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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2009 Q1 - 8th in this series

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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 (April 2009) there are over 112 active listed SSD oems (58% more than 12 months ago). New companies are entering the SSD market every month, and already more than 14 SSD oems (previously listed in our SSD directory) have exited the market..

I expect the total number of active SSD oems to go north of 150 in 2009. 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 7 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 The problem with this approach in a market that's growing so fast - is that revenue data can be 3 to 6 months out of date when collected and may not sample any data at all from important new companies which have recently entered the market.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 2011 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 tens of millions of article downloads related to SSD content and our SSD 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.
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 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 search volume in 1st Quarter 2009 - © STORAGEsearch.com
rank manufacturer SSD technology notes re this quarter....................................................
1 Fusion-io PCIe SSDs Up 5 places since the last quarter.

In February 2009 - Steve Wozniak became Chief Scientist at Fusion-io.

In March 2009 - Fusion-io announced an oem deal with HP whose new PCIe based StorageWorks IO Accelerator for HP BladeSystem c-Class servers is based on Fusion's ioMemory SSD technology. A low level formatting tool for the HP SSD enables users to choose what level of over-provisioning is used - as a performance tweaking option.

Also in March 2009 - Fusion-io announced an enhanced version of its ioDrive - called the ioDrive Duo which will ship next month. Capacity has doubled to 640GB with 1.2TB planned for the 2nd half of 2009. Performance has been enhanced too. The ioDrive Duo can easily sustain 1.5 Gbytes/sec of read bandwidth. Read IOPS performance is 186,000 (4k packet size). Write IOPS reaches 167,000 (4k packet size).

This is the 1st time that the #1 slot has been held by a company which does not make traditional hard-disk form-factor SSDs. The PCI Express form factor SSD market, which started 2 years ago, holds out the promise of becoming 1 of the top 3 SSD form factors used in future datacenters. The other 2 being rackmount SSDs and 2.5" SSDs.

Fusion-io has established for itself the brand recognition of being the SSD company most strongly associated in customer minds with the PCIe form factor - despite the fact that it wasn't the 1st company to launch such a product - and also despite the number and quality of competitors in this segment.

StorageSearch.com attributes the success of Fusion-io in establishing this early market recognition to the company's single minded focus on evangelizing PCIe as the next generation enterprise SSD form factor. That's unlike most SSD companies whose marketing and technical efforts have been spread thin across multiple fronts.
2 Samsung Flash SSD Up 1 place since the last quarter.

It's 2 years since Samsung was last here at the #2 slot. (Its highest ranking.) In between times the company lost the attention of the market (sinking as low as #8 in Q308) by launching a series of not very impressive SSD products - which were technically far behind the best in class. Samsung has had to fight very hard to regain the #2 slot. This is a very competitive market - where the quality of the design talent and the SSD IP is more important than how big your wafer fabs are.

In January 2009 - Samsung announced details of a new 100GB 2.5" SLC flash SSD that will ship this quarter. For the 1st time Samsung disclosed IOPS data - 25k random read IOPS and 6k write IOPS. R/W throughput is 230MB/s and 180MB/s respectively.

In March 2009 - Samsung announced that it has begun using 40nm process technology to produce an 8Gb Flex-OneNAND fusion memory chip.

Flex-OneNAND incorporates SLC and MLC NAND on a single piece of silicon, allowing application designers to choose the portion of SLC and MLC NAND storage to be used in any particular design through a simple adjustment to the accompanying software.
3 Memoright SATA flash SSDs Down 2 places since the last quarter.

That drop in rankings is despite the fact that in absolute terms Memoright's stats in Q109 were actually higher than they had been in Q408 - when Memoright was in the #1 slot. This is simply an indication that even in fast growing markets there is still a distribution curve.

In March 2009 - Memoright said it will ship a new industrial grade 2.5" flash SSD range in May. The rSSD (upto 128GB capacity) is designed to operate from -40 to +85 degrees C and the company says its product testing processes satisfy MIL-STD-810F. R/W speeds are both upto 120MB/s.
4 Mtron Flash SSDs Down 2 places since the last quarter.

