by Robin Harris on Monday, 22 September, 2008

StorageMojo has been informed that YottaYotta, a storage networking company that EMC invested in a couple of years ago has shut down. EMC reportedly scooped up the IP and key employees. I once worked there and hold stock in the company.

The YY web site is not opening. Reportedly CEO Barton Shigemura, CTO Wayne Karpoff and a number of development and test managers have been let go. An estimated 40 former YY’ers now have EMC badges.

Update: A second source has confirmed the YY shutdown and EMC’s uptake of the IP and about half the people. End update.

The Maui connection
As StorageMojo noted in April, 2006:

EMC’s GM of the Grid & Utility Computing, Ian Baird, mentioned at EMC World in Boston this week that EMC had invested in distributed caching technology developed by YottaYotta, a Canadian startup, for their “Grid Storage” strategic direction.

Distributed caching technology is crucial to creating WAN-based storage infrastructures that operate as if local, despite being spread over thousands of miles, where normal network latency would cripple response times. YottaYotta, an $80M startup based in Edmonton, Alberta, has been working on the technology since its founding in early 2000.

The YottaYotta system was a network-based RAID controller. The controller’s backplane was a network – Infiniband or GigE – so the controller could be physically distributed. The coordination of the distributed controller boards through wide-area cluster software is the company’s key IP.

The StorageMojo take
A coup for EMC. For a few million dollars EMC got the benefit of $80 million in R&D and some fine engineers. I speculate that EMC will use the YY block technology behind filer heads to provide fast data replication and access across dispersed data centers in the Maui infrastructure.

YY’s fate was sealed 5 years ago when the company abandoned the storage systems market in favor of attempting to market only the RAID controllers. That market could never justify the $80 million invested in the company.

Comments welcome, of course.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

marc farley September 22, 2008 at 7:52 am

My condolences Robin.

greg September 22, 2008 at 10:31 am

Just desserts, if for no other reason than for creating the single most hideous theme song on the face of the planet.

Richard September 22, 2008 at 6:18 pm


When I saw their latest product at a trade show, I thought it was a good niche concept …just horribly expensive, totally out of norm. Perhaps they acquired EMC’s taste for astronomical margins. A little history from..


Updated: 7/13/01
After less than a month on the Top Ten List, Yotta Yotta gets bumped into the Bit Bucket. It’s lost its place to Zambeel Inc. – a hotter company that’s backed by virtuosic venture kapitalist, Vinod Khosla (see Khosla’s Back, Backing Stealth Startup). It must be said, also, that the Yotta Yotta Song didn’t help them any.

I guess Zambeel was not that much ‘hotter’ as it became a funding ‘blackhole’, greatly helped by ‘virtuosic capitalism’.

Who was responsible for the name and the song ?

Steve September 22, 2008 at 6:28 pm

It never ceases to amaze me how outsiders sum up a company and its good or bad decisions without knowing what is really going on.

To set the record straight. 5 years ago the only cool technology YY had was fuzy orange dice that when thrown said “yottayotta” Management up until that point changed their minds and the product destination on a regular basis leaving the engineering team frustrated and the product nowhere. You are correct that 5 years ago disk was dropped however do you know why? Well, at that time YY had a highly scalable box that did not scale beyond two blades, it was supposed to support 100’s even 1000’s of drives but at that time could only support about 30x, there was no RAID 5 or for that matter anything other than 0,1,0+1. The distributed controller did not work on anything other than a very fast very low latency network and even then was unstable. These were just the obvious issues. Bottom line was that there were so many issues that tough engineering decisions needed to be made. Given that 3-Par and Cerreva were way way ahead in delivering a real product, disk seemed an obvious technical and business choice. At the time Disk Virtualization was not even being discussed in the market. I will not argue that shutting down the company may have also been reasonable decision. For the next 5 years the company lived on a small fraction of what the former management pissed away on crazy marketing hype and yes not one but two YY songs. Over that time A solid product emerged and paying customers arrived some of them like AOL with extremely demanding requirements and work loads which pushed the product well beyond what anyone else in the market was delivering. Many customers returned to purchase more gear, a clear sign that something was working. The product was far superior in some ways to many products on the market in the space, SVC and Invista to name two. Scalability was the #1 advantage YY had over these other companies, however SNAP, Thin provisioning and many other bells and whistles never made it into the product. The main reason, complexity, the highly distributed highly scalable, cache coherent solution YY’s best asset was also its biggest liability. Features in a basic controller are fairly easy to build compared to a fully active clustered cache controller which spans distance. Add this to no money to expand the company and an investor (EMC) who you RIGHTLY warned about in an earlier blog, and the odds of succeeding became very low.

