As had been rumored for months, IBM on July 29 added another storage-related company to its acquisition list-its fourth in three years-with the announcement that it will buy storage optimization specialist Storwize.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
With the deal, IBM in effect answers a similar move by another Tier 1 storage hardware maker, Dell, which bought Storwize competitor Ocarina Networks on July 19.
Storwize's software appliance sits at the very gateway of data coming into an IT system, compresses files of all types by up to 80 percent and presents them to servers for deduplication and processing. This process increases storage capacity from the get-go, cutting requirements for power, cooling and storage hardware in a typical data center.
The company's RACE (Random Access Compression Engine) is "based on the industry-standard compression algorithm and uses Storwize's patented technology for real-time data compression without any performance degradation," CEO Ed Walsh said on a conference call to media and analysts.
Storwize's appliance works with all standard network-attached systems, including IBM's N series and SONAS (scale-out NAS), Walsh said, in addition to non-IBM NAS systems from EMC, Hewlett-Packard, NetApp and others.
Storwize's real-time compression is designed to complement IT shops "already using data deduplication, thin provisioning and other storage efficiency technologies," Walsh said.
"With Storwize, IBM is rewriting the story on storage," Greg Richardson, storage analyst at Technology Business Research, wrote in an advisory. "IBM's acquisition ... points to shifting demand in the storage industry and a shifting perspective for IBM.
"Customers are increasingly focusing on leveraging storage utilization tools to help improve the efficiency of the storage they already own, leading large vendors, such as IBM, to shift their portfolios toward offerings that provide this functionality. With the integration of Storwize into its storage portfolio, IBM is pulling the focus away from the capacity capabilities of its storage offerings and pointing customer to the increased utilization, flexibility and cost savings that a storage appliance can add."
Businesses now looking at storage differently
Storwize points to a shift in the way businesses are using storage, Richardson said.
"Customers are seeking value by turning to functional, integrated solutions. The rigid lines between hardware, software and services are increasingly blurring, with customers focusing more on solving their business problems than the details of that solution's delivery," Richardson wrote.
TBR recently reported that more than 50 percent of business customers had purchased an integrated IT appliance in the last 12 months, "demonstrating that customers are finding value in the functionality of their hardware investments, rather than simply performance capabilities," Richardson wrote.
Block-level compression is on the Storwize road map for later this year, Walsh said.
Storwize, based in San Jose, Calif., currently has about 100 customers across a range of industries that include energy, manufacturing, finance, insurance, telecommunications and cloud services. Current users include Mobileye, Polycom Israel, Shopzilla and Sumitomo Mitsui Construction.
IBM bought storage system maker XIV in January 2008 and deduplication specialist Diligent in April 2008. Perhaps not coincidentally, XIV, Diligent and Storwize all have research and development facilities in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Brian Truskowksi, IBM general manager for System Storage and Networking, said following the Storwize integration, IBM will have employed about 250 storage software developers in the Tel Aviv area.
IBM also acquired business intelligence for storage with NovusCG in October 2007.