|Industry||Solid State Storage|
|Founder(s)||Alex Naqvi and Rado Danilak|
|Headquarters||Milpitas, California, U.S.|
|Key people||Michael Raam, CEO|
|Products||Solid-state drive controller|
SandForce was an American fabless semiconductor company based in Milpitas, California, that designed and manufactured flash memory controllers for solid-state drives (SSDs). On January 4, 2012, SandForce was acquired by LSI Corporation and became the Flash Components Division of LSI.
SandForce did not sell complete solid-state drives, but rather flash memory controllers, called SSD processors, to partners who then built and sold complete SSDs to manufacturers, corporations, and end-users. However, another division of LSI uses the SandForce SSD processor in the LSI Nytro PCIe product line. The key component of any SSD is actually the controller, upon which SandForce focuses. Zsolt Kerekes, an SSD Market Analyst and publisher of StorageSearch.com, said in 2011 that SandForce was the best-known maker of SSD controllers.
Alex Naqvi and Rado Danilak had experience from companies including Marvell, Intel, NVIDIA, Toshiba, and SanDisk when they started SandForce. At the end of 2009, there were approximately 100 employees at SandForce.
SandForce was initially financed by private equity firms Storm Ventures, Doll Capital Management, and unnamed computer data storage firms. By April 2009, SandForce had taken in more than $20 million in two venture rounds. In November that same year they closed a series C funding round of $21 million led by TransLink Capital and included LSI, ADATA, and other Tier-1 storage OEMs, including Seagate. Finally in October 2010, SandForce closed a series D round of $25 million led by Canaan Partners and included the existing investors.
The board of directors included Carl Amdahl (General Partner at DCM and son of Gene Amdahl), Ryan Floyd (General Partner at Storm Ventures), S. "Sundi" Sundaresh (former President and CEO of Adaptec), Jackie Yang (Managing Director at TransLink Capital), and Eric Young (General Partner and co-founder at Canaan Partners). C.S. Park, a current Seagate board member and also a former chief executive at Maxtor and former chief executive at Hynix was also on the board until sometime before mid 2011.
On October 26, 2011, LSI Corporation announced the intent to acquire SandForce and by January 4, 2012, the deal was finalized with SandForce becoming the new Flash Components Division of LSI lead by Michael Raam.
SandForce uses inexpensive MLC flash memory in an enterprise computing environment with a 5-year expected life. At the time the company emerged from stealth mode, other solid-state drives in the enterprise were using the more expensive SLC flash memory.
SandForce gave the name "DuraClass" to the overall technology incorporated in its controllers. SandForce controllers do not use DRAM for caching which reduces cost and complexity compared to most other SSD controllers. SandForce controllers also use a proprietary compression system to minimize the amount of data actually written to non-volatile memory (the "write amplification") which increases speed and lifetime for most data (known as "DuraWrite"). SandForce claims to have reduced write amplification to 0.5 on a typical workload. As a byproduct, data that cannot readily be compressed (for example random data, encrypted files or partitions, compressed files, or many common audio and video file formats) is slower to write. Other features include error detection and correction technology known as "RAISE" (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) which improves the disk failure rates, and AES encryption  which works in the background and is completely automatic. It is linked to the BIOS password and encrypts the user data at the full speed of the data as it passes through the controller.
SandForce initially released the SF-1000 family of SSD Processors and split them into enterprise and client computing applications. The SF-1500 was the enterprise product and the SF-1200 the client focused product. Reference designs included information to build and sell a complete product. In October 2010, SandForce introduced their second generation SSD controllers called the SF-2000 family focused on enterprise applications. Enhancements included: SATA 3.0 (6 Gbit/s), faster speeds, security, and data protection features. The client version of this second generation line was introduced in February 2011 with most of the same enhancements seen in the SF-2500.
After the introduction of the SF-2000 series controller, some customers using drives with that controller reported issues such as BSOD and freezing. In early June 2011, Corsair Memory issued a recall on the 120 GB Force 3 with specific serial numbers, but not on any other Force 3 drive with a SandForce SF-2000 controller, therefore that recall does not appear to be related to the controller. In October, 2011, SandForce sent out firmware updates through their manufacturing partners such as OCZ that fixed the reported issue. In August 2012, a website known as Tweaktown identified an issue with SandForce-based SSDs using firmware 5.0.1 and 5.0.2 wherein TRIM support did not perform optimally when fully erasing the SSD, but also confirmed that the 5.0.3 and 5.0.4 firmware resolved the issue.
In 2012, SandForce SF-2000-based drives were discovered to only include AES-128 encryption instead of the advertised AES-256 encryption. It was speculated the lower grade encryption was used to qualify for US ITAR licences which are precluded for products featuring certain levels of encryption heading for a selected list of US-ambivalent or actively unfriendly countries. Products such as Kingston SSDNow V+200 and KC100 were re-documented to state the use of 128-bit AES encryption. Intel offered refunds for affected users of Intel 520 Series SSDs until 2012-10-01, while Kingston offered exchange program to cover the cost of shipping for customers who request a swap.
In May 2010, SandForce introduced the "SandForce Driven" program. The "Intel Inside" program and the BASF advertising slogan that said "We don't make the things you use, we make the things you use better" are similar examples of companies promoting a component inside the end product. SandForce created a logo that partners can display on the SSD or their advertising to indicate a SandForce controller is inside. In October 2013, there were 38 members of the SandForce Driven program.
SandForce created the "SandForce Trusted" program in January 2011, which identified approved vendors that provide equipment, tools, and services compatible with SandForce SSD Processors. It is a form of Approved Vendor List that helps SSD OEMs and manufacturers get a higher level of service and support.
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- "Corsair Force Series 3 SSD Issue Resolution: Drive Return Procedure". Corsair. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
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- "LSI SandForce 5 Series SSD Firmware - TRIM Lost and Found, Performance Investigated". TweakTown.com. August 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
- LSI SandForce AES Encryption Strength Flaw Revealed
- SandForce SF-2000 encryption flaw discovered
- Kingston Technology statement on LSI SandForce SF-2000 encryption flaw
- 256-bit AES encryption broken in SandForce SSD controllers
- Zsolt Kerekes. "SSD Market Milestones - 2010 2nd quarter". StorageSearch.com. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
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- "SandForce Driven Members". lsi.com. Retrieved 2012-11-30.