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Fusion-io founders bring 'Woz' to Primary Data

Newcomer Primary Data appears to be a different kind of storage company than Fusion-io, but the management team looks a lot like the server-side flash pioneer that SanDisk bought out last June.

Primary Data founders CTO David Flynn and Rick White and CEO Lance Smith all came from Fusion-io. White was a Fusion-io founder, Flynn was a founder and Fusion-io CEO, and Smith was Fusion-io COO. And today, Primary Data introduced Apple founder Steve Wozniak as chief scientist, a role he also held at Fusion-io.

So what’s the old gang up to at their new company? We won’t know for sure until it starts shipping GA products – probably around mid-2015 – but the startup is demonstrating its technology at DEMO Fall 2014 this week at San Jose, California. That’s where Wozniak was introduced.

Unlike PCI flash storage vendor Fusion-io, Primary Data is a software company. Flynn says his new company is virtualizing data and separating it from physical storage. “This allows us to tap into new storage infrastructures, such as flash, server-side storage, object storage, the cloud,” he said. “We’re creating a single global space where objects can live without applications knowing the difference.

“When we were at Fusion-io, EMC pointed fingers and said, ‘The great stuff is in your servers, but data is trapped on an island on your server.’ Here we are fundamentally freeing data to reside on any storage system.”

Flynn and Smith said Primary Data’s platform consists of a data hypervisor, data director, policy engine and global dataspace. According to their descriptions, the storage hypervisor decouples data’s access channel from the control channel, is protocol-agnostic and allows data to be placed across third-party storage under the global dataspace. The data director is the central management system and a metadata server for data hypervisor clients. Customers use the policy engine to set parameters for automated data movement across storage tiers based on price, performance and protection needs, and the global dataspace gives administrators visibility into all storage resources in the enterprise.

Smith said Primary Data will support NetApp arrays, EMC Isilon, Nexenta NexentaStor and some third-party arrays out of the gate, and there is one early customer already running the software on Isilon storage. “This product is real,” he said.

According to Primary Data’s press release on Wozniak, he will work with the startup on technology vision and architecture. He will also “share the Primary Data storage” with technology innovators around the world.

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