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UIT leaps Great Wall of China

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Comment Another Chinese storage supplier is stepping over the great Wall of China into our western world.

UIT, or United Information Technology, is the second largest indigenous storage supplier in China after Huawei, and it's now coming out of China to sell into the western storage world. The company was founded by three Chinese nationals who each spent five to 10 years working for US storage suppliers before returning to China and setting up UIT in 2001. The three founders fill the CEO, CFO, and COO positions, and the chief technology officer is also a Chinese national with experience of working in the West. UIT now has around 500 employees and 18 sales offices in China, with the main development centre in Shenzhen.

In 2008, it decided to expand beyond China and started up a Santa Clara operation. A managing director for UIT Europe was recruited. He is John Doran, previously at optical archiver Plasmon. Doran visited UIT in China in August 2008 and "saw the potential in what they'd done in China and its growth".

"[The Founders] were more outwardly focused than native Chinese," he says. "These guys had the capability of becoming a global brand … It's like an early EMC in that it's just storage not a systems company." Doran was appointed to his position in 2009 and European operations started up in 2010, located in Cork, Ireland, with a logistics operation located there.

UIT signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Intel to provide cloud storage in the Chinese market. This gave it early access to Intel technology and it now uses Intel SSDs as well as CPUs and chipsets. It also worked with telecom partners in China, built data centres and kitted them out with UIT cloud storage software, Intel servers and storage, also using Intel chips.

The product range encompasses NAS storage, and iSCSI and FC SAN storage. There is no object or tape storage, with all the products using hard disk drives and/or SSD. UIT is focused on enterprise applications.

There is a separate UIT division for the small office/home office market which is branded and marketed separately as UEVO.NET. UIT sells through the channel in Europe and wants to recruit more partners, says Doran.

The company doesn't intend to build data centres in Europe any time soon. It is developing UIT Cloud Storage software, aiming to shrink-wrap it down to run on a single server for the private cloud market. We can expect this by the end of 2011.

UIT competitors include Infortrend and Promise and its product range overlaps with both. UIT's range of products compares quite closely with Infortrend's but is targeted at slightly higher end of the market than Promise. UIT reckons it has a much stronger software base and this will be a strength going into the future. It has a large SW dev centre. Promise is maybe more HW-focused.

UIT's USpace software has multi-tenant features which enables customers to build clouds. Its functionality includes its own in-house deduplication, compression, and replication. UIT nodes can transfer data between each other. Layered on top of this service layer is a set of management functions to define storage objects that can be replicated between cloud nodes.

Customers can use this feature for disaster recovery. Doran said: "We have a disk-2-disk target device which can be a client of the cloud storage and be a target for Backup Exec, etc. It sends backed up data to the cloud in its own time in deduped and compressed form." This USpace software product could be described as a cloud storage gateway.

UIT exhibited for the first time at CeBIT this year. About ten end user customers in Europe exist but are not public yet. Doran said: "We are starting out. The primary function of coming to CeBIT is to grow from the starting base. We think we have a good offering, and having the Chinese cost base helps."

This looks like a carefully-staged operation to grow a channel-based storage business in Europe. The cloud focus is bang up to date and if both the hardware and software products are reliable, robust and good value, with good support, then UIT is a name you could be hearing more of in the future. ®

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