Startup to Make SSD-Only Storage Systems

Pliant Technology gets Series A funding and plans to roll out solid-state storage systems in Q4. 

It was bound to happen, and it turned out to be sooner rather than later. Pliant Technology officially launched itself as a privately held company Feb. 19, becoming the first enterprise vendor to focus its complete attention on producing data storage systems that use solid-state flash memory instead of conventional disk drives.
Solid-state flash drives use flash memory to store and retrieve data, enabling read/write response times that are about 30 times faster than the current highest-quality hard disk drives. Because they have no moving parts, SSDs require much less power to run and mechanical breakdowns are irrelevant.
Storage industry observers generally had been saying a company like Pliant wouldn't be coming to the fore until later in 2008.
Pliant Technology CEO Amyl Ahola said his company has received $8 million in Series A funding to drive the development of a new class of SSD storage devices for enterprise computing markets.
"We just felt the time was right for us [to launch]," Ahola said. "Nobody has yet come out and said they're doing what we intend to do: tailor SSD storage systems specifically for the enterprise market."
Pliant's new Enterprise Flash Drive devices are being engineered to deliver "three or four times" the level of performance of conventional disk drives, Ahola said, while meeting the increasing need for better energy efficiency in enterprise computing.
"You know those little flash thumb drives you see everywhere?" Ahola told eWEEK. "Well, that's exactly the same kind of flash we use. We've just developed a very unique proprietary controller that utilizes the flash in ways never known before."

Click here to read more about EMC's storage arrays that incorporate solid-state drives.

Pliant is building its systems with the same form factors as systems that use disk drives, Ahola said, so that any kind of drive-including disk drives, if necessary-can be plugged into its systems. However, he said, the solid-state drives "will be much more energy-efficient, cooler-running, longer-lasting and easier to maintain because they will have no moving parts. This will also bring the costs way down."Pliant Technology currently has about 25 employees and consultants on its payroll and expects to be rolling out products by the fourth quarter of 2008, Ahola said.The company was formed by several veteran storage experts, including Chairman Jim McCoy, co-founder of Maxtor and Quantum; President Mike Chenery, former vice president of advanced product engineering at Fujitsu; Chief Architect Doug Prins, former consultant for Fujitsu, Emulex and QLogic; Chief Technology Officer Aaron Olbrich, formerly at Fujitsu and IBM; and Ahola, formerly CEO of TeraStor and vice president of Seagate Technology and Control Data. Collectively, the Pliant executive team has more than 100 years of storage industry experience, Ahola said.Pliant may be the first company to specialize in SSD storage boxes, but it isn't the first to offer solid-state drives in storage systems. In January, EMC-the world's largest storage infrastructure company-introduced new 73GB and 146GB solid-state storage systems that will become available as an option later this quarter in the company's high-end Symmetrix DMX-4 series, which is designed for high-performance systems and applications, such as financial institutions and scientific projects.Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates, a longtime flash storage expert who puts on the Storage Visions conferences, told eWEEK, "This isn't really that new, having flash in enterprise storage systems. [Solid-state] DRAM [dynamic RAM] has been used as part of the enterprise storage hierarchy for quite a while."In fact, Xiotech has been offering DRAM-based SSDs for over a year as part of its Magnitude 3D virtual storage cluster."I see this as a reflection of flash moving into the space formerly occupied by DRAM. The price will come down quite a bit, although it's still expensive," Coughlin said.Analyst Mark Peters of Enterprise Strategy Group said that as time goes on, "We'll see more and more stuff [in data centers] that doesn't spin."The Series A funding for Pliant was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, a leading venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage IT- and energy-related investments.
Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...