Posts Tagged ‘Seagate’

Back to back acquisitions are adding to the excitement in the Flash arena. As Pure Storage pulled in another $150M in Series E funding and EMC was putting the finishing touches to its VNX2 with an all-Flash option complete with controller and software enhancements, even bigger Flash news was brewing.

Western Digital/HGST announced acquisition of PCIe Flash and software company, Virident, for $685 million on September 9. This is the third Flash acquisition the company has made in recent months. After acquiring SSD veteran, sTec, for $340 million, WD/HGST apparently beat Seagate to the punch in acquiring cache company, VeloBit, for an undisclosed sum. Seagate, along with Cisco, was also an investor in Virident.

On September 10, Cisco announced that it will purchase Flash array vendor, WhipTail, for $415 million. Undoubtedly there are folks out there humming along to the tune of the “Hokey Pokey” and wondering how serious Cisco is about storage as it expands its Unified Computing System.

It’s appears that the ability to aggregate, manage and manipulate Flash through software is a good place to be as the market moves towards consolidation.

Fusion-io and Violin will certainly be under increased scrutiny as the industry-wide game of musical chairs progresses. Will Seagate ever manage to snag a Flash chair? What shall we see at Oracle Open World in a few weeks?

About the Author

Agnes Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, security, cloud and enterprise software products. She can be reached by email at blog [at] Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join her network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

I’m chairing what may be the first ever marketing-oriented session at the annual Flash Memory Summit in August 2013. A lively panel of experts, editors, and analysts will be discussing product differentiation in a growth market in a session called: Differentiate or Die – Marketing Flash-Based Storage Systems. So, as part of a primer on product positioning, I thought I’d list the players in the game. In this case, I’ll narrow the field to those competing for enterprise buyers. In most cases, the solution is a hardware product that uses Flash memory, but not always. Some vendors develop software products that mitigate the need for additional hardware, essentially fulfilling the same customer need.

As you can see from the list of 75+ (below), there are enough vendors, products, and brands to make any buyer’s head explode. But if they wait, most will be gone by the end of the decade. A handful will be gone because they won the positioning game with the global players and were acquired for big bucks. Most will just be casualties who could not differentiate themselves in a way that attracted enough customers, or who could not defend their position from competitors claiming the same benefits at a lower cost.

Vendors Promoting an Enterprise Solution that Uses Flash

This June 2013 list (with a July update) includes some newborn vendors (not yet shipping) and some undead vendors (they look dead, but still might bite.) In general, I excluded those selling only hard disk drive form-factor SSDs (e.g Seagate) and Flash chips (e.g. Toshiba, Samsung), but I included PCIe SSD vendors if they claimed to have a product for enterprise servers.

  1. Aberdeen
  2. Amax
  3. Arkologic
  4. Astute Networks
  5. Assurance
  6. Avere Systems
  8. BridgeSTOR
  9. Cachebox
  10. Cisco
  11. Condusiv
  12. Coraid
  13. DataCore
  14. DataDirect Networks (DDN)
  15. DataON
  16. DDRdrive
  17. Dell
  18. Dot Hill
  19. Echostreams Innovative Solutions
  20. EMC
  21. Enmotus
  22. Fastor
  23. Foremay
  24. Fusion-io
  25. GreenBytes
  26. Hitachi Data Systems
  27. HP
  28. Huawei Symantec
  29. IBM Systems and Technology Group
  30. IceWEB
  31. Infinio
  32. Imation
  33. Intel
  34. iXsystems
  35. JetStor (AC&NC)
  36. JBOD
  37. JDV Solutions
  38. Kaminario
  39. Kove
  40. LSI
  41. Marvell
  42. Micron
  43. NetApp
  44. Nimble Storage
  45. Nimbus Data Systems
  46. OCZ
  47. Oracle
  48. Panzura
  49. PernixData
  50. Pivot3
  51. Proximal Data
  52. Pure Storage
  53. QLogic
  54. Qsan
  55. Radian Memory Systems
  56. Reduxio
  57. Renice Technology
  58. Runcore SSD
  59. SanDisk
  60. Scalable Informatics
  61. SeaChange
  62. Skyera
  63. SolidFire
  64. Soligen
  65. Starboard Storage
  66. sTec
  67. StorageQuest
  68. Super Talent
  69. System Fabric Works
  70. Tegile Systems
  71. Tintri
  72. VeloBit
  73. Violin Memory
  74. Virident Systems
  75. WhipTail
  76. X-IO

If I missed a vendor, please let me know.

