June 25th, 2012 by Brian Beeler
Seagate Announces Investment in DensBits SSD Controllers
Seagate has announced an investment in DensBits, as the formerly hot, now scorching hot, SSD controller space accelerates. DensBits' claim to fame is the inventor of Memory Modem. If that sounds a little too 1990's dial-up service, rest assured that Memory Modem is actually "A modem designed specifically for Flash memory...that dramatically increases reliability and, in turn, enables smaller process nodes and more bits per cell along with increased performance." Ultimately DensBits offers an SSD controller, complete with the requisite features outlined below.
Seagate's announcement is generally forward-looking - the strategic agreement with DensBits is aimed at developing low-cost, high-performance client and enterprise SSDs. The duo will combine technologies to create a range of SSD offerings including solutions with 1Xnm MLC NAND for the enterprise and 1XNM TLC NAND for client drives. That doesn't say much as to the what and when, but it does make Seagate the first since OCZ to bring up the idea of moving to lower cost TLC NAND for consumer SSDs.
While Seagate has had success with hybrid hard drives that combine traditional platter disks with onboard NAND for read caching, Seagate has yet to make any serious overtures in the SSD space. While they do offer a line of enterprise SSDs under the Pulsar name, in the limited lab time we spent with the drives prior to being recalled, we saw little to make us think they would be competitive in the enterprise marketplace. It's also important to remember that this isn't Seagate's first foray into the SSD controller space, they previously invested in Link_A_Media who last week sold to Hynix.
It remains to be seen if traditional platter storage vendors can create compelling offerings in the quickly moving enterprise SSD space. Toshiba has been effective with high-end SAS drives, while Hitachi GST paired with Intel to create a nice range of MLC and SLC offerings and Western Digital is hiring engineers for their next SSD offering. However none of the major hard disk vendors have figured out how to effectively crack the consumer SSD space.