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September 17, 2013

Cisco Jumps Into the All-Flash Storage Array Game

Isaac Lopez

There’s a new kid in the all-flash storage array business that’s not really a kid at all. Networking giant, Cisco has signaled their intention of becoming a major player in the budding flash storage arena with the acquisition of the all-flash vendor, WHIPTAIL. Announced last week, the acquisition will come with a price tag of approximately $415 million dollars and is expected to finish in Q1 of 2014.

The move, according to Hilton Romanski, SVP and Head of Business Development at Cisco, is being made in response to the data-rich wave that is being brought about by such technology trends as the so-called “Internet of Things,” and what Cisco refers to as the “App Economy.”

“As the importance of the application grows, so does the need for high performance systems to be optimized to support emerging and business critical workloads,” said Romanski, explaining the move. “WHIPTAIL systems can deliver over four million IOPS and 360 Terabytes of raw capacity – a truly staggering amount of solid-state performance capable of providing the workload optimization required in the App Economy.”

Cisco expects the move to strengthen their Unified Computing System (UCS) offering, which aims to reduce total cost of ownership and increase flexibility by integrating compute, network, storage access, and virtualization into a single system. WHIPTAIL offers two distinct product lines, including a tactical storage array known as ACCELA, which they market at the departmental or individual workload level for spot applications. They also offer their flagship INVICTA storage array, which they market as an enterprise-class style solid state storage array that can deliver up to 72 TB of flash storage.

The move is one that looks to further shake-up the Cisco-EMC partnership. Where at one time analysts and pundits largely saw the two companies as slam-dunk merger candidates, this latest news appears to be another in a long line of moves that put the companies at odds. Cisco’s WHIPTAIL acquisition, puts them in direct competition with EMC, where last May EMC announced the acquisition of flash storage vendor, XtremeIO. EMC/XtremeIO are expected to launch an all-flash storage array in Q4 of this year.

Upon completion of the acquisition, WHIPTAIL will be absorbed by Cisco’s Computing Systems Product Group, led by VP and GM of the group, Paul Perez. “”We are focused on providing a converged infrastructure including compute, network and high performance solid state that will help address our customers’ requirements for next-generation computing environments,” said Perez in a statement “As we continue to innovate our unified platform, WHIPTAIL will help realize our vision of scalable persistent memory which is integrated into the server, available as a fabric resource and managed as a globally shared pool.”

The acquisition heats up the competition in the all-flash storage array market, which previously had been dominated by smaller, lesser-known vendors, including Violin Memory (which Gartner says is the current market leader with 19% share), Pure Storage, Kaminario, Nimbus Data, Skyera, Solid Fire, and Tegile. The space is now receiving the attention of the big fish in the market, including EMC, NetApp, HP, HDS, and Cisco, each of which have budding strategies in the space.

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Pure Storage Closes $150M Funding Round with Top Tier Public Market Investors 

Violin Memory Launches 6264 Next Generation Memory Array 

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