IBM enlists former EMC engineering head for storage wars

The man who built EMC's Symmetrix storage systems will now try to help IBM get one-up on EMC technology.

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The man who built EMC's Symmetrix storage systems will now try to help IBM get one-up on EMC technology.

Moshe Yanai joins IBM because the company has just acquired Israeli storage vendor XIV, where he was chairman. Before that he was EMC's head of engineering and the chief architect behind Symmetrix, a key part of EMC's success.

"Mr Yanai becoming an IBM employee is analogous to a former Boston Red Sox star player joining the New York Yankees," wrote analysts Charles King at Pund-IT and David Hill at the Mesabi Group. "Yanai's unmatched reputation gives a world of credibility to the IBM/XIV deal."

Yanai was ousted from his role at EMC in 2001 after reportedly clashing with chief executive Joseph Tucci over strategy, but remains highly respected in the storage industry. Yanai said in a press release that his company is "pleased to become a significant part of the IBM family", though it was not made clear in the release exactly what role he will play at IBM.

XIV was founded in 2002 and is known for its Nextra storage architecture, which boasts more extensive virtualisation than most storage products on the market today, according to analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. "This gives IBM a platform for next generation storage arrays, and therefore makes Hitachi Data Systems and EMC take notice," he said.

The IBM/XIV deal closed on 31 December. Financial details were not disclosed by the companies, though reports in the Israeli financial press pegged the selling price at between £150m to £180m. IBM acquired at least two other storage vendors in 2007: NovusCG in October and Softek in January.

XIV's storage area network (SAN) technology is targeted at large enterprises and boasts a couple of major advantages over storage products commonly used today, Taneja said. In a typical product, storage is managed by two controllers. If one of them fails, the other takes over its work but performance suffers, he said.

XIV allows the use of several additional controllers, letting customers add storage capacity without harming performance, according to Taneja.

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