SanDisk Buys Pliant Technology to Get into Enterprise Flash Business

Pliant, a rising developer of high-end enterprise solid-state drives, will become SanDisk's enterprise NAND flash division.

SanDisk, internationally known for its little blue NAND flash memory cards used in digital cameras and phones and for thumb drive-type storage devices, has decided to move full throttle into the branded enterprise solid-state storage sector.

SanDisk on May 16 announced that it will acquire Pliant Technology, a rising developer of high-end enterprise solid-state drives, for $327 million in cash. Pliant will then become SanDisk's enterprise NAND flash division. The transaction is expected to close in the next three months.

The acquisition is yet another indication that NAND flash storage is gaining gravitas in the overall data-storage industry. Enterprise providers such as EMC, NetApp, Dell, IBM, Samsung, Hitachi, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and a spate of startups have invested large amounts of time and money into developing and selling NAND flash-based storage devices.

"This acquisition is good for everyone-SanDisk, Pliant and all their customers," Pliant Vice President of Marketing Greg Goelz told eWEEK. "SanDisk already has a large enterprise OEM footprint, so that will allow Pliant quick access to those markets. This will allow us to scale our business greatly."

SanDisk's last acquisition wasIsrael's M-Systems for $1.5 billion in stock in 2006. M-Systems develops next-generation flash-enabled consumer applications for handsets.

Pliant Founded by Industry Veterans

Pliant, founded February 2008 by a group of storage veterans from Maxtor, Quantum, Fujitsu, IBM and several other companies, OEMs high-end, enterprise-class solid-state storage devices. In September 2010, the company announced the expansion of its Lightning product line with two new MLC (multi-level cell) NAND flash storage devices.

The Pliant Lightning LB 200M and Lightning LB 400M flash drives are based on an advanced controller design and software architecture that offer improvements in I/O performance and in lower energy consumption than current SSDs, the company said.

Pliant Lightning LB MLC NAND-based products come in a 2.5-inch form factor in capacities from 200GB to 400GB. They feature a SAS (serial-attached SCSI) interface that integrates into existing SAS enterprise storage and server systems, without requiring modifications to existing applications, operating systems or infrastructure, the company said.

They also feature high sustained performance with IOPS (input/output per second) of >10K (LB 400M) and >8K (LB 200M) for 4KB 70/30 read/write with low response times.

"Flash memory is making significant inroads into the enterprise by dramatically increasing application performance and reducing power consumption," said SanDisk President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra. "We believe that the combination of Pliant's technology and enterprise-level system expertise with SanDisk's high-quality, large-scale MLC memory production is a winning value proposition for customers."

"The Enterprise SSD market is poised for considerable growth, with revenue projected to reach $4.2 billion in 2015, up from $994 million in 2010," according to Joseph Unsworth, research director at Gartner. "This trajectory is fueled by the expanding use of MLC NAND technology, which will require extensive flash-management expertise to ensure successful adoption in enterprise applications."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...