IBM To Acquire Cleversafe, Integrate Its Object Storage Into On-Prem, Cloud Environments

Eric Herzog

IBM is making a big play for bringing object storage technology to the cloud and to on-premise data centers with its planned acquisition of Cleversafe.

IBM on Monday said it plans to acquire Chicago-based Cleversafe, one of the leaders in the object-based storage software market. Terms of the deal, which IBM expects to close by year's end, were not released.

IBM plans to integrate Cleversafe into its IBM Cloud business unit, where it will work closely with the company's SoftLayer cloud offering. However, said Eric Herzog, IBM vice president of marketing, the Cleversafe technology will also be a part of the IBM Spectrum software-defined software platform as well.

[Related: HP Set To Dive Deeper Into Object Storage With Cleversafe OEM Agreement]

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IBM plans to continue selling Cleversafe as a standalone software-defined storage offering via the IBM and Cleversafe channel programs, as well as via IBM's direct sales channels, Herzog told CRN.

"We will also leverage Cleversafe in SoftLayer," he said. "So customers can use it as an on-premises solution or in the cloud, or as a hybrid solution between on-premises and public or private clouds."

Before the acquisition, IBM partnered with the open-source OpenStack Swift community for object storage, Herzog said. After the acquisition, IBM will continue working with both Swift and Cleversafe.

"IBM has been supporting open source for years," he said. "With our customers, we will do what we need to do to keep customers happy."

Bernie Spang, vice president of software-defined infrastructure at IBM, told CRN that Cleversafe provides large-scale, low-cost object storage, while IBM's Swift-based Spectrum Scale provides massive scale, high-performance scale-out NAS and object storage.

Cleversafe works with a wide range of storage technology providers including IBM partners and competitors such as Hewlett-Packard, CommVault, Symantec and Supermicro.

The acquisition should not disrupt such partnerships, Spang said.

"We hope those relationships continue, and hopefully expand with broader solutions," Spang said. "This is nothing new to us."

Having such partnerships, even with competitors, is normal for IBM, Herzog said. "Years ago, we sold hard drives to all storage vendors including our competitors," he said. "And we still do that with LTO tape drives."

Jamie Thomas, general manager of software defined systems in the IBM Systems Group, wrote in a Monday blog post that IBM plans to integrate management of Cleversafe with IBM Spectrum Control as a way to integrate it with other IBM Spectrum Storage offerings. Data protection will be provided by IBM Spectrum Control, Thomas wrote.

"Businesses will be able to use Cleversafe for disk-based active archiving to meet required data access times, as well as IBM Spectrum Archive and Tape Storage for ultra-low cost backup and archive. Once the transaction closes, Cleversafe will also enable IBM to better meet the needs of large-scale providers that deliver their own object storage as a service offering," she wrote.

Thomas also hinted about how Cleversafe will integrate with the IBM Cloud division.

"The IBM Cloud division plans to offer Cleversafe as a dedicated hosted object-storage cloud on SoftLayer initially, and as a public service in 2017," she wrote.

The acquisition is a good move for both IBM and Cleversafe, said Mark Galyardt, executive vice president of Xioss, an Atlanta-based solution provider and partner with Cleversafe for the past four or five years.

"It's no surprise to me," Galyardt told CRN. "If IBM is serious about storage, it needs object storage. So it makes sense for them to buy Cleversafe."

Galyardt said Cleversafe as a standalone company has had a strong solution, and will likely be stronger after the acquisition by IBM closes. "IBM is IBM, and has a lot of marketing muscle," he said. "Cleversafe can benefit from that muscle, and from IBM's installed base."

IBM has a good history of integrating acquisitions, including its 2012 acquisition of flash storage vendor Texas Memory Systems, he said. "IBM did well with its integration of TMS," he said. "If IBM follows the same playbook, the Cleversafe acquisition will be a success."