Several independent SSD and controller makers –including Stec, Smart Storage, Virident, FlashSoft and Link-a-Media -- have already been acquired by NAND chip and PC makers as part of their efforts to get into SSDs, said Alan Niebel, principal of market watcher Webfeet Research (Monterey, Calif.). Top among the remaining independents are Fusion-io, Violin, OCZ, Skyera and Nimbus Data, he said.
The NAND flash price rises in 2013 were in part fueled by reports of a fire this summer at a large SK Hynix fab in Wuxi, China. The fire only affected DRAM production, "but many OEMs bought [flash] on the fear of shortage," said Niebel
"Just based on capex [retrenchments] today's budding NAND shortage should run from the second half of this year to mid-2015," said Jim Handy, a veteran flash analyst at Objective Analysis (Los Gatos, Calif.).
"Since everyone except IM Flash is converting to new technologies that they have never tried before -- either high-k gate dielectrics or 3-D -- there are likely to be a lot of stumbling blocks that would push the end of the shortage out to 2016 or even 2017," said Handy.
For LSI, the issues are painful but manageable. Only about ten percent of its business is currently in flash-related products and it has diverse bets in the flash market, said Talwalkar.
LSI now makes 17 custom versions of its Sandforce SSD controllers, including ones for Samsung and SanDisk. It also sells its own PCI Express flash cards for accelerating server applications, following in the footsteps of market pioneer Fusion I/O.
For LSI a bigger shift in 2013 came in its larger business related to hard disk drives. Last year LSI customer Seagate commanded a bigger portion of the HDD business given its favorable supply-chain position in the wake of Thai floods.
Seagate's good fortune helped spike LSI's 2012 growth to 23 percent last year. Seagate's position and LSI's HDD-related business moderated this year, impacting LSI's overall revenues and profits which slumped about 10 and 50 percent respectively in the first nine months of 2013.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times