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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2009 Q2 - 9th in this series

click here for the most recent version of the Top SSD companies list

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flash wars in the enterprise SSD market
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Power, Speed and Strength Metaphors in SSD brands
"This is the 1st time that the top 10 SSD list
has included a company whose primary
business is designing SSD controllers."
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the Top 10 SSD OEMs - 2009 Q2

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com

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 (July 2009) there are over 155 active SSD oems - including those who design SSD controller chips. That's 2x as many as 12 months ago). New companies are entering the SSD market every week, and already more than 15 SSD oems (previously listed in our SSD directory) have exited the market..

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. And despite the downturn in other parts of the storage market caused by the recession, there are many segments in the SSD market which appear to be recession-proof.

Indeed some classes of SSD products are doing better because of the recession. That's because users don't have the budgets to buy the latest rehash of architecturally bankrupt server solutions touted by traditional suppliers. Instead, users are looking more carefully at ways to make their applications work better at lower cost - even if it means going through a painful learning curve of SSD education and vendor qualification.
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(a Toshiba group company)








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"In the not too distant future - ALL nand flash SSDs will have to use adaptive R/W and DSP ECC IP technologies in their controller schemes in order to be able to use newer generations of denser flash memory. The small number of companies who have these technologies right now - can derive enormous competitive advantages."
adaptive R/W & DSP ECC for SSDs
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 9 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 the remembered stimulus and brand impression of ads.
Top 10 SSD OEMs - based on reader search volume in 2nd Quarter 2009 - © STORAGEsearch.com
rank manufacturer SSD technology notes re this quarter...........................................
1 Fusion-io PCIe SSDs Same as before.

In April 2009 - Fusion-io announced that its SSD technology has enabled HP to achieve 1 million IOPS (using 2KB random 70/30 read/write mix) and 8GB/s sustained throughput from a single ProLiant server. Working together in HP's ProLiant engineering labs in Houston, technologists from HP and Fusion-io built a system using 5x 320MB ioDrive Duos and 6x 160MB ioDrives in a single HP ProLiant DL785 G5 server, running with 4 Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors. Fusion-io's SSDs had earlier been the secret ingredient in an IBM "million IOPS" story in August 2008.

Also in April 2009 - Fusion-io announced it has closed $47.5 million in Series B funding and named a new CEO, David Bradford.

In June 2009 - Fusion-io announced it will ship a consumer optimized version of of its enterprise PCIe SSD family in July. Priced at $895, the ioXtreme has 80GB MLC flash capacity and average throughput of 520MB/s. Supported OS's include:- Windows XP, Vista and Linux.

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 high number and quality of competitors in this segment.

Fusion-io's search volume was more than 2x as high as the #3 ranked company in this list indicating overwhelmingly high reader affinity for learning more about this company.

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 SandForce flash SSD Controllers First appearance in these top 10 tables.

In April 2009 - SandForce unveiled its SF-1000 family of SSD Processors - aimed at oems building SATA flash SSDs. Its 2.5" SSD reference design kit is the fastest 2.5" SATA flash SSD on the market - with 250MB/s symmetric R/W throughput and 30,000 R/W IOPS.

This is the 1st time that the top 10 SSD list has included a company whose primary business is designing SSD controllers.

SandForce's search volume was 72% higher than the #3 ranked company in this list indicating high reader interest in what the company has to say about SSDs.

StorageSearch.com attributes this to 2 main factors.

1 - Users are getting much more interested in educating themselves about what happens inside flash SSDs - to understand what factors affect performance and reliability - and in the hope of avoiding choosing the wrong suppliers.

2 - Thousands of designers in hundreds of companies worldwide are now investigating the option of designing their own SSDs as the technological barriers to doing this have crumbled way. (This is confirmed by pageviews for SSD SOCs and reader emails.) It means that if big computer oems are successful in the SSD market many will turn their attention to designing future SSDs in-house rather than buying commercial off the shelf products.

Commenting on the company's high ranking in these pages SandForce's VP of Marketing Thad Omura said - "We are delighted StorageSearch.com is raising the visibility of SandForce's innovative SSD Processors that enable the usage of commodity NAND flash memory in enterprise and mobile computing applications."
3 Samsung Notebook SSDs Down 1 place since the last quarter.

In April 2009 - Samsung announced it will pay Spansion $70 million as part of a flash memory patent settlement. The companies have also exchanged rights in their patent portfolios in the form of licenses and covenants subject to a confidential settlement agreement.

