Geoff Barrall likes making provocative statements. As BlueArc Corp.'s chief technology officer some years ago, at the company's coming-out party, he proclaimed that the BlueArc SiliconServer would have EMCers shaking in their boots. I presume he was referring to their motorcycle boots. Whatever. EMCers smiled, revved their Harleys a few times, and kept on cruising.

Now Barrall is making another brash, attention-getting statement as CEO of start-up Data Robotics Inc., the maker of a little tyke of a storage box named Drobo. Here it is:

RAID is dead.

Let me repeat that once more in case you missed it.

RAID is dead.

I see you all out there, smirking and revving your RAID controllers. "What could possibly replace RAID controllers?" you ask rhetorically. As if nothing could ever replace RAID -- ever.

Perhaps its time to pay homage and move on. Coupled with networked storage, the redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID) enabled the prolific 60 percent average growth per year in data storage infrastructure we now see. It rose from humble beginnings in an academic computer lab to enterprise ubiquity in a few years because it delivered performance, a vastly reduced hardware footprint and dramatic cost savings all at once. As such, RAID was very disruptive when it first appeared in the data centre. But those heady days are long gone, and new storage management issues have surfaced that RAID can't reach.

The virtualised storage controller is next because it's anything you want it to be. You can endow it with any functionality you want -- including RAID. And, just because the current implementation of virtualised controllers is big doesn't mean that small ones can't also exist.

That's where Barrall comes in. His Drobo-virtualised storage controller is little and inexpensive ($499.00), and does a lot -- just ask him. And, it can say "RAID is dead," but only if you want it to.

John Webster is the principal IT adviser at research firm Illuminata Inc. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at [email protected]