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Symantec Plans $390 Million Buy Of eDiscovery Company Clearwell

Symantec's proposed acquisition of Clearwell Systems would give Symantec more ways to help customers do eDiscovery on data which is protected and archived by its NetBackup and Enterprise Vault applications.

Symantec on Thursday said it plans to acquire eDiscovery solution developer Clearwell Systems and combine that company's technology with its own Enterprise Vault offering as part of a complete eDiscovery and archiving solution.

Eventually, Symantec said, further integration of the Clearwell technology with the Symantec NetBackup backup and recovery application will enable it to offer a comprehensive data protection, eDiscovery, and archiving platform.

Symantec plans to acquire Clearwell for $390 million in a deal expected to close in the September quarter.

The acquisition addresses what Symantec called a fast-growing eDiscovery market. The company, quoting Gartner statistics, said the market is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 14 percent and is estimated to reach $1.7 billion by 2014.

Clearwell is the second recent major acquisition related to the eDiscovery business.

Autonomy, a U.K.-based provider cloud-based legal and eDiscovery services, said recently it plans to buy certain assets of Iron Mountain Digital which, when combined with Autonomy's operations, has the potential for building one of the world's largest data clouds from which it could offer customers a wide range of regulatory compliance, legal discovery and analytics services.

Autonomy, like Symantec, plans to integrate data protection, eDiscovery, and archiving into a complete solution.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Clearwell offers an end-to-end eDiscovery solution which addresses the entire eDiscovery process from identification and legal hold through review and production with a single application.

The company's products work for both enterprise and government customers.

Enrique Salem, Symantec president and CEO, said during the analyst conference call held after the acquisition was unveiled that the amount information being stored is expected to grow by about 62 percent this year, and that customers need better ways to manage and access it.

With Clearwell, Symantec gets a way to discover information for legal purposes, Salem said. But that is only the first step. "We want to find a way to bring this to our backup and recovery business. We feel this is the right time to expand our offerings and go deeper with our existing products," he said.

Salem said that the Clearwell product has actually been integrated with Symantec's Enterprise Vault document archiving software for several years. With the acquisition, Symantec will also work towards integrating it with several other of its applications, including its NetBackup data protection software and its Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology.

"It's absolutely a new opportunity for our team to be selling Clearwell," he said. "And new opportunity for our partners."

Brian Dye, vice president of product management for Symantec's Information Management group, told CRN that there is a lot of customer data for which the Clearwell eDiscovery technology is applicable.

On the backup side, customers are storing increasing amounts of data with Symantec's NetBackup application, and that applying the Clearwell technology makes all that data easy to manage for eDiscovery purposes, Dye said.

Symantec already had plans to tie its Enterprise Vault version 10, expected to be available later this year, to its DLP technology, which Symantec got with its 2007 acquisition of Vontu, Dye said.

That integration will now also include the Clearwell technology. "This takes advantage of metadata to allow intelligent searches for relationships in the data," Dye said.

The company also plans to integrate Clearwell with its Data Insight application, which provides insights into the ownership, usage, and lifecycle of unstructured data. "Data Insight watches the access of files on a file share, and can show who actually is referencing a file to infer who actually owns it," he said. "This allows more intelligent use of metadata for eDiscovery."

NEXT: Pricing And Competition


Aaref Hilaly, president and CEO of Clearwell, said during the analyst call that his company prices its technology differently than the method most services companies use.

Unlike most similar software, where price depends on when its used, Clearwell's software is licensed according to capacity, and customers can use as much of that capacity as needed over the time the license is in effect, Hilaly said. For example, if a customer buys a license for 1 TB of data, it can do discovery on up to 1 TB. Once operations on that data is done, that TB can be freed up for another project at no additional charge.

"So when our customers compare the price of Clearwell to traditional service providers' (prices), our competitors are priced by the 'drink,'" he said. "We charge for up to a certain capacity."

At least one competitor was quick to respond to Symantec's planned acquisition of Clearwell.

Steven d’Alencon, chief marketing officer of CaseCentral, a San Francisco-based developer of an integrated eDiscovery platform, wrote in a statement the acquisition of Clearwell shows that a serious consolidation of the eDiscovery market has begun.

Larger software vendors now see eDiscovery as a crucial piece of a larger governance, risk and compliance offering, and the Clearwell acquisition by Symantec will lead to more intense competition and more consolidation of the market, d'Alencon wrote.

’This acquisition is extremely positive for CaseCentral as it positions us as the only remaining independent top-tier eDiscovery vendor with a cloud-based delivery model," d'Alencon wrote.

Once the acquisition of Clearwell is complete, it will become part of Symantec's Information Management Group, which is run by Deepak Mohan, senior vice president.

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