Western Digital acquires solid-state drive firm

Despite displaying a lukewarm attitude toward SSDs last year, Western Digital has taken a big step into the market today by acquiring solid-state drive maker SiliconSystems. The $65 million transaction is already complete, and SiliconSystems has become WD’s Solid-State Storage business unit.

WD says it’s purchased a leading player in the embedded SSD market: SiliconSystems’ SiliconDrive products are purportedly designed to "meet the high performance, high reliability and multi-year product lifecycle demands of the network-communications, industrial, embedded-computing, medical, military and aerospace markets." The 2002 start-up also holds "extensive intellectual property" for serving those markets.

Naturally, though, WD has plans beyond embedded products. SiliconSystems’ product line already includes Serial ATA and IDE drives with 2.5" and 1.8" form factors, and WD says it’s cooking up SSDs for the "netbook, client and enterprise markets." In other words, expect to see laptops and desktop PCs sporting WD SSDs in the not-too-distant future.

Comments closed
    • billyconnection
    • 11 years ago

    For a /[

    • clone
    • 11 years ago

    the only problem for most SSD’s that keeps me from buying one isn’t cost it’s the damn performance stuttering during heavy IO use…..

    Intel found a way around it by adding cache but I can’t help wonder if their is a cheaper way because the Intel 80gb drive is cost prohibitive.

    can’t SSD makers provide a little software driver that would allocate 16mb’s or 64+ mb’s for that matter in todays 2gb+ computer environment of onboard ram to act as a cache for the SSD drive so that it runs blazing fast and stutter free….. it seems like an obvious fit…. am I missing something?

      • 5150
      • 11 years ago

      Check out the OCZ Vertex. 120GB for $319 after rebate on the Egg. I’ve got one and aside from the normal tweaks (which aren’t even necessary) I have no suttering.

        • indeego
        • 11 years ago

        What are the normal tweaksg{

          • 5150
          • 11 years ago

          I guess normal tweaks would be to disable auto defrag and indexing. I have heard of people leaving indexing on though and it still doesn’t stutter. If using XP, aligning helps a great deal too (Vista and 7 both do this automatically). I’ve gone further than that and moved my Firefox profile/cache onto a HDD along with my Outlook PST and done some registry hacks and removed my page file (I have 8GB RAM). Non of these are necessary on a Vertex, I’m just tweaking for the sake of tweaking. Using my old Patriot Warp V2, all of this was necessary to avoid stuttering, on the Vertex, it’s pretty much plug it in and enjoy.

          Also, I have heard that the Vertex will support TRIM in a month or so to coincide with Win7 supporting it so that should also help performance as the drive starts to get full.

      • Meadows
      • 11 years ago

      What you propose is dangerous. The odds of system RAM failing are far higher than closely tested, fixed-spec drive caches. What if the person in question overclocked and lost half of his OS in the process? What if his RAM was simply not getting the right voltages at the right moment? Bad design on the manufacturer’s part? Wrong answer. Customer’s fault, deny warranty? Also wrong answer. You want none of that.

      It’s easier to get around this by not mix-and-matching everything in a system, especially not volatile components. Of course I’d also like an option like this, but it would probably have to come with a disclaimer as thick as a phone book and I’d still be afraid of data loss.

      • Ushio01
      • 11 years ago

      Performance stuttering only happens with jmicron memory controllers in MLC SSD’s.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      What you’re missing is that cache is not in itself the solution to the problem, and it’s not how Intel solved it.

        • clone
        • 11 years ago

        Meadows I was thinking a temporary cache that gets loaded upon post not a permanent solution that could suffer from the inherrent volatility of Ram…. the cache element would be for temp loading so a crash situation would not be a concern.

        r[

          • UberGerbil
          • 11 years ago

          But it’s smart controller design that can take advantage of the cache, not the cache itself, that matters. And the cache has to be under the control of controller, not sitting at the other end of the SATA cable with drivers and OS pieces in the way.

