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NetApp Enters ILM Race with $300M Bid

Network Appliance jumped on the information lifecycle management (ILM) bandwagon Tuesday when it inked a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Spinnaker Networks for $300 million in stock.

The deal is an important one for Network Appliance, a Sunnyvale, Calif., storage vendor looking to keep up with giants IBM and EMC in staking territory in the network storage space. Pittsburgh, Penn.'s Spinnaker makes distributed file systems, clustering technologies and virtualization, which are some of the qualities of IBM's recently announced Storage Tank technology, SAN File System.

Specifically, the purchase will got a long way toward helping the company speed the delivery of the NetApp "Storage Grid" architecture, part of a trend by major vendors looking to treat heavy lifting with grid computing to provide faster transactions and greater scale and volume.

Enterprise Storage group Analyst Steve Kenniston told internetnews.com the purchase will give NetApp a leg up in the high-end storage market.

"Having the clustered file system is nice but I think the real key issue here is that they now have instead of 65-70 percent of the addressable market, they now have another 20 percent of the clustered file system market and have strong placement in high-end storage solutions," Kennsiston said.

The analyst said the company had done okay amid the biotechnology and pharmaceutical market segments because of its mindshare, but the purchase would make their position that much better.

Geared for both storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) environments, storage grids offer a dashboard view to manage corporate data, enabling tighter application integration with database and enterprise applications. They also afford companies the ability to more easily manage content based on policies and improve data security.

From helping to ease data creation to deployment to disposal, NetApp is posing its storage grid as its answer to the information lifecycle management (ILM) riddle, which EMC, HP and Hitachi Data Systems all believe they have solved in recent months through acquisition or in-house development. Analysts say firm ILM strategies will help storage companies take care of the compliance needs of their customers in light of the passage, or pending passage, of a number federal regulations.

"Today's business demands fast, reliable, secure access to data and robust new approaches for information lifecycle management," said Dan Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliance, in a press statement. "The combination of NetApp unified storage and software solutions with advanced distributed systems architectures from Spinnaker further accelerates the shift to networked storage and speeds our ability to deliver powerful new Storage Grids as the foundation for data infrastructures of the future."

Upon completion of the deal, Network Appliance will integrate the SpinServer product line its product family and operate Spinnaker as an engineering and development site for NetApp in Pittsburgh, padding current NetApp research and development teams in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and California.

The deal is expected to close by January 2004.