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EMC in Isilon 'takeover talks'

Let's scale out together

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EMC is in exclusive talks to buy Isilon, according to the New York Post.

The NY Post is not the usual place to go for financial scoops, but the report sounds sensible.

Such a purchase would fill a hole in EMC's product line-up, the EMC that sponsors the annual IDC reports about the gazillions of bytes of information being added to the digital universe every year, most of it unstructured.

The best way of dealing with the billions of files coming a business' way is arguably to have a clustered filer that can grow seamlessly by adding nodes which all operate inside a single global name space.

Step forward Isilon and its CEO Sujal Patel, which now has a good business riding the Intel processor curve, taking advantage of increasing disk capacity and using solid state storage to hold file metadata. The company has also added iSCSI for a layer of block storage.

It has competitors like Panasas, but EMC's rival have been on a buying spree in this storage market segment. HP has bought PolyServe and Ibrix with the latter's technology appearing in its X9000 product. Dell bought the clustered filer technology of Exanet, after it went bust.

IBM has its SONAS product and Hitachi Data Systems has a relationship with BlueArc. Even LSI got in on the act, buying ONStor. NetApp, EMC's arch-rival, bought Spinnaker for its clustering technology seven years ago and ONTAP 8 is the delivery vehicle for integrating that technology into NetApp's mainstream offering. Even struggling Overland Storage bought MaxiScale's clustering IP for its Snap Servers last week.

And EMC? Er… er … nada, zip, zilch in the scale-out clustered filer department. It does have its scalable Atmos system ,but this is for cloud deployments and not a clustered filer. Isilon has had a lot of success selling into rich media, file-based applications such as movie post-production processing and Atmos has no presence in that market. Atmos morphed out of EMC's HUlk and Maui projects in September 2008 and is more of a scalable object store.

That makes an Isilon buy a logical fit into EMC's product line. Isilon shares were trading at $27.72 on Friday giving the company a market capitalisation of $1.8bn. EMC is more than 20 times larger, with a market capitalisation of $43.31bn. There doesn't appear to be anyone else in the storage biz that would want to buy Isilon so, if EMC really wants it and Isilon's board and shareholders are receptive to a sufficiency of greenbacks then it could be a done deal by the end of the week. That's if the NY Post's source close to the situation is correct. ®

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