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Dell expands its backup plan with AppAssure

Dell made its fifth storage acquisition in a little over four years today when it acquired AppAssure and its backup and replication software for virtual and physical machines.

Dell did not disclose the price, which obviously wasn’t close to what the vendor paid for EqualLogic ($1.4 billion) in 2007 or Compellent ($820 million) last year. Dell also acquired the IP of scalable NAS vendor Exanet and primary data reduction software specialist Ocarina in 2010.

In a blog explaining the deal, Dell storage GM Darren Thomas wrote that Dell acquired AppAssure to “help Dell customers modernize their data protection strategies …”

AppAssure’s Backup and Replication is application-aware with continuous data protection (CDP) technology that facilitates quick recovery of a file or an application. Thomas wrote that Dell will sell AppAssure as standalone software and eventually expand its IP into Dell storage products.

The software could help link Dell’s EqualLogic and Compellent SANs. Thomas pointed out that customers can use it to back up an EqualLogic array to a Compellent system and recover it from anywhere. We expect further connection between the platforms as Dell completes its integration of Exanet’s file system, Ocarina’s deduplication and compression, and AppAssure data protection with its storage arrays.

There had been a lot of speculation that Dell’s storage acquisition strategy would lead it to buy a backup vendor. CommVault, a close Dell partner, was often mentioned as a possible target. But CommVault would cost billions of dollars. Dell is attacking backup in a different way, integrating AppAssure’s technology with its hardware and using Ocarina software in a recently launched DR4000 disk backup appliance.

We’ll be watching to see how the acquisition affects Dell’s relationships with CommVault and Symantec. Dell resells both vendors’ backup software in bundles with its hardware. As a standalone company, AppAssure wasn’t considered much of a threat to Symantec or CommVault. But that could change now that AppAssure is part of Dell. AppAssure gives Dell its own data protection IP to go with its new dedupe backup appliance. Dell ended its long-time OEM relationship with EMC so it could make more money selling its own storage arrays. It looks like Dell will move in the same direction with backup.

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