About this Series on Positioning and The Flash Memory Summit

Join me and a lively panel of experts, editors, and analysts at what may be the first ever marketing-oriented session for CEOs, CTOs, and marketers at the annual Flash Memory Summit in August 2013. We will be discussing product differentiation in a growth market in a session called: Differentiate or Die – Marketing Flash-Based Storage Systems on Wednesday, August 14, 9:50-10:50 am. This is an Open Session so you can register for free up until 8/11/13.

You can follow this blog by signing up in the left sidebar. You can find related posts like these by clicking the Flash Memory Summit 2013 category:

  1. Flash Memory Summit 2013 Session: Differentiate or Die – Marketing Flash-Based Storage Systems
  2. Competitive Positioning of Flash-Based Products – A Primer for CEOs, CTOs and Marketers
  3. Market Changes Impacting Flash-based Products – A Positioning Primer for CEOs, CTOs and Marketers
  4. Positioning and Hype for Flash-based Products – A Primer for CEOs, CTOs and Marketers

You can suggest questions and discussion topics using the comment box below or by sending me, David Lamont, an email at blog [at] If you’d like to support this topic and enhance your own social media reputation, please click the “Share This” and “Like This” buttons below. Your support is appreciated.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).


I made my annual pilgrimage to the 2012 Flash Memory Summit at the convention center in Santa Clara, CA. This is one of my favorite conferences and this year’s event was bigger and more professional than ever. There was a lot to see and hear, but I’ll focus on what what caught my attention in the enterprise SSD arena — the market I’ve worked in since 2003 (the year my agency, Marketingsage, started helping Texas Memory Systems with PR and lead gen.)

Seagate’s annual slap-up-side-the-head for SSD vendors

The “Business Case for SSD” keynote by Jeff Burke, Seagate’s VP of Strategic Marketing, made an impression — not just on me. It was also one of the noteworthy topics being discussed at the lunch tables.

Seagate’s presentation amounted to their annual slap-up-side-the-head for the SSD vendors touting the imminent overthrow of hard disk drives — basically everyone in the very large room.

Seagate Chart (myyellow notes paraphrase what was said)

Seagate pointed out that the SSD forecasts have so far been overstated, the SSD sector is a tiny portion of the storage market, and Flash manufacturers could never meet the near-term or medium-term capacity demands of the market. He’s right…but this presentation (and others by Seagate) sure make me think that Seagate may be sandbagging on some real strategic issues:

  • A big chunk of Seagate’s profits come from its high end, higher margin, enterprise HDDs that typically go into arrays. The high-end market is readily moving to SSD because the economics in this performance-centric arena favor Flash over spindles. And, the laptop market is increasingly impacted by Flash-based tablets.
  • Seagate is essentially a vertically integrated manufacturing firm that’s fully invested in HDDs, not necessarily storage (all devices). It faces the Innovator’s Dilemma and may easily become another Kodak if it doesn’t match its lip-service with a big commitment to new technology.
  • Seagate lacks the core Flash technology in an arena where the firms with the core technology may be too big to easily acquire.
  • Building SSD systems causes a conflict with their OEM customers like HP, EMC, Dell, etc.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to see Seagate make a big acquisition as it moves to secure its future.

Start-ups and the new audience

The keynote by Rado Danilak, CEO of Skyera, also stood out with me. Skyera is a start-up that just announced a box of flash with de-dupe, compression, and technology to extend the life of their MLC chips.

The room was packed. However, the presentation turned out to be an overview of some well touted storage and performance issues.  Frankly, I thought the presentation was too light for a room full of technically orientated industry insiders. But by the end of day Thursday I had met so many first timers, that I now think the presentation may have hit the mark with this year’s attendees. There are a lot of new people learning about the technology, products and market.

Skyera is the shiniest of the new players, but Whiptail came sporting their new look (designed to be more corporate.) The memorable lizard logo was gone. Whiptail also makes a Flash system and uses de-dupe and compression to lower the cost per (stored) gigabyte. I’ve always thought they were smart to focus on solving cloud and virtualization performance problems, rather than marketing boxes of Flash in the face of well established players like Texas Memory Systems and low-cost producers. However, one look at the VMworld lineup shows how crowded the point-solution space  has become.

Another new firm, Shannon Systems, also exhibited. They are one of many new China-based makers of Flash-based products. Shannon was showing another MLC-based PCIe card.

