Arik Hesseldahl

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SanDisk Joins Investment Round in Storage Startup Panzura

Flash memory chipmaker SanDisk said today that it is participating in a $25 million round of funding in the cloud storage startup Panzura.

Announced earlier this month, the Series D investment round was led by Meritech Capital Partners, with Matrix Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Opus Capital participating. Chevron Technology Ventures, the investment arm of the global oil company Chevron, is also an investor.

Panzura aims to compete with big enterprise storage companies like NetApp, and, like so many other up-and-coming storage companies these days, is relying on fast and inexpensive flash memory chips to do it.

Its approach with what it calls its Panzura CloudFS file system combines a device called a Cloud Storage Controller in the customer’s data center with the ability to tap storage capacity on public and private cloud services. The result for the user is a unified file system that makes files that are stored locally and in the cloud look like they’re all in a single place, and easy to keep track of. It’s also easy to control and manage who has access to which files.

Panzura has partnerships with numerous cloud vendors, including Amazon Web Services, Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, EMC and Joyent.

SanDisk is making the investment out of its $75 million SanDisk Ventures fund, formed last year. Panzura is its second investment. The first was WhipTail, a company that uses flash memory storage arrays to speed up performance of individual applications.

I talked with SanDisk Ventures director Alex Lam, who told me that the company is on the hunt to make more investments in flash-focused startups in the next 24 to 36 months. “We’re really interested in how flash is changing storage in the enterprise,” he said.

It fits with some of SanDisk’s larger corporate goals. Known primarily for its retail business of selling memory cards, it has a stated goal of boosting its share of revenue from solid-state drives — the flash drives that are replacing spinning hard drives in PCs and servers — to 25 percent by next year. It’s already most of the way there. In its most recent quarter, SSD sales accounted for about 20 percent of revenue. It’s expecting revenue in the range of $5.6 billion to $5.7 billion this year.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”