In a deal that makes the lottery jackpot look like mere pocket change, SanDisk has announced its intent to buy Fusion-io for $1.1 billion in pure cash.
Fusion-io was founded in 2006, and in 2007 with the launch of the ioDrive it became one of the first companies to lead the charge into enterprise-grade PCI Express based solid-state drives. As the nascent market for NAND-based drives grew, Fusion-io grew with it, although perhaps its biggest breakthrough was securing the even larger emerging giant called Facebook as its primary customer. It sure didn’t hurt that Steve Wozniak was and still is the Chief Scientist for Fusion-io, either.
The announcement may be a surprise, but the reasons behind it are actually not surprising at all. The solid-state drive industry has been shrinking and consolidating for the last several years at an increasing pace. Companies are either folding or being snatched up outright by those that have direct access to NAND, either by producing NAND flash in-house or have joint-control NAND foundry partnerships. NAND storage companies without such ready access to NAND had to simply buy it off the open market, or in other words directly from its competitors at higher cost. Fusion-io’s early entry into the nascent market allowed it to withstand such pricing pressures for longer than most, but no solid-state company without its own foundry access is immune.
This deal will secure Fusion-io direct access to SanDisk’s NAND supply via SanDisk’s joint-fab partnership with Toshiba, and in return SanDisk will be able to greatly expand its solid-state drive presence in the enterprise and server markets utilizing Fusion-io’s brand and expertise. The deal is reportedly already done and is simply waiting on the regulatory approval process to complete, and is expected to be finalized the third quarter of this year.