Toshiba Negotiating With Bain Capital For Sale of Its NAND Manufacturing Arm

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 14, 2017 - 10:32 AM |
Tagged: western digital, toshiba, nand, flash memory, bain capital

Toshiba remains in a financial crisis in the aftermath of massive losses in its Westinghouse US Nuclear power division and has been attempting to sell off its still very much profitable NAND flash manufacturing business to compensate and right the company to avoid being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Unfortunately for Toshiba it has now missed three target dates for selling off the business. Not for lack of suitors, but primarily because of legal issues resulting from anti-trust concerns as well as legal battles brought by Western Digital  – who Toshiba is in a joint venture with for flash manufacturing in Japan – to attempt to prevent the sale.

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Jumping to the present, Toshiba has decided to proceed with the negotiations with an investment group led by Bain Capital despite disappointment (and more legal objections) from Western Digital who tried to block similar negotiations back in June. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Toshiba had signed a “memorandum of understanding” and is engaging in private talks to negotiate the sale with an investment group led by Bain Capital and including SK Hynix (who is allegedly only providing financing at this point and not going after a stake in the business to try to avoid further delaying the sale from increased anti-trust red tape), Apple, Dell, Seagate, and two Japanese government controlled entities known as Innovation Network Corp and Development Bank of Japan (again, Bain Capital is offering them the chance to invest post any WD concessions and legal battles in the business to improve chances of the sale going through). As the preferred (by Toshiba) buyer, the Bain Capital-lead group deal is reportedly worth nearly 2.4 trillion Yen ($22 billion USD) including $1.8 billion earmarked for infrastructure. The company expects come to an agreement in late September and is hoping that it will be able to finalize the sale by March so that it can avoid reporting negative net worth and risking being de-listed from the Tokyo Stock Exchange and being cut off from a huge swath of public investors and capital.

Due to the negotiations being private, details are not readily available yet. It is not clear whether Toshiba will be able to pull it off or what the implications will be for the market if it does. (With Toshiba being the world’s second largest flash memory supplier, whoever ends up acquiring the company is going to have a lot of influence on the market and flash technology R&D.) It certainly seems Toshiba’s battle to right itself is going to continue into next year and Western Digital is not going to make it easy. The US-based WD stated:

“We are disappointed that Toshiba would take this action. Our goal has been — and remains — to reach a mutually beneficial outcome that satisfies the needs of Toshiba and its stakeholders.”

A California court has reportedly ordered Toshiba to give Western Digital two weeks’ notice of any deal with the consortium and its two previous arbitration requests through ICC are still pending resolution. Barrons reports that Toshiba may convince WDC to allow the sale if it gives its joint venture partner enough concessions such as an assured long term NAND supply contract and agreed participation in joint Fab projects that would protect SanDisk's contractual rights. Other interested parties for the sale include Foxconn and Western Digital itself. Perhaps SoftBank or the $100 Billion Vision Fund will come in and scoop it up as well.

[Opinions follow heh] I am interested to see how it all will eventually shake out. It remains less than ideal to see Toshiba must sell it off and have the market possibly lose a big flash memory player as the market share power gets more consolidated if it does get picked up by an existing memory manufacturer (see: hard drives, flash memory seems to be going through the same consolidation of companies from lots of little players into fewer bigger ones). I am not certain on the deal specifics as far as ownership and control of TMC and any cash only vs equity splits but with Japanese investors as part of all three bidding / competing consortiums it seems at least part of the business (if only money from it if not voting power) will remain rooted in Japan even if not under the Toshiba brand.

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Source: Tech Report

Toshiba Plans To Spin Off Storage Business, Sell 20% Of New Company

Subject: General Tech, Storage | January 29, 2017 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, nand, flash storage, flash memory, business

ZDNet is reporting that Toshiba is in a bit of a financial bind following losses from acquisitions and its Westinghouse division -- which saw massive losses and cost overruns in the US Nuclear market -- which could amount to billions of dollars. In an effort to offset some of those losses and preserve shareholder equity, Toshiba plans to spin off its memory business into a new company and then offer up to a 20% stake in that new company for sale. The new company would include its memory chip and SSD business though its image sensor division would stay with Toshiba and not be part of the spin off.

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Toshiba is the second largest memory manufacturer behind Samsung and it is one of the company's most profitable divisions making up the majority of its operating profit.

The company is hoping that other companies or investors will be interested in a piece of that business and that the company will be able to raise enough money from the sale of up to 20% of the spin off company to make up for the losses incurred in its US nuclear market ventures.

Toshiba plans to hold a shareholder meeting in March to seek approval for the plan stating that if it us unable to proceed with the plan and complete a sale to bring in cash by the end of its fiscal year (the end of March), “shareholder equity could be wiped out.”

