Thought I'd be able to ease back into the new year slowly, but - no - right off the bat IBM made a bold move that's got everyone talking.
I'm sure lots of people will weigh in here, but I'd like to offer a few thoughts on this one.
What's This Really About?
XiV (like all storage startups) has been on EMC's radar for a while now, just like all the other storage startups that are out there. But there's a bit of history here that some people find interesting.
The key investor behind XiV (a small Israeli startup) was none other than Moshe Yanai, one of the prime forces behind the Symmetrix, which itself has been arguably the single most successful storage platform of all time.
But the Symmetrix was designed in the early 1990s, and -- so much has changed in the 15+ years since -- so, for me, that's not what this is about.
It's about IBM and storage, pure and simple.
Is This The Next DS8000?
Andy Monshaw paints a picture of XiV being about something new, e.g.
"The acquisition of XIV will further strengthen the IBM infrastructure portfolio long term and put IBM in the best position to address emerging storage opportunities like Web 2.0 applications, digital archives and digital media."
When I saw this, I thought they'd either made an incredible (and expensive) mistake, or it's a bit of misdirection on IBM's part.
Well, we know how XiV built their platform, and we also know what this kind of "new information" requires from a platform perspective, and it just isn't adding up in our estimation.
I could list about a half-dozen things in the XiV product that doesn't make sense for this market, and I could list another half-dozen things that XiV doesn't do that they'd need for this space.
No, I think we're getting a preview of the future replacement for the much-maligned and neglected IBM DS8000. Much has been written about how this product has fallen significantly behind the competition in this part of the market, so much so that it isn't even taken seriously in many circles.
And it's clear they have to do something about it sooner than later.
If you think back to the original IBM announcement, they were very proud of the fact that the DS8000 used IBM's pSeries server technology as a controller. Remember the LPAR feature of running applications on the array?
Well, if you're a server vendor, the idea of using your servers to build storage arrays is downright intoxicating (think about Sun for a moment), but this approach doesn't work out so well for certain parts of the market.
I'm sure part of the appeal to IBM is they saw the potential of doing this again with XiV, in addition to getting a modern feature set.
Go check out the XiV website for a moment -- and ask yourself some questions:
First, could this be a replacement for the DS8000? Yep.
And, second, if you were building a Web-2.0-type storage platform, would you build it this way? Nope.
Now, if XiV is intended to be the basis of a DS8000 replacement, it wouldn't do well for IBM to position it this way, regardless of its ultimate intent.
I'm taking bets here -- how many people want to bet against me on this one?
Is This Really About Dell?
Don't underestimate the domino effect in M+A. If your competitor does something big, you think long and hard about it. We saw it when EMC was doing lots of acquisitions, which tended to spawn all manner of follow-on by our competitors.
Dell just layed down big bucks for EqualLogic. My take is that they looked at their server business, and realized that they had to own some of their own products in this space. And they spent big in an attempt to do so.
Now, if you're IBM, how do you react to this big move by an arch-competitor?
Let's see -- for IBM, at the entry level, you've got the LSI stuff. In NAS, you resell NTAP. In the large midtier array market, the DS8000 is about 3-4 years overdue for a refresh. And, architecturally, you don't have anything at the high end to respond to EMC and HDS, despite the inevitable protests to the contrary.
The only interesting storage IP you really own is SVC, and I don't think that's not enough to float a mighty ship like IBM.
Maybe IBM felt the need to make a Dell-like move?
Anyone want to bet against me?
Is This Really About IBM's Execution In The Storage Market?
I think it's fair to say that IBM's execution in the storage and information management space hasn't been all that stellar.
Yes, I give them credit for trying, but their success rate hasn't been exactly phenomenal, and, of course, no one is perfect. And, one thing you've got to give them, they sell the heck out of whatever's in the price book -- no one does it better.
In an evil moment, I considered that the significance in the XiV name was "fourteen", and I tried to make a list of the thirteen not-so-good IBM storage ideas that preceded it, but I thought that was too harsh. Besides, once I got beyond StorageTank, SSA, IBM storage LPARs, storage bricks and a few others, I could only come up with a half-dozen or so for my list.
It's great that they're acquiring technology where they need it. Hey, look at what EMC has been up to for the last few years.
The real trick is making it work, and coming up with an offering that makes a difference with customers. Best of luck, guys, you're up against some stiff competition.
And I think that will be IBM's biggest challenge, won't it?