Also in April 2009 - Samsung claimed to be the 1st company to offer SSDs with hardware-based encryption in a misleading press release. The claim was later modified.

In June 2009 - Samsung announced it is sampling a SATA mini-card SSD for use in the expanding netbook marketplace.
4 Texas Memory Systems Rackmount SSDs
PCIe SSDs
Up 4 places since the last quarter.

In this quarter Texas Memory Systems started shipments of its 1st PCIe SSD card - the RamSan-20. It's aimed at the enterprise acceleration market with 450GB of RAID protected SLC flash. Sustained IOPS are:- 120,000 random read, and 50,000 random write.

In April 2009 - Texas Memory Systems announced the RamSan-620 - a 2U rackmount SLC Flash SSD with 2TB ($88,000 list price) to 5TB capacity and 2 to 8 FC or InfiniBand ports. Throughput is 3GB/s. R/W latency is 250µS and 80µS respectively. Transactional performance is 250,000 random IOPS. Power consumption is 325W. Multiple RamSan-620s can scale to higher capacities. Upto 100TB can fit in a single 40U rack.
5 RunCore Flash SSDs Same as before.

In May 2009 - RunCore's Pro IV 2.5" MLC SSDs was reviewed in an article in TweakTown.com - which concluded...

"All things considered, the RunCore Pro IV is a hell of a drive that is able to cross over into several market segments; consumer, prosumer and enterprise. The Pro IV is fast, one of the fastest on the market, but that speed comes at a cost and that is really where our only issue sits."
6 SanDisk MLC Flash SSD Up 3 places since the last quarter.

Nevertheless this was still some way below the company's star rank (#1) which it achieved in Q3 2007.

In May 2009 - SanDisk started shipping its 2nd generation of miniature PATA compatible SSD modules for the netbook market. Performance is 9,000 vRPM and capacities range from 8 to 64GB. SanDisk says it has improved the non volatile cache to prevent "stalling" or "shuddering" which was a problem in 1st generation netbook SSDs.
7 Mtron Flash SSD Down 3 places since the last quarter.

Although Mtron was quiet on the news front in this quarter it has a lot of partners. And you may be surprised by how many manufacturers oem Mtron's SSDs. An article published in April 2009 - 3 Easy Ways to Enter the SSD Market - includes that info.
8 STEC Flash SSD Down 1 place since the last quarter.

In recent quarter STEC has been drip feeding reporters a stream of confirmations about design wins - which most of us already knew about anyway.

In June 2009 - an article in The Register noted that STEC's Market capitalization had hit $1 billion.

Also in June 2009 - an article in EnterpriseStorageForum.com posed the question - Can SSD Maker STEC Be Stopped?

It was a good question and deserved a better analysis. So StorageSearch.com followed that up with its own SWOT analysis - which can be seen in the company's profile page.
9 pureSilicon Flash SSD Up 1 place since the last quarter.

pureSilicon didn't make any major product announcements in Q209.

The company's main claim to fame is it sampled a fast terabyte 2.5" SSD back in January 2009.
10 WD Solid State Storage

(formerly SiliconSystems)
SLC Flash SSDs Reappearance in these top 10 tables.

Well - just to explain - I regard this as a "reappearance" because - although it's the 1st time for WD SSS - SiliconSystems has been in this top 10 list before. Its highest previous rank was #7 in Q2 2007. But there are 3x as many SSD oems in the market today compared to back then.

In June 2009 - Western Digital Solid State Storage (the new name for SiliconSystems) announced that it has begun shipping its new SiliconDrive III SSD product family which includes 2.5" SATA and PATA and 1.8" Micro SATA products with target read speeds up to 100MB/s and write speeds to 80MB/s in capacities up to 120 GB.

Reliability has always been a key theme for the SiliconDrive product line. Talking to me about the new opportunities opened up since SiliconSystems was acquired in March 2009 - Gary Drossel, VP of Product Planning, emphasized how big is the investment made for long term testing. He joked that the large number of their SSDs now undergoing long term tests in WD's labs would have almost made the Test Labs one of SiliconSystems' top 10 customers not so long before.
Waiting in the wings - just below the top 10 in this period were:- Intel (11), OCZ (12) and Memoright (13).








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Instead of a homogenous SSD market dominated by BIG- BRAND-X - I think you're going to see what looks like a confusing heterogeneous picture developing in which multiple SSD solutions co-exist in the market - and apparently address identical application needs.

There will be a lot of like and unlike SSDs which can do the same job - but which (internally) are architected in completely different ways.
2009 - Year of SSD Market Confusion?








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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.
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