EMC Acquires Flash Storage Maker XtremIO

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-05-10

EMC, in a not-very-well-kept "secret" for the last few weeks, announced May 10 that it is acquiring startup XtremIO, a flash-based storage maker that hasn't even issued its products for general availability yet.

As is customary for its smaller acquisitions, EMC did not reveal the transaction terms. However, industry analysts contacted by eWEEK--who have predicted this move for weeks--are pretty sure that the selling price was in the neighborhood of $425 million.

San Jose, Calif.-based XtremIO, still in beta trials with customers, is among the new generation of storage makers that has optimized solid-state NAND flash disks for the daily pounding of enterprise IT systems.

EMC was not specific about how XtremIO's secret sauce will work its way into the company's already loaded NAND flash product catalog, saying only that "the addition of XtremIO complements the range of EMC flash-based systems." 

Like most of its competitors, XtremIO has a scale-out, all-flash clustered storage system for storing primary data from several sources that include dedicated servers, databases and virtualized environments. With workloads becoming larger by the week, faster processing is a highly sought-after commodity.

Other key players in this sector include Fusion i-o, Violin Memory, SolidFire, Kaminario and Tintri. It would be no surprise to many data storage sector observers to see one or more of these companies also be acquired in the next few weeks or months.

"EMC's purchase is a great endorsement of the flash market, but, in our opinion, this transaction is about much more than flash," Jay Prassl, Vice-President of Marketing at SolidFire, told eWEEK via email.

"Flash is not new to EMC. What is new are the architectural complexities that come with an all-flash scale-out storage system.  The use of flash at scale poses a complex problem set that is not suited to traditional storage architectures, and XtremeIO may allow them to skip an architectural redesign."

EMC Has Been an Enterprise NAND Flash Leader

EMC was the first top-tier IT products and services provider to include a NAND flash option for its enterprise storage arrays back in 2008 and has been among the most active vendors in the solid-state drive (SSD) space ever since.

The company now offers flash drives for its VMAX , VMAXe, VNX, VNXe and Isilon storage arrays. It also offers flash for servers via PCIe card, which can plug in to replace a 3.5-inch hard disk drive wherever needed. These utilize EMC's VFCache optimization software, which can accelerate application performance up to another order of magnitude over 15K HDDs.

In 2011, EMC launched Project Thunder, which uses optimized NAND flash SSDs for high-frequency, low-latency read/write workloads, such as those for financial services, retail and Web service transactions.

Project Thunder is using PCIe IT delivered in VFCache to deploy the read/write speed of flash through a dedicated server networked  appliance. This appliance uses EMC FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) software to automatically move high-performance--or hot--data to enterprise flash drives to improve application and storage system performance, and automatically move less-active data to SAS/FC and NL-SAS/ SATA storage tiers to reduce costs.

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