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NetApp thinks big with SAN management vendor buy

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Network Appliance is buying the privately-owned storage service management vendor Onaro for an undisclosed sum. The Marker, an Israeli tech pub, reports NetApp is putting $120m on the table, but chief marketing officer Jay Kidd declined to confirm the figure.

Boston-based Onaro is five years-old and says it has been profitable since 2006. It claims 16 of the US Fortune 50 companies as customers for itsflagship product, SANScreen. This software suite monitors and reports on data paths, performance, capacity and hosts in large-scale storage networks. The software is designed to give a broad picture of an entire network's performance, which NetApp reckons is spot-on for highly scalable modular systems.

NetApp plans to vend Onaro technology as a stand-alone product, eventually adding increasing levels of integration with NetApp wares — but not too much, mind you. A great appeal of the software is cross-vendor compatibility, and NetApp doesn't plan to wipe that feature out.

"We will always maintain compatibility in the environment, even where NetApp has no storage compatibility presence," said Kidd.

Onaro currently has partnerships with the likes of EMC, VMware, 3Par, Cisco, Brocade, Sun and others.

NetApp wants to bring on the majority of Onaro's 60-plus employees, according to Kidd. The company's initial goal is to maintain what Onaro is before the purchase (which should complete in March). And this will require most of the crew. As for Onaro's management — those details are still being worked out.

The purchase has piqued the interest of EMC veep Chuck Hollis. Does NetApp's major competitor give the buy a big thumbs up? Sit down for this.

No, it does not.

In his blog, Hollis rates the purchase as a 'win' for EMC because NetApp will be distracted with integrating the software. Well played, Chuck.

More substantively, he notes that Onaro focuses on large, mission-critical Fibre Channel SANs, which is not NetApp's strong suit, he says. Onaro doesn't offer much in the way of iSCSI management, he claims.

"Simply put: Onaro's products aren't targeted at NetApp's classic customers, and NetApp's products aren't targeted at Onaro's classic customers. I'd rate the strategic alignment part of this as 'poor'."

Not from where NetApp is sitting: large-scale SAN is one of NetApp's most rapidly growing markets, Kidd says. ®

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