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Pillar Data Systems

Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison has personally invested a huge chunk of cash -- to the tune of at least $100 million -- in Pillar Data Systems, a stealth-mode startup developing a next-generation NAS storage system.

Pillar Data's sole investor is Lawrence Investments LLC, Ellison's private equity investment firm that specializes in technology and biotechnology industries. Besides a corpulent bankroll, Pillar Data has an experienced management team with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) bloodlines.

It isn't clear precisely what Larry's storage startup is up to, as it is still nine months to a year away from delivering a product. But that's not to say it doesn't have grand (grandiose?) visions: Michael Workman, Pillar Data's president and CEO, isn't shy about saying that the long-term goal is for the company to become a "Fortune 500 storage company." In other words, Pillar Data wants to be the next EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) or Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) when it grows up.

"We're not a technology play where we're trying to sell ourselves to somebody in 12 to 18 months," he says.

Workman says the company is developing an integrated hardware and software system that provides both NAS and SAN functions, and will scale from 1 Tbyte to "hundreds of terabytes." About 80 percent of the company's efforts are centered on software, he says. What's the difference between Pillar Data and the scads of others in this market? The system, Workman promises, will be "cost-effective at acquisition and extremely cost-effective vis--vis administration and management."

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