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Seagate invests in Virident's PCIe flash

Hard-drive giant Seagate is carrying out its flash strategy one piece at a time. This week it added PCIe flash to its portfolio by making a $40 million investment and signing a reseller deal with Virident Systems.

Seagate will sell Virident’s Flash Max II PCIe solid-state cards and will jointly develop new products with Virident. Seagate is Virident’s fourth strategic investor, joining Intel, Cisco and an unidentified large storage vendor that industry sources say is EMC.

Seagate’s flash strategy is to partner rather than develop products on its own. It sells Pulsar solid-state drives (SSDs) through a co-development deal with Samsung and it has invested in flash controller startup DensBits.

“We’ll have a stack of solid state solutions that span from the client all the way through to the flash server high-application data demands of the data center,” Seagate chief sales and marketing officers Albert “Rocky” Pimental said Monday on Seagate’s earnings call with analysts.

Virident launched its Flash Max II single-level cell and multi-level cell cards in August 2012, ranging in capacities from 550 GB to 2.2 TB. Virident’s main competitor is PCIe flash leader Fusion-io.

In a report on the Seagate-Virident deal, Objective Analysis semiconductor analyst Jim Handy wrote that he expects more than two million PCIe SSDs to ship by 2016. He expects PCIe SSDs to outsell SAS-based SSDs.

Seagate has been criticized for moving slowly in the SSD market, but Handy attributes that to the vendor’s exhaustive testing of flash products before releasing them. “With this move Seagate has moved from being a non-participant in the PCIe SSD space to an enviable position with one of the highest-performing products available,” Handy wrote.

Virident now has $116 million in funding from venture capitalists and strategic investors. It closed a $26 million round in September when Mike Gustafson replaced founder Kumar Ganapathy as CEO.

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