Seagate teams up with DensBits for SSD development

Although Seagate has a line of Pulsar solid-state drives designed for enterprise markets and a small collection of hybrids for notebooks, it’s thus far shied away from producing consumer-grade SSDs. Looks like that’s about to change. The hard drive maker has announced a "strategic agreement" to develop both consumer and enterprise SSDs with a company called DensBits.

What does DensBits bring to the table? Controller technology—a so-called Memory Modem that purportedly improves the performance and reliability of NAND built on smaller fabrication nodes. DensBits refers to its tech as a modem designed for flash memory. Through a combination of signal processing, NAND management, and ECC, DensBits claims (PDF) its solution improves the endurance of MLC flash by more than 20 times. The technology can also be applied to TLC memory, giving it double the endurance of MLC NAND. Impressively, there doesn’t seem to be any SandForce-style write compression involved.

The press release suggests Seagate is focusing on TLC memory for consumer drives and MLC for enterprise fare. There’s no indication of when the first drives will be available, though. DensBits does have a controller currently listed on its site, but the DB3610’s specifications leave much to be desired. The chip has only two memory channels and sequential transfer rates that top out at a mere 95MB/s. Seagate’s "undisclosed equity investment" in DensBits will likely fund the development of a new controller with more channels and better performance.

As SSD prices continue to fall, I suspect more users will ditch mechanical storage in their notebooks and run dual-drive configurations in their desktops. Seagate obviously wants a piece of the action, and it will be interesting to see if it enters the market before Western Digital.

Comments closed
    • Jason181
    • 7 years ago

    TLC memory; does that come with cookies and milk?

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Almost looks like it’s trendy for HD makers to buy up controller makers no matter how bad they are.

    • ULYXX
    • 7 years ago

    Here comes the SSD with 1 year warranty.

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    The HDD monopoly kings can go take a swim. After abusing their position so badly over the last year I’ll never be buying an SSD from either of them ever. The last thing that consumers need is for Seagate or WD to get a sizable share of the SSD market. They’ll end up just buying out all the competition and jacking up the prices of SSDs just like they did with the HDD market.

      • kuraegomon
      • 7 years ago

      Duopoly kings, technically 🙂

      Hair-splitting aside, they won’t be buying out either Samsung or Intel, so not too much need to worry there. And before anyone points out that Seagate bought out Samsung’s HDD business, that’s a different story. In the SSD space, Samsung is the incumbent, and one of only three that manufactures both the flash and the controller (though Intel’s sure doing lot’s of 3rd-party controllers these days).

      I suspect that both Seagate and WD will have a big hill to climb to achieve market leadership (or even parity) in the SSD space. The good news for them is that flash-based SSD’s are almost certainly only a transitional technology. The HDD boys should still be around to catch the next big storage technology wave.

      • Sam125
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]They'll end up just buying out all the competition and jacking up the prices of SSDs just like they did with the HDD market.[/quote<] It was the floods of Thailand that caused the price of HDD to rise. Most of the world's hard drives are manufactured there and the floods destroyed many of the factories.

        • SPOOFE
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, weren’t HDD’s dirt-cheap before the floods? Not a good argument.

          • Shambles
          • 7 years ago

          [b<]Seagate Ships Record Amount of Hard Drives as Revenues and Profits Set Records .[/b<] [url<]http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/storage/display/20120418224631_Seagate_Ships_Record_Amount_of_Hard_Drives_as_Revenues_and_Profits_Set_Records.html[/url<] The flood was a convenient excuse. Here we are, long after the flood has been dealt with and HDD prices are still almost double of what they were pre-flood. Prices are going to stay high because they have no one to compete with anymore. Higher prices are now the norm.

            • indeego
            • 7 years ago

            [i<]The flood was a convenient excuse."[/i<] Your evidence for this is? [i<]"Here we are, long after the flood has been dealt with and HDD prices are still almost double of what they were pre-flood."[/i<] So? Supply was and is constrained. Hundreds of millions of shipments a month pulled down to near zero. Let's see you manage that supply chain back to normal. The cost of a drive is miniscule compared to most systems these days, and, uh, kinda vital to the whole point of a system. [i<]"Prices are going to stay high because they have no one to compete with anymore. Higher prices are now the norm."[/i<] They have SSDs to compete with. They have used markets. They have people not buying and waiting it out. If you have a valid antitrust argument beyond what we're seeing here you should sue just for the hush money alone. After all, they are rolling in cash and your charges are rock solid in logic!

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      You invariably use a patent licensed from them anyway in any system you use.

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      Sure, I bet they flooded Thailand too.

        • Vasilyfav
        • 7 years ago

        Sea-gate. Coincidence? I think not.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    In the press release they mention “1Xnm” so the timing is next year soonest if you assume they are not talking Toshiba/Sandisk 19nm but can also be 1-2 years later.
    CRN had a quote here [url<]http://www.crn.com/news/storage/240002661/seagate-invests-in-tlc-nand-flash-controller-densbits.htm[/url<] "Pimentel used a modem analogy to describe the advance in controller technology provided by DensBits. "If we were using 56-Kbits-per-second dial-up networking today, DensBits jumps the industry to ADSL," he said."

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]modem[/quote<] No matter how accurate the use of this word may be, I associate the term modem with "slow"; Dial-up slow.....

      • grantmeaname
      • 7 years ago

      That explains the 56k write speed.

      • CuttinHobo
      • 7 years ago

      I just hope you don’t have to sit through the old screeching hand-shake tones each time the drive starts an operation! D=

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      I have 120 Mbps downstream internet access via the use of a, – you guessed it – modem. I can’t agree with your feelings.

    • Firestarter
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]its solution improves the endurance of MLC flash by more than 20 times [/quote<] Compared to what? Specs of the flash manufacturer?

      • bcronce
      • 7 years ago

      I would assume.

      Most are claiming about 3,000 writes, so if this is what they’re talking about, then now they can get closer to 60,000 writes.

    • Philldoe
    • 7 years ago

    I’m a big fan of Seagate drives. They have served me well. Looking forward to what they offer in the near future.

      • DancinJack
      • 7 years ago

      So weird how experience can differ so widely. I really don’t care for Seagate stuff. The only two drives I had from them failed on me. 🙁

        • burntham77
        • 7 years ago

        I suppose that’s true of most tech-related situations. I had four installs of Vista in my house for a couple of year and had no problems with them. And I have a lot friends who are techies who loved Vista. Then there are a small number who say it just never worked for them. Goes to show you never can tell.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah… that’s what I’ve heard from people. In my personal experience Seagate has given me the best and longest lasting drives.

        • Philldoe
        • 7 years ago

        Agreed. I have never had a WD drive last longer than 4 months aside from a 36GB raptor (That still works today), but I have friends that swear by them. I can’t say I’ve had a motherboard with an nVidia chipset that wasn’t the king of BSoD’s either. Crap happens, experiences vary.

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