IBM Buys Storwize for Data Compression Smarts
August 9, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Big Blue has never had much of a stomach for doing big acquisitions, but it sure does like to make a lot of little ones to beef up its software and services portfolio and to give its hardware some more code to run. And so IBM has shelled out an undisclosed sum to acquire Storwize, a maker of data compression appliances that front-end network storage and databases.
Storwize was founded in 2004 by Gal Naor, the company’s president and a former member of the Israeli intelligence force and an executive at ECtel, a Singapore telecom services company, and Jonathan Amit, the company’s chief technology officer. The idea was to take lossless data compression technology that was being used on high capacity tape storage, called the Lempel-Ziv-Welch algorithm, and pack it into a hardware appliance that sits between servers and storage, crunching the data as it flies off the servers on to storage and decompressing it as it goes the other way.
Storwize did a whole lot of tuning aimed at servers and storage, and created a data compression stack called the Random Access Compression Engine (RACE) and sold it inside two storage appliances, the STN-2100 and the STN-6000, which compressed data by between 50 and 90 percent (depending on the kind of data) without impacting server and application performance. The appliances supported the NFS file system popular with Unix and Linux machines (and available on OS/400 and i as well) and the CIFS protocol that is compatible with Windows file access. The STN-2100 has a sustained data rate of 150 MB/sec across four Gigabit Ethernet ports, while the STN-6000 provides either 16 Gigabit Ethernet links or four 10 Gigabit Ethernet links to deliver a sustained data rate into and out of the appliance to the tune of 1.1 GB/sec.
IBM says that Storwize has over 100 customers worldwide, making it yet another small Israeli software company snapped up by Big Blue that has the potential to fuel its storage growth while at the same time undermining traditional storage arrays, just like the XIV clustered storage arrays that IBM bought two years ago have done. (If you don’t eat your own lunch, someone else will.)
Storwize was founded in the suburbs outside of Tel Aviv, but moved to Marlborough, Massachusetts a few years back to get better penetration into the U.S. market. Storwize had raised $38 million in three rounds of venture funding from Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital, Tamares Group, and Tokyo Electron Device; its last round, a $19 million injection, came in April 2008, just when the bottom dropped out of the global economy. The Israeli business daily Globes reported that the company had a number of private investors as well, and added that it had heard Big Blue shelled out $140 million to acquire Storwize–a tidy profit for its investors if the company didn’t bleed too much red ink.
IBM has not said what it intends to do with the Storwize products, but it stands to reason that the data compression software can be housed inside of its DS disk arrays as well as in front of its XIV, SONAS, and other storage products to help customers get by with fewer disk drives for many of their workloads. IBM will likely continue to sell Storwize appliances, too, since they cut back on storage capacity sales among its competitors as well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the RACE software running in a logical partition on a mainframe or Power box working in conjunction with z/VM or the Virtual I/O Server, either.