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Longworth and Fairhaven back VeloBit, start-up seeking to spur adoption of solid-state disk drives for storage

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 7, 2011 07:26 AM

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Two Boston-area venture capital firms are funding a new data storage start-up, VeloBit, that has roots at the University of Rhode Island. Launching today, the company says it's software will make solid-state drives less expensive to use and easier to manage as part of a corporation's overall information storage arsenal.

"There's a big wave toward using solid-state disks, but there are two issues gating adoption," says VeloBit chief executive Duncan McCallum. "The first is that solid-state drives are good for reading information, but comparatively slow for writing it. Today, the incumbents address the speed problem with a lot of expensive technology, and you end up with devices that cost $10 to $40 per gigabyte. The second problem is the complexity of managing solid-state drives along with all kinds of other storage, from tape to RAM to disk drives."

McCallum says VeloBit's software will allow companies to get better performance with inexpensive solid-state drives made by companies like Intel. He says the company's solution will compete with players like Fusion-io, a Utah storage company currently gunning for an initial public offering.

"We're coming at this problem with an all-software solution," McCallum says, "which means we think we can do a lot of our selling via the Internet, supported by telesales reps, rather than taking lots of executives to dinner in New York."

VeloBit's funding comes from Fairhaven Capital in Cambridge and Longworth Venture Partners in Waltham. McCallum says that for competitive reasons, the company isn't disclosing the amount it has raised, though he calls it "a fairly typical A round" in the single-digit millions. VeloBit has fewer than ten employees at its Boxborough offices.

Fairhaven managing director Rick Grinnell says that VeloBit caught his interest because it promises to offer "better performance without having to pay up for expensive hardware."

VeloBit's technical founder is Qing Yang, director of the High Performance Computing Lab at the University of Rhode Island. The third co-founder, Bruno Alterescu, served as a senior advisor to former EMC chief executive Michael Ruettgers.

Founded last fall, VeloBit was originally known as Phast Data Inc. McCallum's last start-up, Cilk Arts, was acquired for an undisclosed amount by Intel in 2009.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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