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How IBM and HDS copied virtualisation technology

IBM and HDS copied block storage virtualisation technology from Datacore; so says a person very familiar with the events at the time.

The story goes like this: A few years ago companies like DataCore were pioneering block storage virtualisation. The enterprise storage vendors like EMC, HDS and IBM were not committed to it.

IBM realised block storage virtualisation could commoditise the block storage array business. That was the risk. So it signed a deal with DataCore in 2001 and bought time while it learnt about storage virtualisation. The DataCore IBM relationship was strong. Then it perceptibly cooled in public. IBM dismissed storage virtualisation only, a little while later, for it to bring out its SAN Volume Controller product which virtualises block storage.

The theory is that IBM found out all it could about SANsymphony's capabilities and then reverse-engineered it.

The same view is presented about HDS. DataCore had an arrangement with HDS in 2000, whereby they were all over each other's development labs. Then, some time later, and hey presto, HDS comes out with its TagmaStore virtualised block array. The source said: "The deal with DataCore was a placeholder. If virtualisation did take off then they could ride on DataCore's back. They bought time. DataCore used the relationship too. It got credibility. It told the world about the HDS partnership. It got customers it wouldn't otherwise have. Ditto partners."

He asserted that DataCore used its IBM relationship in the same way.

But DataCore did not have an arrangement with EMC. InVista has not benefited from exposure to SANsymphony capabilities as, the story goes, IBM's SVC and HDS' USP have. Anyway, EMC and DataCore did talk once, in pre-Joe Tucci days. But the then EMC CEO, Mike Ruettgers, "had an ego as big as he was" and the EMC/DataCore people did not hit it off.

There was another factor. If DataCore and EMC actually had had a partnership none of the other big storage vendors, notably HDS and IBM, would have talked to DataCore at all.

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