Violin Memory today picked up another $50 million in funding and a new strategic partner in SAP. If the market cooperates, it will be the last funding round before Violin follows its solid-state storage rival Fusion-io to an initial public offering (IPO).
Violin has pulled in $150 million in funding since former Fusion-io CEO Don Basile became Violin’s CEO in late 2009. Basile said Violin has grown from 100 employees to 320 since last June, and sales increased 500% over the last year. He puts Violin’s valuation at $800 million, which is probably more than 10 times its annual revenue.
Violin likes to bring in funding money from strategic investors as well as venture capitalists. Violin’s NAND supplier Toshiba has been an investor since the first funding round, and joined SAP as the largest investors in this latest round. Previous investor Juniper Networks and newcomer Highland Capital Partners were other investors in today’s round.
“We’re getting in the habit of this,” Basile said after closing his fourth funding round at Violin. “At the end of last year we considered the public market, but our bankers weren’t sure if the public market was open in the first quarter of 2012, so we took a mezzanine round. This gives us money to grow and operate regardless of market decisions.”
Violin sells all-flash storage arrays and caching appliances. Basile points to EMC’s VFCache PCIe caching product and its plans for a Project Thunder flash-based shared storage appliance that will compete with Violin as proof that the enterpreise flash market is poised to take off.
By Basile’s count, there are at least 30 companies selling all-flash arrays now, although he said Violin mostly competes with traditional storage vendors offering solid-state drives mixed in their hard drive arrays. Solid-state storage companies raised more than $300 million in funding in 2011, and have also been prime acquisition targets. “
Violin acquired the assets of Gear6 in 2010, and turned the technology into its vCache NFS Caching product. Basile said some of Violin’s latest funding may be used for small acquisitions to enhance its product line. “We’re an active reviewer of companies,” he said. “Expect us to acquire things that make sense to buy rather than engineer from the ground up.”