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the Top SSD Companies - Q1 2017

40th quarterly edition

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - May 19, 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.

Key factors in the background of the SSD market in this period were:-
  • The memory market was still in a boom cycle which had begun in the second half of 2016. Memory shortages and higher ASPs for memory meant that many SSD companies were unable to get enough raw chips to ship all the drives and systems they could have sold.
  • Toshiba's significant memory business (speculated value $18 billion to $27 billion) was on the auction block in the hope of raising cash for its parent company which was a short step away from delisting due to losses in the nuclear power market. Speculation about bidders filled the news on quiet news days not only in the electronic press but in mainstream media too.
  • From a technological and products viewpoint the memory and SSD market were moving into a new phase of disruption due to growing awareness by users of the business benefits of having access to much bigger memory pools which had been enabled by repurposing enterprise flash storage.

    This pointed towards the direction of a refocus on memory as a strategic asset distinct to storage.
Re-engineering the computer market to "big memory everywhere" will require a level of industry investment in new tiered architecture and software similar in scale to the earlier phases of adoption in the PCIe SSD and hybrid storage array markets.

The difference between then (8 to 10 years ago) and now is that SSDs and SSD-aware software are now the mainstream.

Therefore the future memoryfication of the enterprise may not be seen as being so scary by users because they rightly or wrongly regard it as an incremental improvement which they're asking for rather than a revolutionary disuption (removing all rotating storage constraints from the software base) which was the harbinger of solid state storage adoption.

I wrote about where I thought memoryfication was heading in my January 2017 home page blog - after All Flash Arrays - what's the next box?

the Top 25 SSD Companies - Q1 2017

based on reader search (over 210,000 unique readers in this period)

1 - Western Digital - same as before

In this period even non technical people who couldn't name a single SSD product from the WDC stable would be aware from a wide range of media outlets that it had a stakeholder interest in the sale of Toshiba.


2 - Pure Storage - down 1 place

Pure confirmed (if there was still any doubt) that in its customer conversations the "new stack" is becoming the standard thing.


3 - Diablo Technologies - up 5 places

While other companies were still talking about what you could do with bigger memory in enterprise RAM DIMM slots there was only one company actually shipping such products through competitive channels. Some of Diablo's own customers had shared interesting benchmarks to show other users where the benefits were most worthwhile.


4 - Seagate - down 1 place

Seagate later said its SSD business had suffered from the memory shortages. But its enterprise hard drive business may have benefitted somewhat.

Seagate said it was confident that 90% of it hard drive business is no longer at risk of being replaced directly by flash.

This decoupling of its HDD business was apparently due to higher capacity cloud drives (with lower cost per GB) and the widespread use of HDDs in non transactional applications such as video surveillance in which the predictable nature of the data streams means that the random IOPS performance advantage of SSDs compared to HDDs has no user value (worth paying for) compared to the essential characteristics of raw sequential throughput and desirable lowest cost per GB.


5 - Foremay - down 1 place

Foremay is one of only two companies shipping production COTS military capable PCIe NVMe SSDs in the M.2 form factor - it emerged in a news story in this quarter.


6 - Violin Memory - same as before

Violin was still going through the company redigster in this quarter following bankruptcy.

The buyer (confirmed in April 2017) was Quantum Partners LP a private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC (SFM).


7 - NVMdurance - up 9 places

In March 2017 - NVMdurance announced that it had been granted US patent 9,569,120 for Adaptive Flash Tuning.


8 - Micron - up 3 places

Micron was in a strong financial position in this quarter and perhaps because of that did not feel the need to talk up prospects for 3DX memory - saying it would make a minimal contribution to revenue in 2017. However one surprise (for me) from Micron was that some of its SSDs designed for the auto market had won design wins and deployments in the defense market.


9 - Kaminario - up 5 places

In January Kaminario reported it had raised another $75 million in funding.


10 - NGD Systems - same as before

In February 2017 NGD Systems announced the availability of a 24TB PCIe NVMe SSD.


11 - Toshiba - down 6 places

In this quarter people had a declining interest in what Toshiba had to say about about new SSD products and memory roadmaps because it was clear that there would be a new owner and new directions in its corporate roadmap. The only question was - how soon?


12 - Symbolic IO - up 10 places

In February 2017 Symbolic IO revealed more details about the hardware and architecture inside their ultra efficient processing and storage boxes.


13 - Primary Data - down 1 place


14 - Samsung - down 1 place

In March 2017 - Samsung said it will invest about $8.7 billion in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea to build a new DRAM plant.


15 - IBM - reentry

Two potential strategic competitors in the IBM FlashSystem performance class were definitely knocked out of the market in this period (EMC's DSSD which was EOLed, and Violin Memory which was being restructured from bankruptcy).

That left customers who were seeking truly low latency big controller SSD architecture boxes a limited field outside of startups.


16 - (tied) - SMART - 1st time in the list

Don't get this SMART SSD company confused with the earlier SMART Storage (and its SAS SSDs) which was acquired by SanDisk in 2013.

SanDisk didn't want or get everything with that earlier acquisition.

The new SMART group includes a military SSD business and a hybrid DIMM memory product too in 2 market facing business units which in Q2 filed an IPO.


