The funding drive was led by new investor TransLink Capital, followed by several revealing investors including RAID ASIC/HBA designer LSI, NAND/DRAM product vendor A-Data, and Tier-1 storage OEMs, one of which is said to be Seagate.
“We have made rapid progress into the marketplace since our launch just six months ago, and we are now shipping silicon to top-tier SSD OEM customers,” said Alex Naqvi, president and CEO of SandForce. “This new funding will help us through our expansion phase as well as accelerate our new products development that will help us maintain our market leadership.”
SandForce’s expansion phase was recently evident in a pact signed with OCZ Technology to provide NAND controllers (PDF) for an upcoming generation of SSDs. The agreement to provide SF-1200 and SF-1500 ASICs for enthusiast-level devices is a push outside SandForce’s traditional enterprise space.
But there is evidence that the expansion phase is more than just a suite of new agreements. As SandForce is primarily invested in developing controller and firmware designs, $21 million is quite a bit more than is necessary for a firm whose workforce is the prime capital cost.
By that standard, one might expect a hiring boom commensurate with the funding boom, but that does not seem to bear out. The company is estimated to have about 100 workers, making their twelve open positions a growth of about 10%–certainly nothing outrageous.
So we can only conclude that the money is headed towards global expansion and the development of new IP. From this perspective, the narrative begins to play out.
A Senior Firmware Engineer posting calls for assistance in the release of a commercial product and the tape-out of a second-gen part in the first 90 days. The former would hit a January-March launch window, while the latter would follow in late 2010 or early 2011, depending on foundry successes.
Other job postings include a Senior Product Marketing Manager and a pair of Field Application Engineers to provide technical support for market products.
In all, it appears as though SandForce is making a concerted effort to run up against big incumbents like Indilinx, Intel and Fusion-io, all companies that have put serious time and money into developing flash technology. SandForce’s portfolio of intellectual property easily makes them a viable competitor, and the fresh infusion of hard cash will give them the reach necessary to execute.