Pliant Plots New Breed of SSD

Quantum co-founder Jim McCoy is back on the scene with a stealthy SSD startup

February 21, 2008

3 Min Read
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Maxtor and Quantum co-founder Jim McCoy has re-surfaced with a secretive stealth-mode startup claiming a fresh take on solid state disk (SSD) technology.

Pliant Technology, which clinched $8 million in Series A funding this week in a round led by Lightspeed Venture partners, is the latest vendor to throw its weight behind SSDs.

"Enterprise disk drives are not meeting the [performance] needs of the users, and the right enterprise flash drive can," says McCoy, alluding to the rapid data access times offered by SSDs, which use either RAM or flash memory instead of traditional magnetic or optical media.

Actual details of Pliant's core technology are still being kept under wraps, but the vendor claims to be developing a new kind of flash-based SSD.

"I can say that it will be significantly higher performance than any other flash-based SSD that is out there," says Pliant's CEO and former Seagate vice president Amyl Ahola. "It's going to be closer in performance to a Dynamic-Random Access Memory [DRAM] SSD."High-end SSDs based on RAM, such as those sold by Texas Memory Systems, can handle up to around 400,000 IOPs (input/output operations per second), considerably more than the 52,000 IOPs touted for NAND flash SSDs from the likes of STEC.

Pliant claims to be developing a new form of controller mechanism for its SSD technology, which will enable RAM-type performance, although execs are otherwise staying tight-lipped on their enterprise flash drive (EFD) product.

"Our first reviewable units will be at the end of this year," says Ahola, explaining that Pliant's target markets will be data-hungry sectors such as banking, financial services, video on demand, and supercomputing.

"This [Series A] money will be to complete the product development and initiate production," adds Ahola, explaining that Pliant has around 10 development staff and 15 outside contractors currently working on the EFD product. "We will be building up our staff gradually across the year -- this time next year, I guess we will have 40 or 50 people."

The exec told Byte & Switch that the bulk of the new hires will be in product development, as well as sales and marketing.SSDs have been grabbing the headlines recently, prompted by EMC's decision to put flash-based SSDs from STEC in its Symmetrix system and become the first major storage vendor to deploy the technology.

More recently, BitMicro unveiled a 1.6-Tbyte SSD, launched at a time when prices for flash components have been steadily falling.

"Flash component prices at a chip level have come down to a range where they can be very competitive in the data center," says Ahola, but he would not talk pricing in Pliant's context.

Last year, analyst firm IDC predicted massive growth for SSD technology, with revenues growing from $373 million in 2006 to $5.4 billion in 2007.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • BitMicro Networks Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IDC

  • Lightspeed Venture Partners

  • Maxtor Corp. (NYSE: MXO)

  • Quantum Corp. (NYSE: QTM)

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

  • STEC Inc.

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