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Best SSD Storage Scene: OCZ buys Indilinx, WD > Hitachi, New Fast Drives from Intel and Corsair

There have been some major announcements in the storage world recently that will directly impact the solid-state drive sector. Let’s start with today’s big announcement and work backwards highlighting the recent changes. OCZ has announced that they are buying South Korean SSD controller company Indilinx for $32 million in OCZ stock. Indilinx produces the “Barefoot” controller that was first seen in the OCZ Vertex Series 1 drives. It was a big deal when this controller was first released because it approximated Intel X-25M level performance at a lower price point. SandForce has since surpassed the Barefoot controller in terms of performance with their first generation controller found in the Vertex 2 (+ the Corsair Force, Adata S599, etc.) and again with their second generation controller which will be available in the Vertex 3 among other drives. Does this mean that OCZ will stop using SandForce controllers?It does not appear that this will happen, at least not right away. For one, OCZ has experienced class leading sales of its Vertex 2 drives due to high performance levels of the SandForce controllers. Through all of their SandForce introductions however, they have continued to offer the Indilinx product at a lower price point. The Vertex 1 offers a fantastic performance boost over traditional hard drives and most users will experience a huge upgrade by adding a Vertex Series 1 to their PC.

By acquiring Indilinx, OCZ should be able to cut costs further through vertical integration and reach a larger market share. There is also the distinct possibility that OCZ will pioneer a new Indilinx controller that blows away all of the current offerings. If OCZ offers a new Indilinx powered SSD exclusively, they could push farther ahead of rivals such as Corsair and Patriot. Both Intel and Samsung already manufacture their own controllers. The bulk of the other mainstream SSD providers use controllers made by SandForce, Marvell, and JMicron. It will be interesting to see if OCZ continues to offer the Indilinx products to other SSD producers.  OCZ has previously announced that they are scaling down their RAM business to focus on solid-state drives. This acquisition strengthens their solid-state portfolio and reinforces their place as an American leader in the SSD market.

Western Digital Buys Hitachi’s Hard Drive Division for 4.3 Billion

Western Digital announced last week that they are buying Hitachi’s hard drive business, a division that Hitachi previously acquired from IBM in 2003. After the cash and stock transaction, Hitachi will own approximately 10% of Western Digital and WD will be the undisputed world leader in hard drives sales. Western Digital tried unsuccessfully to purchase rival Seagate in December 2010, but faltered due to potential anti-trust and management issues. Let’s hope that Western Digital continues to lower prices on their drives. I have been very happy their element series of portable USB drives which I use for miscellaneous storage and recommend to all my friends due to their extreme affordability. There is the potential that this increased consolidation of the hard drive market will slow the rate of their price reductions, which could make SSDs a more attractive proposition for cost-conscious consumers.

Intel 510  and Corsair Performance 3

Intel released their second generation consumer SSD last month, the 510 series. This drive will ultimately replace the X-25M SSDs and they have already sold a whole bunch of them. Read speeds have been recorded at 450MB/s (compared to 250MB/s for the X25-M’s) and write speeds up to 300MB/s (vs. the X25-M’s 100MB/s). This is not quite on the level of the new speeds recorded on the pre-release OCZ Vertex 3, but it is likely that these drives will benefit from Intel’s legendary reliability advantage, so if you are a consumer looking for a good blend of performance and reliability, take a look at the new Intel drives. Also, Corsair is shipping their Performance 3 line of SSDs that use the latest Marvell controllers and offers read speeds up to 480 MB/s and write speeds up to 320 MB/s on the 256 GB SSD. They also take advantage of the SATA 6Gb/s bus and will see maximum performance levels when used with Intel’s new SandyBridge architecture.

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