Micron pulls up its flash SOCs, slurps up Tidal

Gains in-house system-on-chip controllers for flash


The Non-Volatile Memory Express technology wave is rising and Micron has bought Tidal Systems, an early stage NVMe PCIe controller developer.

Tidal Systems, which is developing system-on-chip (SOC) controllers for flash, was founded in 2013 by CEO Mike Lee and Dr Cody Wu, an former distinguished engineer at SandForce, the SSD controller company bought by LSI. Lee built an SSD controller team at Link-a-Media, which was acquired by SK Hynix. Wu is responsible for developing features such as DSP, ECC, compression and FTL management.

The company had an involvement with venture capitalists Northern Light Venture Capital (NLVC) and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers where partner Wen Hsieh records his involvement and says Micron bought Tidal.

NLVC lists Tidal as "a fabless semiconductor company dedicated to enabling PCIe NVMe Flash based storage deployments" and says it funded Tidal in 2013, when it had offices in Shanghai, China and Santa Clara, CA.

We understand Tidal has developed PCI Express NVMe and SATA 6 Gb/s controllers using LDPC (Low-Density Parity Check) code data compression and error correction algorithms. This is said to be appropriate technology for high error rate flash such as 3- and 4-bits/cell (TLC and QLC) NAND.

Micron reportedly bought Tidal on 2 October for its SOC technology – as Micron has to buy-in third-party hardware currently to run its SSDs, from, for example, Marvell and Silicon Motion.

Tidal_Systems

By having its own, in-house flash hardware and firmware SOC expertise, Micron can now orchestrate controller development with NAND (or other non-volatile technology) chip development and tightly integrate the SOC and non-volatile media to optimise performance, endurance and power draw. This will enable it to catch up with competitors who already have in-house controller expertise, such as Samsung, SanDisk, HGST and Toshiba.

This will be important, we understand, with both 3D NAND and 3D XPoint memory, as well as any QLC flash product Micron is developing.

We have no knowledge of Tidal’s total funding history and Micron has not said what it paid for Tidal Systems. Our best estimate is that Tidal received up to $5m in funding and Micron paid $10m to $20m for the company. ®


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