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Storage Wars: Could XtremIO Steal EMC’s Thunder?

It’s no secret that EMC and Netapp see each other as mortal enemies

If the weekend IT press is to be believed, EMC are on the verge of acquiring solid-state array vendor XtremIO in a deal worth around $450 million.  This would be a remarkable outcome for a company that is still technically “in stealth mode” and has no obvious revenue or customers.

Why would EMC do this?  Their normal acquisition process is to look for targets that have well established customer bases, such as Isilon or Greenplum.  XtremIO’s technology is unvalidated in the marketplace and there are already many other competitors out there; Violin Memory and Pure Storage to name only two.

In February EMC announced two new products, codenamed Lightning and Thunder (details).  Lightning became VFCache, a PCIe SSD card and was due to ship pretty much immediately.  However, Thunder was described in more ephemeral terms, with no real substance.  Did Thunder really exist at the time, or was the announcement more of an aspirational statement?  Did Thunder exist and have EMC had issues bringing the product to market?  In either scenario, the acquisition of XtremIO could be the basis of Thunder, explaining why EMC has chosen to bid on a product with no validation or history.

Let’s assume that this theory is wrong and XtremIO would be added to the existing hardware portfolio.  This would mean EMC has four main product lines that provide all-flash storage – VNX, VMAX, Thunder and XtremIO.  How would they all be differentiated and how would EMC avoid considerable confusion when selling to end customers?

The Netapp Mix

What’s more interesting in this discussion is the mention of Netapp in all of this.  It’s no secret that EMC and Netapp see each other as mortal enemies and Netapp would love the opportunity to put EMC off track.  Would Netapp have either the nerve or deep enough pockets to take EMC on?  Probably not, but it could make them pay even more to acquire XtremIO in the first place.

How did all this information get out?  Well, if you were looking to be acquired, wouldn’t it be helpful if a bidding war started?  That’s all I will say.

Solid State storage is a hot topic at the moment and after seeing many of the players in the market, I was curious to know who would be first acquired.  It seems that the first company could be one we’ve never heard of.

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