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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2008 Q3 - 6th in this series

the top 10 SSD oems
Megabyte pre-announced the future
winners in the SSD market.
click here for the most recent version of the Top SSD companies list

the SSD Bookmarks
flash SSD Jargon Explained
RAM Cache Ratios in flash SSDs
the Problem with Write IOPS - in flash SSDs
How Bad is the Fallout from Choosing the Wrong SSD Supplier?
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Editor's intro:-

Who are the top 10 most important SSD manufacturers - the companies which you absolutely have to look at if you've got got any new projects involving SSDs?

A decade ago there was an easy answer. "All of them!" It wasn't till 1999 that our online SSD directory tipped over the 10 companies mark.

Today (October 2008) there are over 86 active listed SSD oems. Another 4 or so I know in stealth mode, another 10 I'm checking out as imminent maybes and I expect the total number of SSD oems to go north of 100 in 2008. The new storage gold rush is chasing an opportunity for storage systems companies that could eventually be worth 5 to 10 billion dollars a year.
Who's going to dominate this market? It's not that easy to predict. There's already a lot of traction as you can see by comparing which companies have consistently remained in the top 10 list in the past 5 quarters.

Stakes have been put in the ground claiming desirable application or technology territories. A handful of SSD pioneers have already exited the market, gone bust or been acquired.

STORAGEsearch.com has a 10 year track record of accurately predicting the top 10 storage oems and major technology shifts within the storage market.
To go back to the question -which are the most important SSD oems to look at right now?

There are 2 empirical ways to form such a list based on different market research approaches:- financial data and search volume data.

(1) - financial data - looks at revenue and shipping volumes. The problem with this approach in a market that's growing so fast - is that revenue data can be 3 to 6 months out of date when collected and may not sample any data at all from important new companies which have recently entered the market. This traditional approach will probably work fine from about the middle of 2009 onwards. And if you can afford to wait that long before choosing SSD partners / suppliers that's OK. But is it really? I think waiting that long is very risky. Many companies will be at a severe competitive disadvantage if their competitors are using SSD technology first. Faster SSD accelerated ecommerce sites, faster databases and new SSD powered business applications will mean that waiting too long to hit the SSD trail could be damaging to your competitiveness.

To be frank - using revenue based reports to guide your way ahead in a fast growing market like SSDs is about as sensible as driving fast down the highway and steering ahead by what you see in the rear view mirror.
(2) - search volume data - is a near real-time and (nearly) reliable way to see which way things are heading in changing markets.

One simple way to think about it is this. It's the world's biggest focus group of people with a strong interest in SSDs - typically 200,000 to 300,000 unique SSD readers in each past quarter.

What they think and do changes the industry.

Our methodology excludes measuring direct advertising impressions BTW. So although advertising (or editorial) on this and other sites does create awareness - and that feeds into what readers search for - the top companies in this list may or may not be advertisers.

I've got strong confidence in this approach having used it as an online publisher for over a decade to help me make predictions about emerging technologies and disruptions in the storage market. But search volume based market inferences only work if you have high volumes of search in the specific subject. That's why you're here... Because when it comes to SSDs STORAGEsearch.com has delivered millions of article views related to hard SSD content and our readership is growing fast. We've also been discussing the SSD market with nearly every SSD manufacturer (sometimes before they founded their companies) and with analysts and interested readers in a wide range of enterprises longer than any other publisher or analyst.
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The Top 10 SSD OEMs

The listing below is based on storage search volume on this site. This metric samples strong follow up interest generated by browsing our SSD directories, following up news stories or articles and following links from ads. But it excludes product ads. As we track every manufacturer in the market and any manufacturer can (and does) send us their content related to SSDs - this is a measure of how our readers have reacted to that content.
Top 10 SSD OEMs - based on reader pageviews in 3rd Quarter 2008 - © STORAGEsearch.com
rank manufacturer SSD technology notes....................................................
1 Memoright Flash SSD Same as before.

In the summer of 2008 the eyes of the world were focused on the Beiijing Olympics.

In this quarter several independent publications published benchmarks confirming that Memoright's GT Series SATA SSDs truly did (as claimed) outperform other products in the same category in the important area of sequential writes.

As SATA SSDs meet the greatest number of application needs - and as speedup is one of the most important reasons users look at SSDs - leadership in this area translates to high reader interest. But competition is very tough.
2 Mtron Flash SSD Up 1 place since the last quarter.

This is the highest position yet for Mtron, which has been in the top 5 list for 6 quarters.

Before Memoright came on the scene Mtron had the fastest 2.5" SATA flash SSDs and it's promising faster products to come.

In June 2008 Mtron unveiled details of a new 8 channel controller technology which the company says will enable R/W throughput upto 260/240MB/s and 8,000 random write IOPS (using 4KB blocks) in flash SSD products shipping in Q1 2009.
3 STEC Flash SSD Same as before.

STEC offers SSDs in more form factors than any other company. Only BiTMICRO and RunCore come close to this breadth of products. But a lot of application slots means a lot of competitors too. So STEC is fighting battles in more turf wars than anyone else.

In August 2008 - following 4 straight quarters of revenue declines, STEC reported 29% revenue growth for its most recent fiscal quarter.

Can that last?

