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Skyera flying high with $51M in funding, backed by Dell Ventures

Sykera, preparing to make its SkyHawk cheap all-flash storage arrays generally available in a few months, has $51.6 million in funding to market that platform and fuel development on its next system.

Skyera this week said it closed a mega-B Round led by Dell Ventures with other strategic partners participating. The round was actually $45.6 million, with Skyera’s $6 million seed money included in the $51.6 million figure.

Skyera came out of stealth last August, claiming it can sell all-flash storage at less than $3 per gigabyte. That would make the systems about the same price as spinning disk arrays. SkyHawk arrays have been in limited production through its beta program.

Tony Barbagallo, Skyera’s VP of marketing, said the startup is working on the next generation that will include more enterprise features such as active-active controllers, Fibre Channel support, high availability and the ability to scale up and out.

He said the first gen systems have complete solid state and storage management software such as LUN management, thin provisioning, read-only and writeable snapshots and encryption.

“This is disruptive technology, which is why Dell was excited,” Barbagallo said.

He said Skyera clears the biggest obstacle to flash adoption.

“There is one reason – and one reason only – why people aren’t dumping hard drive storage and moving to flash. That’s the cost of flash,” he said. “A number of vendors have picked fringe areas relative to the storage market to sell flash into. VDI, Hadoop data clusters and anything high performance computing are fringe areas of the mainstream market. They need the performance only flash can provide, and they’re willing to pay thirty dollars a gig to get it.

“[Skyera CEO] Rado [Danilak] said we need a way to break that price barrier, and that’s been our strategy from the start.”

The all-flash market is dominated by well-funded startups, but that will change over the next year or so. EMC is expected to release its “Project X” array from technology acquired from XtremeIO this year and NetApp this week said it will have a freshly designed FlashRay system in 2014 to go with its EF540 all-flash array for high performance computing.

Dell is the one major vendor without a fully fleshed-out flash strategy. There is no agreement for Dell to use or sell Skyera technology, but its investment gives it a say in development.

Skyera’s funding release included a quote from Marius Haas, president of Dell’s enterprise solutions group, praising the startup for its “innovative technology that is breaking new ground in enterprise solid-state storage systems, including controllers, memory and software.”

Dell is the only named Skyera investor. Barbagallo said all of the investors are strategic and there is no traditional venture capitalist money behind the startup.

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