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Brocade spreads its wings, acquires NuView

Extending itself way out of its comfort zone, SAN equipment maker Brocade has acquired file virtualization software vendor NuView for approximately $60M in cash.

For 10 years now, Brocade Communications Corp. has been almost synonymous with block-based Fibre Channel (FC) SANs. Those associations are falling by the wayside. This week the company acquired file virtualization software vendor NuView Inc. for $60 million in cash.

NuView's suite of five products, including its flagship StorageX global namespace software, will be folded into Brocade's Tapestry family, which includes Tapestry Application Resource Manager (ARM), Tapestry Data Migration Manager and Tapestry Wide-Area File Services (WAFS).

"They [NuView] were solving the same sorts of problems that we were, but on the file side," said Tom Buiocchi, vice president of marketing at Brocade. But block "is only half the problem," he added, since the large enterprises Brocade covets tend to have both.

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The Tapestry products all represent a shift away from Brocade's core FC switch business and toward providing more sophisticated storage functionality, specifically virtualization. ARM virtualizes server images, WAFS abstracts the physical location of servers, and now NuView virtualizes file management. "At that level it's a coherent story," said Brad O'Neill, senior analyst with the Taneja Group. "To get to a flexible architecture for grid-like services you have to virtualize … all these plays start to make Brocade look like a virtualization software company," he said.

In particular, Tapestry WAFS and NuView's StorageX go "hand in glove … and completes the story of branch office consolidation," according to Truls Myklebust, Brocade's director of file business.

When added to a branch office environment, StorageX can virtualize the remote and data center file systems, "providing a unified namespace regardless of where the user happens to be," said Myklebust. In addition, StorageX migration capabilities can help move remote office files to the data center, and failover features insulate users from a file server outage.

StorageX competes with NAS virtualization software from Acopia Networks Inc., EMC Corp.'s Rainfinity and NeoPath Networks Inc. According to Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, of those, it is the most tightly integrated with Microsoft Distributed File Services (DFS). "If you believe that Microsoft is going to continue to rule the world, [this acquisition] is a good idea," Duplessie said.

Indeed, the NuView products run on Windows and are tightly integrated with Windows DFS, but they also support Unix/NFS environments, as well as a variety of industry-standard NAS platforms.

NuView had one OEM partner, Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), which resells StorageX under the name Virtual File Manager (VFM). According to Brocade CEO Michael Klayko, NetApp is "likely to keep on reselling [VFM]." A large portion of NuView's 400 or so customers are NetApp users. Reached by e-mail, a NetApp official said the company had "no comment" on the deal.

According to O'Neill, the "most dangerous issue" Brocade faces, given the cutting edge nature of this technology "is can they get their bread and butter OEMs to get behind it … If they are spending this amount of money, you can bet they talked it over with their partners," he said.

Other NuView products that Brocade obtained in the transaction are:

  • File Lifecycle Manager, a tool that automates data movement based on user-defined policies.

  • MyView, which show end users only those storage resources to which they have access. Conversely, MyView can be used by administrators to see which users have permission to a given system.

  • Data on Demand Manager improves time-to-restore during a disaster recovery scenario by improving access to file-based backup data.

  • UNC Update, which takes files containing Universal Naming Convention references and updates them in preparation for a data migration.

    NuView was founded in 2000 and began shipping StorageX in 2002. The company has 60 employees who will be retained and will continue to work out of NuView's Houston facility. NuView CEO, Rahul Mehta, has also been retained and will report to Don Jaworski, vice president of product development at Brocade.

    "I'm happy because I couldn't do distribution like [Brocade] could; they have the OEM relationships," Mehta said. "This is exciting for me because it fundamentally changes our ability for our products to reach a broader audience."

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