NetApp expands SAN strategy with Onaro acquisition

By Kevin Komiega

—Network Appliance this week announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Onaro, a privately owned company with software that provides an application-centric view into a SAN's access paths, redundancy, replication, and performance. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

According to NetApp officials, the acquisition will bring NetApp customers a variety of new storage service management and change management capabilities, while Onaro customers will benefit from accelerated product development funded by NetApp's R&D resources.

The biggest impact of the Onaro acquisition could be the expansion of NetApp's heterogeneous SAN management capabilities. Onaro's SANscreen software suite is currently deployed in 32% of the Fortune 50, according to Onaro officials, and gives NetApp a seat at the table in some major multi-vendor IT shops.

"Onaro provides large enterprises with a way to address problems such as visibility into how applications access data and how changes will impact their environment," says Jay Kidd, NetApp's chief marketing officer. "We have been continuously expanding our storage and data-management tools, but that work has largely been focused just on NetApp products and environments. Onaro gives us the opportunity to play more strategically in enterprise environments."

Onaro's SANscreen software is a suite designed to align storage resources with application requirements. The suite includes a real-time service intelligence engine that models how distributed system components work together to deliver storage services to an application, a repository that tracks the storage services requested for each application, a verification engine that validates that the delivered storage services match the application, a change repository that records all service and device modifications, and reporting capabilities.

NetApp and Onaro had a technology development partnership prior to the acquisition. The plan for the future is to tighten that bond. "We are working out the details of how our products will integrate down the road, and we are not going to limit the Onaro technology to working just with NetApp's products," says Kidd.

According to Kidd, Onaro's technology will complement NetApp's other heterogeneous data-management products, which include its NearStore VTL systems, V-Series systems, Virtual File Manager (VFM) software, ReplicatorX software, and DataFort encryption appliances.

Laura DuBois, research director, IDC Storage Software, says the rationale behind NetApp's acquisition of Onaro was simple: Should they buy it, or should they build it?

"Onaro provides a bridge for NetApp across NAS and SAN environments. It provides NetApp with the means to manage large SAN environments and expand their SAN strategy," says DuBois. "And, if the NetApp strategy is to move up-market to environments with more than 10,000 users, they need that manageability."

"There aren't a lot of options aside from Onaro. I think NetApp's rationale was that it made more sense to buy it versus build it," says DuBois.

DuBois predicts that the Onaro technology will be integrated with NetApp's existing data-management tools in various ways. One likely integration point is with Operations Manager (formerly DataFabric Manager), NetApp's monitoring and management software for its enterprise storage and content caching environments. Another possibility is the integration of SANscreen with NetApp's Protection Manager backup and replication management software or ReplicatorX, the company's replication and recovery software for heterogeneous storage and server infrastructures.

This article was originally published on January 04, 2008