Pillar Readies Less Expensive Storage Arrays

Pillar Data Systems Inc. is gearing up for its launch next fall with the development of a Serial ATA-based array.

Pillar Data Systems Inc. is gearing up for its launch next fall with the development of a Serial ATA-based array that lets users connect via direct-attached storage, network-attached storage or storage area network.

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

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

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

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

Pillar has competition in the space. Other startups, such as Ario Data Networks Inc., in San Jose, Calif., also develop Serial ATA-based arrays. Major storage vendors are researching the Serial ATA 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," said Taneja, in Milford, Mass. Such products will be "three or four times cheaper" and have almost the same performance as todays storage, Taneja said.

The chip industry is also preparing for the Serial ATA storage push, with products from such established companies as Vixel Corp., of Bothell, Wash., and startups including Petalynx Corp., Taneja said. Vixel officials declined to comment; Petalynx expects its products out early in 2004, said a spokesman, in San Francisco.