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OCZ grabs Sanrad for PCIe caching software

Not surprisingly, the first storage acquisition of 2012 involved solid-state flash. That technology figured prominently in 2011 acquisitions, and the trend is certain to accelerate this year with larger companies buying technology from smaller vendors.

OCZ Technology kicked off the year’s M&A Monday by dropping $15 million on privately held Sanrad. The acquisition is part of OCZ’s push into enterprise flash, specifically PCIe cards.

Sanrad has been around since 2000. It started off selling iSCSI SAN switches, and then adapted those switches for storage and server virtualization. But OCZ is most interested in the software that runs on those switches. Sanrad last September launched VXL software that caches data on flash solid-state storage.

VXL runs as a virtual appliance and distributes data and flash resources to virtual machines. The software enables caching more efficiently and lets customers distribute flash across more VMs without a performance hit. VXL software does not require an agent on each VM and supports VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix Xen hypervisors.

Sanrad’s StoragePro software lets administrators manage storage across servers or storage devices as a single pool. Sanrad sold StoragePro with its V Series virtualization switches.

During OCZ’s earnings call Monday evening, CEO Ryan Peterson said the Sanrad software will be packaged with OCZ’s Z-Drive PCIe SSDs. The move can be considered competitive to Fusion-io’s acquisition of caching software startup IO Turbine last year.

Peterson said the Sanrad acquisition is part of OCZ’s strategy to see PCIe “as more than simply a component and truly as a storage system, which includes things like having VMware, virtualization capability, and support for vMotion, where there is mobility among the virtual machines of the cache …”

Ryan didn’t mention any plans for Sanrad’s switches. He said Sanrad’s revenue was in the “low single-digit millions” over the past few years, indicating low sales despite OEM deals with Brocade and Nexsan.

OCZ also revealed a new PCIe controller platform developed with chip maker Marvell. The new Kilimanjaro platform will be used in the next version of the Z-Drive, R5. That card will have a PCIe 3 interface. It can deliver about 2.4 million 4K file size IOPS per card and approximately 7 GBps of bandwidth, according to OCZ and Marvell. OCZ is demonstrating the R5 at CES and Storage Visions with an IBM server this week in Las Vegas.

It is also demonstrating new 6 Gbps SATA-based SSD controllers based on its 2011 acquisition of Indilinx.

OCZ’s push to the enterprise is beginning to pay off. Peterson said OCZ’s enterprise-class SSD revenue increased approximately 50% year over year last quarter and now makes up approximately 21% of its SSD sales.

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