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IronMountain Buys Archive Appliance Maker, But The Future Is Online

IronMountain announced today that it will pay $112 million for Mimosa Systems, which makes archiving appliances for e-mail, SharePoint and files. The purchase gives IM Digital both a premises archiving product as well as a SaaS-based e-mail archiving service. The SaaS archiving offering uses technology from Mimecast, a UK-based company.

In the short term, the move lets Iron Mountain Digital go after customers--particularly in the mid-market where Mimosa was successful--who are uncomfortable with cloud-based archiving services. Iron Mountain will go head to head with vendors such as Barracuda Networks, which offers a range of archiving appliances, and software vendors such as Symantec, CA and EMC. EMC rebooted its own archiving strategy last spring.

In the long term, I wonder if Iron Mountain Digital is paving the way for a hybrid offering that combines a premises system and a cloud archive. In this vision, customers who aren't ready for a full cloud service can keep X Tbytes in their own racks, while the rest of it moves up to the provider's data centers. Note that this is only speculation on my part.

I'm speculating because I think the real growth in e-mail archiving will come from services rather than appliances or software. Organizations are growing more comfortable with moving applications and storage off site, and e-mail archiving is a no-brainer because the benefits are compelling. Users get a virtually unlimited inbox, IT doesn't have to worry about adding more storage and the business gets predictable expenses. Because the mail is off site, organizations enjoy a very basic form of disaster recovery for e-mail.

I'm not predicting the death of archiving appliances or software. There will always be companies that don't want messages going off-site for a variety of reasons, including security and compliance. In fact, Kroll Ontrack announced in January new e-mail archiving software with a strong e-discovery angle. The software is aimed at companies in highly litigious industries. But I think the real market growth exists in archiving services, and over the long term, pure-play software and appliance vendors will be forced to chase smaller and smaller pieces of the pie. That's why I'm speculating about a hybrid approach for Iron Mountain--it would make sense for the company to buy into the appliance market if it helps them transition customers to the cloud service over the long term.