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Oracle/Sun may resell Pillar arrays

STEC replaces Intel SSD

Pillar Data storage could be resold by Oracle's Sun hardware unit in an Oracle-Sun-Pillar combination, threatening Sun's existing HDS OEM deal.

The rumours, floated in ComputerWorld, Pillar has replaced Intel solid state drives with ones from STEC

Pillar's Axiom array scales to 1.6PB of tiered storage which can be tuned to deliver different quality of storage service levels to applications. The company is a start-up run by Dr Mike Workman and funded by one venture capital firm, Tako Ventures, owned by Oracle boss Larry Ellison.

With Oracle buying Sun Microsystems it is gaining Sun's storage business. This can be divided into the StorageTek tape automation products, the OEM'd HDS USP-V high-end disk arrays (9990V, 9985V), various LSI-sourced arrays, its Open Storage 7000 ZFS-based arrays, and server/storage hybrids such as the X4540 Thumper array.

Pillar's view is that the 7000 and X4540 do not compete with its Axiom storage whereas the 9000 and 6000 lines do. It thinks that Sun's hardware arm could become a channel for Pillar's Axiom products thus greatly increasing its access to customers and giving Pillar the opportunity to substantially increase its sales. If an Oracle-Sun-Pillar link-up does happen then that could make Pillar much stronger competition to 3PAR and Compellent as well as to EMC, HDS, HP and IBM storage.

Previously a Pillar source has suggested that Oracle could buy Pillar and combine it with Sun's storage operations. Either way Pillar would enjoy a greatly increased access to the market, and also access to possibly increased engineering resources.

There is also the prospect, with an outright purchase, that Pillar-based storage could become more closely linked to Sun's servers and network products. This would help Oracle produce integrated software-server-storage-and-networking systems and position it to sell against similarly integrated systems from Cisco, Dell, HP and IBM.

What would happen to Sun's StorageTek tape business? One industry source suggestion is that HP might purchase it as a way to better access mainframe shops. The thinking is that IBM wouldn't be interested because it already has a mainframe tape business of its own. No other tape automation vendor would be interested as they all lack the funding resources needed.

Separately, Pillar has exchanged its Intel X25-E SSDs for STEC Mach8 SSDs because of firmware and, possibly, capacity problems with the X25-E. This is limited to 64GB capacity and has not been upgraded, like the X25-M, to the latest 34nm process technology. IBM is also using the Mach8 SSDs, which can store up to 256GB in single-level cell (SLC) form and 400GB in multi-level cell (MLC) form.

Pillar people first floated the idea of a link-up with Oracle/Sun in May. Four months later that idea is still around, and has moved on to suggest Sun's sales channels reselling Axiom arrays with the consequent threat to HDS's OEM deal with Sun. There's a lot going on here with more likely to happen. ®

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