SSDs: From HDD Replacement to Removable Cards

Sandisk has a great head start over the SSD competition thanks to its acquisition of msystems. At the time of the acquisition, msystems was on its fifth generation of SSDs, which were sold primarily to the military, aerospace and telecom industries.

These niche markets required rigorous performance standards, making them an ideal R&D environment for the development of a product which seems destined to soon roll out in consumer/mass markets.

With each generation, msystems concentrated its efforts on integrating the required SSD components, reducing cost and size, while improving performance. Five stages of product improvement also provided extensive and invaluable real world expertise in meeting customer needs.

Suspect that msystems’ capabilities will soon enable MLC for Sandisk SSDs, while the competition will be stuck with SLC for quite a while.

Although it doesn’t seem as if SSDs will do much this year, the ramp-up for 2008 through 2010 looks like a lot of fun. According to Gartner, SSDs will likely penetrate about 20% (or 32M) of the notebooks that will be sold in 2010, accounting for about 1300 petabytes (PB) of flash, or about 11% of 2010’s total output — about the equivalent of this years total industry output of NAND.

Gartner estimates the 2010 total available market for SSDs at $3B. Right now my guess is that the biggest pieces of this pie will go to SNDK and Samsung, probably in that order. By 2010 would not be surprised if each ends up with about 1/3 of the market, with the last 1/3 shared among everyone else.

SNDK has its first SSD win with Dell. Suspect this is the rumored msytems’ SSD win of last fall, in which it supposedly beat out a very, very, large player — likely Samsung.

Also suspect SNDK has some additional wins in the bag or almost in the bag. If history were to repeat itself, and I see no reason it shouldn’t, top candidates for new SSD wins would be companies that had good business relationships with msystems. At the top of that list are Lenovo and HP. Like Dell, msystems had good working relationships with both.

Find the hinted-at SNDK vision for SSD evolution particularly interesting. SSDs seem poised to morph from a HDD look alike into something else entirely. Today’s SSD is simply a HDD replacement. A laptop manufacturer can simply plug SSD in where HDD used to be, bundling the SSD with the unit for the consumer. A straightforward OEM business model.

Following initial adoption, it appears that SNDK is intent on driving the bulk of the SSD market in different direction, away from the OEM model & towards its strengths in consumer retail. Makes a lot of sense. SNDK potentially gets better margins, more control over the evolution of the device/format, and reinforcement of the SNDK brand. No need for “SNDK inside” labels when the SNDK logo can be front and center.

My guess is that SNDK is thinking about pushing SSD evolution towards a removable consumer device/card similar to the recently announced SxS ExpressCard. If this is how things play out, laptops will move to a storage model like that of today’s digital cameras. Some storage will be embedded within the device, but primary personal storage will be removable cards. Laptop, etc. manufacturers should like this, as primary storage costs cease to be part of their products’ cost. Consumers should like this, as flexibility & upgradeability are maximized. Buy storage as needed, at best prices.

Expect a segment of these SSD cards to eventually evolve, with the addition of crypto chips and microprocessors, from dumb to smart storage. Would seem to have Uber-U3 potential for PC virtualization and other futuristic stuff. Probably one of the reasons that MSFT has now partnered with SNDK for U3 and beyond.

My suspicion is that SSD cards were originally an msystems strategy. msystems used to use a picture of an ExpressCard with an msystems label in its presentation visuals, even though, as far as I know, no msystems’ ExpressCard was ever released.

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12 Responses to SSDs: From HDD Replacement to Removable Cards

  1. wshoes says:

    Savo,

    Thank you very much for providing the link to your site. I have bookmarked it and will visit it regularly. In the future i’ll try to chime in only when I have something (at least potentially) worthwhile to say.

    ‘shoes

  2. Mrs. Cencomco says:

    Savo,

    I appreciate your very insightful posts, just like the old days on the M-Systems board. You are certainly a breath of fresh air. I don’t think the SNDK guys fully understand the value of the IP and innovations from M-Sys.
    You have always been very informative. Please keep it up. Anything you could add on X4 would be welcome.
    Thanks,
    Mrs. Cencomco

  3. Ron H says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading. Looking forward for your next blog.. The SSD evolution into consumer device is indeed intriguing

  4. Ron, Miami, Florida says:

    You are correct but you missed one potential point in regards to MS and Intel. Both are desperate to get involved in the next technological evolution–mobile. Apple is taken a first stab but Apple has more plans than just the iphone. Both MS and Intel also. PC are going away and will be replace with mobile communicators. Apple with build an ecosystem of mobile apps with content as well. MS and Intel, if they have any sense, must understand that Nand is the mobile enabler. The iphone would not exist with Nand as an enabler. So look for MS and Intel to form a team around their own iphone using intel chips and MS O/S. They’ll add to this team Sandisk and all mobile carriers.

    The era of mobile microPC is apon us and Nand is the enabler.

  5. savolainen says:

    Greetings Mrs. Cencomco,

    Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well with you and your family. My wife and I just got back from a great trip to Belgium. Another fun vacation funded by FLSH winnings.

    Have sold some to lock in profits, but still own quite a bit as I think SNDK has a ways to run yet. Find writing about the company helps me focus. Hence this blog. A little experiment.

