Pliant Hopes to Give STEC Some Competition


STEC (NASDAQ: STEC) may finally be in for some competition.

Pliant Technology unveiled its Enterprise Flash Drive technology yesterday — and marketing vice president Greg Goelz said the company expects the drives to begin appearing in data storage systems by the end of the year.

With a two-year head start on the rest of the solid state drive (SSD) market, STEC has been the hottest growth story in the data storage industry this year, thanks to OEM partner EMC's (NYSE: EMC) early success selling the pricey, high-performance alternatives to HDDs.

With as much as 180,000 sustained IOPS and 80,000 random IOPS, Pliant's SSDs compare favorably to STEC's high-end ZeusIOPS line.

The 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SSDs offer SAS connections and boast high data reliability and integrity, thanks to a cache-less design, proprietary ASIC and other features designed to improve reliability and performance. The drives come in 150GB and 350GB capacities.

Pliant also claims unlimited writes and predictable performance for the SLC-based drives, with no drop-off. "A lot of drives are not made for heavy movement of data," said Goelz.

Goelz said the drives "will be shipping in storage systems by the end of the year," a little ahead of the timetable expected by analysts. He said he expects pricing to come in below STEC, but above Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) enterprise SSDs.

While STEC might be getting competition a little sooner than expected, SSD analyst Jim Handy of Objective Analysis noted, "I don't think anyone thought STEC would have the field all to themselves quite this long."

Handy thinks Pliant's year-end prediction may prove a little optimistic, however.

"Pliant tells me that they started beta in the fourth quarter of last year, so they are likely to get through OEM qualifications early next year," he said.

As far as settling performance claims between STEC and Pliant, Handy said he's not aware of any benchmarks that have been published on either vendor's SSDs.

The news of possible competition appears to have unnerved STEC investors, as the company's stock has fallen sharply this week.

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