Dell Acquires AppAssure In Effort To Integrate Data Protection Software

Dell on Friday said it acquired AppAssure, a developer of data protection software for physical and virtual server and cloud environments.

With the acquisition, Dell gets its first data protection software to go with its fast-growing storage hardware business, which was also built primarily on a string of acquisitions.

The acquisition also means that Dell is in a position to build a storage infrastructure offering stretching from the hardware to the data protection software all the way to the cloud, and tie it with its server business and its Force10 networking technology as part of a converged infrastructure offering.

Dell declined to comment on the acquisition beyond what it said in its press release.

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However, Darren Thomas, vice president and general manager of Dell Storage, wrote in a blog post that Dell plans to eventually integrate AppAssure as part of a complete storage infrastructure offering.

"Dell will extend the benefit of AppAssure across our enterprise solutions and services portfolio. Initially, it will be a software-only solution, and then over time we will offer additional data protection solutions tightly integrated in our Fluid Data architecture as we’ve done with our other acquired IP, including EqualLogic, Compellent and the Fluid File System. Customers will be able to manage data end-to-end, not in silos of servers and storage, or islands of sites," Thomas wrote.

Dell had been rumored to be in the market to acquire a data protection software vendor for at least two years, with CommVault long being speculated as the target.

AppAssure, founded in 2006, develops software that provides fast backup and recovery of physical servers as well as virtual servers based on VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer hypervisors.

The company guarantees reliable application recovery from customers’ servers to their datacenter and their cloud.

The acquisition shows that Dell is moving towards a complete data protection offering, said Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul-based solution provider and Dell partner.

Clifford, citing Dell acquisitions of AppAssure, storage hardware vendors EqualLogic and Compellent, and cloud technology vendor Boomi, said what Dell is doing is nothing short of incredible.

"With Dell, you will be able to pull data all the way through to the cloud," he said.

Dell currently has partnerships with a number of data protection vendors, particularly CommVault. How the acquisition of AppAssure might impact those relationships has yet to be addressed publicly by Dell.

Clifford said that the data protection software partnerships have worked well for Dell.

"It allows Dell to be agnostic," he said. "But once a vendor makes an acquisition, the partnership play changes. And if Dell moves into this area, it had better be with good technology. Once you make a choice like this, you limit your partnership. It doesn't mean you end those partnerships. But you serve more of a fulfillment role, and not a partner role."

Clifford said it is not clear that Dell absolutely needed an acquisition like AppAssure. "However, Dell has made a lot of great acquisitions of storage IP (intellectual property) over the last few years," he said. "If Dell's software acquisition is as good as its other acquisitions, that will be wonderful. Dell hasn't missed yet."

Clifford said he tries to avoid using that overused word "synergy," but that is the best word for describing what Dell is doing.

"There is 'synergy' coming from Dell and its acquisitions," he said. "Dell has done a good job taking advantage of its acquired technology."

Next: How Will This Impact The CommVault Relationship?

Dave West, senior vice president of marketing and business development for CommVault, wrote in a statement e-mailed to CRN that Dell's acquisition of AppAssure is more of an SMB play than what CommVault offers to Dell.

"Today Dell announced the acquisition of AppAssure, a backup and recovery software company focused on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) – a smart move by Dell as it continues to build its storage portfolio to serve this market. While this move will undoubtedly impact our competitors who focus on the SMB market, CommVault’s long-standing partnership with Dell will continue unabated as the two companies deliver industry-leading technologies that empower midmarket and enterprise IT organizations to more efficiently and effectively manage and derive business value from their data," West wrote.

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi Corp., a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider and storage blogger, wrote on Friday that AppAssure, which was founded by former Symantec and Veritas executives, is a "really nice pickup" for Dell.

Knieriemen called it a great acquisition, with one caveat: the question of whether AppAssure's value would be lost as part of an integrated storage offering.

"Businesses tend to buy backup and disaster recovery software independent of their infrastructure so I'm not sure if there is a market opportunity to integrate backup software with storage hardware. Dell has bundled backup software (CommVault) with Dell hardware in the past but there really wasn't any deep integration. It's too early to judge what the integration will look like, but if it's strongest value proposition is it's integration with their own storage hardware, AppAssure might become less interesting," Knieriemen wrote.

The acquisition of AppAssure comes in the wake of Dell's decision this month to form a new software division.