It was good to see these innovative players at the expo, but I’ll bet they met far more industry peers than enterprise customers at this particular summit. This event is better suited to those with an OEM model.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

In June 2011, IT Brand Pulse group conducted a survey of IT professionals. The respondents were asked which vendors they perceived as the leader in Solid-State Drives. The top-level chart they published is interesting, not because I believe this is a list of actual SSD leaders, but because it represents the perceptions of the IT people surveyed.

Sometimes perception has little to do with reality, but it’s at the core of a brand and it does influence purchases.

Why are these particular firms on the list? I think some are on the list because they were in the news, not because the respondents used their products. On the other hand, many of these firms were not in the news and there are a host of well publicized firms not on the list.

The answer may be in the report, but the ~$3,000 is beyond the budget of my curiosity. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear some opinions from fellow SSD marketers.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

One of my favorite storage events is the annual Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, CA. The 3+ day summit attracts design engineers, product managers and hands-on business executives who buy and sell flash memory components, solid state disks (SSD) and related tools. I’ve attended the summit for years and each year it gets bigger and the presentations get more professional — as does the market for products that rely on flash (think smart phones, tablets, cameras, computers and enterprise data centers).

Standing Room Only

I attended session after session for all 3 days with my enterprise storage product marketing hat on. I did not consider that odd until a (storage) industry colleague pointed out that my business (Marketingsage) is a PR and lead generation firm.

I mention that because, unlike the PR and lead gen. posts on this blog, this posting looks at the categories of enterprise flash-based products and touches on the high-level go-to-market strategies. The posting is also laden with acronyms that require some product knowledge (other PR people can find a dictionary on the SNIA web site ;-).  I’ve been marketing and selling storage related products for 20+ years (hard drives, virtualization, SaaS, SSD). If that’s not your thing you can stop here.

Component SSDs for Enterprise

Despite the poor economy, there’s a real market for both the server-side SSDs and SAN-based SSDs.  The 2011 market is estimated to be worth $1-billion. Seagate has reportedly shipped 1-million hybrid flash-enhanced HDDs. Intel reportedly shipped 500,000 SSDs in a single quarter. Surveys estimate that 56% of enterprises either have an SSD or are currently evaluating them. Analysts estimate the market unit CAGR is expected to be over 50% through 2015. Impressive numbers!

John Moon of Seagate

The big numbers refer to SATA, SAS and PCIe SSD that go into servers or are arrayed in storage systems, not necessarily to the storage systems themselves. They are mostly components of more complex solutions that deliver thousands of IOPS.

Form a marketing point of view these SSDs are sold in the same way we sold high-end HDDs when I was at Seagate and IBM. Everyone wants the OEM business. Those that miss an OEM design cycle will sell through distribution/resellers. It’s not quite so black and white yet because some notable Early Adopter end-users are purchasing directly from the SSD manufactures to build their own high performance servers, but it will get there in 5 years or so.

STEC and Fusion IO are the SSD firms that everyone is watching. However, Virident had its tachION PCIe card at the summit. LSI had its WarpDrive. Marvell also had a PCIe card, as did our friends at TMS. It seemed like almost everyone had 2.5-inch SATA or SAS drives, but Anobit had a 3.5-inch “enterprise” SSD.

Frankly, the SAS, SATA and PCIe devices are fast looking like commodities. However, as competitive as this market is getting I envy the marketers. I personally find product and channel marketing strategy to be the most mentally stimulating. The fact that it’s very hands-on, difficult and requires experience makes it enjoyable. Unfortunately most will fail because the typical OEM-dependent manufacturer is not “wired” to succeed in other channels.

Standalone Memory Array SSDs for Enterprise

Woody Hutsell, “The” enterprise SSD sales expert

At the high-end of the enterprise market are standalone SSDs that deliver millions of IOPS. These devices typically sit in the SAN. I heard an analyst estimate that some 70,000 units have gone to enterprise customers, but I can’t add context to that number.

Standalone SSD are increasingly popular alternatives to large racks of HDD-based RAID because flash prices continue to make them more economical. Nevertheless, these enterprise SSDs are a big-ticket purchase. As such they are currently bought by large enterprise, government and military organizations that have mission critical (usually Oracle) databases managing very high transaction volumes (think stock exchanges, telecom, etc.) and/or a very large number of simultaneous users (think Facebook, Google, etc.) SSDs are also becoming essential in virtualized data centers, including the growing number of cloud-based infrastructure providers.

Until recently, my firm (Marketingsage) spent the last 8 years helping Texas Memory Systems market these Fibre Channel and Infiniband SSDs.