It is interesting that Toshiba is once again having a bit of corporate drama and needing to restructure (it sold off its PC division in 2015). This could be a good opportunity for one of the smaller memory makers or even one of the spinning rust manufacturers to become more relevant in the flash storage space (and if having a stake got them access to IP for their own stuff even better though that would probably cost them a ton more!). Alternatively, the stake could be bought up by an a large company that just wants a profit machine to grow even larger (heh).

Hopefully the guys will discuss this bit of news on the podcast! What are your thoughts?

Source: ZDNet

An SSD Supercomputer?

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2014 - 10:27 PM |
Tagged: supercomputer, solid state drive, NSF, flash memory

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We know that SSD's help any system perform better by reducing the storage bottlenecks we all experienced from hard disk drives. But how far can flash storage go in increasing performance if money is no object?? Enter the multi-million dollar world of supercomputers. Historically supercomputers have relied on the addition of more CPU cores to increase performance, but two new system projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) will try a different approach: obscene amounts of high-speed flash storage!

The news comes as the NSF is requesting a cool $7 billion in research money for 2015, and construction has apparently already begun on two new storage-centered supercomputers. Memory and high-speed flash storage arrays will be loaded on the Wrangler supercomputer at Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

Check out the crazy numbers from the TACC's Wrangler: a combination of 120 servers, each with Haswell-based Xeon CPU's, and a total of 10 petabytes (10,000TB!) of high performance flash data storage. The NSF says the supercomputer will have 3,000 processing cores dedicated to data analysis, with flash storage layers for analytics. The Wrangler supercomputer's bandwidth is said to be 1TB/s, with 275 million IOPS! By comparison, the Comet supercomputer will have “only” 1,024 Xeon CPU cores, with a 7 petabyte high-speed flash storage array. (Come on, guys... That’s like, wayyy less bytes.)

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Supercomputer under construction…probably (Image credit CBS/Paramount)

The supercomputers are part of the NSF's “Extreme Digital” (XD) research program, and their current priorities are "relevant to the problems faced in computing today”. Hmm, kind of makes you want to run a big muilti-SSD deathwish RAID, huh?

Diablo Technologies Unveils Memory Channel Storage

Subject: Storage | July 31, 2013 - 05:34 AM |
Tagged: diablo technologies, DIMM, nand, flash memory, memory channel storage

Ottawa-based Diablo Technologies unveiled a new flash storage technology yesterday that it calls Memory Channel Storage. As the name suggest, the storage technology puts NAND flash into a DIMM form factor and interfaces the persistent storage directly with the processor via the integrated memory controller.

The Memory Channel Storage (MCS) is a drop-in replacement for DDR3 RDIMMs (Registered DIMMs) in servers and storage arrays. Unlike DRAM, MCS is persistent storage backed by NAND flash and it can allow servers to have Terabytes of storage connected to the CPU via the memory interface instead of mere Gigabytes of DRAM acting as either system memory or block storage. The photo provided in the technology report (PDF) shows a 400GB MCS module that can slot into a standard DIMM slot, for example.

Diablo Technologies claims that MCS exhibits lower latencies and higher bandwidth than PCI-E and SATA SSDs. More importantly, the storage latency is predictable and consistent, making it useful for applications such as high frequency stock trading where speed and deterministic latency are paramount. Further, users can get linear increases in throughput with each additional Memory Channel Storage module added to the system. Latencies with MCS are as much as 85% lower with PCI-E SSDs and 96% lower than SAS/SATA SSDs according to Diablo Technologies. NAND flash maintenance such as wear leveling is handled via an on-board logic chip.

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Diablo Technologies is also aiming the MCS technology at servers running big data analytics, massive cloud databases, financial applications, server virtualization, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). MCS can act as super fast local storage or as a local cache for external (such as networked) storage in the form of mechanical hard drives or SSDs.

Some details about Memory Channel Storage are still unclear, but it looks promising. It will not be quite as fast in random access as DRAM but it will be better (more bandwidth, lower latency) than both PCI-E and SATA-connected NAND flash-based SSDs. It would be awesome to see this kind of tech make its way to consumer systems so that I can have a physical RAMDisk with fast persistent storage (at least as far as form factor, MCS uses NAND not DRAM chips).

The full press release can be found here.

Big Flashy news from Samsung

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2013 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: tlc, Samsung, flash memory, 10nm

A process shrink to 10nm wasn't enough for Samsung, they also doubled the density of their MLC flash storage to 128Gbits at a physical size of 170.6mm2.  They claim write speeds of up to 18MB/sec and 400Mbit/s bandwidth through their toggle interface.  Even better news for consumers is that this should be even cheaper than current MLC flash which will help continue to drive the price of SSDs down.  Samsung didn't tell The Inquirer when we can expect to see these in devices but it should not be too long from now that we are doing longevity testing on this new Flash.

