Is Pillar Too Late to the Storage Party?

Pillar Data debuted two new storage array today that promise to provide 80 percent disk utilization and tighter integration within Oracle database environments.

The Axiom 600 and Axiom 600MC, which stands for mission critical, are the third and fourth products from the seven-year-old startup. The company released its flagship product, the Axiom 500, in 2006.

A lower-end array, the Axiom 300, debuted in 2007. Pillar also pushed out a software management tool, AxiomOne, in 2006.

The storage technology lets enterprises pool NAS and SAN in one location using an application-aware strategy. IT designates where specific application storage should be done on the disk depending on the need for quick retrieval. Pillar is funded to the tune of $100 million by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s private investment group.

While storage appears to be a recession-proof technology segment, given vendor earnings earlier this year, new product traction isn’t a given, said one analyst.

“This [application-aware technology] resonated back in 2004 and 2005 when there were few storage alternatives,” Charles King, principal analyst Pund-IT, told “But the industry has moved well ahead at this point,” King said.

In the two years since Pillar’s first storage system was released, primary market competitors NetApp and EMC have been steadily going head-to-head in pushing out tools in a fight over the NAS market.

According to research firm IDC EMC’s 38.1 percent revenue share of the NAS market places it solidly ahead of NetApp’s 27.2 percent.

Pillar has about 300 customers at this point, a market base that King called “pretty thin.”

According to Bob Maness, Pillar’s vice president of marketing, the Axiom 600 is ideal for virtual infrastructure projects, IT data center consolidation projects and Oracle deployments.

The server features new application profiles for VMware, multiple Oracle applications, VTL deployments, Microsoft Exchange, and SQL. These profiles are pre-configured and allow IT to customize and optimize for specific applications by using the appropriate profiles from a pull down menu in the management console.

Yet such customization could be a pain point for already overworked storage admins, noted King.

“It requires them to put a propeller beanie hat on and figure out what should go where when other vendors are trying to ease the management aspect,” King added.

Yet Pillar believes such capabilities are a winning element.

Noting it can assign or reassign priorities to applications that IT deems most important to improve overall storage performance, Maness said it can support 50 percent more virtual machines than competitive products.

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