Flash gold rush continues as Western Digital buys Virident for $685M

Flash storage may not universally replace spinning disk, but it is a big, big business and getting bigger all the time — which is why Western Digital(s wdc) is buying Virident a server-side flash player, for $685 million in cash.

This acquisition comes three months after Western Digital, a hard drive maker, purchased Stec, a maker of enterprise-class flash storage, for $340 million. Milpitas, Calif.-based Virident, like Stec before it, will be part of HGST, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital.

“We have established a competitive position in the enterprise SSD space and with our recently announced acquisitions we are increasing our commitment to become an even more significant player in this high growth segment,” Steve Milligan, president and CEO of Western Digital said in a statement.

It’s almost impossible to keep track of flash storage news in recent months — everyone’s in on the act. Last week storage leader EMC updated its VNX hybrid storage array with more flash. EMC(s emc) already bought ScaleIO earlier this summer and ExtremeIO last year to bolster its flash story.

Pure-play flash storage players include Skyera and Pure Storage both of which maintain that all-flash storage is becoming price competitive with spinning disk way to go. Violin Memory, another flash pioneer, filed its IPO last week. No doubt the flash pool is getting crowded — server-side pioneer Fusion.io missed on its revenue expectations last month, but no one expects the M&A activity in this area to subside.

All flash? Not yet

The pure flash story may sound good. Flash, after all is faster than spinning disk and much faster than tape. But many customers say a hybrid approach — using spinning or hard disks where appropriate but adding flash in critical spots is the most cost-effective solution.

For all this talk of all-flash-all-time no one is seriously writing off even tape for archival storage. The real deal, as Enterprise Strategy Group Senior Analyst Mark Peters told me a while back is most customers will use flash “judiciously” in their enterprise, reserving it for the jobs needing the absolutely fastest response where it can act as a “turbo” to an existing storage system.