Ellison-Backed Startup Banks on Serial ATA

Storage startup backed by Oracle chief Larry Ellison readies Serial ATA-based array.

Startup Pillar Data Systems Inc. is gearing up for its fall 2003 launch with the development of a Serial ATA-based array designed to give users the option to connect using direct-attached storage, network-attached storage, or in a storage-area network.

Storage using such drives would be cheaper and easier to administer than todays Fibre Channel- and SCSI-based products from EMC Corp., IBM, Hitachi Ltd., and Network Appliance Inc., advocates say.

Pillars technology leadership comes from Pillar president and CEO Mike Workman, the former IBM storage veteran. The vendor is backed with a $100 million investment from Lawrence Investments Inc., the venture firm of Oracle Corp. founder, chairman, and CEO Larry Ellison.

The product in mind "is one that can deliver blocks in a cost-efficient way," Workman said, in Milpitas, Calif. It will scale from several hundred gigabytes to several hundred terabytes and will likely use the Common Information Model for management, he said.

A prototype will debut next summer, with commercialization expected later in 2003, he said. The company already has 185 employees, he added.

Pillar does have competition in the space. Startups such as San Jose, Calif.s Ario Data Networks Inc. also develop ATA-based arrays. Major storage vendors are researching the Advanced Technology Architecture drives in high-end storage as well.

"That is driven by simple product management principles. I think Serial ATA just has unbelievable potential," said analyst Arun Taneja, of Enterprise Storage Group Inc. "Everybodys working on it. It has serious presences in every one of the major vendors," he said, in Milford, Mass.

Such products will be "three or four times cheaper" and will have almost the same performance as todays storage, Taneja added.

The chip industry is also bracing for the ATA storage push, with products from established firms the likes of Vixel Corp., of Bothell, Wash., and startups such as stealth-mode Petalynx Corp., he said. Vixel officials, in Bothell, Wash. declined to comment; Petalynx expects its products out early in 2004, a spokesman in San Francisco said.