Top 10 storage acquisitions of 2010

UPDATED August 16, 2010 – I originally posted this Top 10 acquisitions piece last week, with EMC's acquisition of Greenplum in the #1 spot. Today's announcement that Dell plans to acquire 3PAR for a whopping $1.15 billion clearly catapults that deal into the #1 position. As such, here's my revised list of the Top 10 storage acquisitions of 2010, in ascending order:

#10: EXAR – NETERION
This one probably wouldn’t have made the Top 10 list except for the fact that it’s Exar’s second storage-related acquisition in the last year, indicating that this relatively unknown vendor is up to something in the storage market.

The acquisition of Hifn last year put Exar in the storage optimization market with data deduplication, compression and encryption technology. Which put them into discussions that include Storwize (acquired by IBM, see below), Ocarina Networks (acquired by Dell, see below) and Permabit.

The acquisition of Neterion this year (reportedly for $10 million to $11 million) puts Exar in the 10GbE/FCoE adapter space, and might get them a place in conversations typically focused on vendors such as Emulex, QLogic, Brocade, Broadcom and Intel.

“We see a lot of synergy between Neterion’s virtual I/O technology and Hifn’s data compression, security [encryption] and data deduplication technologies,” said John Williams, vice president of Exar’s datacom and storage business.”

Interesting, but does an engineering-focused company have the marketing might to compete with the big boys? Well, Neterion OEMs include EMC, HP, IBM, Fujitsu and Hitachi, so the company at least knows how to play with the big boys.

See “Exar to acquire Neterion”

#9: SOLARWINDS – TEK-TOOLS
As with Exar, this one made the Top 10 list in large part due to the surprise factor: Few in the storage world had ever heard of SolarWinds, which specializes in network and applications management software.

Tek-Tools has for a long time specialized in storage resource management (SRM) tools, and SolarWinds plans to integrate Tek-Tools’ Profiler SRM suite into its Orion portfolio by the end of this year. Sounds like a good fit, but since when did any acquisition-driven integration project get completed on schedule?

SolarWinds paid $42 million for Tek-Tools. And if that seems steep, consider the fact that Tek-Tools partners and resellers include 3PAR, AdviStor, Agami, Bell Micro, Brocade, CA, Cambridge Computer, CDW, Dell, EMC, GlassHouse, the Harding Group, HP, IBM, Kisdata, LSI, the Microsoft Developer Network, MySQL AB, NetApp, Novell, PC Mall, Quantum, Red Hat, Siemens Business, Sun, Syncsort, Techmate, VMware and Xiotech.

See “SolarWinds acquires Tek-Tools for SRM”

#8: PMC-SIERRA – ADAPTEC
Throughout the 1990s, Adaptec was synonymous with SCSI, and had a lock on the SCSI controller/adapter market. The company reached its heyday when it racked up revenues of about $800 million in fiscal 2000. But Adaptec didn’t see the winds of change blowing. PMC-Sierra acquired Adaptec for $34 million.

In addition to Adaptec’s technology and products, PMC acquired Adaptec’s extensive channel, where it is still strong in RAID adapters.

The interesting thing about this acquisition is that it puts PMC-Sierra in even more intense competition with arch enemy LSI. Now PMC will compete in the channel with LSI at the board level, whereas previously the battle was fought on the semiconductor front.

See “PMC-Sierra to buy Adaptec’s channel storage business”

#7: NETAPP – BYCAST
The terms of this deal were not disclosed. According to our original article on the acquisition: “NetApp is advancing its efforts in the cloud storage market with the acquisition of Bycast, a developer of object-based storage virtualization software that turns multiple storage devices across geographically dispersed locations into a single pool for storing fixed content data.”

See “NetApp to acquire Bycast for cloud storage software.”

NetApp plans to leverage Bycast technology to go after markets such as digital media, Web 2.0, healthcare, and cloud services providers.

Bycast’s flagship product is its StorageGRID virtualization software. It will be interesting to see what happens to some of Bycast’s existing OEM deals, which include partnerships with IBM and HP.

#6: EMULEX – SERVERENGINES
Prior to acquiring ServerEngines, Emulex was in a dicey position: The company licensed critical technology, including 10GbE ASICs, from ServerEngines and that technology was key to Emulex’s (at the time) risky gamble of betting the farm on 10GbE – a market owned largely by Broadcom and Intel.

The position was dicey because a competitor could scoop up ServerEngines, thus pulling the rug from underneath Emulex’s (at the time) loose footing. Emulex paid a high price for ServerEngines, but there wasn’t any choice.

According to our original article on the acquisition: “Emulex will acquire ServerEngines for $78 million in cash and eight million shares of Emulex stock. Based on Emulex’s closing price of $10.11 last week, those eight million shares would translate into an additional $81 million, bringing the total to almost $160 million.”

But wait, there’s more: “In addition, Emulex will issue four million shares of stock if ServerEngines meets certain business objectives by the end of 2011. Emulex also agreed to assume ServerEngines’ debt, which is currently $25 million. As such, the deal could eventually exceed $200 million.”

See “Emulex to acquire ServerEngines.”

The bet, and the acquisition, seem to have paid off. Emulex has racked up a number of OEM design wins for its 10GbE/FCoE/iSCSI converged network adapters (CNAs), most notably with HP. This puts Emulex at the table with Intel and Broadcom (which it beat out for the HP business) and may strengthen its position vs. QLogic and Brocade. In addition to HP, Emulex has design wins with vendors such as Dell, EMC, HDS, HP, IBM and NetApp.

ServerEngines was founded in 2004 by former Broadcom engineers that were previously with ServerWorks, which was acquired by Broadcom in 2001. In early 2009, Broadcom launched an unsuccessful hostile takeover of Emulex.

