NetApp To Acquire Topio, Use Replication Against EMC

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp said it expects to close the acquisition of Topio, a NetApp strategic partner, next month.

Topio, based in Santa Clara, Calif., and with research-and-development operations in Haifa, Israel, offers software that allows customers to replicate, recover and protect data over a long distance, regardless of which vendor's storage or server devices are used. By acquiring Topio, NetApp will expand its data replication technology and connectivity to other vendors' storage, making it more competitive with rival EMC.

Data replication is important for NetApp's customers, which have purchased the vendor's replication technology as an option about 40 percent of their NetApp storage devices, according to Patrick Rogers, vice president of products and partners. "But customers couldn't attach NetApp to their other storage. Topio fills the gap," he said.

Topio's technology will make it easier to bring NetApp into heterogeneous storage environments, said Merrill Likes, president of UpTime, an Edmond, Okla.-based NetApp solution provider. "You have to co-exist with other storage at the client sites," he said. "It's a pipe dream to think anybody has a NetApp-only environment. Topio is great for going into customers with other storage environments and phasing NetApp in."

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The acquisition also shows that NetApp is serious about the software side of the business and about competing with EMC, Likes added. "Building its software portfolio is important for NetApp, especially as EMC has been doing it," he said. "NetApp has been doing a lot of software partnerships, but the partners keep getting acquired. They need to invest in software for their long-term strategy."

NetApp hasn't been as active as EMC on the acquisition front but in the last two years has bought more than a dozen software and other vendors. Roughly a year and a half ago, NetApp acquired Decru, a maker of appliances for encrypting data as it is sent to tape, a move that gave NetApp a foothold in the race to provide security for customer data. And last year, NetApp acquired Alacritus, a developer of software for turning disk arrays into virtual tape libraries.

With Topio, NetApp and its partners get two key benefits, starting with low-cost disaster recovery, according to Rogers. "This will be quite popular with our customers. Now our NearStore solution can act as a disaster recovery device for competitors' products. This gives customers a choice to not be held captive to their primary storage suppliers," he said.

The Topio technology also can help customers slash the storage capacity needed for test and development environments. "Often, customers have 10 times the storage capacity used for test and development than for production," Rogers said. "Customers do 'test and dev' before moving applications to production. NetApp has FlexClone technology that can make instant clones of data and do incremental data snapshots for test and dev without replicating the entire production data. With Topio, customers will be able to replicate production data from EMC to NetApp for test and dev with FlexClone."

Although NetApp is anxious to find ways to attach more of its storage to other vendors' storage environments via Topio's replication technology, Rogers admitted that the technology also could be used to replicate data from NetApp devices to lower-cost storage. "We haven't made a decision if we will support replication both ways," he said.

Topio's main competition is Kashya enterprise data replication and protection software, which EMC acquired in May. Yet Rogers said the Kashya technology works only with Fibre Channel-attached storage, whereas the Topio solution allows replication of data attached directly to servers as well as data on IP-based SANs, including iSCSI SANs.

Topio has about 20 reseller partners. NetApp intends to discuss more partnership options with those partners and will honor current partnership agreements as long as both sides feel they would like to continue the relationship, Rogers said.