EMC Acquires XtremIO, Becomes First Top-tier Vendor With All-Flash Array

EMC on Thursday announced the acquisition of XtremIO, an Israeli developer of all-Flash storage arrays, making it the first of the top-branded storage vendors to dive head-first into a storage technology that could potentially have a negative impact on traditional storage array sales.

The move confirms reports from last month that EMC was in talks to acquire XtremIO, which was founded in 2009 as a developer of storage arrays based on Flash memory technology in which no hard drives were installed.

The acquisition puts EMC squarely in a market that until now has been dominated by such startups as Violin Memory, Nimbus Data Systems, and Pure Storage.

[Related: EMC Rolls Out PCIe Flash-Based Storage Technology ]

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Unlike many of the Flash-based storage technologies introduced recently to the market, the XtremIO products are not centered on caching data to improve performance but are instead focused on acting as primary storage for applications requiring high performance, including database, ERP or highly-virtualized environments.

The XtremIO acquisition was a great move for EMC, said Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and EMC partner.

Shepard, whose company was planning to demonstrate its own converged infrastructure solution in combination with an all-Flash array from XtremIO at the EMC World conference later this month, told CRN he was very impressed with the XtremIO technology and was looking forward to selling it even before EMC said it would acquire the company.

"It is a much better strategy for EMC to acquire a company like XtremIO instead of building Flash array technology from scratch," he said. "The XtremIO array has built-in, in-line dedupe and will come to market soon with replication. This puts EMC a step ahead of the competition."

XtremIO had yet to discuss pricing for its all-Flash arrays, but Shepard said that because those arrays were based on low-cost MLC Flash technology, pricing could be somewhere in the range of EMC's VNX midrange disk array with a limited amount of Flash storage for high-performance applications.

When asked by CRN why customers would buy disk arrays when Flash array pricing was equivalently priced, he replied, "They won't. ICI has seen the future. We've seen it with Flash arrays running high I/O application, everyday applications, and VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). So there's no reason for disk. The XtremIO array means no need to carve out LUNs, fast I/Os, and a much better GUI (graphical user interface) than if it were designed by EMC."

Next: EMC's XtremIO Acquisition Could Spur Flash Array Industry

EMC's acquisition of XtremIO is good news for the Flash array industry, said Matt Kixmoeller, vice president of products at Mountain View, Calif.-based Pure Storage.

The storage industry is moving to adopt Flash, but for the time being, most established storage vendors are starting by adding Flash to existing arrays, which is not an optimized solution, Kixmoeller told CRN.

"EMC has come to that realization," he said. "It's no surprise. EMC has done more with Flash than any other vendor has done. I won't be surprised to see the others follow."

EMC is no stranger to either the Flash-based storage technology business or to making acquisitions to fill holes in its strategy. EMC in 2008 was the first enterprise storage vendor to add SSDs to a storage array.

More recently, EMC introduced VFCache, a PCIe Flash-based storage solution that sits in servers and works with external arrays to increase storage performance across multiple tiers from the server to the cloud.

EMC declined to state how much it paid for XtremIO, but earlier reports pegged the acquisition to be valued at over $400 million.

EMC said it will discuss its acquisition at the EMC World conference that starts May 21 in Las Vegas.