Dell recently announced the acquisition of AppAssure, which it describes as a next-generation data protection solution because it deals not only with physical IT assets, but also with virtual and cloud environments. Dell plans to integrate the AppAssure software product with its Fluid Data architecture. AppAssure is the first acquisition that Dell has made since the creation of its new Software Group and will be part of its enterprise storage and software portfolio. This acquisition is another significant signpost that Dell is aggressively attacking the storage and storage management market, and the software market overall, more broadly.
For a number of years, the proliferation of storage start-ups has been a positive (albeit relatively small) contributor to the economy. Now, some, if not many, fall by the wayside (creative destruction, anyone?), but those that succeed more than make up the difference. (If you haven't heard that before, you have not been paying attention to the U.S. presidential race.) AppAssure is one of the successful companies. Founded in 2006, the company has grown from a few founders to 230 employees, boasts 6,000 customers, service providers, and partners world-wide, and points to 194% growth in revenue year-over-year for 2011. (And that is on top of even more explosive growth the two preceding years, so the base was not that small.) All in all, this is remarkable.
So why has AppAssure been so successful in a data protection market that is traditionally dominated by a number of well-known products from IT vendors large and small? Well, traditional products were originally designed around data-protection requirements for physical servers, not for the virtual servers or the cloud infrastructures that are evolving rapidly today. AppAssure may have been prescient, the company may have benefited from serendipity or, more likely, it may have been a combination of the two. In any event, AppAssure appeared in the market at the right time with the appropriate architecture to effectively deal with physical, virtual and cloud data protection infrastructures.
Replay4, AppAssure's product software, can perform three critical data-protection functions--backup/restore, archiving and disaster recovery--in a mix of physical, virtual and cloud environments. Replay4 eliminates the need to run traditional backup jobs through a continuous backup protection process. On the flip side, this means that a virtual or physical machine can quickly (within seconds as a recovery time objective and 5 minutes as a recovery point objective) resume running from a backup, while at the same time verifying and guaranteeing reliability of the recovery process. That recovery can be done on a cross-platform basis to dissimilar hardware (which is very good, as IT doesn't have to worry about exact matching, especially in a virtual world). The data can be restored at a very granular level from blocks to files to objects, which is very important in that partial restores, such as a single e-mail, are much more common than full restores.
All that means is that AppAssure is a very sophisticated user of snapshot and replication technology, though it also employs data deduplication and compression technologies to generate significant space savings. Now, whether other vendors can do the same is not relevant because the combination of these capabilities has proven to be very attractive to AppAssure's sizable customer base.
Few, if any, IT vendors can provide everything that the information infrastructure demands, but every key vendor wants to make sure that it has a strong storage and storage management story. Dell has obviously made invigorating its storage portfolio a major strategic focus for several years, and the acquisition of AppAssure is a reaffirmation of that strategy. Data protection is an important part of any storage portfolio, and Dell should find it valuable to have a data protection solution like AppAssure that plays in the ever-growing virtual and cloud worlds, in addition to the more traditional physical data centers.
Moreover, as part of Dell's strategic focus on software, AppAssure will help emphasize the increased importance of data protection beyond just traditional DAS and SAN storage. After all, Dell sells into more than 80% of the world's 25 largest cloud and Web 2.0 companies (including Google and Yahoo), has been the largest seller of VMware licenses for years, and has a dedicated Hyper Scale computing group focused on developing/selling highly virtualized cluster and cloud solutions. AppAssure fits in nicely with those efforts.