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Fusion-io files for IPO

Cashing in on the flash boom

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Privately-owned solid state storage vendor Fusion-io has filed for an initial public offering (IPO), hoping to cash in on the booming flash market.

There are no details at all at the moment, other than that a filing with the SEC has been made with a notional $150m target.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are acting as lead active joint book-runners for the proposed offering, and JP Morgan Securities and Credit Suisse Securities are acting as passive joint book-runners.

Sounds like a horse race: the Fusion-io stakes. If you fancy a flutter you will have to wait. The prospectus isn't available, the number of shares to be offered isn't available, the price range hasn't been determined ... All-in-all it looks like an awfully large amount of market finger-dipping is going to be done to assess investors' interest levels.

Why should anyone be interested in Fusion-io, the first of the SSD start-ups after STEC to come to the market? It has developed a line of PCI-e bus-connected flash storage that accelerates server storage I/O using its ioDrive technology. There have been a number of glamorous million IOPS demonstrations with IBM, HP and others; the most recent a 1.4 million IOPS demo with SuperMicro.

Another big win on the glamour front was the recruiting of The Woz, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, as its chief scientist. Fusion-io has scored Dell as an OEM and Michael Dell is an investor in the company – racking up another glamour point. Other OEMs include both HP and IBM.

The ioDrive technology uses both single level cell and multi-level cell flash. Samsung, the world number one flash fabrication owner and NAND chip supplier has invested in Fusion-io. The founders are still with the company. In fact, co-founder David Flynn is the current CEO after a flirtation with an outside CEO – Don Basile, who was forced out and now runs competitor Violin Memory.

Partners such as DataCore provide front-end software for a server fitted with ioDrives that turn it into a networked and sharable flash storage resource.

Customers such as Facebook lend additional credibility.

Competitors are entering the PCIe flash market, such as Seagate – which has a chip and controller co-operation deal with Samsung – and LSI. You could crudely sum up Fusion's situation as solid technology, solid marketing, three blue-chip OEMS, solid investors, glamour customers, and looming solid competition piling in.

Still interested? You can get a prospectus when it is written from the two lead bookies above; send mail to prospectus-ny@ny.email.gs.com or prospectus@morganstanley.com. ®

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