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SanDisk To Acquire Enterprise SSD Maker

The $327 million offer for Pliant signifies an expansion from SanDisk's traditional retail flash memory base into solid state drives for industry.

SanDisk has agreed to acquire Pliant Technology, a manufacturer of solid-state drives (SSDs), for $327 million, which signifies a significant shift to the enterprise space for the flash-memory maker.

While SanDisk has been primarily known for its storage cards and flash drives sold at retail stores, the company has benefited from sales of its memory chips for smartphones, tablets, and digital music players. Now SanDisk takes on a crowded, yet growing SSD market with established companies like Intel, Seagate, Samsung (whose SSD business was acquired by Seagate), and Hitachi.

"We see this acquisition as very complimentary since we have not been in the enterprise SSD market and this is a way to jumpstart our way into that market," said Mike Wong, director of public relations for SanDisk, in an interview. "While it is true that we currently have SSD products, we don't have SSDs at the enterprise level. Adding Pliant Technology's enterprise SSD business, which will be run as a separate business unit, fills a hole in the SanDisk product line."

Pliant sells ultra-high-performance enterprise SSDs based on the SAS protocol aimed at high-performance enterprise applications. Pliant's roadmap also includes PCIe-based solutions for high-performance compute servers. Pliant currently sells both multi-level cell (MLC) NAND and the higher-end, single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash in its enterprise SSDs.

Demand for SSDs has been growing in the enterprise as organizations generate and store increasing amounts of data. Gartner anticipates the SSD market to grow from $994 million in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2015, with about 1.3 million SSD units shipped in 2010, to an expected 9.4 million units shipped in 2015. This growth is fueled by the increasing use of SSDs, which consume less power than hard-disk drives and allow access to information quicker.

"If SanDisk wanted to get into the SSD market this is a good move, since Pliant has one of best solutions on the market," said Joe Unsworth, research director at Gartner, in an interview. "While SanDisk is well known for its brand and consumer management capabilities, this is something that they're going to have to provide extensive support resources and financial investment in to support and exploit the acquisition."

The acquisition represents a fundamental restructuring and strategic shift into the enterprise storage space, one which SanDisk should've done a while ago, said Mario Morales, VP of IDC's semiconductors research program.

"SanDisk has recognized that the enterprise space is a going to be a very important area for them now and into the future and they really need to align their resources and technology to take advantage of the type of investments we're seeing in storage technology in the enterprise," Morales said in an interview. "This is an important strategic shift for the company in the longer term and this acquisition of Pliant is a part of it."

Vendors are fighting it out in the market for integrated network, computer, and storage systems. In the new all-digital issue of Network Computing, we go ringside to help you pick a winner. Download the issue now. (Free with registration.)

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