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IBM Acquires Storwize

IBM has confirmed its acquisition of Storwize, a storage optimization company that compresses data to save disk space. IBM did not disclose the purchase price, but earlier reports put the acquisition at $140 million. IBM says the deal will close in the third quarter of 2010. The Storwize acquisition gives IBM inline compression for primary storage. IBM says data reduction rates can reach as high as 50 percent with zero impact on performance. In addition to Storwize's technology, IBM also picks up 35 pending patents on real-time compression.

The Storwize appliance sits in front of NAS devices and compresses data before it is written to disk. While Storwize is vague about how they can perform real-time compression without a performance hit, they say the appliance can be used with deduplication products such as EMC's Datadomain, which replaces identical chunks of data with a place holder before writing the data to disk.

"While StorWize's compression technology reduces data like deduplication products, it isn't deduplication," says Howard Marks, founder of and a Network Computing blogger. "It's most like NTFS compression." He says users may be wary of inline compression because of performance concerns, but that concern is unwarranted. "Every time I've benchmarked Windows servers with NTFS compression turned on, disk performance is better than with compression turned off.  Ever since the Pentium Pro, CPUs have been fast enough that the time it takes to compress or decompress data is less significant than the ability to move twice as much data to and from the disk drives," Marks says.

"I think that this is a clear example of unique intellectual property finding value in the marketplace; specifically, Storwize's real-time optimization that increases performance," says Stuart Miniman, principal research contributor at The Wikibon Project. "We think that this is a continuation of the trend of consolidation happening in the storage stack and would expect that IBM will embed the Storwize IP in their array products, file-based first and likely block-based in the future."

The Storwize acquisition is part of a larger pattern for IBM. The company has been beefing up its storage capacity and efficiency capabilities for several years. Other acquisitions include Diligent's ProtectTier  in 2009 and XIV in 2008. While Storwize has focused on file compression, Dave Vallente founder and CEO of the Wikibon Project sees "IBM applying real-time compression in key [storage] products including SONAS, XIV and perhaps even SVC, conferring advantage to storage offerings behind its flagship virtualization appliance."