Spotlight – XtremIO

Introduction

On May 10, 2012, EMC announced that it acquired privately held XtremIO.  This article talks about XtremIO, the technology, the reasons behind the acquisition, and what it means for other big players.

About the Company

XtremIO is based in Herzliya, Israel (“The Start-Up Nation”). It was founded in 2009 and has raised $25 million in venture capital funding.  It provides an “All-flash” technology product built from the ground up using data reduction techniques such as inline deduplication to lower costs and save capacity.

It competes against other all-flash array makers such as Solid Fire, Texas Memory Systems (TMS), Violin Memory, Nimbus Data, Pure Storage and Whiptail.

Technology

XtremIO describes its own all-flash array as having a scale-out clustered design where additional capacity and performance can be added when needed.  It also has no single point of failure and supports real-time inline data deduplication.  All-Flash means that the XtremIO system supports high levels of I/O performance, particularly for random I/O workloads that are typical in virtualized environments, with consistently low (sub-millisecond) latency.  It also has integration to VMware through VAAI.

XtremIO won a 2012 Green Enterprise IT award from the Uptime Institute for IT Product Deployment.

Acquisition of XtremIO by EMC

Israel-based companies, for the most part, are not great at selling – what they are great at is engineering.  Companies like EMC and NetApp, have big sales channels and can pick up small Israeli start-ups for less money for their technology only.  The XtremeIO acquisition was reported to be valued at $430 million.

EMC and XtremIO also have natural ties in part because XtremIO co-founder Shuki Bruck sold his previous company Rainfinity to EMC.

Big competitors, including NetApp, HP, Dell, IBM, and Hitachi Data Systems may feel pressured to get in the game and look for such companies to acquire, reports Derrick Harris.  Indeed, NetApp was reportedly also trying to make a bid for XtremIO.

EMC Advantage

All-flash arrays are expensive, high-performance systems built for applications requiring high throughput, such as relational databases, big data analytics, large virtual desktop infrastructure or processes requiring large batch workloads like backups.

Flash arrays can deliver high performance using a relatively small amount of rack space, power and cooling.

The all-flash array of the type XtremIO offers will give EMC faster performance across both virtualized and big data environments, meaning it will also help EMC’s subsidiary VMWare, which focuses on virtualization. Combined with EMC’s server-side PCI flash product called Project Lightning, which keeps hot data in an SSD cache sitting alongside the processor, that’s one powerful hardware platform for tomorrow’s applications.

EMC needed new technology, and rather than develop it in house, it chose to buy that technology, and a strong flash storage development team. The other large storage vendors will probably make similar purchases to catch up.

Rather than combine Isilon and VNX somehow, EMC acquired XtremIO. XtremIO offers scale-out, great data management and great performance.  In fact, their subsystem was built specifically for flash, whereas flash was an afterthought for NetApp (they still leverage an HDD-optimized subsystem).

Industry Impact

It is clear Flash is going to become even more imperative for the big storage players and getting in first with XtremIO might pay off for EMC and become the deal of the year.

With pressure mounting on other big-players to catch-up with EMC, there are other similar companies like XtremIO that may be the next target for possible acquisitions. Fusion-IO, Violin Memory, Virident or Kaminario could be possible acquisition targets that other players might be looking at.

EMC Project X

At VMworld 2012, EMC showed an early version of the all-flash array based on XtremIO technology.  Project X, as the array is known for now, has been revealed to have dual Intel-based controllers in each X-brick scaling unit along with a shelf of flash drives, 2 host adaptors with 2 ports each (supporting FC and iSCSI), and Infiniband connecting the modules together in a scale-out manner.

The demo claimed 2600% dedupe rates.  The dedupe is global, inline, always on and is said to extend SSD lifespans by reducing the rate of writes to each drive.  The array delivers a predictable sub-millisecond I/O response time for every 4K block no matter what you happen to be doing: read, write, sequential, random, snaps, etc.  The formerly big number of a million IOPS can result from a very modest configuration of XtremIO modules.

The price of the new machines was not disclosed or even discussed, but a likely release date of somewhere in the first half of 2013 remains on EMC’s agenda.

References

  • The register, “EMC shows off XtremIO’s Project X box”
  • VentureBeat.com, “EMC’s buy of XtremIO for $400M could spur M&A rush in flash storage”
  • VentureBeat.com, “Flash storage mania — EMC buys XtremIO, eyes turn toward Violin”
  • Gigaom, “If EMC buys XtremIO, the flash war is on”
  • EMC, “VMware view solution guide”
  • Computer Weekly, “XtremIO: Costly mistake or genius deal for EMC?”
  • Chuck’s Blog, “When Flash Changed Storage: XtremIO Preview”

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