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VMworld 2017 Notes: Dell favors storage R&D over M&A

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: VMworld 2017 conference coverage

LAS VEGAS — Before their merger, EMC and Dell were active buyers of storage companies. In the past year, neither has made an acquisition. That’s understandable, considering the price that Dell paid for EMC and the monster transition the combined company has gone through over the past year.

When I saw Michael Dell at VMWorld 2017, I asked him if we can expect to see Dell EMC start buying storage companies again. His answer is bad news for storage startups looking to be bought.

“We have a lot of storage. We don’ need more storage,” Dell said.

Translation: we just spent more than $60 billion on the biggest storage company in the world, and you expect us to buy more?

He instead talked about how Dell EMC is spending heavily on R&D, indicating it will look to build rather than buy. But historically EMC and Dell preferred buying their storage platforms rather than building their own.

“If we need any more storage, we’ll get it,” Dell said.

Veeam Software open to acquiring startups

Speaking of acquisitions, Veeam Software CEO Peter McKay said the backup vendor could get into the game for the first time in 2018. McKay said his profitable company now has the money and the executive team needed to make and integrate small acquisitions.

“It will be part of our strategy for 2018,” McKay said. “We have a sizeable war chest of cash. I think we’re ready for it now. Everything we’ve done until this point has been organic growth. Our goal now is to add inorganic growth to the mix without affecting overall growth. We want to scale to $2 billion or $3 billion in revenue, organically or inorganically.”

McKay said Veeam has invested in a few startups. They include N2W, which makes data protection software for Amazon Web Services EC2. “We’re looking mostly for add-ons,” he said of Veeam’s acquisition and investment strategy.

Rubrik takes home best of VMWorld 2017, scales up advisory board

Besides winning the official Best of  VMWorld 2017 award for its Alta secondary storage product, startup Rubrik also scored the unofficial “Best Marketing Gimmick” award for the show. Rubrik introduced its newest investor and board adviser, Kevin Durant, and brought him onto the VMworld 2017 expo show floor to sign autographs for star-stuck attendees.

At 6-foot-9, Durant is probably the tallest man to invest in a Silicon Valley company and he’s the only man with an NBA championship ring to put money into a storage company. But outside of name recognition—which startups can always use – how much can Durant do for Rubrik?

When USA Today asked the Golden State Warriors start about his interest in tech companies, Durant said: “Being in Silicon Valley, I play in front of (tech executives) and run into them at restaurants.”

Durant has also invested in on-demand delivery service startup Posmates and mobile investment platform company Acorns.

vSAN reaches adulthood

There was no major vSAN news at VMworld 2017, but lots of talk about the technology. That’s a sign that vSAN has matured from concept to a central data center tool. Over the past few VMWorlds, VMware concentrating on introducing its new hyper-converged software and then making product upgrades adding key features missing from early versions. Now the focus is largely on how people are using it now, mainly as a replacement from some or all of their traditional storage systems.

VMware did add an HCI Acceleration Kit at the show, a move designed to make it easier to use vSAN in remote and branch offices.

VMware’s goal for vSAN is to give IT generalists greater control over storage for their virtual machines.

“They’ve taken on the storage,” Lee Caswell, VMware’s VP of storage products, said of the generalists. “We think they can take on backup and data protection, and they can take on files, too. This is a massive data consolidation play.”

VMware is also working on adding support for Kubernetes and Docker Swarm container orchestrations with the open source “Project Hatchway” initiative.  The Hatchway goal is to allow developers to use storage better, making features such as snapshots, cloning, encryption, deduplication and compression available at the container volume level.

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