EMC buys enterprise flash startup DSSD

EMC CEO Joe Tucci

EMC CEO Joe Tucci

LAS VEGAS – EMC kicked off its EMC World 2014 conference here with the announcement that it had acquired stealthy Silicon Valley-based startup DSSD, a purchase that EMC says will allow it to soon market “rack-scale” flash storage for data centres.

Jeremy Burton, president of EMC’s Information Infrastructure business, said the purchase will create “a new category of storage” that will improve IOPS, bandwidth and latency, and scale into the 100s of terabytes and beyond.

To say DSSD is an unfamiliar company to the channel would be an understatement. The company is very quiet about what it’s up to, it’s yet to ship a product, and its Web site is an exercise in minimalism. But it has an impressive leadership team, including Arista Networks chairman Andy Bechtolsheim, and Bill Moore, former storage czar at Sun Microsystems, and 3Par’s first-ever employee.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014, and products from the company are expected by 2015, executives said here at EMC World. While EMC is shying away from discussing details, it has no shortage of high expectations for its new purchase.

“If you have applications that are very I/O intensive, need very low latency and high bandwidth, this company will have storage products for you,” EMC CEO Joe Tucci said during his keynote.

Burton said products eventually coming out of DSSD will promise scale into the hundreds of Terabytes, all flash, with the ability to address the entire array as either storage or RAM. While the hardware sounds interesting, Bechtolscheim suggested that the software was the key to it – the company says it’s building its management software to be optimized for applications that produce, consume, and churn massive amounts of data, such as SAP’s HANA in-memory database, and EMC’s own Pivotal Big Data unit. In a video chat with Tucci, SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott confirmed that SAP has been working with DSSD, and expressed excitement about getting HANA up and running on the platform.

“This is not about files or blocks, this is about accelerating applications like Hadoop and SAP HANA,” Bechtolscheim said.

The plan is for DSSD to operate as a standalone unit within EMC’s Emerging Technology Products Division. Moore will stay on to lead the business, while Bechtolsheim “will serve as DSSD’s strategic advisor” post-acquisition, the companies said.

Despite EMC’s penchant for acquisitions – the company typically invests 10 per cent of its annual revenues on M&A activities – Tucci noted that this was the first time in his memory that the company had announced an acquisition as part of EMC World. While timing of the deal coming together likely had a lot to do with that, it could also be seen as a nod to the importance of the product in the company’s future.

EMC has been pushing hard on the enterprise flash storage market, and a product like what executives describe from DSSD would be a nice addition to its strategy in that space. While flash in the data centre is growing rapidly, IDC numbers suggest that only 2.82 per cent of all data centre storage will be flash-based three years from now, it’s still a growth opportunity, and one with a number of problems to solve. Burton added that EMC believes the transition towards flash “is going to be a bit quicker” than IDC’s forecasts would suggest.