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Commvault storage story expands with Hedvig for primary data

The pickup of Hedvig helps diversify Commvault beyond backup to address growing customer demand for scalable object storage that traverses across public and private clouds.

Of all the changes data protection vendor Commvault made in the last year, perhaps the most striking was its acquisition of primary storage software startup Hedvig.

The $225 million deal in October 2019 -- eight months into Sanjay Mirchandani's tenure as CEO -- marked Commvault's first major acquisition. It also brought the backup specialist into primary storage as it tries to adapt to meet demand for analytics on data everywhere.

Hedvig gives Commvault a distributed storage platform that spans traditional and cloud-hosted workloads. The Hedvig software runs primary storage on commodity hardware and is already been integrated in the Commvault storage software stack, including the new Commvault Metallic SaaS-based backup.

Don Foster, a vice president of storage solutions at Commvault, said data centers want to centralize all their data, from creation to retention, without adding third-party endpoints.

"We envision Hedvig as a way to ensure that your storage and backup will work in a symbiotic fashion," Foster said.

Hedvig provides unified storage that allows Commvault to tackle new cloud-application use cases. The storage software run on clustered commodity nodes as distributed architecture for cloud and scale-out file and object storage across multiple hypervisors.

Commvault plans to use Hedvig to converge storage and data management and enhance Commvault HyperScale purpose-built backup appliances. Revenue from Commvault HyperScale appliances was up 10% year over year last quarter, and the vendor said six of its top 10 customers have deployed HyperScale appliances.

Commvault has expanded Hedvig into more primary workloads with the addition of support for the Container Storage Interface and erasure coding. In the near term, Hedvig will also remain available for purchase as primary storage and existing Hedvig customers with in-force contracts will be supported. The larger plan is to integrate Hedvig as a feature in the Commvault Complete suite of backup and data management tools, Foster said.

Integrating technology and integrating culture

Mirchandani replaced retired CEO Bob Hammer, who led Commvault for 20 years. The change at the top also brought about a raft of executive changes and the launch of the Metallic SaaS offering under a brand outside of Commvault. But the Hedvig deal was most significant in moving the Commvault storage strategy from data protection to data management -- a shift backup vendors have talked about for years.

Because Hedvig didn't have a large installed base, the key for Commvault was gaining access to Hedvig's engineering IP, said Steven Hill, a senior analyst of applied infrastructure and storage technologies at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Hedvig gives Commvault a software-defined storage platform that combines block, file and object storage services, along with cloud-level automation and support for containers.
Steven HillSenior analyst of applied infrastructure and storage technologies, 451 Research

"Growing adoption of hybrid cloud infrastructure and scale-out secondary storage has changed the business model for backup vendors. Hedvig gives Commvault a software-defined storage platform that combines block, file and object storage services, along with cloud-level automation and support for containers. It checks a lot of boxes for the next generation of storage buyers," Hill said.

"The future of hybrid secondary storage lies in the management of data based on the business value of its content, and makes the need for broader, cloud-optimized information management a major factor in future storage buying decisions," Hill added. He said Cohesity and Rubrik "discovered this [idea] a while ago" and other backup vendors now are keying in on secondary storage to support AI and analytics.

A research note by IDC said the Hedvig deal signals "orthogonal and expansionary thinking" by Commvault that paves a path to primary storage and multi-cloud data management. Commvault is a top five backup vendor in revenue; its revenue has declined year over year for each of the last four quarters. Commvault reported $176.3 million in revenue last quarter, down 4.3% from the same period a year ago.

IDC researchers note the difference between traditional Commvault storage and the Hedvig product. Namely, that Commvault is a 20-year-old public company in an entrenched market, while Hedvig launched in 2018. The companies share only a few mutual business partners and resellers.

"Market motion matters here, as each company is selling into different buyer bases.  ... Melding a unified company and finding synergies between different buying centers may be more difficult than the technical integration," IDC analysts wrote in a report on the Commvault-Hedvig acquisition.

'Belts and suspenders' approach

Pittsburg State University (PSU) in Kansas has deployed Hedvig primary storage and Commvault backup for several years. Tim Pearson, the university's assistant director of IT infrastructure and security, said he was not surprised to hear about the Hedvig deal.

"I knew Hedvig was looking for a way to grow the company," Pearson said, adding that he spoke with Commvault representatives in the run-up to the transaction.

PSU runs Hedvig storage software on Hewlett Packard Enterprise ProLiant servers as frontline storage for its VMware farm and protects data with Commvault backup. Pearson said the "belts and suspenders" approach designed by Hedvig engineers enables Commvault to bridge production storage and secondary use cases.

"What I hope to gain out of this is a unified pane of glass to manage not only my traditional Commvault backups, but also point-in-time recovery by scheduling Hedvig storage-level snapshots," Pearson said.

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