    • Vaughn
    • 11 years ago

    50c a GB?

    You will be waiting alteast 2 years is my best guestimate!

    • Jakubgt
    • 11 years ago

    Once SSD prices hit .50~ cents/GB I’m sold.
    Once they hit .25 or less….. hello raid-0 setup.

    • herothezero
    • 11 years ago

    Good move, but I still don’t see myself using SSDs in my desktop systems until the lifecycle is extended.

    I’m loving my SSD in my X300 laptop, though.

      • indeego
      • 11 years ago

      The “lifecycle” is longer than any mechanical drive you have ever owned, if you are talking about Intel or Samsung SSD’sg{<.<}g

    • bLaNG
    • 11 years ago

    What controller does SiliconSystems use atm? Hopefully something better than a JMicron…

      • Ushio01
      • 11 years ago

      No they probably use Samsung SLC memory controllers based on there 100mb read and 80mb write speeds.

    • Mr Bill
    • 11 years ago

    Doesn’t AMD have a big flash division? Why are we not seeing any SSD devices from AMD? Hate to say it but once again, Intel seems to be first on SSD performance.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      You mean Spansion, the company AMD spun off in 2003 and that filed for Chapter 11 a month ago?

    • just brew it!
    • 11 years ago

    We use SiliconSystems where I work, for ruggedized (extended temp range) embedded flash modules. I bet the WD buyout will cause SiliconSystems to focus on the consumer market instead, which probably means we’ll be forced to look for a new supplier. Crap, crap, crap.

    Sounds like a sensible move for WD though. They’re probably worried about getting steamrollered by the SSD revolution. If they don’t have their own internal SSD effort going already, the best way to get up to speed is to acquire someone like this.

    Another factor which may have driven this acquisition is IP licensing issues. SanDisk has been filing lawsuits against other flash memory vendors for patent infringement. SiliconSystems has a patent licensing agreement with SanDisk, so WD may view this as a way to buy protection from future lawsuits.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Well, if it’s a profitable business they may keep it going. They can apply SiliconSystems’ controller technology to cheaper drives for consumers without necessarily blowing up their existing business.

      The IP issues and SanDisk’s aggressiveness is a good point. That’s definitely a complication that all these guys have to work around.

      • TheDude3874
      • 11 years ago

      Absolutely, isn’t any revenue from these sales by SiliconSystems now considered revenue for Western Digital? WD probably won’t shut anything down just yet, they might even leave them alone and just get the drives for cost now. If so WD is banking on being able to sell millions of dollars worth of SSD’s; not a bad investment considering everyone commercially seems to be jumping on the SSD wagon. From what I’ve seen in my industry (Aircraft and Test Equipment Manufacturing) this is the most common type of acquisition, the purchased company gets left alone, mostly.

      • ludi
      • 11 years ago

      Maybe WD is looking to expand into enterprise as well, and this purchase will cover multiple bases. Assuming they handle it correctly.

    • Ushio01
    • 11 years ago

    Seems like an unusual choice for WD to me. It looks like SiliconSystems is a SLC SSD maker i would have thought they would have gone for a MLC maker when they moved to SSD’s

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      They don’t make the chips, just the drives. The value (as Intel has demonstrated) is in the controller hardware, not the commodity storage chips. There’s no reason why they can’t apply their expertise to consumer-grade MLC drives in the future.

        • Ushio01
        • 11 years ago

        Based on the read/write speed it looks like they use Samsung SLC memory controller’s so i’m not sure what they actually have to offer WD anyway.

          • UberGerbil
          • 11 years ago

          If that’s the case then I don’t know either. Though there’s something to be said for getting a new “division” up and running (with a customer list and sales) instantly, vs trying to figure out how to break into a new market yourself. Quite a lot to be said for it, actually.

      • bLaNG
      • 11 years ago

      As I understand SLC and MLC are in fact the same flash type, the difference is that MLC flash cells hold 2 and SLC flash cells hold 1 value.
      So with MLC you can store twice as much but reading and writing take longer. Hence the price difference.

