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NexGen Storage to market ioControl array following SanDisk spinout

NexGen Storage said it's revamped the hybrid storage array and will release product details later this month after getting spun out from SanDisk.

SanDisk Corp. Thursday did what industry insiders predicted, spinning out the ioControl line of hybrid storage arrays it picked up by acquiring PCIe card leader Fusion-io last year.

The ioControl platform will be marketed by a familiar name: a reconstituted NexGen Storage Inc., which developed the array technology before being acquired in 2013 by Fusion-io.

Original NexGen founders John Spiers and Kelly Long will spearhead the new company, reprising their roles as CEO and CTO, respectively. Pat Benner returns as CFO. Randy Hollis, who ran software development for SanDisk's ioControl group, is NexGen senior vice president of engineering and operations. Chris McCall returns as NexGen's senior vice president of marketing. All five executives joined SanDisk after its $1.1 billion acquisition of Fusion-io.

NexGen said the ioControl portfolio has been reconfigured, but details won't be publicly revealed until a scheduled product launch on Jan. 21. The enhanced arrays will ship with beefed-up caching software that automatically identifies applications that need flash storage.

SanDisk has said ioControl doesn't mesh with its long-range strategy of accelerating storage at the application layer. The ioControl boxes run quality-of-service software and Fusion-io PCIe flash cards to accelerate hard disk drive storage. McCall said NexGen will continue to buy Fusion-io PCIe cards and related technologies from SanDisk.

"We sell a hybrid system because our primary R&D focus is to integrate multiple kinds of storage media. That's not necessarily SanDisk's core strategic area of focus. Running as a standalone companies allows us to sharpen our strategic focus, as opposed to being one product among many," McCall said.

"We can really commit dedicated resources to developing our technology vision, focusing on our optimal go-to market strategy. We are a 100% channel-driven company and so we can focus on those kinds of developments."

Getting spun out of SanDisk marks a broader industry trend underscored last year by Symantec Corp.'s decision to break its business lines into security and storage.

Privately held NexGen Storage said it has secured undisclosed equity funding and will announce the investors later this year.

McCall said the ioControl product posted secured "multiple hundreds" of new customers in the fourth quarter of 2014.

NexGen Storage finds itself in a highly competitive and crowded flash array market, said Greg Schulz, a senior advisory analyst with StorageIO.

"They had some success prior to being acquired by leveraging their hybrid capabilities, versus being a flash-only solution," Schulz said. "However, NexGen now needs to do some catching up to do from a technology and marketing perspective to make sure it is competitive with other legacy and new hybrid vendors, as well as all-flash storage system vendors."

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