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SanDisk buys dose of the SMARTs for $307m

SSD consolidation speeds up

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SSD supply consolidation is starting to speed up, with SanDisk buying SMART Storage Systems for $307m, representing a nice exit for investment fund Silver Lake, and following on from last week's acquisition of sTec by WD for $340m.

Fresh from investing in flash-based cloud gateway startup Panzura, SanDisk is ramping up its enterprise flash device supply push by buying SMART with its Optimus and CloudSpeed product lines and Guardian technology for lengthening the endurance of MLC-based SSDs.

SMART Storage Systems was spun off from Smart Modular Technologies in February 2012, and the two are part of the SMART Worldwide Holdings group of companies owned by investment fund Silver Lake. It had about $25m revenues in its latest quarter to the end of May, so SanDisk is buying it for about three times its $100m revenue steam.

Silver Lake and its affiliates bought Smart Modular in 2011 for $645m, so it has got slightly less than half back with this deal.

SanDisk supplies CE flash product as well as, latterly, a line of enterprise SAS and SATA SSDs. It is a partner in flash fabs with Toshiba and yesterday announced it is proceeding with the construction of the shell of the joint venture's Fab 5 wafer fabrication plant in Yokkaichi, Japan.

The company said: "The new cleanroom will provide the space needed for additional equipment required for transitioning the wafer capacity in Fab 3, Fab 4 and phase one of Fab 5, to next generation 2D NAND technologies and to early generations of 3D NAND technology."

Both company boards have agreed the deal and 250 SMART employees will join SanDisk. This is SanDisk's fourth acquisition in the storage market:

  • Schooner Information Technology in June 2012, a supplier of virtual machine-based MySQL and Memcached web cache program acceleration software using cores, threads and solid state drives.
  • Pliant flash controller business in May 2011
  • FlashSoft flash cache software business in February 2012.

SanDisk has also invested in all-flash array supplier Whiptail through its SanDisk Ventures unit, the one involved in the Panzura financing.

SanDisk EVP and chief strategy officer Sumit Sadana provided a canned quote: "This acquisition enables SanDisk to address a $1.6bn market opportunity in enterprise SATA products, and complements our strong enterprise SAS product portfolio. With this combination, SanDisk will have products qualified with six of the top seven storage OEMs worldwide."

We have suggested in the past that SanDisk might want to move up the stack and start offering flash storage arrays of some sort instead of confining itself to the flash storage hardware and software component market.

Supplier consolidation in the SSD market is accelerating and it now looks likely to the storage desk at Vulture Central that Seagate might feel impelled to strengthen its SSD credentials by buying an existing SSD supplier too. (Shh... no one mention OCZ). Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers wonders whether Fusion-io is now a likely target for enterprise flash device consolidation efforts.

It is expected that the acquisition will close in August. ®

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