EMC buys flash-array start-up XtremIO

XtremIO joins a long list of flash products offered by EMC

Advancing its roadmap toward increased use of flash storage, EMC today announced that it has purchased start-up all-flash array maker XtremIO.

EMC said XtremIO's scalable NAND flash-based array will "compliment a range of EMC flash-based systems and software."

"XtremIO brings to EMC amazing technology with a fantastic team that's captured praise from early-view customers and many of the industry's foremost thinkers," Pat Gelsinger, EMC's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "We fully expect XtremIO technology, once introduced to market, to have a tremendous impact on our customers' ability to leverage the unique advantages of all-Flash storage across many of their most demanding applications."

The deal, valued at $430 million, was an all-cash transaction. A report last month had estimated the deal would be worth between $400 million and $450 million.

EMC has an aggressive flash memory roadmap that started several years ago with solid-state drives (SSDs) being offered in its arrays. More recently, it has been selling in-server PCIe flash cards and has already announced plans for an all-flash array this quarter.

That array, dubbed "Project Thunder," will contain 15TB or more of PCIe-based NAND flash storage. The appliances will be connected to server farms through the InfiniBand network protocol. The appliances will hold five, 10 or 15 PCIe cards, according to EMC.

"I don't think anyone's going to argue that flash has altered the storage landscape," said EMC spokesman Dave Farmer. "Well before any of our peers, we identified the impact it would have in the industry and we jumped in with both feet."

EMC already offers all-flash versions of its high-end VMAX array and midrange VNX array. Farmer, who described XtremIO's product as "an architecture," declined to offer details about how the XtremIO product would be used in ways not already covered by EMC's own products.

Herzliya, Israel-based XtremIO, which since its founding in 2009 has raised $25 million in venture capitalist funding, competes against other all-flash array makers such as Texas Memory Systems (TMS), Violin Memory, Nimbus Data, Pure Storage and Whiptail. Whiptail announced its first modularly-scalable all-flash array earlier this week.

XtremIO describes its own all-flash array as having a scale-out clustered design where additional capacity and performance can be added when needed. It also has no single point of failure.

Farmer would not say why EMC chose to purchase XtremIO over other U.S.-based flash array companies.

All-flash arrays are expensive, high-performance systems built for applications requiring high throughput, such as relational databases, big data analytics, large virtual desktop infrastructures or processes requiring large batch workloads, such as backups.

The flash array market remains a relatively small one compared with the multibillion-dollar hard-disk-array market, said Henry Baltazar, an analyst with 451 Research Group.

Flash arrays can deliver high performance using a relatively small amount of rackspace, power and cooling, "which should also be a factor when considering [total cost of ownership]," Baltazar said.

Analysts do not believe flash arrays will replace hard disk arrays anytime soon, if ever.

"At this point, flash arrays are too expensive for many use cases such as NAS and unstructured data storage," Baltazar said. Even so, "the need for high performance storage for virtualization and databases is increasing rapidly, which will make flash arrays more popular going forward."

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.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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