Summary:

Fusion-io is taking steps to appeal to enterprises with virtualized servers. This should help the company expand its customer base. Right now, its top 10 customers account for $4 out of every $5 it makes.

Lee Caswell, a vice president of marketing at Fusion-io
photo: Fusion-io

Fusion-io knows it needs to expand its business further beyond its webscale customer base if it is to stand up against big players getting more into flash lately, such as EMC to IBM.

The company on Monday showed a stronger intent to appease the staid enterprise by announcing an update to its ioTurbine software, available immediately. The new and improved ioTurbine lets customers get more granular control over flash resources sitting inside virtualized servers or in storage gear.

ioTurbine already worked with virtualized servers, but now even more control is possible. With the upgrade, customers can choose to cache data at the hypervisor level — across all virtual machines running on a physical server — or based on the needs of individual virtual machines. That way, flash drives sitting in servers or storage boxes gets used efficiently.

“What we’re giving you the opportunity to do is you can go and select which VMs I want to put through cache or which files I want to put through the cache,” said Lee Caswell, a vice president of marketing at Fusion-io (pictured). “… I can look at which types of data are important, and now I get more control, more flexibility for administration, to intelligently determine which items are high-read workload that they’d want to cache, and that’s very important.”

That use case could benefit companies providing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS), because data center operators have the option of letting their own customers set caching preferences for the individual virtual machines they use, Caswell said.

Fusion-io already counts “many enterprises” as customers, Caswell said. But this move positions the company to get more signed up — specifically those running virtualized infrastructure that haven’t been sold yet on the idea of shelling out for flash memory. Think enterprises that are already VMware shops, perhaps those that finally see an opening for hybrid-cloud deployments thanks to the recently announced vCloud Hybrid Service from VMware.

A bunch of new enterprise business could help the company rely less on just a few customers for most of its revenue. Indeed, 83 percent of Fusion-io’s revenue in the first quarter of this year flowed in from the company’s 10 largest customers, according to its most recent 10-Q. The company is a bit more diversified than it was in the first quarter of 2012, when the top 10 contributed 93 percent of revenues, but it’s still quite dependent on a small number of companies. That could become an issue if, say, Apple or Facebook decides to buy less or jump to a different flash vendor.

While disk drives are still relevant today — along with tape, believe it or not — this deal could help boost flash storage sales and contribute further to the downward march of the price of flash in general in relation to those older forms of storage. And that could beget further flash adoption.

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