The Top Ten Storage Acquisitions of 2010

January 3, 2011 -- I originally posted a Top Ten acquisitions list in September, under the assumption that after the blockbuster HP-3PAR buyout we may have seen the last of the big storage acquisitions for the year. Wrong. The storage industry capped a crazy year of M&A fever with the EMC-Isilon and Dell-Compellent acquisitions. With those additions, I had to knock off from the list a few of the relatively minor acquisitions of the year, including SolarWinds’ acquisition of Tek-Tools and Exar’s buyout of Neterion.
Here's my revised list of the Top 10 storage acquisitions of 2010, in ascending order:

#10: 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 this summer for a mere $34 million.

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

PMC-Sierra’s acquisition of Adaptec puts the company 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 primarily on the semiconductor front.

Related articles:
PMC-Sierra to buy Adaptec’s channel storage business
PMC-Sierra ships 6Gbps SAS controllers

#9: NETAPP – BYCAST

The terms of the NetApp-Bycast 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.

#8: 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 (and going head-to-head with Ethernet giants Broadcom and Intel, in addition to long-time rival QLogic and others).

The position was dicey because a competitor could scoop up ServerEngines, thus pulling the rug from underneath Emulex’s strategy. 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), including 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.

#7: DELL – OCARINA

Rumored to be in the $150 million ballpark, Dell’s acquisition of Ocarina came as a surprise to almost everybody, and (along with #6, see below) confirmed that capacity 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.”

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

And in a related Top 10 acquisition . . .

#6: 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 a top spot among Hot Storage Technologies.

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

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.

The Storwize product line is now part of the IBM Real-time Compression business unit.

See “IBM to Buy Storwize for Real-Time Data Compression” on InfoStor partner site Enterprise Storage Forum.

#5: VISION SOLUTIONS – DOUBLE-TAKE

This one ranked high on the surprise factor and it also ranked high in dollars, being valued at $242 million.

That 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, with vendors such as Dell and HP considered to be 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”

#4: 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.

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 became the foundation of a new division within EMC’s Information Infrastructure business.

Greenplum is a nice fit with EMC’s cloud initiatives, but it also heats up the competition between EMC, Oracle, IBM and Sun.

See “EMC acquires data warehousing vendor Greenplum”

#3: DELL – COMPELLENT

This one may not be a done deal, but it’s pretty close so Dell’s “take-under” acquisition of Compellent takes the #3 spot on our list. The latest offer is $27.75 per share, which translates into about $960 million, or $820 million net of Compellent’s cash.

In a sense, Compellent is a consolation prize after Dell lost the bidding war with HP over 3PAR. Acquiring 3PAR would have solidified Dell’s position in high-end disk arrays, but Compellent fills out Dell’s mid-range (and slightly high-end) positioning.

It will be interesting to see how Dell positions Compellent’s disk arrays relative to the EqualLogic product line (which grew 66% in revenues over the last year), but it will be even more interesting to see what happens to Dell’s EMC reseller agreement.

#2: EMC – ISILON

EMC shelled out around $2.25 billion for scale-out NAS vendor Isilon Systems, net of Isilon’s existing cash balance. That’s an eye-popping amount of cash, particularly considering that Isilon was barely profitable, but market researcher IDC predicts that the scale-out NAS market will grow on average about 36% annually, reaching an estimated $6 billion in 2014.

According to EMC’s press release on the announcement: “EMC’s Atmos and Isilon’s solutions will offer customers a highly scalable, low-cost storage infrastructure for managing ‘Big Data’ . . . EMC Atmos object storage provides the perfect complement to Isilon for massive globally distributed environments and object access to data for usages like Web 2.0 applications.”

EMC officials estimate that the combined revenue from the Isilon and Atmos platforms will hit a $1 billion run rate during the second half of 2012. EMC also emphasized synergies between Isilon’s clustered scale-out NAS platforms and systems/software from Greenplum.

Isilon wasn’t EMC’s only acquisition this year. The company bought Bus-Tech about a week prior to the Isilon announcement. Bus-Tech specializes in VTL technology for mainframe environments. The financial terms of the Bus-Tech acquisition were not disclosed.

See “EMC snaps up Isilon for $2.25 billion” on InfoStor partner site Enterprise Storage Forum.

#1: HP – 3PAR

By virtue of its price ($2.4 billion) and the drama of the bidding war with Dell (which started at $1.15 billion), HP’s acquisition of 3PAR was clearly the #1 storage acquisition of 2010.

The acquisition of 3PAR puts HP in a much better competitive position, but it will be interesting to see what happens to the rest of HP’s disk array lineup. Does the 3PAR acquisition sound the death knell for the venerable EVA line? And what will be the fate of HP’s reseller deal with Hitachi? Months after the acquisition was announced, we still have more questions than answers on this acquisition.

2010 wasn’t a record-setting year in terms of the number of storage acquisitions, but it certainly was a record setter in terms of the amount of money that was shelled out.

As we enter 2011, the big question is: Who will be acquired next? According to the financial analyst community, CommVault is the most likely storage vendor to be acquired, but other possibilities cited by financial analysts include (in no particular order) Xiotech, Brocade, BlueArc, FalconStor and NetApp.

Related article:

Top 10 Storage Predictions for 2011 (by Henry Newman, on Enterprise Storage Forum)

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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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