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RamSan flash cram: IBM snaps up Texas Memory Systems

Big Blue loads up shopping trolley in Lone Star state as storage gets even flashier

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IBM is buying Texas Memory Systems, the supplier of RamSan solid state memory arrays and PCIe cards, for an undisclosed sum. The deal could set off a feeding frenzy as system-makers buy up flash companies.

TMS is privately owned, has no VC debt, and is run by founder and CEO Holly Frost. He signalled earlier this year that TMS was looking for a strong partner or even to be acquired.

The company employs around 100 staff, and has a 30-plus year history of supplying solid state application acceleration products which are capable of holding databases in solid state memory rather than disk, and speeding record access hundreds of times over disk. Latterly it has branched out into PCIe disk cards and set up a server-caching deal with NEVEX technologies.

Brian Truskowski, IBM's general manager for systems, storage and networking, said: "Solid state technology, in particular, is a critical component of our new Smarter Storage approach to the design and deployment of storage infrastructures, and part of a holistic approach that exploits flash in conjunction with disk and tape technologies to solve complex problems."

The company thinks almost 3 exabytes of flash will be shipped into enterprises in 2016. It said it "plans to invest in and support the TMS product portfolio, and will look to integrate over time TMS technologies into a variety of solutions including storage, servers, software, and PureSystems offerings".

Frost's canned quote said: "IBM understands the positive and dramatic impact that solid state technology can have on storage and server infrastructures, and once the acquisition is complete we look forward to advancing the technology even further. With the global reach of IBM, we expect to grow the engineering staff and product lines much faster than we could before."

IBM is getting an enterprise-class NAND flash product supplier with a blue chip customer base. It has opportunities to run its middleware products in RamSan hardware and to flash-enable its servers, both Intel and POWER. It has an answer to Violin Memory and Fusion-io incursion into its customer base, something to develop to hold off EMC's VFCache and Thunder, a response to Cisco's integration of LSI and Micron PCIe cache in its UCS blade servers, and good positioning against flash-accelerated ProLiants from HP.

IBM can also develop the RamSans in response to all-flash array start-ups like Pure Storage, Nimbus, Whiptail and others.

How much did it pay? No one is saying but a price of several hundred million dollars looks feasible, given TMS's trading history, customer base and technology.

This will re-ignite speculation about further acquisitions in this area, with OCZ's situation being looked at afresh. What will Dell and HP do? ®

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