Dell Adds Fusion-IO As An Option On Servers

Posted by: Arik Hesseldahl on August 18, 2010

Last year I wrote this profile of Fusion-io, a startup whose data storage technology so impressed our readers, that they voted it the top up-and-coming innovative company in an online poll that’s also known for having Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on board as its chief scientist. Its been interesting to check in on the company’s progress since then.

Its latest news came, from Dell Inc., which said it will offer Fusion-io’s so-called ioDrives as a build-to-order option on three lines of its servers. This would mark the third company to offer Fusion-io’s technology on its servers, the other two being Hewlett-Packard CO. and IBM Corp.

Fusion-io’s technology uses flash memory, essentially the same chips used to store music in an MP3 player, to replace the power-hogging hard drives in high performance storage gear. These Storage Area Networks, or SANS, are widely used by large businesses for financial databases. The key problem with hard-drive based SANS is that you have to buy storage for a lot more data than you actually have, which pushes up not only the cost, but the amount of power required to operate it, which adds an extra layer of cost.

I talked with Rick White, Fusion-io’s chief marketing officer yesterday and he said it’s not uncommon for Fusion-io customers to replace between seven to 10 hard-drive based servers with one one server with an ioDrive added in. That can mean a lot savings.

Dell’s relationship with Fusion-io goes back a few years. It was an early investor in the company, and had been offering ioDrive-enabled servers only occasionally when customers requested them. “In terms of numbers it was a niche product for us,” said Paul Prince, CTO of Dell’s Enterprise Product Goup. Steadily demand for ioDrives grew, so much so that Dell decided to re-cast its relationship with Fusion-io, and make the ioDrive an official build-to-order option on its R710, R810 and m610x servers. “We view this as a natural evolution of the partnership, Prince said.

Aside from investments from Dell, New Enterprise Ventures and Sumitomo Ventures, Fusino-io was also notable last year for a $48 million round of funding announced in April of 2009 from LightSpeed Venture Partners. I said it once and I’ll say it again: It’s a company worth watching.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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