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Tosh preps enterprise SSD push

On back of Fujitsu disk biz buy

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Toshiba completed its acquisition of Fujitsu's disk drive business yesterday, and is set to move into enterprise disk drives, and server and enterprise storage solid state disk drives.

Toshiba Corporation now has a Digital Media Network company, which has a storage device division looking after business and product planning, and sales and marketing. A separate operations division will be responsible for production planning and procurement. Toshiba Storage Device Corporation will look after production and manufacturing engineering, quality assurance, design and development, and customer support.

Toshiba Storage Device Yamagata Corp will do HDD prototype development, Toshiba Information Equipment (Philippines) Inc will make 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch disk drives, and Toshiba Storage Devices (Thailand) will also make 2.5-inch drives. Toshiba Storage Device (Philippines) Inc will make the enterprise drives.

The two Toshiba Storage Device businesses are the ex-Fujitsu plants. With the Thailand plant, Toshiba will be able, as it says, to "reinforce its already strong market position as a leading vendor of small form factor HDDs." It says it will expand its enterprise HDD business and technology. There is a transition underway in the enterprise HDD business, from Fibre Channel drives to solid state drives (SSDs) and SAS drives, and from 3.5-inch to 2.5-inch drives. We can expect Toshiba to develop 2.5-inch 6Gbit/s SAS drives alongside the existing 3.5-inch drives acquired from Fujitsu.

It will also "develop SSD products for servers and enterprise storage systems by integrating its NAND flash memory technology with Fujitsu’s enterprise HDD technology." This must refer to the HDD controller circuitry and functionality, but it seems clear that Toshiba will require enterprise SSD controller technology for this as well. SandForce has recently emerged as a supplier of controllers for SSDs. LSI might also be a potential supplier here, as it was selected by Seagate to help with that company's enterprise flash drive controller technology.

Seagate is going to see competition from Toshiba in both the enterprise HDD and SSD markets. Toshiba is talking of becoming a "total storage solutions" supplier and we might see specific HDD and SSD products for particular markets as well as shipments into what we might call the industry standard disk drive markets.

We might also speculate about the longevity of Toshiba's 1.8-inch HDD product line, as that form-factor would seem susceptible to continued encroachment from SSDs. If Tosh bites this particular bullet, then manufacturing space currently assigned to 1.8-inch product could be redirected to 2.5-inch product and improve Toshiba's manufacturing volume there, lowering per-drive costs.

Interestingly Toshiba has areal densities in its 1.8-inch product of more than 500Gbit/sq in, well past the 350Gbit/sq in or so common in 2.5-inch drives at the moment. If Toshiba can transfer that technology to 2.5-inch drives then it could steal a march on both WD and Seagate and offer 2-platter, 1TB, 2.5-inch HDD product before the two industry leaders.

Talking of industry leadership, there are whispers that WD's unit shipments could surpass Seagate's by the end of the year. One swallow doesn't make a summer, but it will be a notable event that ends Seagate's long run as the industry's undisputed volume shipment leader. For Toshiba, such giddy heights are a long way off, but there are smaller fish to go after, such as Hitachi GST. ®

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