Ellison-backed Storage Start-up to Rival EMC/Hitachi?
Company Takes Aim at Mid-Tier and Enterprise IT Market
Jun. 15, 2005 09:30 AM
For the last three years, Pillar Data Systems engineers have toiled in virtual secrecy as they developed a new kind of enterprise storage system. This week, Pillar formally removed the wraps when it unveiled Pillar Axiom, a product that has the industry buzzing about its breakthrough features.
According to Michael Workman, president and CEO of Pillar, the company met with hundreds of prospective customers during the design phase of Axiom. “They said they wanted more flexibility, easier management, and lower cost,” says Workman. “We built our products from the ground up to meet these expectations.”
Pillar Data CEO Mike Workman with
a Pillar Axiom storage rack
Several early analyst and customer reactions indicate that the company may be a strong competitor to current industry leaders such as EMC, Network Appliance and Hitachi.
"Pillar is entering the storage market at an ideal time, and should quickly find its way to the short list of many enterprise storage customers,” said Arun Taneja, president of the Taneja Group, a technology analyst firm based in Hopkinton, Mass. “With its unique policy-based management, compelling system design, seasoned management team and strong financial backing, Pillar has the credentials to earn respectable market share.”
Early Axiom customers have been impressed with the system’s manageability, flexibility and value. “The capabilities of the Pillar Axiom system are unparalleled,” said Chris Butler, CTO of San Francisco-based I/PRO Corporation, a provider of web site auditing and audience measurement services based in San Francisco, Calif. “The system’s unique ability to intelligently store multiple tiers of data on a common platform has already saved me three times the purchase price.”
Other Pillar customers are reportedly finding that it costs less to purchase and deploy a Pillar Axiom system than it does to maintain some of their current systems. And unlike competing alternatives, according to customers, Pillar allows customers to scale capacity and performance without incurring additional software license fees.
“Pillar Axiom provides tremendous value, not just in terms of acquisition price but also from lower management costs and savings derived from the ability to consolidate all our SAN and NAS systems on a single platform under a common management interface,” said Dave Matanane, director of information technology at eHealthInsurance, a major online health insurance information provider based in Mountain View, Calif. “This capability will allow us to migrate many of our internal business applications to Pillar Axiom, including our back-office financial and data warehousing applications.”
Modular Architecture Handles Storage Mix
The Pillar Axiom storage approach attempts to reduce storage complexity and contain data management costs by implementing a modular architecture designed from inception to handle NAS-only, SAN-only, or a mix of NAS and SAN storage. In what Pillar claims is an industry first, Axiom manages system resources to simultaneously deliver multiple levels of service from a single storage pool.
Database applications, for example, which require the highest possible performance, can be stored in a narrow band near the outer diameter of the disk drive platters, where the data rate is the highest and there is more data per track. Lower priority data is automatically stored on inner tracks where data rates are lower. Each Axiom system’s capacity can scale from three to over 300 terabytes.
The Pillar Axiom storage system is composed of three modular and redundant components. They are the Pilot Policy Controller, which runs Pillar’s Axiom Storage Manager Software; the Slammer Storage Controller, which manages SAN and NAS I/O; and the Brick Storage Enclosure, which provides RAID protected disk storage.
The entire system is managed with Axiom Storage Manager Software, which allows administrators to allocate storage resources, set application-specific QoS profiles, and define storage automation parameters, such as the data replication schedule. While customers appreciate Axiom’s enterprise-class manageability, scalability and performance, one customer named the dramatic cost savings as another Pillar strong point.
“Pillar sold us an enterprise storage system with seven times the capacity for about half the price quoted by a competitor,” said Robert Moon, the Senior Vice President and CIO at publicly traded LeapFrog Enterprises, based in Emeryville, Calif. “If that isn’t compelling, I don’t know what is.”
Pillar Data has been shipping its NAS-equipped systems for seven weeks, according to Workman, and will begin shipping its SAN-equipped systems in early July. Pricing ranges from $50,000 to $500,000 with capacities of from three to 300 terabytes.