Flash forward

Shlomi Cohen

Privately-held DensBits has the technology that can take flash memory to new standards of performance.

One of the most important and costly technologies in smartphones is flash storage. There are many flash pioneers in Israel, and a large part of the giant company in the field, SanDisk Corporation (Nasdaq:SNDK), is also here. It is no coincidence that Apple (AAPL) rushed to snap up Israeli company Anobit for $390 million, and to set up a large development center in Haifa on the basis of the acquisition, to develop unique controllers for it. Apple got to know Anobit through Korean flash producer Hynix, which sells flash solutions based on Anobit controllers to Apple.

It turns out that there is another privately-held company in Haifa that does flash controllers. Judging from the qualities of its advanced generation product, which it is launching today, I would bet that it will very quickly become an acquisition target for flash giants Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk, or even for the giant companies in enterprise storage.

The company in question is DensBits Technologies, founded in 2007 by Ilan Hen, ex-Intel, and Dr. Hanan Weingarten, a well-known expert in information theory and data communications coding. If DensBits does not hurry too soon to a tempting exit, it could become the ARM (ARMH) of flash, through a business model of licensing and royalty agreements for the consumer and enterprise markets.

The race to better performance

We have known for several years that flash technology is in an almost impossible race to improve performance, because of the growth of the smartphone, tablet, and SSD market, while reducing costs to stay competitive. The lower flash manufacturers go in production geometries, the more sophisticated the controller technologies that are required, and these are difficult for the manufacturers to develop for themselves.

Apple hopes to obtain suitable solutions through Anobit, and I estimate that what DensBits is offering today opens up a substantial gap versus Anobit and others.

DensBits' solution is based on the communications modem. Just as the telecommunications world took a great leap forward in quality and speed thanks to sophisticated modem technologies, even though transmission was via the same old copper wires that had been in the ground for decades, so DensBits arrived at the Memory Modem solution. With the aid of advanced algorithms, they have developed an optimal Memory Modem that combines Error Correcting Coding (ECC), Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and management solutions.

This modem supplies performance unlike anything else currently on the market for existing flash chips even at low production geometries, particularly for TLC (3x). These are chips that save a third on production costs in comparison with MLC, but, apart from SanDisk, there is no flash manufacturer that manages to achieve satisfactory quality in controllers, including Anobit, which in the past failed to provide good solutions to Samsung.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 30, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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