'India is the second biggest centre for us'

Last Updated : 30 August 2015, 18:31 IST
Last Updated : 30 August 2015, 18:31 IST

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SanDisk Corp, a leading flash storage devices and enterprise storage technology major with total revenues of $6.4 billion, has begun pilot production of a 48-layer 3D NAND chip to enter the fray against Samsung and Dell.

In an interaction with Deccan Herald’s N V Vijayakumar, Sandisk Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President Ravi Naik delineates the company’s new enterprise storage game plan for faster applications and more effective servers.

Can you elaborate on the technological revolution and business model of SanDisk?

SanDisk is the global leader in flash memory technology. SanDisk’s strength comes from the fact that it is vertically integrated as we design Flash and manufacture it. These wafers that are manufactured in Japan go to the assemble-and-test factories in China and Malaysia. SanDisk owns the entire end-to-end supply chain of flash memories.

This gives the company a significant advantage. There is a lot of work going on over the past two-and-a-half decades, which ensures that SanDisk plays the leadership role in NAND flash memory. As technology evolves, SanDisk is at the leading edge of the latest technology to the industry. Historically, SanDisk has played in the consumer and OEM spaces, and the latter continues to be a focus area for the company.

Elaborate on the impact of flash and data explosion happening around the world.

With the growth in hyper-scale, Web 2.0, cloud and cloud services providers, and social networks, there is an explosion of data. As the data growth continues exponentially, there is a growing need to store all of this data. Historically, data was stored on spinning disks and storage arrays. But as we move from enterprise IT to cloud, hyper scale data centres and social networks, there is a need not only to store this data, but also to deliver it at an incredible high performance to the customers and consumers. That’s where flash memory comes in. If you look at the end-to-end chain of a mobile environment, every user will have a mobile device, which connects to the wireless network, and in turn, the wireless network connects to the data centre where you have the network, compute and storage.

The network is getting better, and as you can see, India is moving from 3G to 4G. On the data centre side, the capacity of network and compute power is being constantly revolutionised. The compute power is growing exponentially. Storage continues to be the weakest link in the chain. That’s where flash memory storage arrays are going to come in and revolutionise this area which has been stuck.

Looking at the hardware side of the storage system, what are the changes happening?

SanDisk is investing significantly in flash memory technology, in the R&D for the memory. What does this mean to a SanDisk customer? There is a lot of buzz about cloud, flash memory, 3D and IoT, but for a CIO the perspective is very different. CIOs look at all these technologies as services, as problem solvers.

As we look at how flash has scaled over the years, today if we look at one of SanDisk’s products InfiniFlash, it gives 512 TB of solid state storage in a 3U box. Whereas, historically spinning disks would consume lot more space. This has helped a lot in space consolidation in the data centre.

On the software side, what are the things you are working on to take advantage of the current scenario?

SanDisk has a number of software offerings in the storage environment. Primarily, they deliver caching capabilities for applications. FlashSoft, one of our key software applications, provides significant caching capabilities when used with our SSDs. We have implemented FlashSoft in our data centres to help improve the capabilities of our e-discovery platforms. Most of our applications are virtualised — all our applications run on virtual Dell Servers in sequel. To achieve high density, we need to move away from spinning disks to flash based memory solutions. The high density allows you to optimise compute costs, so there is no need to buy multiple servers.

What are the plans for India? How will you be able to meet Indian requirements?

The Digital India initiative is, in short, bringing e-governance to the citizens. This would help citizens save time, and make it easier for them to take care of their bill payments, taxes, etc. Citizen documents can also be stored on the government cloud and it would be easy for citizens to access them. All of this is data. I believe, all this would be driven on a mobile platform given how ubiquitous mobile phones are and how it’s been growing. As we move towards building data centres, India has a potential that other developed country don’t have, that is the leap frog opportunity, exactly what happened in the mobile space.

People decided to skip the landline and jump to the mobile platform. That’s the advantage for the new data centres that are being built in India. The migration of the data centre to an all-flash array is going to be much easier in India as compared with the European ones, which run on spinning disks, and which involves unlearn and relearn. India just moves to all flash array datacentres. Now it is a good time to put together a strategy for an all-flash data centre.

What are the current activities happening in India?

We are investing in R&D in India. We have space for about 1,400 people when we open, and we are hiring at a good pace. The engineering investments have paid off well. The resources, the manpower, the talent pool are incredible. We will continue to invest in India in terms of R&D and IT. All of my global work for IT happens from SanDisk Bengaluru. I have a team of about 150 who take care of this. Globally, we have three R&D centres in Israel, South Korea, Japan and India. We also have a small centre in Scotland. The key centres are the US, Israel and India. India is the second biggest centre outside the US.

What is the volume of business in India?

The entire platform is around $500 billion. The whole Digital India initiative is going to generate revenues of around $500 billion. The Indian storage market is around half-a-million dollars, according to IDC.  Flash inside cloud is what we are looking at, to allow faster access of data to a consumer. Besides cloud service providers, India is also witnessing exponential growth in eCommerce and startups.

Are you looking at manufacturing in India as per Modi’s Make in India campaign?

Currently, our factories in China and Malaysia are sufficient and only when we feel the need, we will look at other locations. While manufacturing is a critical component for any company, but for us with respect to India, we are looking at more on engineering and developing new products. The talent pool in India adds value for us in terms of designing and developing new products.

On the enterprise side, what are the new products coming out of India? What is your game plan?

All of our R&D have components in India — memory design and removable products design, happen completely in India, and we are ramping up our enterprise engineering organisations here in Bengaluru as well. One of our recent products InfiniFlash, the world’s first all-flash, high intense storage array. A component of this was developed in India. A 100 people worked on it in India, and about 200 in the US. This is the only 512 TB storage solution in the world with this small space, this has been developed in coordination with the team in India.

Going forward, what changes do you see in this segment, and what value additions can you give to the clients?

SanDisk is a major player in enterprise, and we are the only company that has end-to-end offerings in enterprise. From the consumer perspective, SanDisk will continue to offer products with higher capacity and higher density. As the cost of flash comes down, there will be a crossover point where flash will become as affordable as spinning disks. Our InfiniFlash is the first product to make that crossover. If you can get flash at $1 a GB, you will eventually replace all spinning disks in the data centre with flash. InfiniFlash is the first storage platform in the world that offers flash at $1 a GB storage.
Published 30 August 2015, 17:57 IST

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