Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Start-Up Fusion-io Breaks EMC’s “Record” on Enterprise Flash

When it wasn’t stuffing cars full of dancers wearing bodysuits, EMC, the enterprise storage company, was busy launching products and telling a room full of customers and analysts at an event in New York last week about how strong its business prospects are.

One of its bragging points was around shipping flash memory to enterprise customers. During his remarks–the theme was “record setting”–EMC President and COO Pat Gelsinger grinned as he said the company had shipped 10 petabytes worth of flash memory in its storage products to customers in the past year–more than anyone else in the industry had.

If indeed that was a record, it isn’t standing for very long. Fusion-io, the Utah-based start-up that sells flash memory add-on devices for use in servers, said today that it has shipped 15 petabytes worth of flash memory to enterprise customers. It says that’s enough to play a continuous stream of HD-quality movies for 199 years straight.

Of course it has had help selling all that memory. Server vendors Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell are all selling Fusion-io technology as an option on their servers. There are plenty of customers buying, though few will admit to it. When we last heard from Fusion-io, it had announced that its technology is speeding up trading operations at Credit Suisse. Other customers include Myspace and Zappos.

Putting flash in a server isn’t for data storage in the traditional sense. It’s more about putting data close to the processor in a server. Most of the time–as much as 80 percent of the time–the processor chips inside servers that do the heavy number-crunching are sitting around tapping their feet, waiting to get data to work from other parts of the computer.

That equates to a lot of general waste in IT spending, CEO David Flynn told me. “If the processor is sitting idle 80 percent of the time, it may not sound so bad at first. But when you consider that you’re paying for the power and the cooling and floor space and services, it equates to a massive amount of wasted money.” How much? He thinks speeding data to the processor can eliminate $50 to $100 billion worth of waste in IT budgets. Fusion-io’s argument–and it’s one that numerous companies are buying–is that by putting data on flash chips in the server right next to the processor, you can eliminate a lot of that idle time. It’s the kind of argument that tends to resonate easily with CIOs.

As I’ve noted before, Fusion-io is coming off a busy year. Last year it hired Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as its chief scientist. In April it landed $45 million in a Series C round led by Meritech Capital Partners, with Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, New Enterprise Associates and Triangle Peak Partners also investing. It also has strategic investments from Samsung and Dell Ventures.