EMC Acquiring ScaleIO In Massive Cloud, Software-Defined Storage Play

EMC on Thursday said it has signed an agreement to acquire storage software startup ScaleIO, a move that will help further define EMC's software-defined storage strategy and help disrupt the way businesses purchase storage.

While EMC declined to discuss the terms of the acquisition, speculation last month in the Israeli press was that EMC planned to pay between $200 million and $300 million for Israel-based ScaleIO.

ScaleIO in December came out of stealth mode with its Elastic Converged Storage (ECS) technology it said eliminates the need for a SAN by tying together the storage capacity of multiple servers.

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ScaleIO's ECS technology builds a scalable file system from thousands of existing and newly-purchased servers. This allows a company to have a scalable storage architecture without the need for specialized storage administrators and without adding to the workload of existing server administration people, the company claims.

ScaleIO ECS uses software to create a virtual pool of server-based storage including any combination of SSDs, PCIe flash cards or hard drives, and it supports both virtualized and non-virtualized environments while scaling to thousands of servers. Once the acquisition is closed, ScaleIO will operate within the EMC Flash Product Division, EMC said. The ScaleIO ECS software will be part of EMC's XtremSW Suite of technology aimed at helping customers better adopt PCIe flash storage.

ScaleIO's technology is actually part of the nascent software-defined storage industry in which much of the functionality of storage arrays are packaged in software that can either run on industry-standard servers or overlay existing storage gear.

EMC in March outlined its software-defined storage strategy, and in May followed up with the introduction of its ViPR software-defined storage platform.

EMC's decision to acquire ScaleIO is huge news, said Jamie Shepard, regional vice president at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and EMC partner.

The storage business is moving from a focus on traditional infrastructure and toward a focus on the cloud, a move that EMC has been embraced more than almost any vendor, Shepard said.

By bringing the ScaleIO ECS technology to its huge customer and partner base, EMC could take the lead in developing private clouds with the flexibility and scalability today seen only in such Web-based businesses like Facebook and Twitter, Shepard said.

"The technology allows the building of scalable IO quickly and on-the-fly," he said. "Add in EMC's replication technology and, oh my God, this will be huge."

That will also be huge for the channel, Shepard said.

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Lumenate's fast growth stems from fully embracing the idea of cloud differentiation, or offering cloud infrastructure specifically tailored to customer requirements, Lumenate's Shepard said. This is different from cloud enablement, which is just about bringing customers to a cloud.

A technology like ScaleIO ECS allows the ability to build flexible enterprise-clouds by taking advantage of commodity hardware, Shepard said.

"One customer of ours is heavily virtualized and does a lot of number crunching," he said. "That customer will be able to use ScaleIO on commodity hardware with EMC's XtremSF flash storage accelerator card to crunch data in a private cloud without dedicated storage."

Over time, this will impact how the channel sells both storage and the cloud, Shepard said.

"This will be the beginning of a move to embrace cloud differentiation," he said. "Not cloud enablement. It's cloud differentiation. This is key. EMC is helping you differentiate your cloud needs. With AWS [Amazon Web Services], there's no differentiation: here's the cloud, here's the price, here's the penalty. With EMC, you will get that differentiation."