At the end of the day I believe YY had a very strong future however had to deal with a lot of bad legacy and a set of investors that never understood the business or for that matter the market. So after years of trying the investors saw a way out and took it. Could the management team have done a better job? Sure. But with the dollars being highly rationed, even 20/20 hindsight may not have resulted in success.

The million dollar question is, was the product on the right track? Was the technology sound? If and or how will the product emerge with its new owner? Invista replacement? New RAID controller? Who knows. I do however think its safe to say that since there seems to be a bunch of X YY’ers now working for EMC the product will likely emerge somewhere.

As for greg’s comments above, good people, friends, who gave a lot over many years to this company lost their jobs last week. So next time, why don’t you keep your small minded comments to yourself. Unless of coarse you actually have something productive to say.

Prove me wrong, but I know your type and you have either already responded to the above paragraph or even though you realize I have set you up, will have respond to this with more useless opinions.

tim wissman September 23, 2008 at 12:47 am

it is a sad day…i saw YY in 2002 and they were WAY out in front – what they could do with streaming video over truly Wide Area Networks was impressive to say the least. the fact that EMC bought them makes it even more sad – i dont think EMC has come up with anything original, they just buy up all the good ideas…the Microsoft of the Storage industry (IMHO).

Wolfgang Voigt ( WoVo ) September 23, 2008 at 8:09 am

At present we have only a few geographic storage clustering solutions like NetApp’s MetroCluster ( based on distant disk enclosure crossing ), but I think there is a strong need for “true” geographic storage clustering like YottaYotta ( R.I.P., I’m so sorry ). I heard this from many customer sites which are not happy with the complicated fail-over/fail-back procedures needed in the disaster case.
The leading storage companies should implement a new Distributed Storage Controller concept which includes multi-site coherent caching, multi-site control ( SCSI reservations ), single logical controller image, common timer source and last but not least a zero RTO. The primary/secondary volume type known from from remote copy solutions is thrown away, all of the multi-site volume appearances are read/write active. This means that all writes must be propagated to all distant mirror volumes in a consistent manner with minimal latency. The efficient multi-site write propagation is the core intellectual property of such a solution. Mult-site storage is the best technology for recent developments like Amazon’s Extended Block Storage EBS within the Elastic Cloud.
After using the Direct Matrix DMX technology from Cereva ( Ethernet SerDes chips for the matrix point-to-point connections ) the famous EMC can now exploit YottaYotta’s technology to develop a new Distributed Storage Controller for the Symmetrix product line. I think that the “Father of Symmetrix” Moshe Yanai has foreseen this development and has founded the new company Axxana which will change the face of disaster recovery too.

Brian September 26, 2008 at 10:44 am

where can i get the theme song?

jim September 30, 2008 at 10:38 am

This box of knowledge etc will go on the shelf in Mr Tucci’s ofc next to Cereva’s!

robert October 1, 2008 at 6:44 am

Seems like EMC has a nice little acquisition here:

They could easily cluster LCA (AX/CX) arrays behind this box

They could make MAUI come alive

And gracefully have a Invista “plan B”

OR…they could Cereva’ize it

Nakicker October 1, 2008 at 8:50 am

Well I visited them last year, and the technology had potential but I think they were also about to hit a wall. They had rolled their own OS for the hardware, and it was really creaking. There were talks of switching to Linux based firmware, but I don’t know if that happened. I knew a number of people who had left by the end of last year. Maybe the writing was on the wall.

Kevin Closson October 8, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I worked with the YY guys on a PoC of a 3-legged distance cluster (2000 KM) with PolyServe back in about 2006. The stuff worked really well. I really like distributed block servers like YY. We just couldn’t get things off the ground from a GTM perspective.

Nice guys, Brian, Greg, all of them…

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: