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Western Digital

WD was founded in 1970. The company's storage products are marketed to leading OEMs, systems manufacturers, selected resellers and retailers under the Western Digital® and WD brand names. Visit to access more information.

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who's who in SSD? - Western Digital

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - - June 2016

Western Digital's presence in the SSD market has developed by means of 7 successive acquisitions of SSD companies (so far).

I think it is inevitable - given the changes now taking place in the market, WDC's past failures to organically grow its own SSD IP base, and the growing gap which WDC has in the SSD market (particularly in the DIMM wars and NVMe markets) that more SSD companies and technologies will need to be acquired by WDC in the next 2 years.

Until May 2016 WDC's main surrogate and recycler of SSD IP within the enterprise SSD market was its subsidiary HGST. But the acquisition of SanDisk which closed in May 2016 brings with it a bigger quantity and range of SSD product lines and technologies than any of the previous acquisitions which were managed by HGST. I think that the scale of the SanDisk acquisition will mean that readjustments will have to be made about the roles of the various brands now under the control of WDC.

I wouldn't be surprised to see readjustments in the brands, With the stongest candidate in each case being repurposed for big markets such as consumer, enterprise and cloud.

WDC's key SSD acquisitions - from SSD acquisition history

For clarity - Western Digital is shown as the acquiring company below - although in some cases - the acquisitions were done by WDC's SSD surrogate HGST.

In March 2009 - Western Digital entered the SSD market by acquiring SiliconSystems for $65 million in a cash transaction. SiliconSystems was a Top SSD Company in the industrial SSD market. WDC didn't continue the development of the acquired product line into the MLC industrial era.

In March 2011 - Western Digital announced it would acquire HGST for approximately $4.3 billion. Although the primary motive was hard drives - the companies said they would put more resources into SSDs too. The acquisition took a year to complete, and as a result WDC acquired a SAS SSD product line.

In June 2013 - Western Digital announced it had agreed to buy Stec for approximately $340 million. Stec at the time had a market proven but ageing SAS SSD product line and an established market presence in the industrial and military SSD markets. WDC didn't maintain the military and industrial SSD product lines after the acquisition.

In July 2013 - Western Digital announced it had acquired VeloBit (an SSD software company operating in the SSD auto-caching market).

In September 2013 - Western Digital acquired Virident Systems (a leading PCIe SSD company) for approximately $685 million in cash.

In December 2014 - Western Digital acquired Skyera - which at that time - due to its unique big controller architecture - had a commanding lead in rackmount storage capacity density in the petabyte SSD market. WDC almost immediately after the acquisition end of lifed Skyera's product line. And although it is not yet clear where the acquired systems IP will be used - it has many possible applications within cloud focused rackmount systems.

In October 2015 - Western Digital agreed to acquire SanDisk for $19 billion. SanDisk at that time had entered the standard rackmount SSD market and had enterprise SSD product lines in the PCIe SSD market (primarily from Fusion-io), Software (from FlashSoft and other acquisitions) and SAS SSDs (from SMART Storage). SanDisk was also a leading supplier of consumer SSDs and flash memory.

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SanDisk hops into WDC's flash shopping basket
Editor:- October 22, 2015 - Following weeks of speculation and leaks came the confirmation yesterday that Western Digital has indeed agreed to acquire SanDisk in a deal valued at $19 billion.

If all goes as planned the transaction is expected to close in the 3rd calendar quarter of 2016.

Editor's comments:- From an SSD server storage competitive landscape perspective I think this is more significant than the EMC - Dell deal. Because it will impact the design, availability, competitive market health and future direction of many classic SSD product types in a far reaching way which could only be matched if Dell were to acquire Intel.

Time will play a big factor too.

Looking back at past acquisitions by WDC you shouldn't expect anything to come out the other end of the digester before the end of 2017.

And in that time - 2 years hence - many things in the SSD market will be different.

Some of SanDisk's best known enterprise SSD product lines (PCIe, SAS and SATA cloud) are already looking as if they were designed for a different movie generation.

(SanDisk's got a perfect Bogart lookalike for a remake of Casablanca, but webscale casting is hooked on an idea more like Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.)

In PCIe server sockets SanDisk has lagged behind the curve in NVMe, while in 2.5" storage arrays - new adaptive intelligence flow symmetry - which is emerging in many different forms - means that in the extreme case of cloud deployments - a single SSD with customized firmware - can replace 2 old style SATA SSDs.

On the other hand - SanDisk has more than amply demonstrated its willingness and capability to integrate flash memory in the enterprise outside traditional SSD comfort zones:- in server based DIMMs and analytics scale big data memory.

Those market experiments haven't generated much revenue yet but are the early steps on a learning curve which all memory makers will have to explore. The combination of that software capability and access to consumer scale, low cost flash will probably be more use to WDC than any single product line.

What happens in the meantime?

As we've seen before in such long drawn out acquisitions - it's inevitable that some SanDisk product developments will slow down and wither on the vine.

On the other hand - there will also be pressure to accelerate new product introductions too. You could say - it will be business as usual - but without so many distractions coming from the investor angle.

Looking ahead to a post WDC SanDisk...

WDC has a track record of swiftly EOLing perfectly adequate SSD products which came bundled in the shopping basket but didn't have high volumes and market scale.

This is a story which you'll be reading about for a long time to come.

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