Fusion-io Snaps up NexGen for Hybrid Storage

By Pedro Hernandez

Fusion-io is no longer a flash storage pure play.

The company announced on April 24 that it had acquired NexGen Storage for $119 million. NexGen is a Louisville, Colo.-based a maker of hybrid storage arrays that combine hard disk drives (HDDs) with solid-state storage to deliver the performance perks of flash chips with the relatively generous data storage capacities of disk.

Instead of slotting SSDs into an array, NextGen speeds up storage workloads by adding PCIe flash cards to the controller. NexGen's vice president of Marketing, Chris McCall, told InfoStor during the debut of the startup's n5 arrays last year, that his company's approach eliminates many of the inefficiencies imposed by shoehorning SSDs into traditional architectures.

McCall informed that by placing "SSD directly on the compute bus," NexGen's arrays provide fast, flash-like levels of performance by "not imposing those backplane bottlenecks on solid state drives at all." The underlying ioControl software provides automated management and allows administrators to set quality of service thresholds.

NexGen's supplier of PCIe flash add-on cards: Fusion-io.

The deal now opens the door to the small and midsized business (SMB) storage market, according to Fusion-io CEO David Flynn. "Many SME businesses have lean IT teams and budgets, making it critical to offer an integrated and affordable entry point for flash-powered application acceleration that delivers consistent performance, even under demanding workloads like VDI and analytics," he said in a statement.

"The hybrid NexGen solution combines memory attached flash and disk on leading server platforms to provide a system tuned to deliver performance, price and capacity," added Flynn.

There are indications that Fusion-io's pursuit of software defined storage technology also motivated the buy.

In press remarks, Fusion-io emphasized that ioControl enables NexGen's systems to deliver "dynamic real-time flash write caching, read caching and tiering with managed performance targets." It can also "independently provision performance and capacity with a software defined architecture," thanks to ioControl.

"The NexGen ioControl software uniquely eliminates the need for another layer of latency in storage tiering and the bottlenecks introduced by SSD storage controllers, making it the ideal hybrid system to evolve into an open, software defined platform at Fusion-io," said John Spiers, NexGen's co-founder and now the senior vice president and general manager for NexGen Products at Fusion-io, in a statement.

Suresh Vasudevan, CEO of rival Nimble Storage, notes that the acquisition is a validation of hybrid storage strategies. "What we're seeing among our prospect base are business models that strongly favor the adoption of hybrid storage. Customers need the performance of flash, but also need the cost reduction and ultimate practicality of disk for managing their growing volumes of archival data," he wrote in an email to InfoStor.

"In this respect, the acquisition of NexGen makes a great deal of sense for an all-flash provider like Fusion-io," stated Vasudevan.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

This article was originally published on April 26, 2013