X-IO taught computer storage how to heal itself

Blair Parkhill of X-IO (left) outlines the history of its products.

Blair Parkhill of X-IO (left) outlines the history of its products.

Over time, the disks and their components will degrade as they become hot and vibrate. It’s common for builders of this storage to guarantee their work for three years.

One Colorado Springs company has developed a system that detects a deficiency and fixes itself before the entire unit can go bad.

“If you take the heat and vibration out of the picture, you have a drive that lasts much longer,” said Blair Parkhill, X-IO’s vice president of marketing.

X-IO Technologies guarantees its product for five years, but the useful lifespan of an X-IO Technologies ISE (Intelligent Storage Element) could be seven to 10 years, Parkhill said. Depending on the model type, the sales price for an ISE is up to $200,000, he said.

One happy customer

Earlier this year, X-IO Technologies announced that Kingfisher, Europe’s leading home-improvement retailer, selected the company to “stabilize and bolster the IT infrastructure underpinning the company’s 1,060 stores,” said a news release for the company.

Prior to X-IO’s help, Kingfisher struggled with reliability issues, and the business was experiencing regular disk failures. The retailer decided to move critical data onto three storage systems built by X-IO.

“In addition to being the only solution that could deliver the performance we needed, X-IO’s unique ‘Zero Touch’ approach and five-year warranty also significantly reduced our storage costs,” said Kingfisher Storage Architect Stuart Hartley.

“Compared to the other storage vendors, it was a savings of 40 percent over five years.”

Kingfisher has since added more storage units.

History of the operation

The company was built on technology derived from the ASA (Advanced Storage Architecture) group within Seagate Technology of Colorado Springs and Xiotech of Eden Prairie, Minn.

Seagate ASA provided the development of the hardware, and Xiotech did the same with software.

Fifteen years ago, Xiotech had built clustered controllers that virtualized storage across traditional disk shelves. The controllers hold the memory and the CPU (Central Processing Unit) and are responsible for moving the data.

Xiotech did the bulk of the work in storage, virtualization and management software, he said.

“It was cutting-edge technology then,” Parkhill said.

The ASA team at Seagate changed the way companies used storage. These people had worked for Digital Equipment Corp., Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, and they were passionate about their engineering and computer science work, Parkhill said.

Majority owned by Oak Investment Partners, Xiotech purchased ASA from Seagate in 2007, later forming X-IO Technologies in 2011. “We base everything on what we invented here,” Parkhill said. “We’re purely focused on the ISE, self-healers included.”

Multiple successes

“We base everything on what we invented here. We’re purely focused on the ISE, self-healers included.”

– Blair Parkhill, X-IO

The group’s work has resulted in more than 350 patents, “100 just on our technology alone,” Parkhill said.

The key technology they developed removes heat and vibrations from storage units. The engineers also developed a proprietary technology that enables the part of the unit to heal itself if and when it begins to fail.

“We’re the only ones in the industry with this capability,” Parkhill said.

The technology removes the problem part while continuing to use the remainder of the product.

This technology enables the builder of the hardware to sandwich 40 disk drives, and “clients see it as one very large fast storage unit,” Parkhill said. The chassis for the product remains at 19 inches wide by 5.25 inches tall and a standard depth for data center racks.

The company’s five-year guarantee for its product, but with a “reasonable lifespan for this technology” of a full decade, is critical to the company’s success, Parkhill said.

The software technology “turned out to be ideal for the cloud,” Parkhill said.

Parkhill, who has a bachelor’s degree in package engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, joined X-IO in 2010 after working for Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

“The idea is to pitch what great technology can do for an enterprise application or a cloud provider,” he said.

Headquarters here

X-IO Technologies is headquartered in Colorado Springs with offices in New York City; Austin and Dallas, Texas; Great Britain; India; Beijing, China; South Africa and South Korea.

The sales force has been distributed across the United States, Europe and Asia, with the majority based in the U.S.

X-IO found that major commercial businesses that sold storage did not want this technology, because servicing their products was where they earned money, and when the need for service is greatly reduced, so is a source of income.

Therefore, instead of selling the storage units to companies that would sell to the end user, X-IO Technologies now sells directly to end users.

X-IO Technologies

Info: 9950 Federal Drive, Suite 100, xiostorage.com, 388-5500

In business: Since 1995

Number of employees: 180 (110 at Colorado Springs World Headquarters)