these words inseparably together yet.

5 - Micron - down 2 places

There was a small drop from the temporary glamor of the smoke and mirrors announcement with Intel which had made Micron seem so fascinating in the previous quarter. There were a lot of ideas for investors and customers and competitors of Micron to digest. And the computations concerning which SSD architecture inspired technology factors would slash away past business glories and their relative size and timing compared to emerging new markets were being scored in different ways in different contexts. I think there are multiple personalities possible when you analyze a company like Micron which has both memory and SSD characteristics. I discussed these quandaries in a recent article - an SSD guide to semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles.

6 - Seagate - down 1 place

In this quarter Seagate completed its acquisition of Dot Hill. When this agreement was announced (in August 2015) I said - "As part of Seagate - Dot Hill 's caching technology could become a viable alternative platform for integrators who want to compete with newer vendors Tegile, Nimble, NexGen and hybrids from older vendors like HP and EMC." Another interpretation is that this acquisition secures a pot of IP glue which will help cement gaps between pure HDD and pure SSD product lines while also providing new entry points in cloud architecture games. It's also a step consistent with securing a starting position in the enterprise SSD box consolidation wars in which many of Seagate's traditional enterprise customers may disappear or become competitors.

7 - HGST - down 3 places

HGST is Western Digital's surrogate chef in the enterprise SSD takeout. But while HGST's SSD IP pot has already been brimming over with past acquisitions which have been tossed into its SSD spice rack - we can only guess that HGST's coping menus were stimulating rather than satisfying its owners' growing SSD appetites. Hence the need for SanDisk and a much bigger pot.

8 - Intel - up 3 places

For over 10 years Intel has been a slow moving hit and run victim of several long term trends in the computer market which have piecemeal and collectively weakened the value of its legacy processors and the architectural authority of its technology roadmaps. The once unthinkable, but inevitable consequences - if unchecked - were that Intel's own design processors would not be enough to keep its fabs busy. In 2015 Intel made 2 significant moves to correct these problems:-
  • in a move calculated to fix its historic failures to dominate several significant post PC markets (phones and tablets) due to its well known aversion to customizing products - Intel acquired Altera - which provided - in a single $16 billion scoop - both a new presence in 3rd party designed SSD controllers - but more importantly - a standard silicon platform which provides ASIC-like flexibility which is affordable in industrial and enterprise markets.
  • in a move which could leverage important aspects of SSD-CPU equivalency within semiconductor packaging (importing ideas already proven in systems) while at the same time re-entering the memory market in a face-saving way (which avoids stirring the ghosts of memory markets past) Intel emerged in 2015 as part of a new memory tiering double-act with Micron.
These changes could potentially provide Intel different entry portals into the SSD everywhere market - which are genuinely Intel architecture based - instead of being (as up to now) merely me-too.

9 - OCZ - down 3 places

In this quarter OCZ announced its "Host Managed SSD Technology" - which aligns with a new flow of big controller architecture thinking in recent years about how and where it's best to optimize different types of control actions at the flash level in an SSD drive which, however cleverly designed it may be itself, is merely seen as a grunt in the scheme of things when sitting alongside many such others in an applications oriented big array.

10 - BiTMICRO - up 6 places

In this quarter BiTMICRO announced that it was using dedupe and compression software from Permabit inside its new 1U iSCSI AFAs.

11 - Samsung - up 3 places

In this quarter Samsung announced it would collaborate with Netlist to design new products for the SSD DIMM wars market.

12 - Kaminario - down 3 places

In this quarter Kaminario didn't make any signficant product announcements.

13 - EMC - down 5 places

In this quarter EMC - which had acquired so many other storage companies in its 36 year history - itself became the object an acquisition agreement. The buyer being Dell. This clarified one aspect of change in the market... No SSD company is too big to be acquired.

14 - InnoDisk - up 1 place

In this quarter InnoDisk introduced a new SSD for the M.2 market with dual access ports (USB and GbE)

15 - Virtium - up 5 places

In this day and age who'd have thought there would still be demand for 2.5" PATA SSDs? Well in the military market there is - and in this quarter Virtium announced new models which support upto 30 DWPD.

16 - Toshiba - up 8 places

In this quarter Toshiba and SanDisk (which benefits from shared fab capacity) said they were increasing the clean room space at the Yokkaichi fabs to support the transition of production from 2D to mostly 3D nand flash. If you're curious about the internals of this factory - a video about it - was one of the links independently suggested in the January 2016 edition of the SSD Bookmarks.

