Maker of super-fast memory modules Fusion-io files for IPO

Fusion-io, a maker of super-fast flash memory modules, announced today that it has filed for an initial public offering. The company’s memory modules are becoming more and more important to the creation of faster and more power-efficient servers in corporate data centers.

Salt Lake City, Calif.-based Fusion-io (a DEMO veteran) has had great success selling its devices into financial institutions that can benefit from its five-fold increase in memory data transfer. The company’s partners, such as IBM, are carrying Fusion-io into a wider variety of data centers, thanks to the benefit that Fusion-io brings in energy efficient computing. With the better memory module designs from Fusion-io, companies can reduce power consumption, cut cooling expenses, and eliminate expensive storage solutions. At the same time, they can vastly improve performance.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are handling the IPO for Fusion-io. The price range for the shares hasn’t been set yet. The company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission says it pioneered a next-generation storage memory platform for decentralizing data in a data center. It relocates critical data from centralized storage (where it’s stored in banks of hard drives) to the server where it is processed in the form of flash memory modules within the server itself.

To date, Fusion-io has shipped more than 20 petabytes of enterprise-class memory to more than 1,000 customers. That’s a lot of storage. The company’s success is driven by the exponential increase in data storage required in the age of the internet and strict compliance regulations necessitating the storage of corporate records. Roughly $52 billion will be spent on high-performance storage and networking and memory-rich servers in 2011, according to market researcher IDC.

The SEC filing shows that Fusion-io is losing money. It generated $58.2 million in revenue for the six months ended Dec. 31, up from $11.9 million a year earlier. The net loss was $8.2 million, down from a loss of $13.1 million a year earlier. The company could definitely use cash, as it has just $3.5 million on hand. Most of its assets are in $48.4 million in inventories and $39.7 million in working capital. The company has 348 employees. Among the risk factors listed is that “ineffective management of our inventory levels could adversely affect our operating results.”

Fusion-io recently said that IBM will now offer eight versions of input-output adapters based on Fusion-io’s ioMemory technology across a dozen different IBM servers. That’s a big expansion and a bigger endorsement by Big Blue for Fusion-io. The new adapters became available on March 1. Supermicro is also using Fusion-io in a new line of server and storage devices.

The Fusion-io flash memory speeds the process of transferring data from temporary memory to permanent memory by placing data closer to the processor that needs it the most. A single ioMemory module has the capacity of 100 traditional dynamic random access memory (DRAM) memory modules and the performance of 1,000 hard disk drives. The Fusion-io products are memory modules that can be added into servers housed in racks within a big data center.

Fusion-io says its performance increases range from three times to 10 times, depending on the application. Fusion-io was founded in 2006 and has more than 370 employees. The company was started by David Flynn and Rick White. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak serves as its chief scientist. Rivals include LSI and other memory chip makers. Fusion-io’s customers include Zappos, MySpace, Wine.com, Answers.com, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.

The company has raised $115.5 million in three rounds. Investors include Meritech Capital Partners, Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Triangle Peak Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Dell Ventures, and Sumitomo Ventures. Dell and HP are also partners. Competitors include Samsung, Seagate, STEC, Toshiba, Western Digital, Intel, LSI, Huawei Technologies and Micron Technology — and that’s just in chips. In  enterprise storage, rivals include EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, and NetApp.

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