Double-Take acquires emBoot for $9.6M

Boot-from-SAN and iSCSI target software from emBoot will push Double-Take into new markets and fill in gaps in its disaster recovery products.

Double-Take Software Inc. has expanded its focus from host-based replication and failover to boot-from-SAN and iSCSI target software with the $9.6 million acquisition of emBoot Inc.

Two software products are currently offered by emBoot: netBoot/I, used to boot multiple Windows and Linux hosts from iSCSI SANs and winBoot/I, which supports multiple Windows operating systems, including Windows 2000 XP and 2000 XP Pro, and Windows Server 2003 and 2008.

Recent updates to emBoot's software allow workloads to be moved to dissimilar hardware from different server hardware vendors running different operating systems, or between physical and virtual servers. The company also makes iSCSI target software, sanFly, which can be used to repurpose server hardware into an IP SAN. Both Double-Take and emBoot make remote software management consoles, as well.

The acquisition will bolster Double-Take's existing products, as well as opening the company to new markets, said Bob Roudebush, Double-Take's director of solutions engineering.

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Last November, Double-Take added full-server failover to its host-based replication software, but stopped sort of full bare-metal restore because customers were required to provide their own copy of the operating system on the secondary server. By eliminating the need to maintain identical or closely matched server hardware at the disaster recovery site, emBoot fills in that gap, Roudebush said.

Network boot and iSCSI target software from emBoot can also be combined with Double-Take's replication to move workloads across a wide-area network (WAN) for disaster recovery. "You can create a kind of 'DR in a box,'" Roudebush said. "You can stand up both an iSCSI SAN using the secondary server and sanFly, and replicate production server workloads to virtual machines attached to the new software-based SAN."

Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Balaouras agrees that emBoot can help Double-Take's disaster recovery capabilities. "[emBoot] will let an organization move a workload to any virtual or physical machine as long as it's network to shared storage," she said. "Now imagine at the alternate site you have all this great functionality too. It would be very helpful to facilitate DR testing."

Double-Take opens up new markets but insists it's not 'declaring war'

With this move, Double-Take may look to focus beyond replication and disaster recovery, but officials are shying away from making any bold statements. CEO Dean Goodermote said on the company's earnings call Tuesday night that he sees the deal as something that will help Double-Take sell its base product more than creating a new market.

"Where you may see the benefit of this is we can go into an environment, and if there are iSCSI SANs there, we can use that to leverage that environment, and we presumably can sell a lot of Double-Take" he said. "There may be a minimum amount of emBoot and a substantial amount of Double-Take sales."

With sanFly, there's the potential for a lot more; it could be used to compete with other do-it-yourself SAN software vendors, such as Open-e and LeftHand Networks, though both Roudebush and Goodermote also shied away from issuing any competitive challenges. "We're not declaring war on the storage companies with this acquisition," Goodermote said.

Within local data centers, emBoot also has the potential to compete with server virtualization products in terms of decoupling workloads from server hardware and freely migrating them back and forth using network storage.

But Roudebush said the emBoot product will be complementary to hypervisors, allowing users to migrate workloads from one server virtualization platform to another, or from physical server hardware to virtual server hardware. "We think that will be very compelling for customers who are undecided on a hypervisor or as market trends shift," he said. It's network boot does require direct LUN access, which can get tricky with VMware's virtual file system.

During the earnings call, Goodermote also mentioned that Double-Take is working on more storage product development outside of emBoot. "We're doing things that will move us more into the storage area. We have a hierarchical storage management product that will allow you to put certain types of data in one place and certain types of data in another and enable more rapid recovery."

Enterprise Strategy Group's Lauren Whitehouse said she doesn't think all the cards are on the table yet. "Double-Take sees the opportunity to change now, rather than changing later to respond to shifts in the market," she said. Those shifts include a move toward iSCSI SANs and SAN-based replication. "They might not be showing all their cards right now. Making a big left-hand turn all at once can send shockwaves through employees, investors and partners, so they might be looking to make a more gradual move," Whitehouse said.

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