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Xiotech dumps Daticon to embrace Emprise

I had a technology demo Tuesday with Xiotech, where they showed off their new baby, the Emprise storage system. A technology demo might seem like a worse fate than death to most, but I appreciate the opportunity to get out from behind my phone and computer screen and actually see things in the flesh (or silicon, as it were).

Xiotech’s reps showed me a pre-recorded demo of the Emprise self healing process, including automated power cycling on a drive and the process of copying data off a drive to the others in its DataPac storage unit, remanufacturing the drive, and bringing it back online, restriping the data. Lots of blinky lights and bar graphs of I/O going up and down.

To say Xiotech officials are excited about Emprise would be a vast understatement. But in the midst of discussing power supply and airflow designs, SCSI command sets and their varying quality from device to device, future storage media such as solid state drives, and parallelized application performance, a little light bulb suddenly went off in the back of my mind.

“What ever happened to Daticon?” I asked. I’ll admit it was something of a non sequitur but it occurred to me at random.

There was a pause. Marketing communications guy looked at CTO Steve Sicola, Sicola looked back at marketing communications guy. “Well, there was a press release last week…”

Last week I was dead to the world beyond Symantec, but it doesn’t appear this press release was exactly heavily broadcast, either: as of June 6, Daticon has been sold to Electronic Evidence Discovery Inc. (EED). According to Xiotech director of marketing communications Bruce Caswell, “the opportunity to buy [Seagates Advanced Storage Architecture (ASA) group] came to light about a year ago, and we had two opportunities to pursue: e-Discovery and storage. We had to decide what we really wanted to pursue.”

He added, “that’s why we announced some evidence management solutions with Daticon and then sort of went dark.”

Xiotech also went dark for about nine months before the Daticon acquistion. At the time, Mike Stolz, vice president of corporate marketing, said “adding this functionality gets us out of day-to-day combat with EMC and IBM…evidence management and data discovery evolve around the storage system but at a higher level.” That made it appear that Xiotech would transform from a general storage array vendor to an ediscovery specialist.

Now Xiotech appears to be putting all of its resources into the Emprise and and its relationship with drive vendor Seagate, which owned Xiotech at one time and remans the sole drive supplier for the Emprisse (it has to be for the drive diagnostic firmware to work). Generally, array vendors use more than one manufacturer to force better pricing and overcome manufacturing anomalies, which crop up from time to time for particular suppliers.

Sicola says Xiotech has a contract with Seagate made to keep raw material costs competitive, but otherwise Xiotech makes no apology for slightly more expensive components, whch also include fans and power supplies engineered to use the same bearings as the disk drives, cutting down on vibration within each DataPac. Xiotech argues that spending more on better parts cuts down on failure rates, SCSI errors and services costs. “You can build a better mouse trap, but you need better parts,” he told me today.

As for manufacturing anomalies affecting whole batches of disk drives, “even when they reach epidemic proportions, they affect 10% of the product on the market,” Sicola said. “Problems with vibration, cooling and bad controller software make them worse–we want to fix that stuff by getting down to clean code.”

What do you think? Does that approach sound risky, or clever? Does ISE seem like another false start a la Daticon, or is it really the next big thing for Xiotech?

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Fair disclosure: I work for Seagate. My perspective: the Daticon activity didn't generate near as much buzz and announced orders as Emprise has already achieved. It's early to say, but Xiotech seems to be on to something bigger this time around.
As a former employee of Xiotech the dumping of Daticon is just another example of their lack of focus or ability to execute. Sicne the founders left Xiotech they have struggled to innovate and separate themselves in the market. Casey Powell (CEO) was elated about Daticon when the first started the relationship and said this was going to be a whole new direction for XIotech. It was in his works “Game Changing” Not sure what game it changed but clearly not the one Xiotech had hoped. What will happen to XIotech is Emprise does not succeed. Will they change directions once again?