      Anyone really interested in the SSD subject, read this AnandTech article:

      §[<http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=3531<]§

    • tomkaten
    • 11 years ago

    I think it was a much needed move for them. They basically acknowledge that SSD’s are the future, no matter what some people might think and this was necessary, to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs.

    There’s only so much density/platter you can add using any given set of physics and I don’t see much research going into classic hdd technology these days.

    As soon as SSD’s finally catch up in size, it’s buh-bye hdd. And it’s not soon enough.. I’m sick of that antiquated, hot, noisy mechanical monster in my PC 🙂

      • indeego
      • 11 years ago

      /[

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Actually, there are limits looming for flash technology too. SSDs are the future (eventually) but it not be flash that gets us all the way there. And for the largest, cheapest storage we’ll have spinning disks for a long, long time (though they may be in server farms in “the cloud” and not inside your PC).

    • donkeycrock
    • 11 years ago

    good move by WD, can’t wait to get one from them. hopefully they are cheap. im thinking 1 dollor per gig before i buy

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Then you’ll be one of the last people buying an SSD.

        • khands
        • 11 years ago

        No, he’ll be in the middle of the pack with just about everyone else.

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 11 years ago

        They’re not that far off, are they? On newegg, I see a 128GB for $214 which is 1.67 $/GB, a 256GB for the same 1.67 $/GB, a 60GB is 1.82 $/GB, a 64GB is 2.02 $/GB a 32GB is 2.16 $/GB

          • clone
          • 11 years ago

          I’d buy the SSD’s mentioned if they offered better io perf under load….. $2 per gb is ok so long as it’s notably faster…. if I have to deal with performance lockups it’s a complete waste of time.

    • PrincipalSkinner
    • 11 years ago

    Can this make them more vulnerable to potential Seagate takeover?

      • 5150
      • 11 years ago

      I thought Seagate was about to be taken over…?

      • Sargent Duck
      • 11 years ago

      Seagate won’t be taking WD over.

      1) I don’t know market worth right now, but if I had to guess, I’d say WD and Seagate are pretty close market wise, and I doubt Seagate would have the money

      2) The writing is on the wall for mechanical hdd’s. The future is SSD’s (as WD has just proven), and taking over a fellow hdd manufacture would be fool-hardy at best.

      I could be wrong on both accounts, and if someone does some actual research I’ll probably be proven wrong. But that’s just my $0.02 (actually, since I haven’t researched the worth of these companies, my thoughts are probably only worth $0.01)

        • indeego
        • 11 years ago

        WD is almost twice the market cap.

        Smaller companies can take over (or “merge”) w/ larger ones with private/public financing/stock swaps and of course shareholder approvalg{<.<}g

          • PetMiceRnice
          • 11 years ago

          Just think MCI Worldcom!

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Why would investing in a future growth area (and the only long-term strategy to get out of will eventually be a dying technology) make them more vulnerable to a takeover? More attractive, maybe, but not more vulnerable.

      And Seagate is no threat to WD.
      Seagate: $2.8B market cap, $1.1B in cash, $1.7B in debt
      WDC: $4B in market cap, $1.4B in cash, $400M in debt

      Seagate is more vulnerable to being taken over than WDC, if somebody wanted it. The HD business is certainly all about consolidation these days — the Japanese drive makers (Hitachi, Toshiba, Fujitsu) seem headed in that direction, and while spinning disks aren’t going to vanish anytime soon, the industry isn’t going to need more than a couple of players. I doubt WD and Seagate will pair up, but if they did it would be WD taking over Seagate, not the other way around.

        • grantmeaname
        • 11 years ago

        I think he was saying WD would be worth less now that they spent that money, and therefore easier to buy.

        It’s wrong, of course, but that’s what he was getting at.

          • indeego
          • 11 years ago

          65 million is nothing for a company WD or Seagate’s size. penniesg{<.<}g

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This