3Par, HP, Dell, Private Clouds, and Disaster Recovery

Imagine you’ve won the lottery.  The next morning you wake up and find that you won again.  That’s how the investors and executives at 3Par are feeling these days.  The dueling takeover offers from HP and Dell for the relatively obscure 3Par left many in the investment community – and for that matter in the storage industry – scratching their heads.

The heart of this bid – beyond the obviously testerone-fueled frenzy culminating with a bid with sky-high multiples – was a weakness that HP reportedly began attempting to resolve 9 months ago.  HP resells HDS (Hitachi Data Systems) equipment into the enterprise.  The trouble is that HDS also sells HDS gear into the enterprise; thus HP’s value proposition was weak.  Combine that with the fact that HDS is seen in the industry as increasingly being left behind by more agile and more nimble competitors and HP had a problem.

HP had previously purchased iSCSI SAN-specialist LeftHand several years ago; however, that acquisition has not done spectacularly well terms of synergistic market share growth.  3Par has some overlapping technology with respect to the midrange with HP (the 3Par F-series.)  There will be an integration challenge at HP in the midrange; however, at the high-end the rapid replacement of HDS is as close to no-brainer as it gets.

That all speaks to the “W” (Weakness) in a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of this acquisition – with the “threat” being both Dell and public clouds.

The threat of public clouds is what has caused the  increasing desire of companies with larger storage investments to create private cloud infrastructure to fight against the increasing viability of public cloud offerings (e.g, Google, Microsoft with Azure, etc.)

The opportunity here springs from the fact that 3Par has reportedly some of the strongest SAN replication technology available in the storage industry – it’s rated highly by DGIC and others in terms of ease of use and flexibility.  SAN replication lies at the heart of the battle between public and private cloud computing models.  There are some industry reports that state that up to 50% of all SAN sales have accompanying replication components. What’s driving this?  Disaster recovery.

From my perspective, it’s a viable large enterprise play.  The problem is that SAN replication is expensive in terms of WAN bandwidth and in terms of capital expenditure.  It’s also an incomplete solution – as Virginia discovered after the disastrous EMC failure a few weeks ago that shut down 26 of 83 state agencies.

The answer will be increased backup and rotational archiving (yep – rotational archiving, whether D2D2D, D2D2-SAN/NAS, or even D2D2T will still have a place) into the SAN replication environment.  Whichever major storage vendor figures out that part of the value chain and solves it first will have a huge first-mover advantage on the rest of the industry.


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