What’s behind the hype?
Congrats to the Xiotech team on generating the most interest at SNW. Their demos were crowded with the curious. Their claims bordered on the implausible, but the credibility of the engineering team kept derision in the corners.

I talked to Ellen Lary, engineering VP, and Steve Sicola, CTO, as well as taping the very helpful Chad. Before going any further, let’s roll the 103 second – less if you skip the credits – tape:

How do they do it?
Darned if I know – they weren’t talking. Reading between the lines:

  • Systems thinking: each disk drive is more powerful than that 1980’s workhorse VAX 11-780 supermini. Put that intelligence to work!
  • Clean code: Xiotech has had free run of Seagate’s best thinking – so they’ve gotten rid of the firmware hairballs inside disk drives to create a distributed architecture where components cooperate in a trusted environment instead of competing. Their disks won’t work with your Brand X controller.
  • Spare no expense: the Xiotech team is going for the gold with a top-of-the-line resource-intensive architecture. If you have to ask how much it costs you can’t afford it.

With 350 IOPS per 15k FC drive claimed – and Sicola said more was coming – this is a lot of bang. When we see some pricing we’ll know about the bucks.

The value proposition
Xiotech’s bet is this: all is forgiven if it kicks butt 7×24 for 5 years. Each ISE is a storage utility writ small. With these building blocks, they promise, you can build an infrastructure whose availability and performance – still the storage ne plus ultra – will beat anything from EMC, IBM or HP.

A worthy goal, indeed.

The StorageMojo take
Just when EMC is assuming that Maui’s new Ãœber-layer will win them the undying cashflow of multinationals, Xiotech comes along and exposes EMC’s feet of clay.

That sucking sound you hear is EMC emptying the datacenter’s coffers to run 7×23.999. If Xiotech can win even 10% of EMC’s business, they’ll be a $1 billion company sooner than they dreamed. And their VCs will be high-fiving in Aspen this winter.

NetApp, IBM and HP should worry as well. It sounded like Xiotech was OEM’ing the ISE to others – if so it makes sense to add them to the product line.

The disk-in-a-box model needed a thorough rethink and kudos to Xiotech for doing it. But many promising – on paper – products have failed. Once Xiotech is shipping and there is independent testing – then we’ll know what they’ve really got.

Comments welcome, of course. The indefatiguable Beth Pariseau homes in on the Atrato/Xiotech nexus.