HP’s Ibrix Buy Cools NetApp Speculation

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You’d think after the takeover battle over Data Domain (NASDAQ: DDUP) that the next big data storage acquisition would involve deduplication, but HP (NYSE: HPQ) had other ideas (see What’s Next for EMC, NetApp and Quantum?).

HP announced this morning that it will acquire clustered file storage specialist and long-time partner Ibrix in a move that analysts said could reduce some of the takeover speculation surrounding NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP).

HP did not disclose terms of the merger, which is expected to close within a month. Ibrix will be integrated into HP’s StorageWorks division.

HP said that Ibrix’s software will help the company in the emerging market for scale-out and high-performance computing storage, cloud storage and fixed content archiving, which HP estimates is growing at a compound annual rate of 20 percent.

“Customers need highly scalable storage solutions that efficiently and cost-effectively manage massive amounts of information,” stated Jeff Hausman, vice president of unified storage for HP’s StorageWorks Division. “This acquisition expands our portfolio to better support the needs of this market segment. In addition, Ibrix’s highly scalable software leverages industry-standard hardware, allowing customers to fully maximize their existing investments.”

As a result of their three-year partnership, Ibrix’s software is currently available with HP’s StorageWorks SANs, ProLiant servers, BladeSystems and ProCurve Ethernet switches and management software.

HP said Ibrix’s file serving technology will improve storage performance and eliminate bottlenecks in large-scale, data-intensive application environments. Ibrix can scale to “tens of petabytes,” HP said.

“Finally, after rather quietly reselling Ibrix on their servers and storage as an alternative to PolyServe for low-cost, highly scaled-out file serving, HP now owns the technology,” said StorageIO Group founder and senior analyst Greg Schulz. “Ibrix has a good installed base, they have a reseller deal with EMC and Dell in addition to HP, there is good IP for scale-out NAS as well as for scale-out cloud storage or hosting environments.”

“Some customers like PolyServe, some like Ibrix, some like other file systems for use in different environments and applications, thus it is a brilliant move by HP to pick up the software and make it available for deployment on their various servers and server/storage combos like the ExDS9000,” he added.

Bad News for NetApp?

Avian Securities analyst Matthew Bryson said the news means that HP is unlikely to make a play for NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP).

“We believe the largest ramifications from this move involve Network Appliance,” he wrote in a research note this morning. “Ibrix’s software effectively allows for the creation of a clustered NAS environment. Recently it had been rumored that HPQ had an interest in purchasing NTAP. While IBRIX may not have been an expensive pickup for HPQ, we see this purchase as making any imminent deal for NTAP extremely unlikely, as HP would get access to very similar technology through a NTAP acquisition.”

Bryson added, “We would note that we do not believe HPQ’s purchase of IBRIX will have any fundamental immediate impact on the competitive environment in part due to difficulties we have encountered in certain relatively recent installations of IBRIX’s platforms.”

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers agreed that the move “could be viewed as a factor that lifts some sentiment that HP would look to potentially acquire other software companies including NetApp. IBRIX would represent one of the small competitors to NetApp’s Data ONTAP GX and forthcoming converged Data ONTAP 8.0 operating system technology, which provides global namespace support for scale-out environments. With regard to Isilon, HP’s acquisition of IBRIX could be viewed as a competitive move against Isilon’s scale-out file system architecture.”

Founded in 2000, Billerica, Mass.-based Ibrix has 53 employees and more than 175 enterprise customers in the communications, media, entertainment, Internet, oil and gas, healthcare, life sciences and financial services markets.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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