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NetApp Backs up Backup Line With Buy

Network Appliance backed up its backup and recovery systems by acquiring Alacritus for $11 million in cash.

Alacritus makes Securitus, a virtual tape library (VTL) system that lets disks emulate tape by creating separate VTLs for each host while sharing the same physical tape library. This allows users to share a tape library among incompatible backup applications.

This VTL technology can provide faster backup and recovery for large systems without disrupting existing tape processes, said Pete Gerr, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

The Pleasanton, Calif., company's product portfolio will complement NetApp's NearStore line of disk-based back up systems, said Amit Pandey, vice president and general manager of the NetApp NearStore unit.

"Customers see disk as good because it is easier to access and more reliable than tape, but they don't what to buy new software," Pandey said in an interview. "They'd like to think their tape has gotten better. Think of VTL as a plug-and-play approach."

Backup and recovery software is one of the hottest technologies on the Market, as corporations seek to safeguard crucial data. Some of this data is required to be saved by government regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and SEC 17a-4.

Alacritus' products compete with EMC's Clariion disk library, as well as solutions from several smaller players, including Sepaton, Maxxan Systems, FalconStor and NearTek.

Pandey said NetApp looked at roughly half a dozen VTL makers before settling on Alacritus. It chose the company in part because it had already agreed to bundle Alacritus VTL with NearStore to back up data on NetApp, Windows and Unix systems. Pandey would not specify the other targets.

ESG's Gerr said the deal makes sense for NetApp, which has found success selling the value of serial ATA based nearline storage. But implementing a S-ATA disk array as a backup target often requires users to reconfigure their backup software to backup to disk volumes instead of tape volumes.

"While Alacritus hasn't established itself as a VTL leader in the U.S. market, it has done well in other geographies, specifically Asia-Pacific, and I think this gives NetApp another easy-to-sell option for its NearStore solution that makes the system inherently more valuable," Gerr said.

While Alacritus' Securitus systems will immediately boost NearStore, Pandey said NetApp is especially excited about Alacritus' Chronospan. Still in development, this software provides continuous data protection (CDP), an emerging technology that recovers a data set of any description from any point in time.

CDP helps enterprises do a full restore to the last transaction before a disruption occurred; a single file recovery to a previous version; or even roll back to a point before a virus attacked or failure occurred.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the fourth fiscal quarter of 2005, whereupon the majority of Alacritus' 20 employees will join NetApp. The deal comes a day after IBM agreed to resell NetApp's entire product line.

Paul Shread, managing editor of Enterprise Storage Forum, contributed to this article.