On December 31, 2007, IBM announced closing the acquisition of Israel based storage systems vendor XIV for an undisclosed amount, but speculated to
be in the $300-350MM range. This deal is
interesting in terms of technology, as well as politics. Regarding politics, XIV’s Chairman Moshe
Yanai was a pioneer at EMC, personally designing the Symmetrix system that
continues to be a high-end storage market leader as today’s DMX systems. IBM’s investment in his technology and his
company is a validation of the individual who EMC cast aside, as well as the
product approach that XIV is taking in the storage market.

The technology itself is an example of a grid-like or
clustered storage system that uses industry standard x86 servers with dense
drives that are clustered together to form a cohesive storage system. With such an architecture, costs are kept low
as there are no custom chipsets or wiring, scalability is easier as the system
automatically rebalances across the new nodes, and scaling up improves
aggregate performance as the addition of nodes adds processing power, cache and
I/O throughput. For many workloads, this
type of storage system appears to be the future of storage, offering lower
acquisition cost, increased flexibility of data management, massive scalability
and much easier management. IBM is not
the first vendor to move towards such an architecture, with companies like
Isilon, Compellent, Lefthand Networks, 3PAR, EqualLogic (recently acquired by
Dell) and Network Appliance offering elements of this type of architecture
today. Google, Amazon, Cleversafe and Iron Mountain
have similar offerings that they intend to use for software-as-a-service
offerings. Even the leader in traditional
storage systems appears to be moving in this direction with their Maui/Hulk
announcements and their purchase of backup service provider Berkley
Data Systems

IBM has lots of moving parts in their current storage
portfolio, with LSI and Network Appliance acting as key partners in bringing
current products to market. While there
is definitely tremendous potential from moving to a clustered architecture,
execution will be critical. Most
important will be enabling file access to XIV technology, which does not
support CIFS, NFS or clustered/distributed file system capabilities natively, access
methods that are critical to Web 2.0 and rich media storage applications. Also, creating a clear strategy of where XIV
based technology will make sense for customers compared to existing offerings,
and building a robust ecosystem of application partners to integrate with this
technology will be critical for success. So far, IBM has shown the strength of the XIV technology, what they need
to do next is present a clear vision of how it will fit with their future

By Andrew Reichman

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