IBM’s acquisition of Texas Memory Systems (TMS) today means there is one less independent flash array vendor out there and one more established storage vendor with a concrete solid-state storage strategy.
Industry insiders expect a wave of acquisitions of the smaller solid-state storage systems vendors by larger companies. EMC started the process when it acquired XtremIO for $430 million last May.
IBM did not disclose its price for TMS, but it acquired a broader set of flash technologies than XtremIO brought EMC. XtremIO had one product – an all-flash array – that hadn’t yet shipped. EMC plans to bring the system into the market next year. TMS has several RamSan all-flash arrays plus server-side PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) cards that compete with EMC’s VFCache product. And while EMC viewed the XtremIO system as a project (“Project X” to be precise), IBM picks up a set of TMS products already shipping.
The TMS RamSan portfolio consists of seven rackmount all-flash storage systems, three rackmount RAM systems and two PCIe flash storage cards.
One reason IBM bought TMS is that it isn’t a startup like most of the other solid-state array vendors. TMS has been around for more than 30 years, and has been selling flash storage systems since 2007.
“We looked at anybody that has any name value in the marketplace, and a couple of them went down to the wire,” said Robert Cancilla, VP and business line executive of IBM Systems Storage. “TMS has maturity in the marketplace. It has proven technology, and we got good feedback from their clients.”
TMS has been around since 1978 but remains relatively small with 100 employees. It started with memory systems for seismic processing for the oil and gas industry. TMS was among the first solid-state storage vendors, shipping its first NAND flash system – the RamSan-500 – in 2007. It added its first PCIe flash storage system – the RamSan-20 – in 2009, and last month upgraded its PCIe flash cards to allow them to natively boot server operating systems.
“TMS is the grand-daddy of the SSD industry, both for DRAM and flash-based products,” said analyst Greg Schulz, president of StorageIO Group. “IBM can phase the TMS PCIe flash blades into their server and storage products. At least on paper, IBM has technologies, including real-time compression, NAS, virtualization and dedupe, to wrap around an SSD appliance.”
Cancilla said several TMS customers are using its RamSan arrays behind IBM’s SAN Volume Controller (SVC) virtualization system, and IBM knows the systems work together. “Other vendors’ products have not worked as well with SVC, so we had first-hand knowledge about them,” he said.
Cancilla said IBM will sell RamSan systems in their current form when the deal closes, probably late this year. The long-term strategy is to integrate TMS technology with other IBM storage, servers, software and PureSystems products. Cancilla said IBM’s Netezza data analytics product could benefit from using TMS solid-state technology.
He said IBM will work on integrating Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) software with RamSan systems to provide data management. TMS’s data management is rudimentary because the vendor focuses on high performance.
Cancilla said IBM is most interested in the RamSan flash arrays, but also sees demand for the PCIe flash cards. He said IBM would continue to sell Fusion-io PCIe cards with its System x servers, but said RamSan’s PCIe cards also compete with some of Fusion-io products.
IBM uses solid-state as a cache with its XIV storage platform and offers SSDs in its other storage platforms, but Cancilla said with TMS “we’re not handcuffed by the drive form factor anymore.”