Fusion-io, a maker of specialty solid-state storage gear, has raised $45 million in a third funding round, bringing the total amount it’s raised since launching in 2007 to $111.5 million. Meritech Capital Partners led the round, and was joined by Accel Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. HP, Samsung and Dell have all contributed in previous rounds. The company, which I was excited about when I met with it at DEMO in September 2008, has gone through several executive shuffles, but appears to be succeeding based on the demand for its gear, which speeds up access to stored data.
Fusion-io is one of several companies trying to ease the bottleneck created when users attempt to access gigabytes of information from web pages and expect it to appear instantly, such as with photos on Facebook. When a user clicks on a photo album, he expects to see it load within seconds, even though it involves finding and pulling the files from wherever they’re stored, then serving them up over the user’s broadband connection. To speed this process up startups in the last three years have been tweaking storage gear and focusing on new types of databases. The gear helps send the bits where they need to go quickly, while the database technologies (GigaOM Pro sub req’d), from Cassandra to memcached, attempt to organize information across a variety of servers so the gear finds the right bits faster.
Fusion-io is one of the startups tweaking storage gear by putting Flash memory inside PCI-Express-capable modules that plug into existing servers. Once combined with Fusion-io’s software, it can be used to access data faster than spinning disk hard drives, all while consuming less energy — albeit at a greater cost. HP sells servers with Fusion-io drives inside, and at SXSW this year Serkan Piantino of Facebook noted that the social network is testing Fusion-io drives. Other customers include MySpace. However, as I noted when Fusion-io last raised money in August, the company is not only up against startups like Pliant, which also have a proprietary Flash memory drive, but the big SSD makers like Intel.