IBM adds solid-state hard drive maker to arsenal, beefs up PureSystems

IBM's recent acquisition of solid-state hard drive manufacturer TMS will add to its converged infrastructure portfolio. Will others follow suit?

IBM's recent acquisition of solid-state hard drive manufacturer Texas Memory Systems will add to its converged infrastructure portfolio. Will others follow suit?

IBM acquired Houston-based Texas Memory Systems (TMS) last week for an undisclosed sum.

Because solid-state drive (SSD) technology has continued to improve application performance, "establishing leadership in flash optimized technology is important for IBM," said Terri Mitchell, vice president and integration executive at IBM.

TMS is a small manufacturing company -- all told, it has 100 employees. Founded in 1978 as a traditional storage company, it has produced SSD offerings since 2007.

TMS' solid-state hard drives eventually will be integrated into IBM's PureSystems converged infrastructure design, according to IBM. PureFlex, the infrastructure part of the bundle, currently uses the IBM Storwize V7000 for storage.

Leveraging the fast input/output operations per second (IOPS) of solid-state "will help PureSystems run new workloads faster … and will most likely give PureSystems a competitive advantage," said Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, a technology research and analysis firm in Yarmouth, Maine.

Among the applications that benefit most from the IOPS speed of SSDs are databases, multimedia streaming, financial applications, surveillance and security, and graphical rendering, he said.

Solid-state technology runs faster and on lower power than hard disk drives (HDDs) -- 14 W idle for some HDDs, .5 W idle for some SSDs -- and because energy use is of growing concern in data centers, these numbers are crucial.

IBM isn't alone, nor is it the first converged infrastructure vendor to gobble up SSD storage companies. In May 2012, EMC Corp. took startup XtremeIO, while Oracle Corp. acquired Pillar Data Systems and Dell Inc. absorbed Compellent in 2011. Similar acquisitions by others are expected in the near future.

Solid-state hard drives for a fabric future

Morphlabs Inc., a cloud vendor that offers converged infrastructure, uses SSD storage exclusively in its systems. According to a recent white paper from the company, SSDs are an excellent choice, in part because they use less power and aren't affected by temperature the way HDDs are -- both of which features help reduce energy consumption.

"A guiding principle in our architecture decisions is efficiency, especially in light of the rapid cloud adoption happening in broader developing markets worldwide," said Kaz Brecher, vice president of business solutions at the Los Angeles-based company.

Solid-state drives actually help contribute to lower costs in countries where energy can cost up to four times as much as in the U.S., she said. "So, to be clear, it's less about 100% SSD and more about strategic implementation to reduce costs and increase performance," she added.

Time will tell whether SSD technology takes off in fabric computing, but if converged infrastructure goes to flash storage, who'll be bought next: Fusion-io? Violin Memory?

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