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Large Storage Vendors Keep Branching Out

Providing software to manipulate and manage storage really seems to be the business to be in these days, especially for small start-up players. As I've reported previously in these columns, the big fish in the storage pond--Cisco Systems, EMC, IBM, and Network Appliance, to name a few--have been steadily acquiring small players. Through these acquisitions, the vendors aim to enhance their existing products with value-adds that will help them differentiate their offerings from the competition.

Last week, large storage vendors issued a flurry of announcements relating to current and prior acquisitions. IBM showcased its new integration software, WebSphere Data Integration Suite, which is based on the software it acquired in the purchase of Ascential Software in late 2004. The suite lets an organization build business intelligence systems and data warehouses and "right-size" enterprise applications to fit them to available hardware resources. WebSphere Data Integration Suite's capabilities focus on letting DBAs work with both metadata and source data, massaging data if necessary and preserving it intact through any necessary data transformations that application development and deployment require.

Brocade Communications Systems went on the biggest spending tear of the week, first by pumping $7,500,000 into Tacit Networks to support development of Tacit's Wide Area File Services product line. I've talked about the Tacit product in this column before; it's a unique combination of server and client software mixed with remote-office storage appliances that facilitates the integration and distribution of data sources across WAN links. Brocade's investment may well portend the future purchase of Tacit, much in the way that Cisco Systems entered the wide area file services market, by acquiring Actona Technologies in mid-2004. Alternatively, Brocade's investment and market support could allow Tacit to continue to grow without risk of acquisition by Brocade or another storage-management player.

Speaking of storage-management players, Brocade spent a few more dollars last week with the $9,300,000 acquisition of software-management start-up Therion Software. Reminiscent of its relationship with Tacit, Brocade purchased Therion outright after working with the small company for about a year, developing server-management and configuration software.

The general impression I've been getting is that major players in segments of the storage market (Brocade, for example, is known primarily as a switch vendor) are looking to expand their portfolio of offerings to their customers without making the mistake of going too far afield from their core constituencies. Vendors such as IBM and HP have a bit of an advantage here since their basic business units have such a broad variety of offerings. Vendors known for more limited sets of technologies, such as Brocade, Cisco Systems, and McData, can take advantage of their acquisitions of cutting-edge technology players to help them branch into markets that are logical growth paths from their current core technologies.

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