Sources: NetApp Expected To Close SolidFire Acquisition Shortly

NetApp will officially close its acquisition of SolidFire next week, according to channel sources.

The deal is expected to close as early as Monday, or possibly Tuesday, said several channel sources who asked not to be named.

NetApp late last year unveiled a plan to acquire Boulder, Colo.-based SolidFire in an $870 million deal. Such a deal would make SolidFire's all-flash storage array technology a keystone for NetApp's plans to diversify its customer base and target emerging technologies, like software-defined storage and data management.

[Related: Q&A: Pure Storage CEO Dietzen Talks About NetApp]

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NetApp has said the deal is expected to close during the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage vendor's fourth fiscal quarter, which starts Feb. 1 and ends April 29.

A NetApp spokesperson said the company does not discuss rumors.

NetApp has in the past couple of weeks held a U.S. partner advisory council meeting at which CEO George Kurian discussed the SolidFire acquisition, and NetApp executives attended this week's SolidFire sales kickoff, according to sources.

NetApp -- which is rebuilding a storage business that has been declining over the past year -- gains access to one of the pioneering startups in the all-flash storage array business with the acquisition of SolidFire.

In addition to SolidFire's all-flash storage array line, the buy also brings new strategic partnerships with vendors such as Dell, a strong channel-focused storage business, and Element X, a technology that allows SolidFire's all-flash storage software stack to be integrated with specific Dell and Cisco x86-based servers.

Even without SolidFire, NetApp already has a strong flash storage array portfolio, including the NetApp AFF family of scalable all-flash arrays based on the company's Data Ontap operating system, as well as the company's E series of high-performance all-flash arrays.

However, NetApp's technology development in all-flash storage has stumbled of late. The company in early 2013 unveiled a secret project called FlashRay, aimed at developing a new generation of all-flash storage projects, but since then has delayed the project several times. The lead architect of NetApp's FlashRay project, Brian Pawlowski, last year left NetApp to join rival all-flash storage array developer Pure Storage.

NetApp solution providers said they are looking forward to NetApp's acquisition of SolidFire.

SolidFire brings NetApp a shared-nothing architecture suitable for service providers, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and channel partner of both companies.

"My understanding is that SolidFire will fit well in NetApp's Data Fabric story," Woodall told CRN. "It can serve as a purpose-built appliance, a virtual machine or a cloud-based appliance. Each has its own advantage in terms of price and performance."

SolidFire will open new opportunities for NetApp, Woodall said. "NetApp's AFF and EF flash arrays are not as easy a fit in large multitenant service provider environments," he said. "And the industry is turning to new workloads such as big data, Internet of Things and mobility where SolidFire is a better fit."

Key to success of the acquisition is the good cultural fit between the two companies, Woodall said. "And [NetApp CEO] George Kurian, his experience working with Cisco, is leading the charge, and he's comfortable with a multi-product portfolio with well-defined 'swim lanes,' " he said.

The stock market and Wall Street in general do not realize how important NetApp's Data Fabric strategy is, Woodall said. "We'll see more and more things from NetApp's product road map that will be very compelling," he said.

Chris Saso, executive vice president of technology at Dasher Technologies, a Campbell, Calif.-based solution provider and SolidFire channel partner, said SolidFire is a good fit for NetApp.

NetApp should also be good for SolidFire, Saso told CRN. "The real barrier to adoption for SolidFire has been the fact that it is a startup," he said. "Now it has NetApp behind it."