Flash Perspective: A Conversation with Rob Soderbery

Flash Perspective: A Conversation with Rob Soderbery

The growth of the NAND flash market continues at a breakneck pace. With practically every new technology innovation developed with flash memory at its core, this progress is not surprising.

Western Digital seeks to continue powering this growth by leveraging its ability to scale manufacturing in addition to producing flash products specifically designed to create the best possible outcome for customers.

Innovation with intent

At a virtual event held today, executive vice president and general manager of WD’s Flash Business, Rob Soderbery, provided the company’s perspective on the flash market, its growth, and opportunities. He also unveiled several announcements that he says “represent the key pillars of this market.” These announcements include the new SanDisk ProfessionalTM brand, new WD_BLACKTM SSDs, an alliance with Percona integration of Zoned Name Space (ZNS) storage to support MySQL Server, and a new Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 3.1 platform — representing the vast depth and breadth in Western Digital’s powerful flash portfolio.

“[Western Digital] has a tremendous throw weight in the industry, in terms of the number of applications, the number of technologies, the number of places in the world that Western Digital technology is in use and at play,” he said in an interview. “Virtually every technology innovation is built on flash.”

From mobile devices to connected vehicles to gaming to data centers, every market is growing in ways that demand more than just faster and greater capacities of flash. But key to capturing the opportunity in all this growth is in Western Digital’s collaborative efforts. The company’s flash business partners closely with its customers to innovate in ways that produce “fit-for-purpose” solutions.

“I think people just don’t realize how much goes into that,” Soderbery said. “It’s a tremendous amount of work, and a tremendous amount of technology that goes into creating fit-for-purpose solutions for all of these markets.”

Fit for the need

Flash is not all the same. The needs for a smartphone are very different from a modern vehicle, which is very different from what’s needed in the public cloud. Speed, capacity, endurance, form factor, power requirements, and environmental stability are all variables that change depending on the market in which these devices are used.

Take the new SanDisk Professional brand, which will offer products engineered specifically for professional creators. For creative professionals like photographers and cinematographers, storage is the backbone of the creative workflow. Every frame is an investment in time, talent, and resources, which makes reliable and scalable data storage, transfer, and backup critically important. The new fleet of professional-grade products — which includes a new CFexpress card, an enterprise-grade RAID storage device, an ultra-fast reader series, and a new four-bay reader docking station — will give these professionals both flexibility and the confidence to be creative.

The pillars of innovation

“Our customers know what they’re trying to do for their customers. ‘I want more battery life out of a phone’ or ‘I want to build a thinner device,’” Soderbery said. “How that translates into the implications for flash and systems design, that’s really our role. That’s the interchange. We’re driving innovation and the platform for the product they’re building, so we go back and forth.”

The Flash Perspective event today highlighted several areas in which Western Digital pushes innovation to meet its customers at the threshold of the bleeding edge.

Soderbery said the announcements made at the event capture the key pillars of the business, and they reflect the strategy in flash. “I look at today’s announcements as a proof point for the Western Digital strategy,” he said. “We have the broadest perspective. We see the big picture. We’re 40% of the bits in the world, and 35% of NAND production. We serve all the markets and all the verticals.”

To learn more about the announcements from the event, see the Western Digital Newsroom.