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EMC chugs down flash freshman XtremIO for $430m

We're taking you to Vegas, baby....

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Israeli business newspaper Globes is reporting EMC has bought Israeli-headquarted NAND array startup XtremIO for $430m, giving EMC boss Joe Tucci a nice flashy toy to brandish at EMC World in Las Vegas later this month.

That's a heck of a payout for investors who have put just $25m into the startup which has not yet shipped a finished product; the technology demonstrations must have been amazing. It possibly helped that Robin Ren, XtremIO's chief technology officer, is an ex-EMC director of software engineering.

The company says it is developing scale-out all-flash arrays with novel ways of organising deduplication and other capacity-saving measures to make its arrays perform at maximum capacity as well as making them highly cost-efficient for storing primary data used by connected servers.

EMC has VFCache PCIe connected flash cards for servers and a coming Thunder all-flash array – made of VFCache cards – to sit between servers and EMC's VMAX and VNX arrays with its FAST tiering software used to automatically move data up and down this stack of storage tiers. Exactly how the XtremIO technology will relate to Thunder is not publically known. It could initially be used to provide a separate networked flash array for use cases where tiering to a back-end drive array is not specifically needed, and so compete with other all-flash arrays from, for example, Kaminario, NexGen, Nimbus Data, TMS, Violin Memory, and WhipTail, plus upcoming ones from Pure Storage, Solidfire and others.

After that we would expect some kind of coming together of the Thunder and Xtremio technologies so that EMC could sell XtremIO effectively into its VMAX and VNX customer bases. Another aspect of the XtremIO technology is a big data analytics one and there's bound to be some use of XtremIO in that area by EMC. EMC will also punt into cloud service providers as a way of responding at lightning speed to hundreds of incoming requests a second.

This acquisition will, we think, herald the start of a round of flash array startup buys by mainstream storage and server system vendors, such as Cisco, Dell, HDS, HP, IBM, and NetApp. The provision of all-flash arrays in front of or combined with storage arrays will limit the market for SAN and NAS array accelerator products like those from Alacritech, Avere and Cache IQ.

We can expect these vendors to rapidly work out flash array market segmentation strategies. On the one hand, a rising EMC tide lifts all flash array boats, and on the other, rivals say their products are different to XtremIO's and need to rise on their own merits too.

EMC has demonstrated its ability to pounce on an interesting technology startup with speed and monetary conviction. It already has offices in Israel and XtremIO execs can look forward to many interesting meetings with execs across other EMC business units; that is if they can take their eyes off the oncoming river of cash. ®

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