Hynix to Acquire Link A Media Devices (LAMD)by Kristian Vättö on June 19, 2012 9:25 PM EST
Hynix published a press release that they have acquired Link A Media Devices (commonly referred to as simply LAMD).
The cost of the acquisition has not been revealed, nor did Hynix state when the acquisition should be complete. LAMD will be joining Hynix as a NAND focused business unit, but right now there is no confirmation whether the LAMD name will stay.
Update: Hynix acquired LAMD for $248 million.
LAMD was actually founded over eight years ago, but it has not received much publicity until earlier this month when Corsair announced their Neutron SSD series, which is the first consumer SSD to be based on a LAMD controller. LAMD has been more concentrated on the enterprise storage market in the past.
Supposedly, the LM87800 controller used in Corsair's Neutron SSD series is exclusive to Corsair for the near future, although no specific time frame was announced. The acquisition should not have an impact on Corsair's exclusivity since it was disclosed before the acquisition, but I'm sure Corsair is not very happy about this. Corsair is one of the many SSD OEMs that mainly buy everything from other companies and just build the SSD. That limits differentiation and the LAMD exclusivity would have been a great benefit for them, but now it looks like it will be a very short run.
Hynix is actually not a new player in the SSD market but their SSDs have never gained much popularity. (To be honest, I didn't know they made SSDs until I started googling.) In fact, Hynix' SandForce based SH910 lineup was revealed only a couple of days ago.
As a whole, the deal makes perfect sense. Hynix is pretty much the only NAND manufacturer that has not had a breakthrough in the SSD market. Intel, Samsung, Micron/Crucial, Toshiba, and SanDisk are all fairly big names in the market. However, there is one thing common with all of them: they all make their own firmware. Intel gave up on in-house controllers (for the time being), but all their SSDs still ship with Intel's own custom firmware. Micron/Crucial is using Marvell's controllers with custom firmware in their consumer products, but they also have an in-house enterprise controller. Toshiba has made their own controllers in the past but their SATA 6Gb/s SSDs are a mystery for now; they might be a SandForce rebrand but I would at least expect custom firmware. SanDisk acquired a controller firm called Pliant in 2011, although they use third party controllers as well. And finally, Samsung is even more in control of their SSDs as they make everything from DRAM to firmware on their own.
It's quite obvious that Hynix needed something that would make them unique. SandForce is now part of LSI, which is way too big for Hynix to acquire (considering they haven't made any profit in the last two years). Marvell falls in the same category. While the price of the acquisition was not revealed, LAMD was likely nowhere near as expensive as LSI or Marvell would have been, which is why it was a logical choice for Hynix.
Another option would have been hiring a firmware team and developing a custom firmware for a third party controller like Intel and Micron are doing. The downside is that they would not have the freedom to do whatever they want - they might be limited by the controller's design for example. Having your own controller is liberating because you have the ability to design it from a scratch. You can concentrate on the areas you find important and not be bottlenecked by a third party controller.
All in all, this is a very interesting and welcome acquisition. Now Hynix has all they need: NAND, DRAM, controller and firmware. As we have seen with Intel, Samsung, and other SSD giants, that is an extremely powerful combination. Judging by the performance figures of Corsair's Neutron series, LAMD's LM87800 controller is fast. Combine a high performance controller with your own NAND and you've got a competitive SSD. Reliability is of course a question mark at this point but usually when you build the SSD from beginning to end, reliablity is higher because you have total control over every single part. It's not a coincidence that Intel, Samsung, Toshiba and Micron/Crucial SSDs are regarded as the most reliable SSDs.
We are eagerly waiting for our Corsair Neutron review sample to see how the LAMD controller performs. Once we have tested it, we might know more about the motives behind Hynix's decision to acquire LAMD. Either way, it looks like the SSD market just got one more powerful competitor.
Source: Hynix Press Release