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NetApp hoists $300m for Spinnaker

Wind beneath its wings

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Network Appliance is looking to add some wind to its sails with the acquisition of Spinnaker Networks for close to $300 million in stock.

NetApp hopes to tap into Spinnaker's distributed file system and clustering technology used to group large numbers of NAS (network attached storage) systems. The Spinnaker assets should help NetApp create high-end networked storage systems and add some virtualization software to its product line. The deal is expected to close in January of next year - standard regulatory approvals apply.

"Spinnaker further accelerates the shift to networked storage and speeds our ability to deliver powerful new Storage Grids as the foundation for data infrastructures of the future," said Dan Warmenhoven, CEO at NetApp.

The Storage Grid concept is similar to the utility computing models described by server makers IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems. The companies are touting future data centers that allow administrators to view and manage all of their hardware as one system instead of dealing with individual boxes. Ideally, this would make it far easier, for example, to allocate a storage volume by letting an admin issue a request and then have software take care of all the provisioning.

NetApp once teamed with NuView, in part, to compete against Spinnaker in the the storage management market. In addition, Spinnaker was not shy about taking shots at NetApp with comparisons between the two companies' raw filer processing performance.

Spinnaker touts its ability to cluster as many as 512 SpinServer filers. The company has claimed near linear performance when adding a new system to the cluster and can scale its clusters to well over 10Tbytes.

"With this technology, Network Appliance is clearly extending its offerings in high-end storage solutions, and with its ability to unify SAN by adding Fibre Channel and iSCSI, this has the potential to be a great move for NetApp," said Steve Duplessie, principal analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

Spinnaker has not had a flying start, shipping only 75 SpinServers through the first three quarters of 2003. It does, however, point to the DoE and Oak Ridge National Lab as a high profile customers.

NetApp plans to hold onto the few dozen Spinnaker employees and is particularly pleased with the engineering skills of its prey. Over time, NetApp expects to offer a single hardware product line that runs both the Spinnaker OS and its own Data OnTap OS, Warmenhoven told Byte and Switch. ®

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