Summary:

Companies want to get the most bang out of their flash bucks, and EMC is eager to facilitate that. It’s just picked up ScaleIO for an undisclosed sum.

EMC XtremSF flash memory card
photo: EMC

EMC said Thursday it will buy software-defined storage startup ScaleIO for an undisclosed sum, giving the storage giant a better-sounding pitch for what it can do with server-side flash.

While it’s unclear how much EMC is paying, ScaleIO’s investors can be proud of seeing their baby go to a big vendor. The company’s most recent announced round of funding, $12 million series A money, came from Greylock Israel, Norwest Venture Partners and others.

Flash still costs more per byte than hard disk, and companies are conscious of that even if flash can outperform disk. So the flash needs to get as flexible as possible. ScaleIO software creates big pools of flash across lots of servers, instead of just dedicating an individual PCI-Express flash card to that one server. And the pools can also comprise SSDs and hard disks, according to the EMC press release announcing the deal.

As we’ve noted before, not too long ago EMC was not a fan of server-side flash; it advocated flash storage arrays instead, as that’s what it was selling. The ScaleIO software is more agnostic about where the flash is — it can make pools out of all available storage. And that makes sense given that the company has announced more and more PCIe flash products.

But it remains to be seen whether the deal will actually make a difference in how much flash for server or storage units EMC will be able to get into data centers. The flash market has been putting vendors through the rounds and has been undergoing lots of consolidation. Plus, EMC was behind startup burgeoning startup Violin Memory last year in the flash-packed storage array market, according to recent Gartner data. That’s an area where the deal probably won’t make any difference. The software can help performance with commodity servers loaded with flash; it’s not necessarily targeting high-margin EMC boxes such as the XtremIO line. That’s what makes the deal an interesting move.

In case other storage vendors are wondering, a few software-defined storage options remain on the table, including Convergent.io, Jeda Networks and SwiftStack.

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