Why Israel is a hotbed for flash storage innovation

EMC deal for XtremeIO highlights Israel's highly-skilled IT workforce, tech success

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As a result, it has become a nation of high-profile startups that don't last long before they're scooped up by big international players, Peters said.

Outside Israel, the flash storage market is flush with vendors for the picking, from all-flash array makers such as Nimbus, Violin Memory, Texas Memory Systems, Pure Storage, and Whiptail to PCIe flash card vendors such as Fusion-io, Intel, Micron and Virident. There are also all-flash appliance makers such as SolidFire and Tintri. Of the latter companies, Violin is the least likely to be acquired as it has its sights on going public.

Flash arrays: the next battle ground

Chien expects flash array products to be the next battle ground among vendors. The industry will consolidate quickly over the next several years, he said, as big storage vendors such as Dell, NetApp and HP rush to scoop up flash technology in much the same way they did data deduplication companies a few years ago.

That, no doubt, played into EMC's decision to snap up XtremIO.

One reason for the battle is that flash storage's ultra-high performance characteristics address specific applications that are on the leading edge of corporate IT projects -- namely cloud, virtualization and web-based services.

For example, cloud service providers want arrays that have the ability to offer multi-tenancy, or many users on a single server or array, but without hitting I/O performance. Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDIs) place a heavy I/O burden on servers when large corporate deployments boot up in the morning and shut down and refresh at night.

Although Dell declined to comment on whether it's in the hunt for flash storage vendors, a NetApp spokesperson said by e-mail that the company is "always on the lookout for opportunities to acquire technology and businesses that complement and enhance our product and solution portfolio.

"We cannot disclose details around our interest in a specific space or target," the spokesperson said. "NetApp remains interested in pursuing corporate development opportunities that help us to gain share, whether it be through acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and/or reseller agreements."

When it came to an XtremIO deal, both NetApp and Dell were at a disadvantage. EMC had been an investor in the company from the beginning, according to at least two sources.

More importantly, EMC was not looking for just another flash hardware product, Peters said. It wanted XtremIO's flash management intellectual property -- the software.

In remarks after the purchase, EMC spokesman Dave Farmer did not refer to XtremIO's product as a flash array but as "an architecture."

"EMC, whatever else you may think of them, doesn't do a lot of stupid things," Peters said. "For the next few years, the industry will be focused on storage management and not flash technology."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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