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"MEMORY MAKER Samsung has announced that it is producing 128Gbit 3-bit multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash chips for solid-state disk (SSD) drives"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

OCZ Technology to Showcase Its Latest Enterprise Storage Solutions at Flash Memory Summit 2012

Subject: Storage | August 20, 2012 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: z-drive R4 CloudServ, talos 2, ssd, PCIe SSD, ocz, Intrepid 3, indilinx everest 2, flash memory

If you can get out of work and make it to Santa Clara, OCZ has some enterprise level SSDs to show you, in both standard drive format as well as PCIe SSDs.  They are showing off performance under Linux as well as Windows, so no matter what your infrastructure is based off of you should be able to find something to accelerate your businesses data.  All the information to get you there can be found on their Flash Memory Summit post.

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SAN JOSE, CA—August 20, 2012—OCZ Technology Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:OCZ), a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems, will showcase its latest storage products, encompassing a mix of both solid state drives and software solutions, at this year’s Flash Memory Summit, Booth #208, Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, California, from August 21st through August 23rd.

Demonstrating SSD products along with recent partner implementations, OCZ will showcase a comprehensive lineup of innovative solutions for business, server, and OEM clients. This includes product presentations of both the impending Intrepid 3 SATA III-based SSD solution based on the company’s Indilinx Everest 2 architecture, along with the company’s leading PCI Express (PCIe)-based Z-Drive R4 featuring new Linux Acceleration software (LXL) that unleashes the full performance potential of infrastructures that use this popular open source operating system. Live technical demos of LXL and Z-Drive R4 SSDs will include a VDI boot storm, efficient SQL CPU utilization, and vMotion and Fault Tolerance support.

Additional booth demonstrations will include OCZ’s acceleration of SQL Server 2012 databases using its leading Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSD with VXL Cache and Virtualization software. This combined hardware/software solution dramatically increases SQL Server 2012 transactional IOPS performance, reduces database read latencies, and improves query completion times. OCZ will also demonstrate Talos 2 Series SAS-based drives showcasing the performance advantages of a true full duplex, dual-port SAS 6Gb/s SSD in a Microsoft Cluster in a Box (CiB) solution, further leveraging the strengths of OCZ’s storage drives when paired with leading partner systems.

As a complete solution provider for the enterprise, offering both leading edge storage hardware and complementary software products,, OCZ continues to deliver enterprise-class solid-state solutions with higher endurance, cutting edge performance, increased reliability, unparalleled security and reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) for large scale data centers and IT infrastructures worldwide. Join OCZ Technology at this week’s FMS 2012 to see the latest drives, software, and partner solutions designed for enterprise server and storage customers.

Source: OCZ

Plextor Announces New M5 Pro SSD, Impressive Marvell Performance

Subject: Storage | August 8, 2012 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: ssd, plextor, m5 pro, Marvell, marvell 88SS9187, flash memory

Plextor, a company known best for its line of optical drives has announced a new SSD that offers up some impressive performance numbers. The M5 Pro is powered by a Marvell 88SS9187 Monet controller and claims to offer improved data protection and throughput even when the drive is near-full.

Plextor uses 128-bit error correction built into the Marvell controller in addition to a data hold-out algorithm in Plextor’s firmware to ensure that data reads from the flash memory as accurate as possible. Further, the drive offers up AES 256-bit full drive encryption to protect your data from prying eyes. The company further stated that the drives have undergone “rigorous high-temperature burn-in tests” to ensure reliability. The reliability aspects are the features that the company is touting the most in its press release, but the other half of the coin is performance.

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Fortunately, if its numbers turn out to be true, users will not be disappointed. The Marvell controller is putting out some decent performance numbers. The M5 Pro SSD is capable of read and write IOPS of 94,000 and 86,000 respectively. Further, it can deliver a claimed 540 MB/s sequential read and 450 MB/s write operations. Not bad for Marvell at all!

According to Kathy Huynh, Product Marketing Manager for Plextor:

““In recent years, Plextor has been able to develop SSDs that deliver high real-world performance and sustained speed over the long-term. Our SSDs have one of the lowest annual failure rate in the consumer SSD industry. Now with the M5 Pro, we aim to use Plextor’s abilities to offer extreme data protection and give users total confidence in every single aspect of their drive.”

The new M5 Pro solid state drives will come with a five year warranty and will be available later this month. You will be able to pick up an M5 Pro in 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB capacities, though there is no word yet on how much they will cost. You can find more information in the company’s press release.

For more SSD information, check out our SSD Decoder!

Source: Plextor