闪存短缺改写固态硬盘市场生态

上网时间: 2013年12月27日? 作者:Rick Merritt? 我来评论 【字号: ? ?小】

关键字:闪存短缺? SSD? 固态硬盘?

Flash Shortages Drive SSD Shifts

LSI's loss is Samsung's gain

Rick Merritt

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The dynamics of the solid-state state drive market are shifting, and for Abhi Talwalkar it's been a disappointing shift in 2013.

The chief executive of LSI hoped the market for SSD controllers from Sandforce, a startup he purchased in 2011 for $370 million, would grow as much as 35% this year. Instead it grew just 10%.

The growth Talwalkar hoped for went mostly to companies such as Samsung that started selling SSDs using its own NAND flash chips and controllers. Increasingly the relatively small, independent SSD makers Sandforce had been selling some of its controllers to are losing business to vertically integrated giants such as Samsung, Sandisk, and others.

The shift got started in 2011. That's when NAND flash makers cut back capex on fab equipment, believing the memory chip market was in oversupply.

As a result NAND flash prices went up about 20% this year, Talwalkar estimates. At the same time, flash chip makers such as Samsung have been more aggressively making and selling their own SSDs because they represent a more profitable business than chips.

The NAND vendors are winning business because they can make money at lower selling prices than the independents. For example, one of the independents that is a customer for LSI had to walk away from a multi-million dollar deal selling SSDs to a large PC company this year when the prices went below its costs.

"Three years ago the NAND guys had a fairly small share in SSDs and there were perhaps 50 players in SSDs," said Talwalkar in an interview with EE Times.

"I believe in two to four years 70-80% of client SSDs will come from NAND makers and the rest will come from five to 10 independent SSD makers that have unique business models and/or focus on certain verticals markets or distribution models," he predicted, noting Kingston, Avant, and OCZ among the strong survivors today.

"I have no worries about the growth of flash, the question is about in what form it gets deployed" and by whom, Talwalkar added.

Several independent SSD and controller makers –including Stec, Smart Storage, Virident, FlashSoft and Link-a-Media -- have already been acquired by NAND chip and PC makers as part of their efforts to get into SSDs, said Alan Niebel, principal of market watcher Webfeet Research (Monterey, Calif.). Top among the remaining independents are Fusion-io, Violin, OCZ, Skyera and Nimbus Data, he said.

The NAND flash price rises in 2013 were in part fueled by reports of a fire this summer at a large SK Hynix fab in Wuxi, China. The fire only affected DRAM production, "but many OEMs bought [flash] on the fear of shortage," said Niebel

"Just based on capex [retrenchments] today's budding NAND shortage should run from the second half of this year to mid-2015," said Jim Handy, a veteran flash analyst at Objective Analysis (Los Gatos, Calif.).

"Since everyone except IM Flash is converting to new technologies that they have never tried before -- either high-k gate dielectrics or 3-D -- there are likely to be a lot of stumbling blocks that would push the end of the shortage out to 2016 or even 2017," said Handy.

For LSI, the issues are painful but manageable. Only about ten percent of its business is currently in flash-related products and it has diverse bets in the flash market, said Talwalkar.

LSI now makes 17 custom versions of its Sandforce SSD controllers, including ones for Samsung and SanDisk. It also sells its own PCI Express flash cards for accelerating server applications, following in the footsteps of market pioneer Fusion I/O.

For LSI a bigger shift in 2013 came in its larger business related to hard disk drives. Last year LSI customer Seagate commanded a bigger portion of the HDD business given its favorable supply-chain position in the wake of Thai floods.

Seagate's good fortune helped spike LSI's 2012 growth to 23 percent last year. Seagate's position and LSI's HDD-related business moderated this year, impacting LSI's overall revenues and profits which slumped about 10 and 50 percent respectively in the first nine months of 2013.

标签 NAND??

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