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Pillar Aims for Knockouts

Pillar Data Systems, a storage startup bankrolled by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, claims to be replacing some of the industry's big-guns, though the jury's out on whether it can parlay this into a solid market position.

The startup launched its long-awaited midrange storage system, the Axiom NAS and SAN device last year, after spending four years in stealth mode. (See Pillar Leaves Post At Last.) Pillar is touting its Axiom technology as a way for users to consolidate multiple tiers of enterprise storage into a single system. It claims to easily scale up to hundreds of Tbytes, slashing users' IT costs in the process. (See Pillar Data Intros NAS-SAN System.)

A Pillar spokesman says that by the end of February, Pillar had racked up 72 customers. Not a bad start -- for an average startup. But Pillar is not an average startup. Until its formal debut, the vendor was better known as Ellison's storage toy -- the Oracle supremo is Pillar's chief investor, and he has pumped a cool $150 million into the firm. (See Larry's Stealth Storage Startup.)

The hefty backing has caused industry mavens to question whether -- with storage giants such as EMC, NetApp, and HDS, firmly entrenched in customer data centers, -- a newcomer could actually buy its way into the storage market. (See 2005 Top Ten: Memorable Quotes, and Out of the Frying Pan....)

There's no definitive answer as yet. But there's little doubt Pillar is making life unpleasant for its competitors in at least two deployments.

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