Innovation plus Longevity Wins in the Web-scale Market

At LSI’s Accelerating Innovation Summit (AIS) this year, someone brought up a blog I’d written after a previous AIS event where an LSI executive said they had a RAID stack that was 25 years old. What popped into my mind was that old movie line where the curmudgeon tells the young kid “I’ve got underwear older than you”. Not that LSI is an ‘old timer’ or in the clothing business, but this message keeps coming back to me. In the fast paced world of high tech products it may not be obvious but there’s a lot of value in longevity.

Being in the storage business for a couple decades LSI has developed an extensive IP portfolio and a breadth of technology that few suppliers can match. In the flash business, understanding RAID and disk-based storage technologies is actually a big advantage, as is having a technology stack that includes flash controllers and flash caching products. LSI’s ability to straddle the OEM and end user storage markets with SAS, RAID and flash components gives them the ability to provide a lot of value to their customers beyond just a specific product.

LSI’s PCIe flash business was over $100M this year, and is expected to cross the 100K units shipped milestone in December. These are impressive statistics, but the thing that stuck with me was what their customers are saying. LSI this year became the largest PCIe flash supplier for one of the big web-scale companies, displacing a well known vendor of server-side flash cards from that top spot. Apparently, a major reason they won this business was because they could help that customer resolve some issues they were having in the data center around heat and power.

Can Stand the Heat

The new Nytro XP6200 flash cards, which LSI claims are 30% more power efficient than the competition, were the product of this cooperation between LSI’s design and engineering teams and this customer’s data center operations people. One of the ways they improved the thermal performance of this new card is by decoupling the NAND from the flash controller chips. Memory is more sensitive to heat than CPUs are and by physically moving it away from these other processors on the board the NAND stays cooler.

The result is a PCIe flash solution that can run in hotter environments. LSI made the point that they were able to do this because they own all the technology on the board; they don’t buy an integrated FPGA or ASIC to do flash processing. The point their customer made was that this kind of support wasn’t available from the other suppliers they were using.

Storage Swiss Take

Suppliers need to earn the trust of their customers. When they choose a component like a chip set or controller for a new product design a company is committing itself to that supplier. This is a process that’s been part and parcel to LSI’s core business for many years, and one that’s made them very successful in the RAID and disk component industry. Now they’re leveraging this ability to carve out a significant share of the flash industry by teaming with large web-scale companies to address their data center issues.

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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