Fusion-io buys NexGen to join hybrid flash array fray

PCIe server flash pioneer Fusion-io has bought itself an array maker; Nexgen and its PCIe flash/SAS hybrid. Is Fusion-io’s next move into all-flash arrays?

PCIe flash pioneer Fusion-io has entered the hybrid flash array market with the acquisition of NexGen for $119m.

Startup NexGen emerged from stealth in 2011 with its n5 hybrid flash array that combines Fusion-io PCIe flash cards, large chunks of RAM and SAS spinning disk in x86 server platforms.

Like other hybrid flash players such as Tegile, Tintri and Nimble, it uses Automated tiering functionality and data deduplication to move data between solid state and spinning media.

NexGen’s special sauce is the use of so-called performance quality-of-service (QOS) in its operating system (OS) that allows customers to provision data according to the performance they need from it.

The move by Fusion-io marks the company’s entry into the array market. The company will now pose a threat to the likes of Tegile, Tintri and Nimble in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) market where customers use hybrid flash arrays to speed storage for virtual servers and desktops.

Previous Fusion-io acquisitions include flash caching software supplier IO Turbine in August 2011 and software-defined storage supplier ID7 last month.

The move is an interesting one for Fusion-io as currently its strategy is enterprise-focused. It sells PCIe cards for enterprise and hyperscale computing environments and its PCIe cards are incorporated in significant amounts in HP, Dell and IBM servers. Facebook is Fusion-io’s largest customer, with 19% of its sales last quarter.

With a significant presence in server flash and now in hybrid flash arrays, the question is posed whether Fusion-io will move towards developing or buying an all flash array.

Flash is the hottest technology among storage companies right now, with all the main suppliers positioning themselves with flash products in the server and in all-flash and hybrid arrays. A significant bellwether of this trend was recently marked by IBM pledging to spend $1bn on development of its flash portfolio.


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