Xiotech Swallows Seagate Brains

SAN specialist grabs Seagate's top engineers and takes aim at the controller market

November 8, 2007

3 Min Read
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Disk specialist Seagate is getting rid of its elite R&D unit, clinching a deal to sell its mysterious Advanced Storage Architecture (ASA) group to SAN vendor Xiotech for an undisclosed fee today.

Set up just over five years ago, the highly secretive ASA division was formed to develop "next-generation architectures" for Seagate's OEM partners, which include IBM and EMC.

Scant details are available about the group, although it is believed that the 100-strong team was a 'skunk works' division within Seagate. The group includes at least a dozen ex-Compaq engineers, who were formerly the RAID controller development team at DEC. These engineers were responsible in part for developing the technology that eventually became HP's EVA.

At least one analyst thinks that Seagate is now looking to re-focus its efforts on its traditional core technologies. "Seagate's core business is making disk drives," says Greg Schulz of the StorageIO Group, explaining that the ASA group's technology may also have competed directly with offerings from the vendor's OEM partners.

By selling the group to Xiotech, which was itself spun out of Seagate in November 2002, Seagate relinquishes direct development of any contentious technology. But a licensing arrangement with Xiotech ensures that Seagate will continue to benefit from ASA's work."As part of the acquisition, we're licensing technology and acquiring employees," says Mike Hoch, Xiotech's director of marketing. The entire ASA team will be joining Xiotech, he adds.

This includes the ASA group's general manager Steve Sicola, who will now become Xiotech's CTO. Sicola, the former CTO of Compaq/HP's StorageWorks group, will assume the role vacated by Karl Schubert, who left Xiotech two months ago to become CTO of online photography specialist LifeTouch.

Another big name within the ASA ranks is Ellen Lary, former VP and general manager of DEC's storage division, subsequently vice president of business-critical storage at Compaq. She will now become VP and general manager of Xiotech's newly created Advanced Solutions Group, based in the ASA team's existing Colorado Springs facility.

What will the new Xiotech group get up to? Xiotech, which has been attempting to branch out into new areas, won't say, though the vendor offloaded its own proprietary RAID controller some years ago in favor of controllers sourced from other firms, which are now built into its Magnitude 3D system. And there has been talk that the ASA group was working on controller-related technology at Seagate.

This is not the first time that Seagate has carved off a chunk of its business in an attempt to get back to basics. In the late nineties, for example, Seagate's software subsidiary sold its Network and Storage Management Group to Veritas for $1.6 billion.Recent announcements from Seagate have focused primarily on disk drives, and the vendor is currently working on tiny, dense hard drive technology.

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • EqualLogic Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Xiotech Corp.

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