Fusion-io Gets $47.5M and Flash Storage Gets Interesting

Updated: Fusion-io said today it has raised $47.5 million in second-round funding led by Lightspeed Venture, and formally announced David Bradford as CEO. The enterprise Flash drive startup also saw Series A investors, including New Enterprise Associates, Dell Ventures and Sumitomo Ventures, return for this round of funding. The company is one of several trying to deal with the data deluge by using Flash memory to speed up access to stored information inside the data center.
Bradford, who had taken over the CEO role after former CEO Don Basile left the company earlier this year, was previously a senior V-P at Fusion-io. Earlier in his career, Bradford was an executive at Novell (s NOVL), which explains a quote in Fusion-io’s funding announcement that was offered by Google (s GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt, who employed Bradford at Novell. I would have found it more interesting if Google were buying Fusion-io’s drives.
Fusion-io has now raised a total of $66.5 million to build its products. Those products include a module stuffed with Flash drives on a PCI Express card, as opposed to the traditional spinning disks that store information in servers. Flash is much more expensive per Gigabyte, but for certain types of data, speed matters far more than price. HP (s HPQ) offers Fusion-io drives built into some of its servers. Despite Dell (s DELL) being an investor in the company, Fusion-io has not announced a customer relationship with the world’s third-largest server maker. However, it says the two companies have a “working relationship.”
Fusion-io is not the only company trying to take advantage of Flash. Last week, Pliant, a startup that makes a specialized controller so it can stack multiple Flash drives and speed access to storage, raised $15 million, with Lightspeed also participating in that round. Update: Pliant, which was formed in 2006, has raised a total of $27 million, and plans to offer its products before the end of June, CEO Amyl Ahola told me last week. However, as Flash moves closer to the computing inside data centers, Intel (s INTC) remains the company that startups such as Pliant and Fusion-io need to beat.