SolidFire gets $25 million to boost flash-fueled cloud storage

SolidFire, which wants to bring all-solid-state storage to cloud providers serving you, just raised an additional $25 million in venture capital bringing its total trove to $37 million. New investors in this second round include Data Domain veterans Frank Slootman and David Schneider as well as former Sun Microsystems CTO Greg Papadopolous. First-round investors NEA, Valhalla Partners and Novak Biddle participated in this round as well.

The promise of flash — or solid-state —  storage for cloud computing is the  faster response times it can bring. That’s particularly important for performance-sensitive work loads, like enterprise applications. Companies are not likely to trust their mission-critical jobs to cloud providers unless they can get quality of service or performance guarantees similar to those they can negotiate for on-premises software.

SolidFire, founded in 2009, is banking that the combination of its flash memory and home-baked software will entice even the most risk-averse of those companies.

“The problem we’re solving in the cloud is the issue of guaranteeing performance in a cloud environment. We can guarantee quality of service to thousands of customers,” said Jay Prassl, VP of marketing for the Boulder, Colo.-based company. Prassl and other SolidFire execs — Adam Carter,  director of product management; Jim Burglin, director of support and services, and Havish Vinnakota, director of quality assurance — came from LeftHand Networks, the iSCSI storage provider bought by Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ) in 2008.

SolidFire’s storage underpinnings will allow customers with “very specific, performance-needy applications” to move them to the cloud with more confidence, Prassl claimed.  “If you’re a company running SAP [ERP] in-house, why don’t you put that in the cloud? The reason is you have concerns about performance. If I’m running my SAP in the cloud and you’re running your SAP in the cloud, I don’t know what you’ll do that will affect my performance and so I just won’t do it,” he said.

With SolidFire’s faster response times, he said, that worry will ease. While solid-state storage is still roughly twice as expensive as older disk technologies, SolidFire does other things to make its storage solution price competitive.

“We have the ability to be very efficient in storage use–we run inline dedupe, compression and provisioning in real time. Traditional storage systems can’t do that because it would have a big impact on their performance,” Prassl said.

There is definitely a flash memory boom underway. It helped boost Fusion-io’s  (s FIO) IPO  last spring but,  as GigaOM’s Derrick Harris reported in June, Fusion-io’s server components cache data for web applications, while SolidFire and rivals like Violin Memory target primary data storage for traditional enterprise applications.

That boom is sweeping up legacy players as well:  Storage leader EMC (s EMC) is embracing solid-state storage more and more with its Project Lightning push. Prassl contended that SolidFire’s advantage is that it was designed from its inception as a flash-only offering while legacy storage players have to protect their older disk (and even tape) franchises.

Jim Bagley, senior analyst for Storage Strategies Now, said SolidFire faces multiple competitors in this arena although it is the first to focus on a solid-state object store and to pair native Internet interface with that store.

Seven cloud providers are in the SolidFIre’s early access program but Prassl would not name them.