17 - RunCore - up 6 places

Throughout 2015 RunCore's English language website often looked as if it had been abandoned by its parent and if you relied exclusively on that for clues about what the company was doing in the SSD world you would erase them from your list. I had some direct communication with the company this year and I got the impression that customized products for a small number of big customers in embedded markets had been their priority. Whereas when it came to marketing communications they had been preoccupied with trade shows, direct sales, rebranding efforts and business development in regions like China and Europe.

18 - Nimbus Data Systems - same as before

Nimbus was not mentioned in any SSD related announcements in this quarter.

19 - Tegile Systems - down 6 places

If there was anything interesting that Tegile could say about how leveraging the customer experience of AFAs and hybrids could be leveraged by crowd-aware software and aligned with user experience based pricing models Tegile had already said it before this quarter began. Some commentators had suggested that the company was preparing the ground for an IPO beauty pageant season in 2016. And confirmation came via news reports in the quarter after these search results were captured that the company had redirected some of its analytical capabilities inwards towards pruning its own business development costs.

20 - Marvell - up 2 places

Marvell didn't make any SSD related announcements in this quarter.

21 - Foremay - down 4 places

Foremay didn't make any SSD related announcements in this quarter.

22 - IBM - up 4 places

There's rarely a week goes by without a gushing linkedin story about IBM's flash, cloud and storage software - but little of real substance. These are mostly permutations based on different pre-existing products and customer stories. I think at times of great change and uncertainty in enterprise data architecture many people instinctively look towards IBM to see what have they got to say. Particularly regarding a 19% year on year decline in storage revenue. But in that respect they weren't the only company reporting similar results. Some of which are inevitably a result of greater competitiveness and efficiencies in the market.

23 - Cactus Technologies - down 2 places

In this quarter Cactus compiled its past SSD blog output into an educational collection called - SSD 101 - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know - aimed at engineers in industrial markets.

Later:- This was among the links in the SSD Bookmarks suggested by Cactus in the new series of the same name.

24 - Primary Data - up 12 places

This was a reappearance in the list for a company which is one of a small number of software companies which are anticipated to change the way that we think about new SSD enabled data architectures in the next 3 years.

25 - Microsemi - down 6 places

In this quarter Microsemi effectively beat an offer from (RF company) Skyworks to acquire PMC-Sierra.

Who were the SSD companies just outside this list?

The next 15 or so companies (listed in ranking order) were:-
... SSD ad - click for more info

That's it from me for now. For more like this take a look at these guides.

Can you trust SSD market data?

who's who in storage market research?

Top SSD Companies - 10 year overview

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

storage search banner

the top 10 SSD oems

the Top SSD Companies

LSI SandForce SSD processors - click for more info
the awards winning silicon
accelerating world's leading SSDs
from Seagate
SSD news
SSD history
VCs in SSDs
market research
the Top SSD Companies - series overview
about the publisher - 24 years guiding the enterprise
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?
what were the big SSD memory architecture ideas in 2016?
consolidation in enterprise flash arrays - why? when? analysis
SSD ad - click for more info
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

Attracting absolutely more reader search volume than before wasn't enough to retain the rank of some companies in the Top SSD Companies in this quarter (Q4 2015) because there were more readers than before interested in all the top companies. This means that all vendors had to up their game even to stay in the same mental place.

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

SSD ad - click for more info

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

SSD ad - click for more info

In 1999 the number of SSD manufacturers (concurrently in business) listed on passed ten for the first time.
Charting the Rise of the Solid State Disk Market

"Flash based RAM replacements (from Diablo, Netlist, OCZ, SanDisk and others) which are used as a new memory tier will have the same effect on enterprise DRAM revenue that SATA SSDs had on the 15K SAS hard drive market."
comment in SSD news - December 2015

"What should applications developers do about all the possible permutations (interface and memory technology) emerging in the market for persistent storage class memory?"
quote from a blog by Parallel Machines mentioned in SSD news - November 2015

So... what could HP bring to this party for SanDisk?
re SanDisk and HP ally in SCM DIMM wars - in SSD news - October 2015
do custom SSDs have to cost more?
Few questions in the SSD market have simple answers.

Do custom SSDs cost have to cost more?

See the blog - some thoughts about SSD customization.

Trying to understand the SSD market (based on what happened in the past in memory) is a seriously flawed notion.
an SSD view of semiconductor memory boom-bust

DRAM is neither as fast nor deterministic as you think
latency reasons for using less DRAM

SSD ad - click for more info

I asked IBM - what links would you suggest that readers visit to get a better understanding of your thinking about the enterprise flash market?
the SSD Bookmarks (2016) - suggestions from IBM

a simple list of

a simple list of military SSD companies?

It wasn't as simple as you might have thought.