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Fusion-io founder Flynn rounds up funding for Primary Data

David Flynn, who built Fusion-io into the early market leader in PCI flash storage and left abruptly in May, this week pulled in $50 million in funding for his new software startup Primary Data.

Flynn and Fusion-io co-founder Rick White haven’t given much specifics on their new company. The fundingpress  release said they plan to bring a product to market in 2014 that will solve problems caused by a “new era of storage that spans from flash to cloud.”

I spoke with Flynn recently and he didn’t get much deeper into product specifics than that, but said “I want to be a vendor to help solve problems coming our way. We want to deal with the hard problems of managing distributed data, performance and capacity.”

He added that these management problems are leading to trends such as putting data in the cloud and on bring-your-own-devices (BYOD). “I think we’re at a tipping point,” Flynn said. “Hardware is either being sent off to the cloud or to a person’s own devices. Running a business, you don’t put in your own server infrastructure now, you send it off to somebody in the cloud.”

He said this is changing the way people buy storage, and who they buy it from. Flynn said he expects a lot more organizations to take the lead from the way companies such as Amazon and Facebook are building their architectures.

“The cloud is forcing a distributed model for storage,” Flynn said. “It’s not centralized any more, it’s distributed in an infrastructure. It’s commodity off-the-shelf industry standard platform storage, not proprietary systems from EMC. You think Amazon uses NetApp or EMC? No way, that’s crazy. And anybody who wants to compete with Amazon is not going to use NetApp or EMC. It’s not cost competitive, and you can’t scale it big enough.

“Facebook is having servers built to their specs by Chinese ODMs, and not the major system vendors anymore.”

As for BYOD, Flynn said IT may still consider it a nuisance but will growth to love it. “Didn’t PCs come about in the same way?” he said. “Administrators held on to their mainframes and they hated PCs. I think the same is true for BYOD. It’s inevitable because of productivity improvements. People are doing most of their work on their own devices — tablets, smartphones, and laptops.”

Flynn said flash is in a similar position as the cloud – it’s here to stay but brings a new set of management issues.

“I think there are still significant challenges with how to get the manageability of traditional storage with the performance of a distributed flash architecture and the capacity of distributed cloud object storage,” Flynn said. “There are still significant challenges with how to deploy and use flash and we are still in the early innings with that. But that problem is not just about flash. It’s about distributed storage architectures. That’s a big problem. Doing something centralized makes it easy. Managing a mainframe was easy compared to managing PCs on everybody’s desktop.”

How will Primary Data try to solve these problems? That’s one of the secrets that will be revealed in 2014.

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