EMC's Graphite Systems Acquisition: No More Servers For High-Performance Apps?

EMC has quietly acquired Graphite Systems, a startup developer of high-performance storage technology, in a move that could see the storage giant develop new storage solutions on which applications would run in lieu of servers.

The acquisition appears to have happened last month, according to Mountain View, Calif.-based Graphite Systems' LinkedIn page with the title, "Graphite Systems, Inc. (Acquired by EMC/DSSD 08/2015)."

However, EMC has not yet released news about the acquisition, and EMC spokespeople had not responded to a request for further information by press time.

[Related: EMC Acquires Server-Side Flash Developer DSSD, Plans 2015 Product Release]

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Because Graphite Systems has been in stealth mode since its 2012 founding, there is little public information about what the company does.

One systems performance architect with the company described Graphite Systems on her LinkedIn profile as developing a "low latency, high throughput compute server consisting of proprietary software and hardware components."

A company vice president on his LinkedIn profile described working on an "ultra-high performance flash array based converged big data appliance."

Both descriptions match what Jamie Shepard, senior vice president for health care and strategy for Dallas-based EMC solution provider Lumenate, has heard about Graphite Systems.

Shepard told CRN that Graphite Systems appears to be working with the new NVMe (Non Volatile Memory Express) technology. NVMe is an industrywide project to develop a high-performance and scalable host controller interface for enterprise, data center and client systems that use non-volatile memory storage. It is designed to take advantage of new non-volatile memory technology such as PCIe-based SSDs.

EMC is a contributor to NVMe.

NVMe is coming into play because more and more applications will be run on flash memory as a way to increase performance beyond what can be achieved using external storage solutions, Shepard said.

"It feels like Doc Brown in 'Back to the Future,' " Shepard said. "The industry is looking for advanced performance, but companies will be building out more big server farms and less shared storage as they run the apps right on the flash storage."

EMC wants to take advantage of that trend to develop a storage platform on which applications can be run. The company already has many of the components to do so, including its ScaleIO software-defined technology for scale-out shared storage solutions, Shepard said.

"The goal is a 100 percent all-flash storage device that runs apps with super-high-speed interconnects using NVMe," he said.

While other vendors are moving to combine server and storage resources, including hyper-converged systems developers Nutanix, Simplivity and even EMC's VMware with its EVO:RAIL offering, no one is approaching the tight level of integration EMC will be able to do using ScaleIO and Graphite Systems, Shepard said.

"For customers who don't want a SAN, they can deal with a bunch of servers with PCIe cards and all-flash storage arrays on the back end," he said. "EMC with Graphite Systems is saying, in the future, people don't need to buy a separate array but can run the application directly on flash memory. They won't open the box and say, 'Oh, there's the server, and oh, there's the storage.' "

Graphite Systems is only the latest way that EMC is addressing the need for high-performance storage.

EMC in 2013 introduced its first all-flash array based on its 2012 acquisition of startup XtremIO, and followed up with a new entry-level configuration, the Starter X-Brick, that the company said offers the same performance and data services of its standard XtremIO nodes but can be purchased with as little as 5 TB of flash storage capacity vs. 10 TB or 20 TB for standard X-Bricks. Up to six XtremIO X-Bricks can now be clustered together vs. the previous four.

EMC in May 2014 acquired DSSD, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based developer of server-side flash storage, and unveiled plans to use the company's technology to accelerate applications running in the server. The acquisition gave EMC the storage industry's widest range of flash storage solutions.

Unlike EMC's XtremIO all-flash storage array, which substitutes high-performance flash for disk to store data, DSSD is developing rack-scale, server-side flash storage designed to speed up application performance. DSSD solutions are expected to ship some time this year.

EMC's Graphite Systems acquisition was first reported by The Register.