NetApp Expects Riverbed's SteelStore To Bring Improved Data Protection

NetApp's acquisition of Riverbed's SteelStore appliance gives NetApp the opportunity to improve its ability to offer data protection capabilities to data stored in non-NetApp environments as well as to enhance the security of that data, according to the vendor and its channel partners.

The SteelStore acquisition by NetApp, which closed Monday, was a big topic of conversation for the vendor and its channel partners at this week's NetApp Insight conference in Las Vegas.

With the acquisition, valued at $80 million, NetApp gets Riverbed's SteelStore product, formerly known as "Whitewater."

[Related: NetApp Buys Riverbed's SteelStore Storage Line For $80M]

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SteelStore works by keeping active data stored on the appliance, and then moving data to one of several clouds as it ages while maintaining that data's security and encryption in the cloud. It uses Riverbed's core WAN optimization technology to accelerate cloud data access and protection.

SteelStore supports a range of cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Google and Windows Azure, along with a mix of backup and archiving applications.

Riverbed earlier this month said it is restructuring and starting to explore strategic options in response to mounting pressure from activist investor Elliott Management.

George Kurian, NetApp's executive vice president of product operations, said NetApp plans to continue using the company's SnapVault data snapshot technology to offer efficient data protection for its FAS line of primary storage appliances.

The SteelStore line, however, allows improved backup capabilities for non-NetApp data protection solutions from companies that partner with NetApp, including CommVault and Symantec, Kurian told CRN.

"Think of CommVault as workflow software," he said. "SteelStore becomes the backup target that allows data to be moved via CommVault to the cloud," he said. "SteelStore will bring data on third-party storage systems into the NetApp Fabric."

Phil Brotherton, NetApp vice president of cloud solutions, said the back end for SteelStore could be a public cloud, private cloud or even an internal storage grid.

NetApp could be lining up SteelStore to be as much a security product as a backup appliance, said Brad Bailie, data center practice lead at MCPc, a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider and partner to NetApp and Riverbed.

"You back up the data, archive it and then make sure it is securely stored," Bailie told CRN. "Before the acquisition, NetApp could ship the data anywhere, but it wasn't encrypted. Customers don't want encrypted drives. They want something like SteelStore."

NEXT: SteelStore A Better Fit For NetApp Than For Riverbed

Bailie said this is not the first time NetApp tried an acquisition to better secure its storage. That was NetApp's 2005 acquisition of Decru , an acquisition Bailie described as "messy."

"We'll see if the SteelStore acquisition is better," he said. "It could actually be a great fit like NetApp's acquisition of LSI's E-series arrays."

Glenn Dekhayser, CTO of Voyant Strategies, a Hazlet, N.J.-based solution provider and channel partner to NetApp and Riverbed, said the acquisition shows NetApp's desire to blanket all possible use cases for data protection.

"It's nice not to have do try to do everything with one platform," Dekhayser told CRN. "SteelStore does things you can't do with a FAS front-end."

SteelStore works well with general office data, but not for such data types as video and music where its built-in compression and deduplication capabilities have little effect, Dekhayser said.

SteelStore looks like a disk-based backup target to any backup solution, with the advantage of having the cloud on the back end, he said.

"NetApp is embracing the opportunity to get user data to the cloud," he said. "NetApp could have chosen to let others eat this part of the business, but instead is enabling its partners to take better advantage of the cloud."

The SteelStore acquisition resulted from research into a number of possible acquisitions into the data protection cloud market, said Jon Kissane, NetApp's chief strategy officer and cloud business general manager.

"We turned over a number of rocks," Kissane told CRN.

SteelStore, as a solution, has a better fit with a storage vendor like NetApp than it did with Riverbed, Kissane said.

"It's found a new, better home," he said.

By the end of the day Monday, following the deal's close, the employees related to the SteelStore product line had all made the move across town to their new offices at the NetApp headquarters, Kissane said .

NetApp said it will start offering the SteelStore products in its fiscal third quarter of 2015.

Additional reporting by Kristin Bent.