Momentum's been building around enterprise solid-state storage for a couple of years, but IBM's announcement today of plans to purchase Texas Memory Systems (TMS) shows we're into a new era.
Now, the question won't be whether to use this method of storage, but how to include it in your IT plans, especially given the advent of big-data. "Solid-state storage is transforming every part of IT," wrote storage analyst Stephen Foskett in a blog earlier this month.
TMS, in fact, has been selling IT transformation for years. An early player in the Flash-based storage market, the 34-year-old company sells rackmount systems and PCIe cards under its RamSan brand. The purpose of these solutions is to improve the performance of IT systems, using less power and smaller form factors.
Performance and throughput are getting more important than ever, thanks to big-data, cloud infrastructures, and the need for more and better storage in-house -- at lower-than-ever prices.
TMS makes its own solid-state storage modules with its own controllers and designs. It claims patented RAID technologies -- an important feature, given that early solid-state storage systems were sometimes accused of being less durable than hard-disk drives.
IBM, which sponsors Internet Evolution, plans to buy TMS for an undisclosed sum later this year. Plans are for all 100-odd employees to be retained in their present facilities, which are headquartered in Houston, Texas. CEO Holly Frost, himself something of a folk hero, will stay on with IBM, though his title has yet to be announced.
“IBM understands the positive and dramatic impact that solid state technology can have on storage and server infrastructures, and once the acquisition is complete we look forward to advancing the technology even further," Holly said in IBM's prepared statement. "With the global reach of IBM, we expect to grow the engineering staff and product lines much faster than we could before."
IBM says it will continue to "invest in and support the TMS product portfolio, and will look to integrate over time TMS technologies into a variety of solutions including storage, servers, software, and PureSystems offerings."
That's significant, since PureSystems represents IBM's strategic direction in IT systems.
At least one analyst likes the proposed deal. “This should be a great fit for both IBM and TMS customers and business partners, perhaps even for some of IBM technology partners,” said Greg Schulz, of consultancy Server and StorageIO, in an email to me today. “This also gives IBM technology to which they can leverage some of their other IP and recent acquisitions such as real-time compression, [data deduplication], thin provisioning, NAS file and object access...”
TMS competes with a growing roster of solid-state storage vendors, a complicated market in which to be a buyer, given the many claims for technical differentiators that are tough to assess. One thing: IBM's purchase of TMS may signal IBM's dissatisfaction with another notable solid-state storage player, Fusion-io.
Whatever the future holds, however, one thing is clear: IBM is banking on solid-state storage as a key element of future IT infrastructure.
— Mary Jander , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution