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Not only did IBM land an up-and-coming storage technology company with its acquisition of Israel-based XIV on Jan. 2, but it also acquired one of the leading storage system architects in the world.

Big Blue acquired the privately held storage technology company [pronounced X-I-V] based in Tel Aviv for a reported $300 million, although IBM did not reveal financial terms.

XIV, along with all its employees, will become part of the IBM System Storage business unit of the IBM Systems and Technology Group, an IBM spokesperson said.

The move rings similar to Dell’s acquisition of EqualLogic in Novemberin that an established IT systems company added a cutting-edge company with second-generation storage technology. XIV offers high-end features such as unlimited snapshots, I/O load-balancing and automatic configuration that can be deployed on relatively inexpensive commodity hardware.

Perhaps more importantly, however, IBM adds XIV Chairman Moshe Yanai, the man who helped send EMC on its way to world leadership in disk storage back in the 1990s.

Yanai, a former tank division commander in the Israeli army, joined EMC in 1987, where he designed and built the first Symmetrix system—still a bread-and-butter product of EMC and now called the “DMX” series.

Yanai owns 18 storage system patents, all of which now are key ingredients in EMC’s closely guarded intellectual property.

Previously, Yanai had built IBM-compatible mainframe storage based on minicomputer disks.

With Yanai safely within the Armonk, N.Y., giant’s domain, Big Blue now has a powerful thought leader for developing future products in the burgeoning data storage market.

IBM, particularly in the last few months, has made no secret of its disdain for EMC, by far its largest competitor in the sector. Now Big Blue has its competitor’s key IP creator.

EMC’s vice president of technology alliances Chuck Hollis told eWEEK that the acquisition “is more about IBM getting more serious about storage. We see it as more of a response to Dell [and its EqualLogic deal]. We think that the [XIV platform] will eventually replace IBM’s DS8000 line, which is basically a pair of servers.”

Hollis said that Yanai is “certainly is a bright buy, and Symmetrix remains a great product. But he developed it in the early ’90s—that’s 15 or 16 years ago. We’ve had a lot of innovation [at EMC] since then.”

David Hill, longtime storage analyst with The Mesabi Group, told eWEEK that Yanai is the reason the deal was made.

“That’s precisely why this is such a credible move for IBM. Yanai is the guy who put EMC on the map in many ways. And he also knows how to put together a strong engineering team,” Hill said.

“At XIV, he’s designed a new [next-generation] system that puts all the data into 1MB chunks and spreads them around the system, so that no one or two disks has to handle most of the workload. This saves on disk life and increases performance. When more arms of the system are used [and load-balanced], hot spots and well-worn disks in the system are avoided.”

Hill said that within the data storage intellectual community, the move of Yanai to IBM could be likened “to a key ballplayer from the Yankees moving to join the Red Sox—or vice versa. Like Roger Clemens did.”

XIV’s NEXTRA architecture can scale dynamically, heal itself in the event of failure and self-tune for optimum performance, an IBM spokesperson said.

“I think what’s most interesting about the company is that their storage offering is modular and built on industry standard hardware,” storage analyst Stephanie Balouras of Forrester Research told eWEEK.

“For emerging workloads like surveillance and the storage of rich digital content [video, photos], cheap and scalable and easy to manage are very important.”

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