Menlo, Benioff And More Pour $35M Into Flash Virtualization Startup PernixData

PernixData, a year-old company that has built a platform for flash virtualization, which helps speed up the computing performance of machines, has raised another $35 million in funding. It’s another big funding round for the world of enterprise storage, which has seen a lot of disruption in the move towards cloud services and virtualization.

The Series C round was led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from some key individual investors, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Silver Lake co-founder Jim Davidson, and Seagate Technology CEO Steve Luczo. Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, Lightspeed Ventures, Lane Bess, Mark Leslie and Microsoft chairman John Thompson — all previous investors in PernixData — also contributed. The total investment raised by PernixData is now up to $62 million.

Poojan Kumar, CEO and co-founder of PernixData, tells me that the funding will be used for more of the same at the company — that is, building out its platform and adding support for more hypervisors (VMWare’s vSphere is currently the only one supported). Recently, the company added support for server RAM (in addition to flash) and file-based storage (in addition to block), he says.

In its full fiscal year (you can read more about the company and its launch here), the company says its revenues grew 42 percent quarter-over-quarter, setting a record among enterprise infrastructure software companies. FVP software is estimated to be accelerating approximately 120,000 virtual workloads worldwide. PernixData itself sold FVP software to approximately 200 companies in over 20 countries, with customers including both small businesses and large enterprises such as Tata Steel, Bank of the West, Sega and Toyota.

In an emailed interview, Kumar says that the company will be investing in “more of the same.”

“We plan to use the funding [to add] resources in all aspects of the business to build groundbreaking products, grow existing markets and penetrate new ones.” He says there will also be a continued focus on reseller recruitment, training, and partner incentive programs “as a strategic means of scaling our business globally.”

Asked about who the company’s biggest competition is today, Kumar replies that it’s less about a company and more about enterprise habits when it comes to assessing and investing in IT — a familiar tune for those who are involved in new enterprise technology, even these days.

“The biggest competition is inertia,” he says. “Customers are used to adding more hardware in their storage devices to get more performance.  This is expensive and inefficient, but that is the traditional method of solving storage bottlenecks. Plus that is the model being pushed by the storage vendors as it drives the sale of arrays. In this respect, the biggest challenge for PernixData is awareness. When end users realize there is an easy, non-disruptive way to decouple storage performance from capacity, they are typically sold on the concept.”

Inertia, however, is not deterring business or investment in PernixData.

“We are witnessing a fundamental shift in storage design where performance is decoupled from capacity using PernixData FVP software and server side flash,” said Luczo in a statement. “This brings unparalleled performance and scalability to virtualized applications, and makes flash technology a strategic component of tomorrow’s software defined data center.”

“It is really exciting to see this next phase of acceleration as more companies of all sizes embrace the unique technology of PernixData to improve overall application performance in their software defined data centers,” Thompson said in a statement.

Although Benioff is investing in this round, and Salesforce has been making some interesting moves to offer enterprises ever-more cloud-based services, Kumar says not to read too much into this as a strategic investment at this point.

“PernixData is lucky to have investors that believe in the vision of decoupled storage and the value that flash virtualization platform software brings to strategic initiatives, like virtual desktops and the cloud. In addition, these individuals have intimate experience creating and growing some of the largest software companies in the world,” he says. “[But] since all of these investments are personal, there is no direct tie to the companies the investors are affiliated with and it would be improper to comment on any potential partnerships with those companies.”

Mark Siegel, MD at Menlo Ventures, is joining the PernixData board in an advisory role, and it’s also poached Mike Arterbury from Dell as VP of business development.