Analyzing the SandForce Acquisition, An Interview with LSI

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News Posted: Thu, Oct 27 2011 1:51 PM

LSI Announces Agreement to Acquire SandForceYesterday’s announcement that LSI had entered into an agreement to acquire SandForce was interesting to say the least. The two companies have obvious synergy and should be able to leverage each other's resources to produce some powerful and innovative storage products. However, due to LSI’s strong position in the enterprise space and SandForce’s more consumer oriented position, along with the announcement’s minimal discussion of mainstream or desktop-targeted products, some questions lingered as to how LSI planned to market SandForce products moving forward. After all, dozens of manufacturers that specifically target enthusiasts and desktop users offer products built around SandForce’s solid state storage processors. How would the acquisition affect those businesses?

We just got off the line with Gary Smerdon, VP & GM of the Accelerated Solutions Division at LSI and he answered all of the lingering questions and more. Below we’ve got some slideware that further explains LSI’s decision to acquire SandForce along with some answers to our questions, direct from the parties involved.

Before answering our questions, Mr. Smerdon spoke a bit about how LSI planned to leverage SandForce technology for future Warpdrive branded solutions, and said that, “the additional technology synergies are fantastic and will help take the Warpdrive to a whole new level.” LSI and SandForce have been working together for a few years already, but Mr. Smerdon also mentioned that the acquisition will allow the company to optimize their platforms much further, which could be a big advantage for future products.

Gary also talked a bit about usage models and said that as NAND becomes more and more worn over time, the performance of the adapter using that NAND needs to stay constant throughout its life. Having a powerful storage processor in their portfolio will allow them to offer just that. The architectural benefits are already strong, but with the ability to do additional optimizations from both a firmware and silicon architecture standpoint, LSI’s believes there are many benefits that can ultimately be offered to their customer base. With that, onto our questions...

  

What does the acquisition mean for current SandForce partners that offer drives based on SandForce processors in the short term? And Long Term?
LSI is going to continue to support the customer base fully and there is no intent to restrict sales of SandForce technology to other storage manufactures. SandForce will continue to operate as a standalone business that is a division of LSI. LSI may even be able to accelerate sales. Having LSI as the owner of the technology may be a significant factor as current and potentially new partners make their purchasing decisions on storage processors for next-gen products.

LSI also wants to be sure there is a long roadmap for new products, and the company believes the SandForce acquisition helps ensure that. SandForce’s business model is already in line with LSI’s current model, with both companies licensing technology to third-parties and selling at the silicon chip level.  There are no plans to change that.

 

Although already partially answered, we also asked if SandForce would be operated as a separate entity and continue with business as usual offering controllers to partners, but with LSI leveraging the technology? Or will the SandForce and LSI teams be integrated?

LSI said SandForce will be operated as an in-tact business unit. SandForce currently employs about 185 people, and about 185 will be coming over to LSI to operate the new division. LSI wants to help the SandForce team takes things to a new level and not disrupt the company’s current business. It was also said that the current plan is to continue to use the SandForce brand moving forward.

Yesterday’s release mentioned enterprise and PCIe storage solutions a few times, but didn’t mention consumer desktops. What are LSI’s short and long-terms plans in the consumer SSD market?

“All of that business will continue.” SandForce’s technology is ideally suited to the markets they are addressing today. There is no intent to go into lower-end markets at this time, like the thumb drive market, because there is no benefit to using the technology there. LSI plans to continue to drive the high-end desktop and workstation markets, however, and has a clear roadmap for Ultrabooks, Notebooks, and other mobile form factors as well.

 

Is there a roadmap or projections for LSI branded SATA SSDs at this point in time?

LSI is going to leave that up to their partners. LSI will continue to develop reference platforms and successfully executing on SandForce’s future planed products, but ultimately LSI doesn’t have plans to manufacture and sell their own branded SSDs.

Beyond PCIe and SATA, are there any other interface or control technologies that LSI may be investigating or developing?

There are a myriad of possibilities here, with optimizations to the software stacks, interconnects and engines, but LSI was not calling out any specific roadmap moves at this time. Opportunities will definitely be explored as the companies become more integrated, but they wouldn’t speak to any specifics at this time.

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AKwyn replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 2:50 PM

I have to say, after reading the interview and looking at all of the slides, I am even more confident that this SandForce acquisiton will work out for LSI. I mean LSI has the profolio and the PCI-E links and SandForce has the proven reliability and speeds they're known for, and with this combination; they're sure to further their reach in this SSD market. Even one of their graphs state that the SSD's will be $2.4B profitable by 2015, which I hope will be true because even though the prices of SSD's will go down, they still have an uphill battle with reliability and error rates.

Still, i wish these two the best of luck in their marriage.

 

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"Well , a very assuring response from LSI towards Sandforce based customers from all levels of business. As I said before, the Solid State memory market is quite lucrative, LSI has hit a home run in acquiring Sandforce. "

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LSI said SandForce will be operated as an in-tact business unit. SandForce currently employs about 185 people, and about 185 will be coming over to LSI to operate the new division.

"So the whole work force will be moving over, Is that correct? 

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Marco C replied on Thu, Oct 27 2011 4:47 PM

Yes. Was just trying to keep my text as close to Gary's words as possible.

Marco Chiappetta
Managing Editor @ HotHardware.com

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"Ok"

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DWatkins replied on Sun, Nov 13 2011 1:53 AM

What will the Random Read IOPS of the Intel King Crest SSD be? We know that Cherryville (Intel 520) will be 40K IOPS random read at 4K block size.

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realneil replied on Sun, Nov 13 2011 5:45 PM

So this follows the acquisition of Indilinx by OCZ.    Is this a new trend?

Maybe it's perceived that these controller companies are a critical part of SSD manufacture, and the big players are trying to lock up existing technology for themselves. I know that they say they're still going to share with other companies, but for how long? And will they be sharing the newest tech that they possess?

Exclusivity can be a real moneymaker if your tech is significantly better than the competition's tech.

It didn't take long for OCZ to unveil it's new drives based on modified Indilinx controllers either. They promise to be some fast performers too.

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AKwyn replied on Sun, Nov 13 2011 10:48 PM

Cool... Also interesting that it states that OCZ is making it's own controller technology when it comes to SSDs. Don't know if it's a typo or not but if it's true then I'm guessing that it's more determined to get the most performance out of it's SSD's and therefore the most value possible... I mean these SandForce SSD's do perform similarly to each other, hopefully OCZ's technology will give it more of an edge in the mostly Sandforce-filled SSD market... I mean they got bad reviews when they made memory, it's no surprise they're doing better with SSD's; this is more suited to their area of expertise.

Aside from that, the specs even show that the Indilinx and SandForce go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly... Points including the read speed which nearly saturate the SATA 6Gb/s standard (and if that's any example then any other SSD's will likely be faster then the previous OCZ PCI-E SSD they've released.), the methods they've implemented to make the flash memory more efficient, the things they've done to expand the lifespan of the memory itself... I mean this may convince me to drop the argument on SSD reliability if these things are as reliable as they say. Even though nothing will ever replace SLC in terms of reliability; this comes close... Plus you do have to wonder how inefficient the current SSD's are.

Now if only HotHardware can get one of these babies; only then will that help me make up my mind so I can plop down the money for one of these babies so I can have all of the speed and efficiency with none of the worry. Seriously, Indilinx on SSD's is a geeksend.

 

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