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BakBone stretches into email management

Fires up with ColdSpark

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Fresh from buying collapsed Assempra's continuous data protection assets, data protection software supplier BakBone has splashed out $16m to buy ColdSpark, which sells enterprise e-mail systems.

BakBone's president and CEO, Jim Johnson, said: “This acquisition provides BakBone with a strong entrée into the rapidly-growing enterprise message management market. ColdSpark is a leader in managing global messaging infrastructures, with an established presence with some of the world’s largest companies in industries including financial services, manufacturing and media and a growing identified pipeline opportunity of more than $7.0m."

He reckons the appeal to customers is that BakBone’s data protection platform, combined with ColdSpark’s e-mail platform, which is a competitor to Exchange, "will allow customers to improve corporate compliance, mitigate risk, improve performance and reduce operational costs."

This is a long way from backup. BakBone has evolved its NetVault backup software and made it part of what it calls an Integrated Data Protection strategy. Johnson says the acquisition will lead to "the expansion of our product portfolio, as well as access to a large and growing new market.”

ColdSpark's SparkEngine Mail Transport Platform enables its users to ship out more e-mails per time period and have delivery and response metrics for outbound e-mails. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts combined three separate e-mail systems; ones for guest transactions, general market communications, and targeted mails, for example to guests on loyalty programs, into the ColdSpark product. The sending of e-mails to various categories of recipient, from prospect, to guest, to favoured guests, is automated and optimised with results fed into a data warehouse.

It's all about optimising data in flight, whereas BakBone's products are about protecting data at rest.

ColdSpark will become a separate subsidiary of BakBone, called The Message Management Division, and Scott Brown, ColdSpark's co-founder, SVP, general manager and chief technology officer, will be its general manager.

ColdSpark was founded in 2001 by Scott Brown and Kelly Wanser. She was CEO in 2005, when ColdSpark had 40 employees, and was still in post in June, 2007, the year ColdSpark opened its London office.

Kelly Wanser left and Ian Bonner became CEO in March, 2008, when Brown was listed as CTO, and Gammon as SVP world-wide field operations. Bonner was listed as CEO and chairman in March this year.

ColdSpark's board was composed of Bonner, the chairman, Brown, Gregor Freund, a co-founder of Zone Labs, Jordan Graham who is Strategic Advisor, Mergers and Acquisitions for Citigroup, and Thomas Neustaetter of venture capitalist JK&B Capital.

ColdSpark raised $6.5m in venture capital funding in 2006.

Brown sent a message to his staff, saying that ColdSpark will continue its business as normal, and will expand into new messaging channels targeting new areas, including compliance, control and customer care: "The exciting news is that the combination of (ColdSpark and BakBone) provides a unique foundation upon which users will be able to address these challenges with data that is at rest, such as file system and database data, as well as data in motion as it is routed across messaging systems or network infrastructures."

The idea is not to integrate the ColdSpark technology into BakBone's NetVault product, although some coming together will happen. A combined technology roadmap will be created in the next few months.

Vendors supplying pure backup software are becoming fewer in number. As backup increasingly means backing up data to disk, backup is becoming part of unstructured data archiving, including unstructured files, e-mails and colloboration data (SharePoint), enterprise content management. Backup vendors have looked to extend their product sets or be acquired with the same end accomplished, Symantec taking Veritas and EMC taking Legato and Dantz.

It appears that BakBone has decided that a sideways jump into email management is a great idea. Where this sudden acquisitive rush has come from is a mystery. There has been no change in BakBone's management recently. The Assempra buy was an opportunistic one and it may be that the recession has slowed ColdSpark sales enough that an acquisition was preferable to any alternative. ®

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