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Fusion-io secretly parts with CEO

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Updated Fusion-io has signed a great deal for HP to OEM its flash memory card acceleration technology. And it has lost Don Basile, its CEO, in a bizarre conjunction of events.

Fusion-io was founded three years ago and has developed the ioDrive, a PCI-e-connected NAND flash memory card that acts as a large cache between a server's main memory and disk. It was used in IBM's Project Quicksilver with a large number of ioDrives connected to a SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and attained a million IOs per second.

HP has decided to use the technology as an accelerator for its BladeSystem. Fusion-io had just signed the OEM deal with HP and then found HP wanted a quote in the release from David Bradford, the new CEO. He has been quietly promoted from Fusion-io's General Counsel to CEO within the last four weeks. Bradford had previously worked at Novell, reporting to Eric Schmidt when he was Novell's CEO, and was ironically brought into Fusion-io in 2008 by the then-CEO Don Basile, the man he has now replaced.

It turns out, according to Fuson-io's chef marketing officer Rick White, that it was David Bradford who met Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at a conference and brought him into the company and persuaded him to become its chief scientist. According to an article in Fortune magazine, the credit for this was due to Don Basile. White said that it made Basile uncomfortable but the thing was written: "and what could you do?"

Basile is credited with performing a great role at Fusion-io, taking it on in March 2008, after an A round of funding, and forward from that to the B funding round stage with the promise of great growth. Bradford says the board recognised that it needed someone "with industry grey hairs" to take the company ahead for the next two or three years, a possible IPO, and on for the long term. Because of his wide industry network and experience, he was chosen. White said the change had been planned for a while. A disagreement over growth projections was mentioned by another source at the company.

The formal announcement of the CEO change was scheduled for the B funding round announcement in about six weeks time. For now, the company isn't willing to specify what Basile's new responsibilities, if any, will be. He is a major shareholder in the company, but apart from some kind of consulting role, it looks as if he will have no involvement at all.

White said: "It's not exciting. This isn't uncommon in start-ups. It happens all the time, often around B round time. There's no big secret, nothing exciting. It's pretty boring."

The B round is said to be looking good. White said the old investors will be pleased and the new ones are confident that the company has high growth ahead of it. Bradford said he thought every corporation in the country could use Fusion-io technology. The opportunity is that horizontal: "Were building for the long term. I'm personally very excited by the opportunity. It's going to be a blast."

We might think that slipping the name of a new CEO into a major press release one month after the old one has been publicly but wrongly credited with persuading Steve Wozniak to be chief scientist, a major publicity coup, and hoping that no-one would notice is a very strange thing to do.

Fusion-io has persuaded Basile to resign or forced him out on the cusp of the company going into a increased growth phase, crossing its fingers and persuading itself that nobody would notice and that even if they did, it's just not that exciting. Sorry guys, it's not boring, not even remotely boring. It's a total surprise, both that it happened and in the way it has happened. It looks as if Basile has simply been set aside and rejected. If that is so, then surely he deserves better treatment. ®

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