NetApp Focuses On Cloud Storage With Akorri Acquisition

NetApp's planned acquisition of Akorri Networks could give the storage vendor the ability to expand its cloud computing technology and better compete against its rival EMC.

NetApp on Wednesday said it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Akorri for technology it said will help it automate, analyze, and manage IT infrastructures.

Littleton, Mass.-based Akorri's flagship product, BalancePoint, is virtual infrastructure management software that provides analysis across virtualization layers and technology silos for virtual and physical server and storage infrastructure.

Paul Turner, general manager of NetApp's SANscreen Business Unit, which is responsible for technology that turns IT into a service, wrote in an e-mail response to CRN questions that the proposed acquisition of Akorri adds management capabilities for cloud and virtualized infrastructures because it allows customers to more predictably manage their shared storage infrastructure with strong performance and capacity management.

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"We believe the Akorri acquisition will extend NetApp’s success as a leader for cloud storage," Turner wrote.

NetApp plans to use Akorri to augment the NetApp OnCommand management software with performance and capacity analytics to improve visibility across the entire IT stack, including applications, servers, networks, and storage, Turner wrote.

"Akorri strengthens NetApp’s capabilities for shared IT infrastructure, enabling customers to further improve IT efficiency and flexibility through functions that help control, automate, and analyze their shared IT infrastructure," he wrote.

Akorri had a 100 percent channel go-to-market strategy with over 60 partners, many of whom are also NetApp partners, Turner wrote. Once the deal closes, Akorri’s products will be integrated in the OnCommand family of management products, which all NetApp partners are authorized to sell. "All Akorri partners will be invited to join the NetApp Partner Program," he wrote. "Those that choose to join will be authorized to sell NetApp products."

One of Akorri's top partners actually had a hand in bringing the vendor to the table to make a deal with NetApp that would make NetApp a better competitor against EMC.

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider and the "Akorri Global Partner of the Year 2010," said he provided information to Akorri that helped seal the deal and in the process strengthen NetApp against EMC, which also happens to be ICI's biggest vendor partner.

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Shepard told CRN via e-mail that Rich Corely, the founder of Akorri, along with the company's CFO and CEO, called him on Tuesday night to thank Shepard for his help.

"(They) called me last night to inform me that my reference and outline to NetApp as to why they should buy Akorri and why this will hurt EMC was instrumental in securing this deal," Shepard wrote. "I had tried in 2009 to get EMC to buy Akorri, the deal was close then fell off due to EMC's very poor offer, (which) insulted Akorri. . . . I drilled home to (the) NetApp team on my call in October that they will beat EMC from the start in the Unified (storage) space. Rich (Corely) called me again this morning to set up a meeting to discuss how this will effect partners like ICI that has built Akorri as mainstay but are EMC focused only."

Greg Richardson, an analyst at Technology Business Research, wrote in a report after the acquisition bid was announced that the move will help NetApp drive unit sales of unified storage, which includes storage appliances that handle both file-based (NAS) and block-based (SAN) data, into virtualized environments.

"By leveraging Akorri’s virtualization management portfolio, TBR expects NetApp to capitalize on Akorri’s existing virtualization customer base as a means to cross-sell," Richardson wrote. "Simultaneously, NetApp will pursue opportunities to bundle its acquired management tools and unified storage for virtual environments to drive further revenue and margin growth."

The acquisition could also help NetApp simplify the management of data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its customers’ storage environments, Richardson wrote.

"TBR expects NetApp to tout the management and analytics capabilities of Akorri’s portfolio to push data management deeper into its customers’ line of business practices," he wrote. "By leveraging management tools, NetApp is simplifying users’ abilities to digest information surrounding data storage environments, better positioning the data to be leveraged by more individuals to solve business need-specific problems."

Aaron Rakers, an analyst with research firm Stifel Nicolaus, wrote in a report after the acquisition bid was announced that Akorri’s BalancePoint solutions are used to optimize virtualized performance in cloud-computing architectures.

"We believe this tuck-in acquisition will fit nicely with NetApp’s architectural/product positioning, which we believe is well positioned to take advantage of secular dynamics associated with the increased importance of storage in virtualized/cloud data center deployments," Rakers wrote.

Andrew Hickey contributed to this article.