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Symantec spends $390M for Clearwell, discovery

Symantec took a big plunge into the e-discovery market Thursday night when it acquired Clearwell Systems for $390 million, giving it technology that will complement its Enterprise Vault email archiving application as well as other products in its backup, security and data management portfolios.

Clearwell’s e-discovery suite handles the collection, identification, preservation, processing, review, analysis and production of data. On a conference call to discuss the deal, Symantec CEO Enrique Salem said Clearwell’s suite of products goes far beyond the Discovery Accelerator module for Enterprise Vault.

“Our Discovery Accelerator was a bolt-on technology to Enterprise Vault,” Salem said. “We clearly saw that we had a part of the discovery process, but not the breadth that Clearwell is doing end-to-end from the initial stage of gathering the information through the final production. We needed to add the significant steps of analysis and review. That process is where we found the Clearwell technology excels. This extends our ability to preserve it, analyze it, and review it.”

Symantec acquired Enterprise Vault product when it bought Veritas, which had acquired Enterprise Vault vendor KVS in 2004. Salem said since then, customer focus for email archiving and management “has shifted from quota management to help me with the discovery process.”

Clearwell’s eDiscovery product has four modules: Legal Hold, Identification and Collection, Processing and Analysis, and Review and Production. It provides features such as transparent keyword and concept search, legal hold management workflow, the ability to collect information from multiple data sources, advanced processing capabilities such as deduplication, filtering and content analysis, linear and non-linear review, and a reporting and auditing trail for case management.

The Clearwell product portfolio and its team will become part of Symantec’s Information Management Group (IMG). Symantec intends to continue selling Clearwell’s products on a standalone basis as well as in connection with Enterprise Vault. Clearwell and Symantec already have a technology partnership that lets customers use the two vendors’ products in an integrated fashion. Brian Dye, Symantec’s VP of product management for the IMG, told StorageSoup that Clearwell technology would also be used with Symantec’s NetBackup, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Data Insight products.

“This is about a broader strategy to secure and manage information,” Dye said. “It’s not just about combining Clearwell with Enterprise Vault.”

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Katey Wood said eDiscovery software has become more important over the past few years following changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures (FRCP) that requires IT to become more involved in requests for legal information. The rapid growth of electronic data makes good archiving and discovery capabilities even more important.

“It’s become more and more expensive to outsource that to service providers and have attorneys review all things that are relevant,” she said. “There’s a big movement to bring software in-house so companies can do the process themselves. They can do cut down and filter information before sending it off to lawyers.”

Gartner placed Clearwell in the leaders category of its eDiscovery Magic Quadrant released last week, with Symantec going in the challengers section.

Clearwell claims more than 400 customers and around 200 employees, and said it had around $56 million in revenue over the 12 months ending March 31. The deal is expected to close around by September.

Clearwell also makes its eDiscovery technology available through service providers, and Symantec executives said they would probably continue down that path.

In 2009, EMC acquired Clearwell rival Kazeon for a price that was reportedly below $100 million.

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