Storage Soup

Jul 18 2019   4:53PM GMT

Toshiba to rename flash memory business Kioxia

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa

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NAND Flash
Storage

Toshiba Memory plans to officially change its name on Oct. 1 to Kioxia. The  new name — pronounced kee-ox-ee-uh — combines the Japanese word for memory, kioku, with the Greek word for value, axia.

Kioxia will develop, produce and sell Toshiba’s BiCS flash memory, and solid-state drives (SSDs). Toshiba’s hard disk drive (HDD) business will remain under the Toshiba brand name, a company spokesperson confirmed

“As usual, there will be some confusion about the new name,” said Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates data storage consulting. “It will take a while for people to get used to the change. For commercial customers, the impact could be minor. For consumers, there could be some impact for a while until people catch on to the new company.”

Enterprise customers searching the web for replacement drives could also experience confusion during the transition period, said Jim Handy, a semiconductor and SSD analyst at Objective Analysis. But major companies such as Dell EMC or NetApp or hyperscale data centers will deal with the same memory or SSD sales people who call them today, so there shouldn’t be any issues with continuity.

Still, Handy said the separation of the SSD and HDD businesses “is always a bad thing to do. Samsung did that. And now Toshiba’s done that. And the same people buy both of them. You’d kind of like to have the same people servicing both of their businesses.”

Memory business spin-out

Toshiba Corp. spun off its profitable memory business in April 2017 and put it up for sale to try to cover the enormous losses associated with its struggling U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric nuclear power plant. Toshiba closed the sale to K.K. Pangea, a special-purpose company formed and controlled by a Bain Capital Private Equity-led consortium, on June 1, 2018 for an estimated $18 billion.

Spinning out the Toshiba Memory meant that customers had to issue separate purchase orders for HDDs and SSDs, Handy said. Now they’ll have to issue purchase orders to two separate companies.

“Their rationale must have been that they wanted to keep the washing machines and the hard drives with the same company because they both spin around,” Handy said.

The Toshiba Memory name change made more sense to Handy.

“Toshiba Memory wasn’t trying to distance itself from the screwed-up company. Toshiba is still very proud of its name. Basically they are two separate entities that don’t have anything to do with each other,” Handy said. “Because Toshiba Memory is no longer a part of Toshiba, then it really shouldn’t still carry the Toshiba name. The Toshiba name should just be reserved for the original company.”

Jeff Janukowicz, a research vice president at International Data Corp. (IDC), sees the rebranding as “another step on the company’s journey” toward independence. He said he doesn’t expect the rebranding to have a direct impact on enterprise customers, but added, “It does reinforce the company’s commitment to NAND flash and its customers worldwide.”

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