Interview: Lawrence Chang — Sr VP Sales & Marketing, KINGMAX |

Interview: Lawrence Chang — Sr VP Sales & Marketing, KINGMAX

We talk about the role of flash media in storage.

Interview: Lawrence Chang — Sr VP Sales & Marketing, KINGMAX

Internationally, KINGMAX is synonymous with high-density flash-based storage media and memory modules. However, the brand hasn't really managed to make a breakthrough in the Indian market yet. The company had flown in Lawrence Chang, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, in town to achieve just that.

I caught up with him for insights on the current and future trends in storage and to find out what makes the Taiwanese excel when it comes to the semiconductor manufacturing business.

Interview: Lawrence Chang — Sr VP Sales & Marketing, KINGMAX

Tell us about KINGMAX?
KINGMAX is a global company providing memory and storage solutions for entry-level as well as cutting edge needs. We have a level of production integration that can handle everything from an unfinished wafer to the finished product. We utilise this know-how to roll out cutting-edge products.

Does the name KINGMAX signify anything specific? What's the story behind it?
*More spiel about the company*

So there's no story behind the name?

What makes the Taiwanese so good at solid state electronics and PC components?
30 years ago, the Taiwanese government chose to develop certain industries to ensure sustained economic growth. The semiconductor industry was one of them. In Taiwan, we have a very comprehensive semiconductor supply chain ranging from wafer foundries such as TSMC to packaging and testing to IC design houses to finished products such as Acer and Asus - the whole supply chain is very comprehensive. That's why we have evolved to utilise this kind of stressful and competitive environment.

So that's basically due to the government's foresight.
Yes, the government set us in the right direction.

What percentage of your revenue goes into R&D? Which product segment consumes most of it?
Around 10%, on an average. SSDs, of course, followed by flash cards and finally USB drives.

How much of a push do you give to making your flagship memory overclocker-friendly?
We implement nano technology in DDR modules. Regular memory modules use heatsinks for cooling, but we coat our DDR modules with nano material. This improves thermal dissipation and lowers temperatures appreciably. Right now our nano gaming modules can be overclocked up to 2400 MHz.

Is this technology more cost effective than having copper or aluminium heatsinks?
Yes, about 10-15% lower in cost compared to traditional heatsinks.

Recently Asus has halved its PC motherboard production from 6 to 3 million. Overall as well, people have been drifting towards simplified computing. Has that affected the memory space?
Not just that, but the recent HDD shortage has also prevented people from building new systems.

Does the shrinking enthusiast market, which generally adopts newer tech at higher prices, mean less money for R&D?
Since the PC market is shrinking we have to try different avenues. This year, we found some new applications for DDR modules such as cashier machines. We're hoping to penetrate the non-PC industrial applications.

What is the ratio of USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 drives sold? When do you see the latter becoming mainstream.
In Q4 last year USB 3.0 accounted for 8%, while the rest was USB 2.0. This year we see it going up to 12% in Q1 and even 20% for Q2. However thanks to Intel and AMDs new chipsets, the migration rate from USB 2.0 to 3.0 will go up significantly. In Q4 there is a chance that USB 3.0 drives may even reach 40%.

How soon will flash memory become competitive against hard drives? Do you see yourself competing against Western Digital and Seagate in the HDD segment in the future?
For the past couple of years people have been thinking, "Ah, one day SSDs will replace hard drives". However, I don't think so. That's why from last year we have been focusing on finding more SSD-specific applications, such as smartphones and tablet PCs, since you can't use hard drives in these devices. In the future, we even see SSDs being widely implemented in servers; especially the ones where very high speeds are required with lower power consumption. This year will see a significant shift as more applications will need SSDs instead of HDDs. The same holds true for smart TVs that don't need high capacity storage like PCs do, but require low power consumption and high speeds.

Are you essentially trying to say that large volume storage will become redundant and people will move onto a combination of distributed storage (cloud) and faster solid-state local storage?

Have the recent floods in Thailand given SSDs a sales edge over prohibitively expensive HDDs?
Frankly, no, that hasn't been the case. We saw major demand for SSDs coming from three segments - mobile devices, servers, and general upgrades. The upgrades come from users who have machines with HDDs, but they know that SSDs can increase performance rather than storage. This is an upgrade concept that's not relevant to HDD shortage. Therefore, it doesn't reflect in the sales numbers.

Do you see the cost per MB for SSDs becoming viable anytime soon?
Yes, I think this year the cost per MB will go down 30-40%, and therefore SSD adoption will go up as well.

What differentiates the Indian market from the rest of the world?
From the product demand point of view, it's not very different. However, it's different from the business side. To cite an extreme comparison: in Japan there are a maximum of, say, ten dealers in total servicing 80% of the market. India has a couple of thousand dealers in contrast. Therefore, who you choose as your partner is very important here. With so many dealers in different cities, it is a big challenge for us.

Tags : Interviews, Storage, Nachiket