EMC buys Pi to round out cloud computing unit

EMC has bought Seattle online storage company Pi to extend its "cloud computing" offering

Storage giant, EMC continues, to push into the consumer territory: Its latest move is to acquire Pi, a company whose software and services will help users keep track of their personal data.

Seattle-based Pi develops software and online services to enable users to control how they find, access, share and protect everything from photos, videos, and music. The data can be stored online or locally.

The company name stands for personal information, not the number 3.14.

The rapidly growing amount of personal data is what prompted EMC to open its wallet, according to CEO, Joe Tucci. It's a cash transaction, but EMC won't disclose the amount.

Pi hasn't actually launched any products or services yet: They are in beta testing, according to EMC.

EMC sees Pi not only as part of its consumer push, but also an element of its cloud computing strategy, the next big thing in storage, according to one analyst.

"Cloud computing is the next storage hype. It's all about moving storage, back up, and even clock cycles to the net," said Per Sedihn, chief technology officer at Swedish storage integrator, Proact.

EMC expects to complete the deal during the first quarter, at which point Pi and its 100 employees will join EMC's newly minted Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division. It already includes Mozy, an online backup service, and Fortress, a platform for cloud-based services. Pi founder and CEO Paul Maritz (who used to be an executive at Microsoft), will join EMC's executive management team as president and general manager of the divsion.

EMC is far from the only company interested in the area. Amazon launched Simple Storage Service (S3) two years ago. It provides data storage through a web services based interface.

Proact's Sedihn also likes Nirvanix, a company that counts Intel among its investors. "They have a very nice user interface", said Sedihn, adding that Google is also waiting in the wings.

"I think cloud services will mainly be used by consumers and smaller companies. But I also expect larger companies to build their internal infrastructure with this model, said Sedihn.

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