#5: DELL – OCARINA
Rumored to be in the $150 million ballpark, Dell’s acquisition of Ocarina came as a surprise to almost everybody. And this one (along with #4, see below) confirmed that storage optimization (data deduplication and/or compression) of primary storage is The Next Big Thing.

According to my original blog post on this acquisition (see “Dell to acquire Ocarina for data deduplication”): “Until the announcement of its embeddable, OEM version of its software, Ocarina was known primarily as a vendor of data reduction technology for primary storage. But the embeddable version is applicable across the storage spectrum, from primary storage to backup and archive.”

That led some analysts to predict that Dell is pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach to data deduplication where Ocarina’s technology will be used across the storage spectrum. If true, that would be bad news for Dell dedupe partners Symantec, CommVault and maybe even EMC Data Domain. But I don’t think that’s Dell’s game plan, at least not for the foreseeable future.

I think Dell will initially leverage Ocarina’s technology in specific image-intensive, fixed-content applications, and only on primary storage. That space is where, so far, Ocarina has made its mark, with large wins at companies such as Kodak. Dell will continue to use Symantec, CommVault and Data Domain where those companies’ technologies make more sense, or where customers demand it.

Besides, the Ocarina technology could be used in conjunction with deduplication technology from vendors such as Symantec and CommVault.

And in a related Top 10 acquisition . . .

#4: IBM – STORWIZE
This one had been rumored for weeks before IBM made it official, so it ranks low on the surprise factor but high on the industry influence scale. Even more than the Dell-Ocarina deal, and even more than NetApp’s evangelizing, IBM’s acquisition of data compression specialist Storwize put data reduction for primary storage in the #1 spot among Hot Storage Technologies.

Rumors put this deal in the range of $140 million.

IBM didn’t lay out specific plans, and it already has some good data reduction technology, but it looks like Big Blue will apply the Storwize technology to its high-end XIV system, Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) platform, System Storage Easy Tier, and maybe even its ProtecTIER deduplication products.

Storwize’s data reduction technology differs from some of its competitors in that it is in-line, real-time compression, as opposed to data deduplication.

It’s certainly not an understatement to say that being acquired by IBM was the smartest thing Storwize did since changing its name from Storwiz.

Read the full story on InfoStor partner site Enterprise Storage Forum: “IBM to Buy Storwize for Real-Time Data Compression.” And check out Kevin Komiega’s blog post: “IBM to Acquire Storwize.”

#3: VISION SOLUTIONS – DOUBLE-TAKE
This one ranked high on the surprise factor (because Vision Solutions isn’t exactly well-known in the storage community) and it also ranked high on dollars, being valued at $242 million. Those two factors earned it the #2 ranking, although IBM-Storwize and Dell-Ocarina may be more interesting and certainly got a lot more ink.

The $242 million amounted to about $10.55 per Double-Take share. Double-Take went public in 2006 at about $11 a share.

Prior to the Vision Solutions announcement, it was well known that Double-Take was on the block, but the smart money was on vendors such as Dell and HP as potential acquirers.

Vision Solutions specializes in data protection software for IBM systems, while Double-Take’s strengths are in backup, replication, disaster recovery and high availability software, primarily for Microsoft platforms.

See “Vision Solutions to acquire Double-Take”

#2: EMC – GREENPLUM
I never did find out exactly what EMC paid for Greenplum, a data warehousing and analytics specialist, but my (questionable) sources tell me that the acquisition payment would easily put the deal near the top of this list. And besides, what would a Top 10 Storage Acquisitions list be without an EMC entry?

Greenplum claims more than 100 customers, including NASDAQ OMX, NYSE Euronext, Skype, Equifax and T-Mobile.

In addition to its massively parallel processing (MPP) Greenplum Database, the company has Greenplum Chorus, a cloud platform for collaboration and data sharing. Greenplum will become the foundation of a new division within EMC’s Information Infrastructure business.

So it’s a nice fit with EMC’s private cloud initiatives, but it also roughens up the competition between EMC, Oracle, IBM and Sun. Do you have a feeling that there’s at least one more big – very big – acquisition on the way?

See “EMC acquires data warehousing vendor Greenplum.”

#1: DELL -- 3PAR
At approximately $1.15 billion, Dell's planned acquisition of 3PAR is in the same ballpark as EMC's acquisition of Data Domain last year, both of which qualify as game changers.

Dell has commenced a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of 3PAR stock for $18 a share, or about an 86% permium over 3PAR's closing price on Friday.

That hefty price tag suggests that there were other bidders for 3PAR. And if anyone doubted that Dell wants to be a real (as opposed to reseller) player in the storage space, the 3PAR acquisition should assuage those doubts.

This announcement will probably once again call into question Dell's reseller partnership with EMC, but I don't see why. The Dell-EMC marriage will run its course one way or the other, but the outcome won't have anything to do with the 3PAR deal.

However, when you look at all of Dell's storage acquisitions (3PAR, Ocarina, EqualLogic, Exanet, Scalent and probably more to come), Dell and EMC could be on an accelerated path to splitsville. (Reportedly, Dell says that there is only about a 20% overlap between the 3PAR and Dell/EMC product lines.)

Historically, the summer months have been ripe for storage acquisitions so, given the prevailing climate, fasten your seatbelts. I may have to update this Top 10 list within the next two weeks.

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posted by: Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief
by Dave Simpson
Editor-in-Chief

Dave Simpson has been the Editor-in-Chief of InfoStor since its inception in 1997. He previously held editorial positions at publications such as Datamation, Systems Integration, and Digital News and Review. He can be contacted at dsimpson@quinstreet.com

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