Will Apple put EMC's Isilon unit on the map?

Apple has reportedly bought 12 petabytes of storage from EMC's Isilon unit, which was acquired late last year for $2.25 billion. Aside from stoking Apple cloud talk, the deal would give Isilon an uber reference customer.

Apple has reportedly bought 12 petabytes of storage from EMC's Isilon unit, which was acquired late last year for $2.25 billion.

While the reports of Apple’s purchase have stoked speculation that all this storage will be used toward a streaming video and audio service, it's a big win for Isilon. Isilon specializes in network attached storage for digital media content and unstructured data.

The reports of this Apple purchase of Isilon gear surfaced last week. The Storage.com Newsletter reported on April 6 that Apple has ordered 12 PB of Isilon storage. The report was based on "an inside source" at EMC's Isilon unit.

From there, CRN picked up the story and gave the report more credibility. Why? The Storage.com Newsletter also reported on a new version of the Isilon OneFS file system, which was unveiled at the National Association of Broadcasters show Monday.

Citing CRN, Barclays Capital Ben Reitzes picked up the tale. Reitzes said in a research note:

We believe that Apple will most likely be using this storage capacity for streaming audio and video services that it will launch by the fall. Although EMC has yet to confirm the deal, we would consider the prospect to be an enormous win for its recently acquired Isilon division. EMC acquired Isilon in December 2010 for $2.25 billion specifically for its scale-out NAS capabilities. Isilon’s scale-out NAS systems are targeted at companies who produce digital media content and other types of unstructured data. One of ISLN’s target verticals are Media and Entertainment, which includes HD-TV, Blu−Ray, 3−D content, streaming media, and high−resolution digital images used in movie production. We believe that Isilon’s capabilities dovetail nicely with our vision for Apple’s upcoming “Cloud Tunes” – an extension of iTunes into the cloud that allows easy access to digital content from any Apple device. For EMC’s upcoming 1Q11 results, we expect Isilon to provide a nice lift to revenues (about $70 million q/q).

Indeed, if Apple bought Isilon gear that's one helluva reference customer. No one is confirming the Apple-Isilon connection at EMC just yet.


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