    FWIW, I think Eli is very happy with msystems, particularly its innovative culture. He is on record as saying that the FLSH acquisition is one of the three most important events in the history of Sandisk. To my knowledge he has never named the other two. Speculation of what they might be would probably make an interesting blog post.

    Believe the FLSH acquisition has been a shot in the arm for SNDK. Whether SNDK is able to make the most of it remains to be seen.

    Dov once described msystems as a rocket-powered jalopy, or beat -up old car. You’d point it in a direction and it would take off and out-accelerate everyone, leaving them in the dust.

    When it was time to turn however, everyone in the FLSH car would have to get out and push and pull it around to another angle. Then everyone would climb back in for another mind-numbing ride. Like the analogy. Rings true.

    At the time of the FLSH acquisition, Shlomi Cohen used the car analogy too. As I recall he compared Sandisk to a limousine. Not so sporty, but (compared to FLSH) a nice comfortable ride. And it is steerable too, without getting out and struggling.

    My guess is that over the next couple of years we will hear more about the FLSH input. Eli has a plan. Strategically he seems to be playing just as aggressively as Dov, but as his company is larger, it all takes a little longer. x4 is a good example. I will try to post on x4 soon.

    Savo

  6. poofypuppy says:

    Hi Savo,

    Found this link on the Yahoo SanDisk board, and coming over here to read it was like old times on the FLSH board. Hope you, Mrs. Cencomco, and wshoes have been enjoying and prospering through the various chapters of life.

    I think it’s interesting/ironic that Samsung just opened a multi-billion dollar NAND fab in Austin Texas, which is obviously close to Dell’s headquarters, but that Dell chose to go with SanDisk’s SSD. That should tell us something! Like Mrs. Cencomco, I’d be curious to know any inklings you might have regarding X4 and 3D. It seems that for X4, SanDisk is partnering with (M-Systems’ former partner) Hynix. And one can infer that SanDisk is partnering with Toshiba on their recently announced “3D” NAND. Since the patents on MLC will expire soon, SanDisk will need to successfully commercialize (and license under the right conditions) these two technologies to stay ahead of Samsung and Intel, whose fabs will likely lead in (smallest) geometry size.

    Regards,
    poofypuppy

  7. savolainen says:

    Greetings poofypuppy and wshoes,

    Nice to hear from you.

    After x4 will post on 3D. Am not so sure that SNDK and Toshiba are working together on 3D, yet. Toshiba appears to be working on a NAND variation and SNDK on something entirely new.

    SNDK’s 3D technology has the potential to disrupt/displace NAND itself. We should know one way or the other in the next 3 to 5 years. SNDK seems to think it can turn the Matrix 3D technology from OTP, one-time-programable into R/W, read-write.

    If SNDK can do it, there’s a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

    Savo

  8. afkkl8_99 says:

    Hi Savo,

    Missing the old (Flash) board, that I used to read since post #1 some 10 years ago. Unfortanatly found that for 0.765 of my shares I got a package deal of a great company like SNDK with and ugly board. Reading this blog is like taking a fresh breath and and a re-uinion

    Thanks, Arie

  9. learn111 says:

    Hi Savo, poofy, Mrs Cencomco, wshoes, afkkl8_99,

    just want to let you know, that I also reading this blog. Great stuff, thanks Savo.
    After reading the M-sys board for 7 years, it’s fantastic to see you all again. I wonder who else will appear from the good old M-sys board.

    Thanks
    learn111

  10. savolainen says:

    Greetings Arie & learn111,

    Thanks for the comments. It is always nice to hear from the old FLSH folks. This blogging, or posting on a message board, is a bit like dropping a pebble in the internet pond. The ripples run out and you don’t know where. All very curious, actually.

    My goal is to post an in-depth blog entry once a week ± as time allows. It will probably show up on Sundays given how my life works.

    Next up will be Matrix 3D. A promising story which I hadn’t been reallly paying attention to until recently. After that I’m thinking it would be fun to speculate about the iPhones impact on SNDK.

    At some point, am thinking it might be interesting to reflect on my experiences following FLSH for ten years. Its been both fun and profitable.

    Monk_no_more, are you around? Would be interested in your thoughts on Trappiste beers, including the politics.

    Savo

  11. flashwave2000 says:

    Hi Savo,
    Just wanted to thank you for starting your blog. i’ve owned FLSH/SNDK since late 99 and was a daily reader and rare poster on the old FLSH board. i continue to own SNDK because i believe that the market for its product is expanding rapidly, they are a leader in the space, they have a strong balance sheet, it is not overpriced, their managment seems good (i don’t seem to have a great feel for this)…..so like you i think that the stock has a lot more run in it. i have no feel for the macro issues like Nand supply and demand (stuff Craig Elis seems to always focus on)…the geometries of NAND production and the capabilities of FAB1,2,3 4…etc…..for that kind of stuff which is beyond my comprehension hopefully you will translate it for us. anyway…keep up the great work and you have a loyal follower and fan.

    gal2k

    p.s. hi mrs Cencomco..hope all is well.

  12. james braselton says:

    hi there wow 1300 petabyte flash memory just wait untill the day we have 1300 petabyte ssd flash drives in our cellphones

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