Despite the SSD hype, the enterprise SSD system market is clearly still in the in Early Adopter phase where visionaries seek breakthrough advantage (speed) and require complete solutions (help with Oracle or VMware integration). Of course, Oracle (who bought Sun) has the advantage and is well positioned. However, I think SolidFire, WhipTail Tech, and Schooner Information Technology also get the need for an application-based approach. They target those providing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS aka cloud) with significant know-how and feature rich SSDs.

Enterprise SSD is in the Early Adoper Phase

When the mass market arrives, the risk-averse pragmatists and conservative customers will favor vendors with a recognizable brand, case studies and lots of certifications/endorsements. These customers will seek value products — good-enough speed, application specific features, assured interoperability and a competitive price. Of course, the mass market is global so a well established channel is required to hold real market share. Advantage Oracle, HP, Dell, IBM, EMC…the usual big gorillas.

From a marketing point of view the high-end enterprise market requires a well-oiled machine. Unlike the OEM sales model, there are tens of thousands of potential customers, not just a handful. These customers are application centric, not necessarily storage centric, so the marketing communications strategy is different and lead generation is critical. Additionally, the sales cycles are long and purchase decisions involve many people so a sophisticated nurturing system and lots of sales tools are required.

SSD Caches for Enterprise

With the high price of SSD in mind, there’s a renewed focus on hybrid or cache implementations. The concept of caching is not new and sales of older RAM centric cache appliances are (privately) reported by several vendors to be very weak. However, I believe the new breed of higher capacity flash cache implementations can carve out a distinct market segment.

The new cache systems are using automated tiering where “hot” files, hypervisors and volumes are served from fast SSD (or RAM) while lesser used files remain on cheaper HDD. The Pareto principal (80/20 rule) is assumed to apply, dramatically reducing the amount of expensive SSD required to deliver similar performance to an all SSD system.

GridIron Systems‘ TurboCharger is a promising high-end Fibre Channel appliance that sits in the SAN. It will compete in the standalone SSD market with all the same challenges and rewards (high margins) that come with solution sales.

At other end of the market is the $1000 class LSI MegaRAID controller card. This card uses off-the-shelf SATA/SAS SSDs and cache for standard HDDs. Of course, it’s a component product, but it has a nice retail-friendly box.

Micro Tiering Cache Software. This shiny new, not-quite-shipping, segment is very interesting because Linux or Windows installed driver software are used with SAS, SATA or PCIe SSDs and hard drives to automatically cache IOs. VeloBit, Nvelo, FlashSoft and Enmotus are now beta testing their software in real-world customer environments. Like the LSI hardware controller cache software prices start below $1,000. 

As a marketer I can see several ways for these firms to succeed. The OEM component and system integrator strategies are a winner with so many commodity-like SATA, SAS and PCI SSD on the market. However, I was once director of marketing at a software firm that turned its driver software expertise into a valuable branded line of high-speed storage hardware products. That’s a completely different strategy focused on a brand. Anyone remember FWB’s Hammer storage line? Maybe not, but if you were a high-end Mac user in the mid 1990 you probably read the reviews.

Challenges Marketing Enterprise SSD

Once the product strategy is set, the day-to-day challenges are all about messaging and execution. Most prospective customers still think of SSDs in a generic way: they’re fast, but expensive. As they learn more they have to decide on what type of SSD implementation is best for their situation — server-side or SAN, cache or primary storage. They’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of MLC, eMLC or SLC. They’ll face the FUD of the performance specifications — are the performance claims reliable, sustainable and will they degrade with use? They’ll also take longevity in to account because SSDs wear out and under some conditions will even lose data.

Whatever the vendor’s position there are a lot of cases to be made, and countered. That means technically credible (not “fluffy”) sales tools like write papers, case studies, videos, sales presentations, websites, brochures, etc. More importantly, the value propositions need to be made to potential customers, not just the SSD pundits.

At the end of the day buyers will choose the vendors they believe they can trust. Those will include the brands they personally recognize from editorials, advertisements, trade shows, sales pitches (personal and email) and experience. They’ll also rely on recommendations — resellers, consultants, analysts and their peers on social media sites.

User references will trump hype with customer prospects, the press, analysts and investors. So if a marketer is to really contribute to a firm’s success he or she need to deliver a steady stream of sales-ready sales leads. With the multi-quarter sales cycles associated with enterprise SSDs, August leads are often next year’s sales.

Of course, Marketingsage can help! 🙂

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).