Mtron didn't made any major product announcements in this quarter.
5 RunCore Flash SSDs Up 6 places since the last quarter.

This is the 1st time in the top 10 for RunCore.

In February 2009 - RunCore launched a mini PCI-e form factor, SATA interface compatible flash SSD with 16GB to 128GB capacity. R/W speeds are 125MB/s and 90MB/s respectively.
6 Solidata Flash SSD Up 2 places since the last quarter.

In March 2009 - a test report published by Tom's Hardware said it was shocked by the high power consumption of Solidata's 2.5" flash SSDs.
7 STEC Flash SSD Down 3 places since the last quarter.

This is STEC's lowest ranking in 2 years.

Although STEC has been successful in getting its products designed into storage arrays by large storage oems such as EMC - STEC's partners have not added enough value or IP to their own rackmount SSD offerings.

Consequently these "STEC inside" SSD systems are weak in comparison to many competing systems which are faster or cheaper (due to better leveraged SSD technology). In the view of StorageSearch.com - STEC relies too much on market pull-through by partners who are me-too or weak in the SSD space. Unless it invests more in its SSD branding - its business is vulnerable to substitution and replacement by any new SSD kid on the block with a faster SSD controller.

In March 2009 - STEC announced that its revenue in 2008 had grown 20% year on year to $227.4 million.
8 Texas Memory Systems RAM SSD
Flash SSD
Down 1 place since the last quarter.

In January 2009 - Texas Memory Systems announced that its SSD revenue in 2008 had grown 20% compared to 2007, and that it had also achieved record revenue in Q4 (the time when the Credit Crunch iceberg hit the Titanic world economy hard enough for even the 1st class passengers to take pause).

In February 2009 - Network Appliance announced support and interoperation between its Performance Acceleration Module and the RamSan-500 flash SSD systems from Texas Memory Systems.

In March 2009 - Texas Memory Systems unveiled a PCIe SSD that will ship in Q2 2009. The RamSan-20 has 450GB of RAID protected SLC flash with 80 microseconds latency. R/W bandwidth is 700MB/s and 500MB/s respectively. Sustained IOPS are:- 120,000 random read, and 50,000 random write. Endurance is rated at 12 years (assuming 25% continuous writes). List price is about $18,000.

Also in March 2009 - Woody Hutsell, President of Texas Memory Systems - shared his SSD Bookmarks on the home page of StorageSearch.com
9 SanDisk Flash SSD Up 4 places since the last quarter.

In January 2009 - SanDisk unveiled a new family of 1.8" and 2.5" MLC flash SSDs that will ship in mid 2009. Capacities (and anticipated MSRPs) are as follows:- 60GB ($149), 120GB ($249) and 240GB ($499). Anticipated sequential performance is quoted as:- 200MB/s read and 140MB/s write.

In February 2009 SanDisk announced that it will begin mass-production of the world's first 4-bits-per-cell (X4) flash memory. Using 43nm process technology, this breakthrough enables 64Gb memory in a single die - the highest capacity in the industry
10 pureSilicon Flash SSD First appearance in these top 10 tables.

In January 2009 - pureSilicon said it is sampling the highest density 2.5" SSD - with 1TB capacity in a 9.5mm high form factor. Sustained read / write performance is 240MB/s and 215MB/s respectively. The SATA SSD has latency under 100 µsec and is rated at 50,000 read IOPS, and 10,000 write IOPS.
Waiting in the wings - just below the top 10 in this period were 3 companies which dropped out from the last quarter:- Adtron (#11), Intel (#12) and BiTMICRO (#13).
How to interpret the rankings?

The most important thing is being included in the list rather than the position within it. Having said that there's a 4x difference in pageviews between companies at the top or bottom.

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 over 2 million 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.
If you're new to the SSD market and want to learn how it got here, take a look at these articles.

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