In December 2008 - STEC issued new guidance for the revenue outlook in Q4 2008. STEC downgraded its revenue guidance for the 4th quarter by 20% - which is not unremarkable given the current state of the economy. Notwithstanding that - STEC's SSD business is expected to have revenues in 2008 which are 5x the level in 2007. That is remarkable - given the strong competition in the overall flash SSD market.
4 BiTMICRO Networks Flash SSD Down 2 places since the last quarter.

BiTMICRO didn't made any major product announcements for 2 consecutive quarters.

Maybe the company felt it didn't have to - because it had already demonstrated leadership in 2.5" SSD capacity at the beginning of the year - and had been at the upper end of performance in a number of form factors and interfaces.

But if you stop talking about product milestones when everyone else is shouting about what they're doing (or might do in the future) then readers turn elsewhere.

This is a company which has been in the #1 slot before - and has been regarded as a flash SSD leader for as long as there has been a flash SSD market. So it's always worth watching.
5 Texas Memory Systems RAM SSD
Flash SSD
Up 3 places since the last quarter.

You don't really expect to be surprised by a company which has been in the SSD market for 30 years - especially when its niche has traditionally been datacenter server speedup for big enterprises. But times change.

The first hint was when (the year before) the company launched the fastest flash SSD array.

I wouldn't have expected another major announcement from TMS for 2 years, but they have been speeding up their new product development cycles, and in July 2008 - Texas Memory Systems announced the RamSan-440 - a 600,000 IOPS 4U rackmount RAM SSD with 512GB capacity and latency of less than 15 microseconds.

While the capacity and speed were evolutionary advances on what had been offered before - a revolutionary advance was the use of internal flash SSD backup (instead of HDD) and a feature called Instant-On I/O. That means multi terabyte RAM SSDs start working after a power failure orders of magnitude faster than earlier products which used HDD backup.

In an interview with storagesearch.com's editor - TMS revealed that the primary trigger for the new design was feedback from existing RAM SSD users who wanted better scalability and the technology enabler was coupling its long experience of RAM arrays with the more recent experience gained from designing its own flash SSDs.

...Later:- in December 2008 - TMS announced it had supplied Santa an SSD system to help accelerate processing of the "Naughty or Nice" lists in time for Christmas.
6 SanDisk Flash SSD Down 1 place since the last quarter.

In September 2008 - Samsung published an open letter aimed at shareholders offering to buy SanDisk which was spurned by SanDisk's management. Although Samsung has planted forests of flash memory - it doesn't own all the intellectual property it needs to chisel these into the fine furniture of desirable SSDs. Interesting analyses about this have been written by Gregory Wong, Jim Handy, and Savo Lainen.

In October 2008 - SanDisk announced it may offload $1 billion worth of fab costs to joint partner Toshiba - after SanDisk reported 21% revenue decline for the most recent quarter.

Samsung didn't much like the taste of that, and on October 22, 2008 - publicly withdrew its offer.
7 Adtron Flash SSD Same as past 2 quarters.

In this quarter Adtron's parent company SMART Modular Technologies announced 6 new models of 1.8" and 2.5" SSDs.
8 Samsung Flash SSD Down 2 places since the last quarter.

The main development in this quarter was the announcement that Samsung wanted to buy SanDisk (discussed above).

In July 2008 - Samsung and Sun Microsystems said they were collaborating on developing higher endurance "server grade" SLC flash for use in SSDs.

The company also made an offer to buy SanDisk - which was spurned - and then withdrawn. See above.

...Later:- in October 2008 - Samsung said it's shipping "faster" server oriented 2.5" SLC flash SSDs with 25GB / 50GB capacity. Throughput is significantly below competing best in class 2.5" SSDs - but nevertheless a big improvement on previous laggardly products from the company. No details were disclosed about IOPS - probably because they aren't very impressive.
9 Fusion-io Flash SSD 1st appearance in this top 10 SSD oems list.

Fusion-io has been successful at collecting what look like heavyweight endorsements for its direct attached PCIe SSD acceleration approach.

Companies which have been linked to the company include - HP and IBM. And Pillar Data Systems seems to support the concept (in comparison to SSDs connected via traditional storage interfaces).

In August 2008 - Fusion-io added RAID protection to the flash memory array in its Fusion-io PCIe SSD and improved R/W performance.

In September 2008 - Fusion-io unveiled the ioSAN - a 10GbE or Infiniband attached flash SSD on PCIe form factor which will ship in 2009.
10 Violin Memory RAM SSD Same as past 3 quarters.

In August 2008 - Violin Memory said it had delivered 1 million IOPS on a single interface port (a world record) using the latest version of its Violin 1010 memory appliance and hinted that a prototype flash SSD version of its product had been internally performance tested.
Waiting in the wings - just below the top 10 in this period were:- Intel, Toshiba and OCZ.
How to interpret the rankings?

The most important thing is being included in the list rather than the position within it. As the number of SSD oems has grown - it's much harder than it used to be to break into the top 10.

I sometimes get emails from SSD product managers griping about the validity of these lists. My reply is that it's a marketing reality they have to live with. Just as being ranked #1 or #90 on Google could make a big difference to your company - our SSD rankings have tracked millions of readers since they started.

High rankings mean that more people in the market are interested in learning more about what you're saying. On the other hand - if your business plan is to be a leading shaker in the SSD market and your company has never appeared in these lists - then you have an uphill struggle - and success could take a lot longer than you think.

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