Xiotech Buys Part Of Seagate, Including A Comedian And Maybe Bricks


Xiotech on Tuesday said it has acquired Seagate Technology's Advanced Storage Architecture (ASA) group, which includes certain assets, about 100 people, a license to related technology, and one of the IT industry's true comedians.

Xiotech wouldn't say much beyond that, except that the financial terms were undisclosed. Mike Hoch, vice president of marketing for Xiotech, refused to discuss what technology Xiotech was getting with Seagate ASA, except that over time it will have a good fit with Xiotech's technology and that it no longer was a core technology for Seagate.

The press release that went with the news also mentioned two key people of ASA. Ellen Lary, a consultant to the Seagate ASA group, will serve as vice president and general manager of the group under Xiotech. And Steve Sicola, general manager of the Seagate ASA group, will now become CTO of Xiotech.

Now for what wasn't said:

WARNING: WILD CONJECTURE AND INNUENDO ALERT

Xiotech wouldn't talk technology. But Seagate ASA has been working on a technology called "storage bricks" for several years under the direction of Sicola. Storage bricks can be thought of as a group of hard drives packed with a controller and cache that serve the same purpose as hard drives but with their own intelligence. Storage bricks would allow data portability and flexible management and maintenance.

Sources close to the channel expected Seagate to have officially unveiled them some time ago, but so far nothing. Not even acknowledgement that such a project exists.

So why would Xiotech want storage bricks? Perhaps for the same reason other storage vendors who in the past depended on tape are looking at removable hard drive technology.

Think Spectra Logic's RXT (RAID eXchangeable TetraPack) technology, which allows groups of hard drives to be loaded and read inside a tape library like they were tapes. Or Iomega or Tandberg or Quantum or Imation, all of which now offer disk cartridges cleverly packaged so that tape-loving users can go on pretending they are inserting, removing, and cataloging tapes even though there isn't an inch of magnetically-coded ribbon inside them.

The other thing Xiotech gets is one of the smartest people on the planet. Sicola, inventor extraordinaire with multiple patents under his name, practically started HP's StorageWorks storage business. Of course, that was back before HP acquired Compaq, back before Compaq acquired DEC, where StorageWorks was actually born.

At least Xiotech won't be as boring a company as it was before. Besides being smart, he is also a presenter with the heart of a stand-up comedian, peppering his presentations with one of the funniest one-liners I have ever heard. He's the guy that said users should be concerned about four key storage words: cost, reliability, availability, and performance. CRAP. "CRAP is good," he has said.

And this part is also funny: Seagate and Xiotech have had a funny financial relationship over the years. In 1999, Seagate acquired Xiotech for $360 million. In 2002, it then sold 80 percent of Xiotech to an investor group.