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the Top SSD Companies - Q4 2016

39th quarterly edition

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - March 10, 2017
Since this series began 10 years ago it has helped millions of readers in the SSD ecosystem confidently identify emerging market patterns and significant new companies.

During that time we saw flash replace DRAM as the dominant SSD memory type, PCIe SSDs changing the nature of the server market, the growth of the merchant SSD controller market, the birth of the SSD software market and its many children (including software defined everything, usable rather than physical storage pricing models and lending a hand to the poor cousins still plowing with horse drawn hybrid storage arrays).

At the end of 2016 the SSD market reached a dominant technology position where its products defined everything important in the external computing environment. But innovation hadn't stopped and the SSD market had already begun looking inwards towards the memory space and outwards towards capturing data from a wider internet of things.

The next wave of disruptive change in memory systems architecture has barely begun.

DIMM wars and the growing number of value based tiered memory roles everywhere is good for some kinds of memory solutions but it is being tempered by Cassandra predictions that there will be smaller settings at the table for old familiar memory types - especially DRAM.


And another slimming effect (doing more with less) being seen in all legacy applications is greater utilization from new architectures which are embedded in new SSD array software. If legacy was all - we'd be looking at much smaller future markets. But SSD-everywhere is unshackling the performance boundaries of the pre-SSD era.

Any data anywhere can now be repurposed, upcycled and - if found valuable - can be put to good use in a timely service delivery. And the world's data factory is still at an early stage of play right now - similar to the pre-Amazon Netscape web era on the dialup internet.

So it looks like we're going to find this list useful for a little while longer yet.

the Top 25 SSD Companies - Q4 2016

based on reader search (over 226,000 unique readers in this period)

1 - (tied) - Pure Storage - same as before

Pure Storage said after the quarter ended that it expected to get $1 billion of revenue in 2017.

rackmount SSDs, petabyte SSDs


1 - (tied) - Western Digital

This is the first time at #1 for WD although 2 of the SSD companies which it acquired in past years have been here before (Fusion-io and SanDisk).

Although it has taken many years for the branding effect to clarify we're now starting to see a new SSD identity emerge from Western Digital which is distinct from the sum of all the parts it has accumulated.


3 - Seagate - down 1 place

The gap in search volume between the #1 and #3 in this quarter was at a historic low of just 22%.

M.2 SSDs, SSD controllers, SAS SSDs, PCIe SSDs


4 - Foremay - up 6 places

I guess you could say this is part of a "military" wave in this list which you will also see below.

Foremay has been at the forefront of shipping high capacity NVMe SSDs for military applications - having nearly eliminated the traditional time lag of adoption for new interface types in rugged markets.

At the core of this is much greater awareness in defense systems designers about modern datacenter inspired architectures. And long before the military market adopted SATA they had loved SCSI SSDs.NVMe is the new SCSI. And it's got a plausible long term roadmap for those who like COTS technology and wonder if the SSD they design in today will still be available in 10 years.

SSD security, military SSDs


5 - Toshiba - up 15 places

This ranking now includes combined searches for SSDs from both Toshiba and OCZ.

Due to financial problems in Toshiba due to losses in its nuclear business Toshiba - in the following quarter - attracted a lot of attention due to speculation about selling some or all of its flash and SSD business.

Shootout At Yokkaichi
SAS SSDs, 2.5" PCIe SSDs, M.2 SSDs



6 - Violin Memory - down 3 places

The long waiting game of would Violin go bust or be rescued by some kind of magic ended in this quarter.

6 years ago Violin said it hoped to become a $1 billion revenue enterprise SSD array company. From that time the direction of travel was down.

90% of enterprise SSD companies have no good reasons to survive



7 - V&G also formerly known as RunCore - up 7 places

Custom form factors and combinations of design features are an important part of V&G's SSD business.

military SSDs, custom SSDs


8 - Diablo Technologies - same as before

Although more than 20 companies have made their intentions clear in the nvm as RAM market there aren't many whose solutions you can buy ready to run in integrated systems.

Diablo is indisputedly the leader in the "NVDIMM flash as RAM" category.

But just as we saw in past phases of the SSD server acceleration market - with PCIe SSDs - when a market opportunity looks big enough - then competition comes in.

The SCM DIMM wars picture is further complicated by the fact that form factors don't matter as much as they used to due to the localization effect of new fabrics and that genuinely new memory types are also hoping to get in on the act.

Having said that - I think flash will remain the mainstream technology in this segment in the short term as the newcomers have yet to prove their reliability.

new thinking in RAM, big memory controllernomics


9 - Nimbus Data Systems - up 11 places

rackmount SSDs, petabyte SSDs


10 - NGD Systems - new name for NxGn Data - down 6 places

PCIe SSDs


11 - Micron - down 4 places

hybrid DIMMs, industrial SSDs, boom bust cycles in memory markets - SSD lessons


12 - Primary Data - up 11 places

This is the highest rank so far for Primary Data.

SSD software


13 - Samsung - down 4 places

consumer SSDs, M.2 SSDs, flash memory


14 - Kaminario - down 1 place

rackmount SSDs, trust and enterprise SSD services marketing


15 - Intel - down 10 places

Intel may have suffered in this quarter for having previously over promised the performance and availability of its much hyped but unavailable Optane SSD product family. Not so much of what they unveil, leak or hype about future memory systems is taken as gospel.

big SSD ideas of 2016, the future of memory intensive systems, processors in SSDs


16 - NVMdurance - up 11 places

This is the first time in the Top SSD Companies List for NVMdurance.

flash endurance technologies, SSD controller firmware and IP


17 - BiTMICRO - up 5 places

rackmount SSDs, PCIe SSDs, military SSDs


18 - Virtium - down 6 places

industrial SSDs, M.2 SSDs


19 - InnoDisk - down 1 place

industrial SSDs


20 - Mangstor - down 5 places

In this quarter Mangstor announced the departure of its CEO who had been a co-founder of the company.

The company had been the first to demonstrate ultra low latency across NVMe fabrics (in 2015) using software which it had written to support its 100 core SSD controller based PCIe SSDs and racks.

In the following quarter we learned that this kind of fantastic performance would become less rare due to standardization efforts and productization of low latency NVMe fabric software from other sources - notably Excelero. A later casualty of such developments was EMC's DSSD product line.

PCIe SSDs, rackmount SSDs


21 - EMC - up 4 places

rackmount SSDs


22 - Symbolic IO - first time appearance in this list

Symbolic IO was still emerging from stealth and hadn't revealed much upto this quarter. But what the company did say held out the promise of an entirely new architecture leveraging persistent memory, processing efficiency and software.

4 shining SSD companies in 2016 - (editor's cut), rackmount SSDs


23 - Microsemi - up 9 places

PCIe RAM SSDs, SSD controllers, interface glue chips


24 - Netlist - down 7 places

hybrid DIMMs


25 - (tied) - Tegile Systems - up 3 places

hybrid storage arrays, rackmount SSDs, innovative pricing models


25 - (tied) - Hyperstone - first time appearance in this list

In the following quarter we learned that Micron has used Hyperstone's USB 3 SSD controller in the design of a new eUSB SSD product line aimed at low power, reliable server boot and logging applications in the IoT market.

SSD controllers, industrial SSD market
SSD ad - click for more info
Who were the SSD companies just outside this list?

The next 10 or so companies (listed in ranking order) were:-
related reading

who d'you call for the SSD crystal ball?

the big market idea of SSD year 2016 (editor's cut)

what were the big SSD memory architecture ideas in 2016?

Decloaking hidden and missing market opportunities for enterprise flash
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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 StorageSearch.com which - unlike most home pages - also includes some real content.
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the top SSD oems

the Top SSD Companies - series overview

In this quarter 3 companies joined this list for the first time:- Hyperstone, NVMdurance and SymbolicIO.

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SSD ad - click for more info

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after All Flash Arrays?
what's the next box of memory tricks?
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SSD news
SSD history
VCs in SSDs
market research
about the publisher
the Top SSD Companies - series overview
consolidation in enterprise flash arrays market
Branding Strategies in the SSD Market (case studies)
the enterprise SSD story why's the plot so complicated?
SSD market self awareness is the only thing which matters

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SSD ad - click for more info

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flash characterization, NVMe over Fabrics, Storage Class Memory...
what were the big SSD memory ideas in 2016?


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Pure Storage announced availability of its of petabyte-scale rackmount SSD - the FlashArray//m - which in 7U includes 512TB of raw flash delivering 1.5PB of effective capacity (based on its customer use metrics).
SSD news stories in October 2016


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SSD ad - click for more info


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Silicon Motion announced the "world's first merchant SD 5.1 controller solution" which is aimed at the Android market.
SSD news stories in November 2016


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SSD ad - click for more info


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When all storage is made from memories the dividing line between storage and memory is much more fluid than it has been before. And the new philosopher's stone by which alchemy memory chip arrays are repurposed along this spectrum from one to the other - raising and lowering the data entropy - is software rather than controller chips.
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?


