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Startup Touts SSD Architecture, Private Label Model

Gary Hilson | EE Times

Gregory Wong, principal analyst with Forward Insights, said any new players in the data center segment need to focus on balancing performance and power consumption — the latter being particularly important. “You want the performance, but you also don’t want the power draw.” The other key area for innovation is building intelligence into the controllers so they can do the heavy lifting, he said. “We have to wait and see how much traction that’s going to get.” Fadu’s approach to the market represents a third model in how enterprise customers buy and integrate SSD controllers, said Wong. The first common one is a large hyperscaler such as Google that might buy an off-the-shelf, third-party controller for their SSDs, but with their own firmware designed for their workloads. The other is to buy everything together from a vendor such as Toshiba or Samsung. He said the Fadu approach is a consignment model, where it builds the drive and then customizes the firmware while at the same time negotiating a NAND price with a supplier on behalf of the customer.

Fadu is not alone in taking this consignment model approach, said Wong. IBM and Hitachi, for example, also have a similar “build your own type of thing” models, but that's still relatively new. The appeal for customers is controlling and predicting costs, which is most influenced by fluctuating NAND prices, with supply having gone from an extreme shortage to a huge oversupply today, he said.

From a technology perspective, it’s difficult to get consistent performance in controllers to get the necessary QoS for enterprise applications, said Wong, and because the demands are high, it’s unusual to see many third-party controllers there. Most are geared toward the consumer device segment, although there are high-end controller makers such as Microsemi that have been in the enterprise segment for some time. “There are not a lot of successful third-party merchant controller companies,” he said. “FADU is one that could be pretty successful and have meaningful volume.”

The company’s controller is getting good feedback from customers right out of the box, said Wong, but every data center and hyperscale customer is going to have slightly different requirements, so the firmware will need to be tweaked. “Generally, the hyperscale guys have certain workloads that they need to run, and they’ll ask you to tweak that firmware for them.”

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