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Virident ready to make flash move with MLC card, funding

PCIe flash startup Virident Systems released its first multi-level cell (MLC) solid state card today and hauled in $21 million in funding.

Virident, whose main competitor is Fusion-io, picked up an influx of cash from its previous investors Globespan Capital Partners, Sequoia Capital and Artiman Ventures. Strategic investors Intel Capital, Cisco and a storage company that did not want to be identified also pitched in.

The funding round brings Virident’s total to $57 million, and it will need all the help it can get to compete with Fusion-io and other competitors coming into the market. Fusion-io raised $237 million when it went public last year and is hoping to raise another $100 million in a secondary offering of shares. LSI and STEC also sell PCIe flash cards, and EMC’s Project Lightning server-based PCIe flash product is in beta.

Virident’s new FlashMax card comes in single-level cell (SLC) and MLC versions. Virident’s first product, tachIO, was SLC only.

The FlashMax MLC card is available in 1 TB and 1.4 TB configurations. The vendor claims the MLC card has a 19 microsecond write latency and 62 microsecond read latency, a write performance of 600 MBps and read performance of one million IOPS The more expensive SLC version comes in 300 GB, 400 GB and 800 GB configurations, with 16 microsecond write latency and 47 microsecond read latency. It writes at 1.1 GBps and reads at 1.4 million IOPS.

Virident VP of marketing Shridar Subramanian said the MLC card costs less than half of the SLC card, with the MLC starting price at around $13,000.

Subramanian said Virident is working on OEM deals with larger server partners. He said Virident competes well against Fusion-io because of its superior IOPS performance, but admits his competitor is better known and was first to market.

“Many customers bought us because of capacity and performance,” he said. “Where [Fusion-io is] ahead of us is that they’ve been in the market longer, and people know more about Fusion-io than Virident.”

Like Fusion-io, Virident is counting on EMC’s Project Lightning product having limited appeal beyond high-end EMC customers. “Our customers are mostly in the direct attached storage market where EMC does not have a big presence,” he said. “EMC Project Lightning is cache, it’s an augmentation of EMC’s current infrastructure.”

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