Fusion-io plans to add software, SSD-based storage systems

Startup Fusion-io's strategy is to push into the storage systems market with software features like snapshots, according to execs at SNW.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- New Fusion-io Inc. CEO David Bradford said the startup will use its recent $47.5 million Series B funding round to develop software and expand from the components market into making solid-state-based networked storage systems.

Fusion-io previewed its ioSAN at Storage Networking World (SNW) this week. The product adds a 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) iSCSI interface to the ioDrive PCIe card it's already shipping. Multiple ioSAN cards can slot into servers, and multiple servers can be put together as a clustered network-attached storage (NAS) system.

Bradford said Fusion-io will add software engineers, particularly those with expertise in parallel file systems, networking and 10 GbE. "The strategic vision is to take a company built on small, solid-state disk drive form factors and move more into networked storage," he said.

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Chief marketing officer Rick White said software features such as snapshots, replication, tiered storage support, thin provisioning, high availability and storage virtualization are planned. "We're going to move beyond hardware to add software value throughout the rest of the year," he said.

Fusion-io is generating a lot of buzz these days with its recent funding round, OEM deals with Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp., a customer base Bradford estimates at approximately 360 enterprise users and the hiring of Apple founder Steve Wozniak as chief scientist. But its strategy is also bringing the company into stiff competition with established storage vendors. The software features it's looking to develop have already been shipping from Compellent Technologies Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc., and others are looking to add automated tiered storage support to move data between solid-state and spinning-disk storage.

Natalya Yezhkova, research manager with the storage systems program at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said tiered storage support should be Fusion-io's top priority. "I don't see a big market for SSD-only storage systems," she said. "It has to be in conjunction with other tiers."

The company could grow for quite a while just supplying components to server OEMs, she added. "Whether it's better for them to get into the storage systems business, I don't know yet, but they may not really have a choice," Yezhkova said. "The question is, if they stop [at supplying components], how far can they go long term?"

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