Singapore - Sometime in September last year, Seagate
approached a small U.S. company with a proposal to buy the company's storage technology. The company refused.
When Seagate returned again later that year, it was to buy the company over.
With the acquisition complete, the storage company - Xiotech, grew from a mere 65 employees to over 250 in less than a year; and with recent Asian hires, it is poised to aggressively enter the Asia-Pacific market.
The directive from Seagate is, after all, for Xiotech to grow as fast and as aggressively as it could.
A relative newcomer to the storage scene (Xiotech shipped its first storage unit in April of 1998), Xiotech may not occupy a leading position in the industry as do EMC or IBM. But with what
it believes to be a potent storage architecture and killer application, the company may just have what is needed
to resolve some of the challenges in the industry, and perhaps even revolutionize how storage is done.
There was a time when the pressing challenge of a storage solution was to be able to do all the back up's and
copies without having to schedule any down time.
The challenge is still there, and storage solution providers each negotiate the problem in their own way with
varying degrees of success.
However, an even greater challenge may now face the storage sector, and that is, the amount of data required
to be stored is set to explode more than exponentially over the next few years.
Depending on which report you read, capacity requirement is set to grow between 75% to 1000% per year through
to the year 2003.
Some of that growth is reflected in enterprises' spending on storage solutions.
An IDC research indicates that more companies nowadays spend more on storage than on servers. The trend is
expected to continue till spending on storage takes up to about 75% of an organization's total IT needs.
Companies handling gigabytes of data today may well find themselves on top of terabytes of information a few
years down the road.
"Obviously, what you need," said Richard Blascheke, Xiotech's executive vice president of marketing,
"is a storage solution with infinite scalability."
Add this explosion of storage to the task of maintaining 24x7 uptime and you have a gargantuan task on your
And not many qualified people are on hand to solve that problem for you either. Every study and report in the
past has indicated a shortage of trained IT personnel to handle the needs of the digital economy even as it is.
What is required is clear. Storage solutions need to be simpler, more efficient and infinitely more scalable.
According to Blashcheke, no less than a shift in paradigm regarding how storage is managed will be needed to
face up to the demands of the storage explosion.
"We cannot afford to take the same paradigm that we have been living with for the last fifteen years,"
observed Blashcheke. "It's got to change."
Storage expansion has always been handled in a pretty straight forward way. You buy the additional capacity,
the hardware, the software, and when the capacity becomes too large, hire another administrator to oversee the
The game plan ends up building massive storage systems whose environments are complicated by data coming in
from heterogeneous platforms and hardware.
And an administrator is supposed to know and be able to navigate all of this.
"And if the environment is complex, the people will have to be highly skilled, highly trained, in order
not to make any mistake and bring people down," said Blashcheke.
It will not be easy finding such people.
"Till this day," Blashcheke added, "no business owner can look me in the eyes and tell me that
they can find the IT people that their organizations need."
As such, as storage becomes bigger and more complex, storage solutions will have to become simpler and easier
Xiotech believes they have the answer with virtualization.
Virtualization relies on a whole new way of architecturing storage from the ground up to deliver what is essentially
an ability to pool all the storage from different devices and platforms into one central pool, and manage it from
The configuration of RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs) racks demonstrates clearly the versatility
of such a schematic.
On a typical RAID rack, most vendor designs would not allow the alignment of different capacity discs on the
Those who do, would take the least common denominator, which is, the disc of the lowest capacity, to define the
rack. Additional capacity from larger discs on the same rack is lost.
With storage being managed from a central pool, such a hurdle does not exist. Instead, the storage server can
just mix and match discs of different sizes from the same rack and utilize each of their individual capacity, be
it 9, 18 or 36 GB.
Striping data across all available spindles, virtualization is able to create virtual disks that will utilize
all storage capacity in the system.
By doing so, many traditional hurdles of storage management are overcome, including the need to shut down the
system for routine system administration.
With the right software, a system administrator will be able to expand capacity, add heterogeneous servers and
change RAID levels, all while the system is online.
"True storage virtualization is going to be the killer technology in network storage down the road,"
said Blashcheke. "Centralizing storage into a pool that will allow people to efficiently use all of the capabilities
and all of the capacities of every single physical drive is going to be paramount for people to keep their cost
Xiotech has only just begun to play in the international market with an office set up in Japan just over a year
For now, the company does not expect to have a strong direct presence in Asia Pacific and plans instead to work
closely with partners and reseller channels.
Still, the company has recently hired a regional manager to head the office in Singapore, and hopes to expand
international business enough to make up 25% of the company's gross.
Headcount is not expected to be high. However, by the middle of 2001, the company expects to have another 3 to 4 hires in Asia
dedicated to this region.
"A lot depends on when we find the right people," said a company executive, "we have a pretty
specific view of what skills we need."
As for Japan, the company already has a number of customers including Matsushita and Osaki Bank.