HDS Acquires BlueArc, Targets Growing Unstructured Data Market

Hitachi Data Systems on Wednesday said it has acquired BlueArc after a five-year OEM relationship under which HDS sold BlueArc's high-performance NAS technology as a file-based data gateway to its block-based SAN arrays.

For HDS, which has also owned a minority stake in BlueArc for five years, the integration of BlueArc is expected to be smooth, said Randy DeMont, executive vice president and general manager for global sales, services, and support at HDS.

"We believe that, with the acquisition, we can get off to a blazing start," DeMont said. "There's no overlap in our business. We still have a little bit of additional training to do. But we're ready to build on what we've done so far."

Linda Xu, senior director of file, content, and cloud product marketing for HDS, said that BlueArc has been serving as a NAS gateway for HDS's SAN products, and that it supports both the Hitachi AMS SAN arrays and the Hitachi VSP virtualization appliance which creates a pool of storage from multiple vendors arrays connected on the back end.

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HDS has already integrated BlueArc into its Hitachi Command Suite of storage management software to allow a global view of both block and file storage, and plans to do more integration of BlueArc's technology across HDS's entire file and content portfolio of products, Xu said.

The acquisition comes at a time when unstructured data, which is more likely to be stored on a NAS infrastructure than on a SAN, is growing by up to five times the overall data growth rate, DeMont said. "And our customers have asked us for the technology they need for this part of the market," he said.

Joe Kadlec, vice president and senior partner of Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based partner of the two companies, said his company has also seen strong growth in unstructured data.

"Hitachi traditionally has been a block-level storage company," Kadlec said. "But when we look at the data out there, we see a lot of video and other file-based data. So Hitachi can look at BlueArc as a front end to their own technology. And, BlueArc as a high-performance gateway to virtualized storage environments via the Hitachi VSP is very nice."

Solution providers who work with both the HDS and BlueArc technologies said they are not surprised to learn of the acquisition, and that HDS's decision to finally tie the knot with BlueArc is good for channel partners.

"BlueArc makes a great product," Kadlec said. "There's a lot of synergy between the two. It's great stuff."

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider and partner to both vendors, said the acquisition was not unexpected.

"What surprised me was how long it took," Knieriemen said. "This is a bold move for Hitachi. They don't make a lot of acquisitions."

HDS positioned BlueArc into the enterprise even though the BlueArc technology scales well into the midrange market as well, Knieriemen said.

"We've also positioned it into the enterprise because it was always a part of an HDS solution," he said. "I'm excited. The acquisition will push HDS more into the midmarket storage business. And HDS has been touting the infrastructure cloud. This acquisition solidifies that message."

The acquisition means that HDS is chasing rivals such as Hewlett-Packard, EMC, IBM, and Dell on converged unified storage, Knieriemen said.

"As a channel partner, this is huge for us. HDS had a reseller agreement with BlueArc. But BlueArc always seemed to be an add-on, not strategic. But now the messaging from Hitachi becomes a lot easier."

Next: BlueArc Alternatives: IPO And Other Acquisition Suitors

BlueArc in July filed forms with the SEC related to plans to do an IPO, but those plans have now been withdrawn, Xu said.

DeMont said that HDS's decision now to acquire BlueArc was not related to either the IPO or to the possibility that other vendors are interested in acquiring the company. Instead, he said, the timing is right for the two.

"We have had communications about investing more in BlueArc," he said. "The timing is now right. We have dramatically increased our market and our channels. We believe the relationship is mature and successful. BlueArc's management team felt their only inhibition to growth was the resources needed to invest in its business. They felt the best way to go forward was to leverage Hitachi's resources."

Kadlec said the current move by several major storage vendors to acquire smaller vendors had to have played some role in HDS's move to acquire BlueArc. He cited Dell's recent acquisition of Compellent and EMC's recent acquisition of Isilon as examples of the merger trend.

"I'm sure that when BlueArc started planning for an IPO, someone else might have come in to take a look," he said. "BlueArc had a competitive advantage from a performance aspect."

DeMont said that BlueArc's application for an IPO came as the company was looking at all alternatives for growth, and that he would assume there were other companies interested in the company based on all the recent merger and acquisition activities in the market.

"We see a lot of IT companies with strong cash positions," he said. "But because of our OEM relationship, BlueArc was restricted on the amount of disclosure it could give to a handful of potential buyers."