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Western Digital Solid State Storage - formerly SiliconSystems

Western Digital Solid State Storage

Western Digital Solid State Storage is a world leader in advanced
storage technology engineered for the Enterprise System OEM market.

WD's SSD product lines include the long established (since 2004)
SiliconDrive for mission critical, high reliability. embedded oem
see also:- WD Solid State Storage - editor mentions on and WD's SSD blog

editor's comments:- September 2013 - WD's branding within the SSD market has undergone several changes which can be summarized as pre-HGST and post-HGST.

pre-HGST - WD & SSD

From 2009 until 2012 - WD's main presence in the SSD market was in the embedded and industrial SSD segments - based on the acquisition of a company called SiliconSystems.

During part of that time - WD's SSD business was called Western Digital Solid State Storage.

the consumer side-track

Also during that timeline - in 2010 - WD made some experimental market forays into the consumer SSD market (using 3rd party SSD controllers). But these early "pure SSD" consumer products were not judged to be successful enough to justify their longevity within WD's strategic product line. Instead - WD's solid state product ambitions within the consumer market have - in recent years - mostly been enacted within the scope of hybrid drives - in which a small amount of flash is integrated as a cache within a hard drive.

post-HGST - WD & SSD

After WD acquired HGST from Hitachi in March 2012 - HGST became the main business entity for WD's activities in the enterprise SSD market - and became - in effect - the reprocessing destination for several strategic acquisitions in 2013.

editor's comments:- July 2013 - In Q2 2013 - WD was ranked 22 in the Top SSD Companies.

That's not a very good position given the market destructive potential of the SSD market which was explored in the recent home page blog - hostage to the fortunes of SSD - which also explains what's the root motivation of companies like WD and others acquiring SSD companies. (They can't afford not to.)

editor's earlier comments:- December 2012 - WD's SSD business is founded on a complex heritage based on 3 primary roots.
  • the acquisition of an industrial SSD company called SiliconSystems in March 2009. SiliconSystems - which started shipping SSDs in 2004 - marketed a high reliability embedded product line called SiliconDrive which had outstanding data integrity tolerance to sudden power loss.
  • WD's own developments and experiences in the embedded SSD markets since the above acquisition - which have included continuing developments of the SiliconDrive family, evaluating and licensing 3rd party SSD IP and (what I consider to be) an unsuccessful market experiment in the consumer market in March 2010 with the launch of a WD branded MLC SSD called the SiliconEdge Blue which used 3rd party SSD controllers.
  • the acquisition of HGST (in March 2012) - which brought into WD an enterprise SSD product line including SAS SSDs, and a potential launchpad for a future PCIe SSD product line.

Unlike many other flash SSD companies which started in the military market, or with a focus on speed, or simply lowest cost - WD Solid State Storage began right from the start to focus on the user value proposition of superior reliability as a reason that systems oems would design its SSDs into embedded systems to replace hard drives.

WD has appeared regularly in the quarterly top SSD companies list.
selected WD milestones - from SSD Market History.

WD's SSD business is founded on SiliconSystems - which entered the SSD market in 2004.

In May 2008 - California based SiliconSystems opened its first office in the People's Republic of China. And its founder and CEO, Michael Hajeck, was selected as a regional finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the 2nd consecutive year.

In August 2008 - SiliconSystems doubled the capacity of its miniature embedded USB SiliconDrives.

In September 2008 - SiliconSystems announced faster versions of its 2.5" SATA / PATA SiliconDrives - with upto 50MB/s read / write speeds and the company became a founding member of the SNIA's Solid State Storage Initiative.

In October 2008 - SiliconSystems contributed its SiliconDrive II Blade specification to the Small Form Factor Special Interest Group for the purpose of creating an official governing standard.

In December 2008 - SiliconSystems published a significant whitepaper - NAND Evolution and its Effects on SSD Useable Life (pdf). Starting with a tour of the state of the art in the flash SSD market the paper introduces several new concepts (including write amplification and wear leveling efficiency) to help systems designers understand why current wear usage models don't give a complete picture.

In - January 2009 - SiliconSystems announced that its SiliconDrive Blade has been selected as a "2008 Best Electronic Design" technology of the year winner in the embedded small form factor category. The awards are chosen by the editorial staff of Electronic Design magazine from announcements they have received during the year. Editor Bill Wong cited SiliconDrive Blade's innovative design as a necessary development in accelerating wide-spread adoption of SSDs in embedded systems.

In March 2009 - SiliconSystems' VP of Product Planning, Gary Drossel - shared his SSD Bookmarks with readers of And the company also announced it has shipped over 4 million SiliconDrives integrated with its SiSMART technology. SiliconSystems also said it will ship faster versions of its 2.5" and 1.8" SiliconDrives in the next quarter - with R/W speeds up to 100MB/s and 80MB/s respectively, and (SLC) capacity upto 128GB.

Also in March 2009 - Western Digital entered the SSD market by acquiring SiliconSystems for $65 million. Integration into WD begins immediately, with SiliconSystems now becoming known as the WD Solid-State Storage business unit, complementing WD's existing Branded Products, Client Storage, Consumer Storage and Enterprise Storage business units. WD has published a FAQs page about this acquisition.

From the time when SiliconSystems first appeared on our SSD pages in 2004 it was clear that the company was talking in a different way to the rest of the market. Of the 4 main market segments which I identified for SSD market penetration (published 2005) - I mentioned SiliconSystems as the pioneer in "High Reliability DAS".

