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Are Storage Vendors Shopping For SSD Companies?

With the recent news that Apple is apparently in talks to acquire Anobit, there is now a lot of discussion of what that means for the rest of the storage industry. Most importantly, what do other system vendors need to do in response? Will we get to the point that all solid-state storage companies are owned by a system vendor?

We detailed the specifics of Anobit after a briefing we had with them at the Flash Memory Summit. Their technology would clearly give Apple a differentiator in the flash market. I think this is the beginning of a larger trend where systems vendors are going to get serious about identifying the startups with the most potential and begin integrating solid-state storage companies into their portfolios.

It will be interesting to see how the other vendors respond. Do they focus on purchasing primarily controller technology so that they can differentiate existing NAND flash by adding value at the controller layer or do they go all out and purchase a solid-state storage company?

For companies like IBM, HP, and Dell, buying specific controller technology and adding value to existing NAND flash is probably the most viable and strategically sound move they can make. This allows them to differentiate at the server level and at the desktop/consumer level, for those are still in that market.

For storage companies like EMC, NetApp, and HDS, it would make more sense for them to acquire a complete solid-state storage solution. These larger storage companies have a virtualization solution and they could leverage those to integrate a solid-state storage systems purchase into their offering. This would, of course, favor the companies that are leading with storage virtualization, not using it as an afterthought.

Of course HP, IBM, and Dell are also storage companies as much as they are server companies. My guess is that they will probably want to buy a solid-state storage system along with buying some form of controller technology.

What does all this mean to the IT professional?

These potential moves underscore the importance of beginning to establish a platform-neutral storage strategy. None of these vendors will be able to integrate the technology they acquire on day one and, if history is a guide, they may never integrate it. A platform-neutral storage strategy is a self-service integration process. This can be done via storage virtualization appliances or by leveraging the hypervisor, as we discussed in our recent article "The Storage Hypervisor."

Storage virtualization remains one of the best methods of not only protecting current investments but also making sure upcoming purchases will integrate into your storage strategy. It allows you to make those decisions without being concerned about who your primary vendor is buying or not. It forces the storage hardware vendors to create (or buy) great storage hardware not just great storage software.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement.

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