Palo Alto-based ScaleIO is one of a new generation of startup storage providers that’s using intelligent software to help big companies streamline and converge their data storage operations at scale across thousands of servers. On a mission to re-imagine the very operations of enterprise data centers, the startup’s tech takes aim at the core business of storage giants like EMC and IBM. In fact, ScaleIO claims that its block storage technology offers 80 to 90 percent savings compared to the top storage vendors.
Well, it appears that at least one of the leading old storage array vendors has been listening and wants the startup’s tech for its own. EMC, one of the largest data storage providers in the world, has agreed to buy ScaleIO for $200 million to $300 million. The news was first reported by Avi Schneider at Israeli blog GeekTime, and as the deal is reportedly still in the final stages, according to our sources, neither EMC nor ScaleIO would offer official comment on the news.
While the terms of the reported deal are still unclear, if this range holds true, it’s a big win for both sides. In EMC’s case, the storage giant has been taking a turn toward a more AWS-style infrastructure, and the ScaleIO acquisition gives the company access to the startup’s “block storage,” an adaptable, multi-use data-storage technology that makes it easy to scale across thousands of servers.
In other words, ScaleIO’s software uses the in storage hard disk on application servers to create high-performance, shared virtual storage array networks (SAN), which offer the easy scalability and elasticity of “block storage.”
With the cost of hosting coming down and the quality, speed and elasticity of cloud computing on the way up, small and medium-sized businesses have been moving to cloud hosting infrastructures (like, say AWS) at a breakneck pace. In turn, larger companies are increasingly consolidating their own clouds into massive data centers. These clusters continue to increase, resulting in all sorts of cost- and management-related headaches for the companies that manage these data centers.
That’s why EMC has been moving to a more AWS-style system and the reason why ScaleIO’s technology holds appeal for the storage provider. What’s more, with the consumerization of IT, and employees now using a wide range of consumer-friendly applications and tools at the office — not to mention bringing their own personal devices — along with the rise of the Internet of Things, infrastructure providers like EMC are going to have to be able create a bridge between connected devices and consumer and enterprise clouds, among others.
This means not only more big data and more servers, but a sort of industrial web. As data centers consolidate and startups turn to cloud hosting services, the leading storage vendors will have to adapt, offering the things clients have come to expect, such as database management, capacity planning and scalability, while maintaining uptime. Doing so in a smooth manner is becoming critical to the millions of applications, tools and businesses housed in these data centers.
For EMC, the ScaleIO acquisition follows its purchase of network storage system provider Isilon for $2.5 billion in 2010, and marks its second acquisition of an Israeli storage startup in the last 12 months. The company scooped up Flash storage pioneer XtremeIO in May of 2012 for $430 million.
The move also represents a fairly early exit for ScaleIO, which just raised $12 million from Greylock and Norwest Venture Partners in December as part of its first round of financing. However, the startup was built by a veteran team that has designed and developed storage software apps for companies like IBM, NetApp and XtremIO, which, of course, was just acquired by EMC.
The challenge for ScaleIO, as Alex wrote in December, has been in scaling its business — one that’s largely controlled by resellers that have long-standing relationships with the big players. While ScaleIO CEO Boaz Palgi said at the time that he has had “no problem selling direct to customers,” scaling the business and selling direct will no longer be as much of a concern.
As part of its Q1 earnings in April, EMC announced that 50 percent of its storage revenue “now comes through indirect sales,” and at a $52 billion market cap and doing $22 billion in revenue, ScaleIO now has plenty of scale at which to test its mettle.
Overall, the ScaleIO acquisition represents the impact that cloud services are having on EMC. The company has faced its own challenges competing with AWS. Adding a software storage capability gives EMC a better capability to offer a service that can help it compete better with the cloud kings.