16 - (tied) - Silicon Motion - 1st time in the list

In Q1 CY17 Silicon Motion's revenue declined 12% sequentially due to weaknesses in the consumer SSD market and nand memory shortages.


18 - Hyperstone - up 7 places

In March 2017 Hyperstone announced a design win with Micron aimed at the industrial USB SSD market.


19 - BiTMICRO - down 2 places


20 - Marvell - reentry

In March 2017 Marvell showed its new 2nd generation NVMe SSD controller the 88SS1092 which supports a PCIe Gen3x4 host interface and 8 channel NAND interface up to 8 devices (CEs) per channel.

It uses Marvells 3rd-generation LDPC technology (adaptive DSP) for reliability enhancement, endurance boost and TLC NAND device enablement.


21 - Intel - down 6 places

In March 2017 Intel began sampling its long awaited first enterprise SSD using 3DXpoint (Optane) memory aimed at the HHHL PCIe SSD market.


22 - Mangstor - down 2 places

Mangstor was the first SSD company to demonstrate the low latency advantages of running RDMA over NVMe PCIe SSD fabric software. They wrote their own code to do it for their own SSDs. And that was a big deal in 2015. But since NVMe over Fabric was standardized in 2016 it was only a matter of time before this first mover advantage ended.

In March 2017 Excelero - emerged from stealth offering state of the art low latency software and management of NVMe SSD pools for any company's enterprise SSD.


23 - V&G - down 16 places


24 - EMC - down 3 places


25 - Tegile Systems - same as before

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Who were the SSD companies just outside this list?

The next 10 or so companies (not listed in ranking order) were:-
  • Accelstor
  • Cactus
  • Cadence
  • Everspin
  • Hynix
  • Innodisk
  • Kove
  • Liqid
  • Longsys
  • Netlist
  • Nimbus
  • Plexistor
  • Rambus
  • Virtium
related reading

Can you trust SSD market data?

guide to semiconductor memory boom-bust cycles - with an SSD bias

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 shortages in memory, who owned the memory companies and the future memoryfication of the enterprise were ever present ingredients in the SSD news mix.

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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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recently in the SSD news archives
May 2017 Micron enters the rackmount SSD market.
April 2017 IP-Maker released NVMe FPGA IP to enable use of enterprise performance SSDs in low wattage "no CPU" embedded systems.

Rambus said it was working with Microsoft on the design of prototype super cooled DRAM systems to explore avenues of improvement in latency and density due to physics effects below -180 C.
March 2017 Excelero - emerged from stealth.

Everspin began sampling an NVMe PCIe SSD based on its ST-MRAM.

Intel began sampling an NVMe PCIe SSD based on Micron's 3DXpoint memory.
February 2017 Tachyum emerged from stealth mode
January 2017 Pure Storage said the "new stack" is becoming the standard thing.

Crossbar announced it was sampling 8Mb ReRAM based on 40nm CMOS friendly technology.
December 2016 Violin sought bankruptcy protection.

4Gb MRAM prototypes unveiled by SK Hynix and Toshiba
November 2016 Silicon Motion announced the "world's first merchant SD 5.1 controller solution."
October 2016 Rambus announced it was exploring the use of Xilinx FPGAs in its Smart Data Acceleration research program.
September 2016 Everspin filed its IPO to expand MRAM
August 2016 Seagate previewed 60TB 3.5" SAS SSD

Nimbus demonstrates 4PB 4U HA AFA at FMS
July 2016 Diablo announced volume availability of its Memory1 128GB DDR4 DIMM
June 2016 Pure said its AFA revenue in Q1 2016 was more than leading HDD array brand
May 2016 efficiently coded memory architecture unveiled in systems by Symbolic IO

Encrip announces tri-state coded DRAM IP which can be used with any standard process
April 2016 Samsung began mass producing the industry's first 10nm class 8Gb DDR4 DRAM chips


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in this quarter 2 companies entered the Top SSD Companies for the first time:- Silicon Motion and SMART HRS



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I had been listing SSDs in my enterprise buyers guides since 1992 but it wasn't until 10 years later later that I began forming an idea of how big and disruptive the SSD market could become:- due to roadblocks in processors and rotating storage.

When I started talking to enterprise SSD companies about my value-proposition based market adoption models in 2003 they were initially skeptical.

Each SSD company at that time was only seeing a small part of a fragmented niche market.

But my SSD pages were acting as a focus point for all vendors and most users in the industry.

It was easy for me to get an overview picture which no one else was in a position to see.

It was already clear in 2004 that enterprise SSDs (alone) had the potential to be a $10B / year market.

My readers did a lot to make that happen.
SSD market history


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It's not memory cells but data controllernomics (the science of memory controller behavior and application predictability) which are the true limiting factors in big memory latency and applications performance.
risk reward ratios with big memory "flash as RAM


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after AFAs - what's next?
Throughout the history of the data storage market we've always expected the capacity of enterprise user memory systems to be much smaller than the capacity of all the other attached storage in the same data processing environment.

after AFAs - click to read rhe articleA thought provoking blog on StorageSearch.com - cloud adapted memory systems - asks (among other things) if this will always be true. ...read the article


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