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EMC acquires intelligent switch assets

EMC confirmed it has acquired the assets of Maranti, a developmental shortcut to improving Invista, analysts say.

EMC Corp. confirmed that it has acquired the intellectual property assets of intelligent switch startup Maranti Networks Inc., which analysts speculate could be put to use in the company's switch-based virtualization product, Invista.

EMC launched Invista in May and has since announced 12 closely guarded beta customers. The product will be generally available this quarter for EMC rebranded intelligent switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. EMC was reluctant to share its motivation for the Maranti acquisition, which insiders said cost it around $5 million, but insisted it has no plans to enter the switch market.

"We have no intention of getting into the switch business … we have the right partners for this product and that's a great business model for us," said Mark Lewis, executive vice president and chief development officer at EMC. "We make a lot of intellectual property and patent acquisitions, and the technology could be applicable to the company in multiple places."

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Virtualization delivers replication, mirroring

That might be true, but analysts are confident the code will show up in Invista. Formerly called storage router, Invista provides switch-based nondisruptive data migration between storage arrays from different vendors, but that's about it today.

"It can't do remote replication, which Maranti did a good job of," said Marc Staimer, analyst with Dragon Slayer Consulting. "And it's also missing snapshot and mirroring functions … Leveraging the Maranti code into Invista is a developmental shortcut and definitely worth the money," he said.

"For nickels and dimes EMC has eliminated the technology from going into someone else's hands," added Arun Taneja, founder and analyst with the Taneja Group. He said its usefulness will depend on how elegantly the code was written and whether EMC hired any of the Maranti engineers as part of the purchase. "Code-over-the-wall is not as useful."

Invista and Maranti share same architecture

Invista and Maranti are built on what's known in the industry as a split-path architecture. This uses ASICs and software to provide an out-of-band product eliminating the need for agents on a server. The control path and data path are split, and virtualization applications can be assigned to multiple paths.

It's a similar concept to multiprocessor servers, where processing requests are split among several CPUs to execute tasks in parallel to achieve higher performance. Products from Troika Networks Inc. and StoreAge Networking Technologies Inc. also use this approach.

EMC picks over the bones

It's no secret that Maranti was on its last legs having been unable to close a fourth round of funding and with no major OEMs insight. The company raised approximately $50 million of venture capital in three rounds.

In August 2002, EMC scraped up the intellectual property assets of Cereva Networks Inc. for under $10 million. Cereva had developed a utility storage box similar to the one 3Par Data Inc. sells today, that included a multiprotocol switch and virtualization software. Analysts speculate that Cereva's virtualization software may have ended up in Invista.

EMC is reluctant to discuss where the intellectual property it acquires gets used. Another example of a silent acquisition was Storigen Systems Inc., which provided a Network File System and a Common Internet File System gateway to EMC's Centera disk-based archiving system, instead of forcing people to write to the Centera application program interface.

EMC's acquisition of Maranti coincides with the recent departure of Todd Oseth, vice president of EMC's infrastructure software group and head of development for Invista. Oseth joined McData Corp. He was unavailable for comment on this story.

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