Quoting from that article - "The customer value proposition of the High Reliability DAS SSD is that the interval between server failures will be extended by several years compared to HDD technology."

In recent years the company has avoided being sucked along the alternative currents of the small form factor SSD market and stuck to its mission of designing SSDs which are sustainable for customers to own - as reliable replacements for hard drives. The company's acquisition by WD demonstrates that those principles are valued where it counts - in the eyes of the world's fastest growing hard disk maker.

In June 2009 - Western Digital Solid State Storage 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.

In March 2010 - WD Solid State Storage began shipping a new range of 2.5" 128GB SATA SLC SSDs - for high reliability 24/7 embedded markets - called the WD SiliconDrive N1x. R/W speeds are upto 240MB/s and 140MB/s respectively. Write endurance is quoted as 701GB/Day - compatible with 5 year limited warranty. And data integrity (non-recoverable error rate) is better than 1 in 1015 bits read.

Also in March 2010 - the company was featured in a character role in a futurological article - SSDs - reaching for the Petabyte.

In March 2011 - WD announced it will acquire Hitachi GST for approximately $4.3 billion. Although the primary motive is hard drives - the companies said they would put more resources into SSDs too.

In March 2012 - WD completed its acquisition of HGST - which will retain its brand identity and operate as a wholly subsidiary.

In June 2013 - WD announced that it had agreed to acquire Stec for approximately $340 million. Stec will be absorbed into HGST .

In July 2013 - WD announced it had acquired VeloBit
temperature related data rot in flash SSDs... a blog by WD
Editor:- July 26, 2012 - A good analysis of temperature affects on flash data integrity can be seen in a recent blog - about intrinsic temperature related data rot in flash SSDs - by Eli Tiomkin, Director, Business Development, WD Solid State Storage who says (among other things) - "Over time, NAND cells may lose enough charge and flip enough bits to overwhelm the ECC capability of the drive controller and cause data loss."

Eli Tiomkin's useful table lets you look up the SSD storage temperature and see how much more quickly the native flash will corrupt - if a suitable controller or healing process isn't in place to detect changes and fix the article
"As NAND flash approaches physical limits for lithographies below 20nm (or 1xnm) at least 4 new technologies are striving to extend MLC/SLC-based flash...."
Eli Tiomkin, Director, Business Development, WD Solid State Storage - from his (March 2012) blog - NAND Evolution and the Future of SSDs

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WD catches VeloBit
Editor:- July 10, 2013 - For the past 15 years from what I've seen - the ultimate business aim of most storage software companies has been - to get acquired.

That's been even more true in the SSD software market - wherein frankly - most companies don't even pretend to invest in sustainable business models.

In the past 2 years - an SSD software company has been acquired every 2 months (on average) and the latest company sustaining that trend is VeloBit which has been acquired by WD for deployment by its subsidiary HGST - it was announced today.

In case you've forgotten why this trend started - software makes it easier to sell more SSDs and the ROI from a vendor's point of view is better than doubling the sales force. That's why valuations (not disclosed in this case yet) have been so disconnected from the financial outlook of the ISV's themselves. See also:- SSD ASAPs
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Stec acquired by WD
Editor:- June 24, 2013 - WD today announced it has agreed to buy Stec for approximately $340 million. Stec will be acquired by WD's subsidiary HGST - which is already active in the enterprise SSD market.
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"...the SSD market will be bigger in revenue than the hard drive market ever was."
How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?
WD invests in Skyera
Editor:- March 12, 2013 - WD was one of the recent investors in Skyera - it was announced today.

We see companies like Skyera as offering a dramatic improvement over traditional approaches to emerging storage challenges said Steve Milligan, president and CEO, Western Digital.
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now where was I - before I was so rudely interrupted?
Editor:- February 21, 2013 - WD has recently published a new white paper - the Art of SSD Power Fail Protection (pdf)

If you've read up on the subject of Surviving SSD sudden power loss you may already be aware that the WD team has been working on this theme for over 9 years - and even promoted educational whitepapers on this subject using banner ads in 2005.

In 2004 I was told that getting the SSD data integrity to work reliably even when the SSD is subject to unexpected rapid power rail disturbances was one of the starting points of the original SiliconDrive designers - due to one of the founders having had a bad experience with an earlier prototype flash drive failing such a test at an oem presentation while at another company.

So what can WD tell us about this subject that's new?

Well - without mentioning names - there have been many examples of other SSD companies who have got this factor wrong - and some of the reasons why simplistic power protection schemes fail are mentioned in this paper.

The key to validating a reliable SSD design is testing:- with variable types of applied power line disruptions which are applied at any time in the SSD software. WD aren't going to reveal all their hard won patented design secrets in this white paper - but you can learn a lot from it which may help you better evaluate other products too. the article (pdf)
EMC arrays will have WD SAS SSDs inside
Editor:- March 5, 2012 - Hitachi GST today announced that its 2.5" SAS SLC SSD product - the Ultrastar SSD400S - is now shipping in EMC's VNX iSCSI arrays.

Editor's comments:- after more than a year of waiting - WD said this week that it has obtained all required regulatory approvals for its acquisition of HGST which will close this week.
click to see directory of SAS SSD companies That will beef up WD Solid State Storage. The exact arrangements of how the business units will operate will be disclosed soon afterwards.

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