RealTime IT News

IBM Jolts Storage Strategy With XIV Buy

IBM's storage division started the new year off with a bang, purchasing XIV, an Israel-based company with innovative technology designed for enterprise and other high end storage.

The deal actually closed Dec. 31, but IBM made the deal public today. Financial details were not disclosed; the Reuters news service quoted Israeli media sources as saying IBM paid between $300 and $350 million for XIV, which was founded in 2002.

IBM said the purchase is aimed at addressing the demanding storage requirements of Web 2.0 applications and digital media.

"What the XIV architecture does is scale performance with capacity," David Vaughn, IBM's worldwide marketing manager for system storage, told InternetNews.com. "When you're posting things -- video, audio and other media types -- you need to make sure that as your storage capacity grows you have predictable performance."

"For example, you can't have users waiting three minutes to start a video," he said. "You have to deliver it quickly."

Vaughn said XIV's Nextra architecture is relatively low-cost, since it uses off-the-shelf hardware -- Intel-based servers, standard gigabit switches and serial ATA drives.

"Typically, this kind of hardware setup is for smaller capacities," Vaughn said. "But XIV scales to very large configurations with predictable performance, so it offers new opportunities to use low-cost components."

Vaughn said XIV has been shipping Nextra for over two years and has 40 customers in Israel and the U.S. with more than four petabytes of storage in use.

Illuminata storage analyst John Webster said XIV has been a quiet player in the market, in fact, one he hadn't heard of until IBM's announcement. But Webster said XIV's executive chairman, Moshe Yanai, is a legend in the storage industry.

In the late 1980s, Yanai led the team at EMC that developed Symmetrix (today known as the Symmetrix DMX series.) That product line proved the key to making EMC a major storage player, Webster said.

Yanai becomes an IBM Fellow through the acquisition.

Coming as it does on the heels of IBM's $5 billion purchase of Cognos, Webster said he approves of IBM's new, more aggressive stance on intellectual property ownership.

"I think there's a major strategy shift going on at IBM to buy," Webster said. "In the past, the company was more likely to partner and license IP. But I think this is a big positive for IBM to just own the technology."

IBM's Vaughn described that technology as complementary to IBM's other storage solutions.

"We're acquiring an architecture that's unique in addressing storage like no other product and a really talented group of people," Vaughn said.

Chiefly, XIV's Nextra differs from other solutions in some key ways. For example, it spreads the data over multiple physical drives.

"There are no spare drives like in other systems that take much longer to recover," Vaughn said. "So when there's a failure, you can rebuild a one-terabyte SATA drive in as fast as twenty minutes, because you're only replacing a piece of the overall storage that could be spread out over 50 different drives."

Vaughn also said administering such a setup is also far easier than with typical RAID systems.

Vaughn also noted Nextra's advanced ability to take snapshots of a volume to aid in recovery and testing environments -- as many as 20,000 snapshots of a volume, and even snapshots of snapshots.

"This gives customers a lot of flexibility," he said. "You can take a snapshot of production data and even write to the snapshot."

IBM said it has no plans for layoffs as a result of the acquisition. XIV's fifty employees now become part of IBM's office in Israel, where the company has had research and development facilities for decades.