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What's data? - Now hold on - that's too philosophical. Encode data a different way... to make it work better - now you're talking engineering. But that's a discussion for another time. Right here we don't care what the data means. It just comes and goes. And it's surprising how far or how little it may have traveled. From the cloud? Another storage device? Maybe it was computed just now from an earlier matching of data. Sometimes the data arrives in a rush only to sadly discover that it's not needed after all. There's a lot of data shuffling happening around the world. Most of it isn't even for you.
the interesting thing? - dataflow controllernomics


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WDC sampled its fastest ever SAS and NVMe SSDs
SSD news stories in December 2016


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BeSang says 3D Super-DRAM could fix multi-billion dollar money pit of memory industry's fab capacity roadmap
Editor:- March 15, 2017 - Just as we're starting to get used to a world view that memory fabrication capacity may not be enough to make all the memory parts needed - and that a pragmatic global optimization from the user point of view may be to plan ahead for advanced memory systems which use tiering, flash as RAM, freshly minted shiny nvms and new SSD aware software to get more storage and processing done with less chips - a journey which - depending who you are - begins or ends with the idea of reducing the ratio of DRAM to storage - and just as we're getting our heads adjusted to the huge investments which would be needed to make DRAM technology better and to believe that no sane investor (not even a VC who loves SSDs) would want to toss their money in that direction - a seemingly different alternate get out of jail free option is offered in a new blog by Sang-Yun Lee, CEO - BeSang - in EE Times - Why 3D Super-DRAM?.

Among other things Sang says...

"If you consider planar DRAM shrinking from 18nm to 16nm, then, 20% more dice-per-wafer could be achieved. To do so, multi-billion dollar should be invested for R&D and EUV is required. In case of 3D Super-DRAM, it needs less than $50 million for R&D and no EUV; and even so, it could produce 400% more die-per-wafer."

And at the risk of repeating some of that:- 4x as much DRAM from the same fabs without huge investments... How is that possible? ...read the article

Editor's comments:- You can get an idea of the complex decision matrices facing memory makers. In past decades the product types which determined the demand mix for memories (PCs, phones, servers) were few in number and had predictable roadmaps. Now big demands for memory are coming from cloud, IoT and new intelligence based markets which are creating entirely new ratios and rules of what is possible with memory systems.


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In 2016 4 shining companies - Diablo, Marvell, NVMdurance and Symbolic IO provided significant technology markers for the way ahead for the SSD memory systems ecosystem.
the big SSD market lesson from 2016


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In the context of strategic changes in the merchant SSD controller market - all companies face the challenge that there is only so far that they can go in getting mileage out of innovative features in standard SSDs.
a winter's tale of SSD market influences


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A big incentive for server makers to engage in NVDIMM wars is that integration with motherboard resources and firmware promises better lock-in at the customer level because traditionally end users have been less willing to exercise their freedom to choose 3rd party competitive suppliers for DIMM components.
the road to DIMM wars


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Getting acquainted with the needs of new big data apps
Editor:- February 13, 2017, 2017 - The nature of demands on storage and big memory systems has been changing.

A new slideshare - the new storage applications by Nisha Talagala, VP Engineering at Parallel Machines provides a strategic overview of the raw characteristics of dataflows which occur in new apps which involve advanced analytics, machine learning and deep learning.

It describes how these new trends differ to legacy enterprise storage patterns and discusses the convergence of RDBMS and analytics towards continuous streams of enquiries. And it shows why and where such new demands can only be satisfied by large capacity persistent memory systems.
slideshare by Parallel Systmes - memory and storage demands from new real time analytics and other new apps
Among the many interesting observations:-
  • Quality of service is different in the new apps.

    Random access is rare. Instead the data access patterns are heavily patterned and initiated by operations in some sort of array or matrix.
  • Correctness is hard to measure.

    And determinism and repeatability is not always present for streaming data. Because for example micro batch processing can produce different results depending on arrival time versus event time. (Computing the right answer too late is the wrong answer.)
Nisha concludes "Opportunities exist to significantly improve storage and memory for these use cases by understanding and exploiting their priorities and non-priorities for data." ...read the article

SSD software news
where are we heading with memory intensive systems?