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Who could the big storage beasts be looking to buy?

Five companies hunt for acquisitions

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NetApp

Having opened the door to a non-FAS integration acquisition with the attempt to buy Data Domain, then NetApp might look at Compellent, 3PAR, Copan, and Riverbed. The latter would be outside its storage speciality but NetApp's channel could certainly shift a good few Riverbed boxes and Riverbed's channel could take NetApp products into places where they don't exist yet.

There are opportunities for integrating NetApp storage with Riverbed appliances and it looks to be a Data Domain class purchase with less overlap to NetApp's existing product range. If EMC doesn't want Riverbed then NetApp could have a clear run, assuming also that neither Dell nor HP are interested. For HP, adding in Riverbed to the ProCurve operation could look quite interesting. EMC must surely be thinking Riverbed looks both tasty and complementary to its existing products, if it wants to dip a toe into WAN acceleration waters.

NetApp might also cast an eye over 3PAR. Culturally there would seem to be a goodish fit and both companies compete with EMC. However, 3PAR's pure high-end block storage products would overlap a little with NetApp's FAS 6000s, and would also overlap with any coming new flagship NetApp product, making it not very complementary.

Compellent would overlap the bulk of NetApp's unified storage products and so also not provide a complementary product sale opportunity. Ditto Pillar Data.

Were NetApp convinced it needed a distinctly green offering for persistent or reference data, it could look at Copan. The firm is currently headless, having lost its CEO, Mark Ward, and the venture capital backers might be looking for an exit. It would give NetApp the greenest disk storage technology of all and it could be positioned as complementing NetApp's own products in the archival storage space.

Our ranking of these four possibilities is Riverbed first, followed by Copan, 3PAR, Compellent and Pillar Data.

Other acquisition candidates

Other possible storage acquisitions in general might include STEC for its SSD controller technology, Data Direct for its high-bandwidth block storage arrays used in movie special effects rendering type applications, and BlueArc for hardware-accelerated high-speed file servers.

We note that EMC does not have a scale-out NAS storage offering in the Isilon class and, if it thought such storage had a place in enterprise data centres, might have a look at Isilon. EMC could think that Drobo might find a home in its Iomega unit. HP might be looking at Nirvanix for enterprise cloud storage having dropped its SME Upline cloud backup offering.

We have no inside information or tips about any of the companies we have listed as possible acquisition candidates. None of them have said they are for sale or want to be bought, so we'll just have to wait and see whether any of our guesses hit the mark, or are way, way off. ®

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