As an SSD Supplier, LSI isn’t just a Flash in the Pan

Flash technologies are certainly a hot topic in storage and IT these days. A lot of new companies are coming onto the market with exciting new products. There’s one company that’s somewhat of a fixture in the storage industry but newer in the SSD space.

LSI has made a commitment to SSD technology with their PCIe-based SSD WarpDrive, CacheCade SSD caching software (which also runs on their MegaRAID controllers) and now the announced acquisition of flash controller manufacturer SandForce. But there’s another aspect of the company that’s important to this discussion of commitment, their technology stack.

Like other integrated technology companies LSI is leveraging their growing stable of products to provide a complete technology stack. In the world of application acceleration (the LSI group that’s responsible for flash products is called the Accelerated Solutions Division) this stack extends down to the hard disk drives. Most implementations of flash include either tiering or caching of hot data on top of traditional spinning disk. This is where LSI’s past and current involvement with disk drive technologies should serve them well.

While they’re not ‘bending the sheet metal’ – LSI doesn’t build the drive arrays any longer – they’re still fully engaged in disk drive technology. They sold their Engenio disk array business to NetApp earlier this year, but still manufacture drive components like preamps, hard disk controllers and read channels. This includes the analog to digital conversion and signal processing technology that allows disk drives to actually pull 1s and 0s out of what seems like mostly noise.

The other aspect of LSI’s operations history that’s pertinent to their success in the flash space is their long and successful integration with server, storage and networking companies. Over the past two plus decades, LSI has established a compatibility matrix that includes almost everyone. Through their long standing business in storage and networking components LSI has created partnerships with most of the players in the industry – and supplied products to most companies as well.

Storage Swiss Take

A key to successful application acceleration with NAND flash products is in the implementation. Where you put that premium storage and how you move the right data from disk drives to flash and back again will largely determine the effectiveness of a flash solution. LSI’s understanding of the storage stack from the disk substrate through disk and flash controllers to the caching layer and the flash devices themselves should give them a unique perspective in this space.

As one executive remarked at an event recently, “we have a RAID stack that’s 25 years old”. This kind of product stability, plus years of testing and certification in the OEM business should make them a strong competitor in the flash market.

CacheCade and WarpDrive are trademarks of LSI Corporation

Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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