Toshiba Invests in Enterprise Flash Memory Company

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Toshiba has a made a multimillion dollar investment in Violin Memory, which makes enterprise-class flash memory, the companies jointly announced on Thursday.

A Violin spokeswoman declined to comment on the specific amount Toshiba invested, but said it is "north" of US$20 million and includes other unnamed partners.

Under the deal, Toshiba will provide access to memory technology and supply chain to Violin Memory, which will provide flash-memory arrays to data centers, the companies said in a statement.

The investment and "access to Toshiba's technology and strategic supply adds the final critical component" to allow Violin Memory to provide "large quantities" of memory arrays to original equipment manufacturers, customers and partners, CEO Don Basile, said in the statement.

This is a significant investment for Violin Memory as it needs a "big friend" to get access to competitive NAND pricing and availability, said Joseph Unsworth, research director at Gartner. Violin Memory will also get a better understanding of future hurdles in the evolving NAND memory technology market through Toshiba.

"Toshiba also stands to benefit from Violin's expertise and focus on enterprise PCI Express solutions, which is an area that Toshiba is well-positioned to address given its acquisition of Fujitsu and attention to enterprise-quality NAND Flash," Unsworth said.

Toshiba and Fujitsu merged disk-drive businesses in February last year. At the time, Fujitsu said the merger would allow Toshiba to develop storage for enterprises by fusing Toshiba's flash memory technology with Fujitsu's enterprise hard-drive technology. Violin Memory provides flash-memory products connected via the PCI Express bus.

The hiring of Don Basile has helped Violin Memory progress considerably in a short time via partnerships, Unsworth said. Basile had been the CEO of Fusion-io, which is viewed as a PCI-Express flash storage pioneer. Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple, is the chief scientist at Fusion-io.

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