Answer: AppAssure announced this morning that it had sold itself to Dell.

The ripples of this thing into the backup ecosystem are amazing.  In this post, I’ll focus on the pure backup ecosystem.  In a later post, I’ll talk about the stances that EMC and the rest of the industry have historically taken regarding snapshots, replication, and backup and how this impacts that as well.


The most obvious players involved here are Dell (and its inorganic purchases of EqualLogic and Compellent), AppAssure, Symantec with its Backup Exec partnership with Dell, CommVault with its Simpana partnership with Dell (note: rumors are that of the $300M of revenue CommVault had last year, over 20% came from Dell slapping it on a PowerVault server and calling it a “backup appliance”.)

Less obviously, there are a whole lot of AppAssure resellers this morning that are no doubt a bit less than deliriously happy at the news.  That in and of itself is going to be incredibly interesting.

Symantec with its push into backup appliances (see the previous postings on this in the Modern Backup blog) had already pretty much ripped the facade off of the Symantec and CommVault shotgun marriages with Dell that had been forced by the clear desire by customers for single vendor all-in-one vertically integrated backup appliance solutions.  With this announcement, Dell is owning up to the fact that if you’re going to create a backup appliance, you need to be able to deliver something that is philosophically more like a toaster in terms of integration and simplicity – and less like a Rube Goldberg contraption consisting of equal parts hardware, software, and hopes and dreams of being integrated, simple, and elegant.

At Unitrends, we have a lot of customers who bought AppAssure and then ended up switching to us.  There are typically three reasons [note: I rewrote some of these lines after the first post to try to be more equitable in what we see.]

  1. AppAssure Customer support.  I hear a lot of horror stories about AppAssure customer support.  Of course, I hear a lot of horror stories about a lot of customer support in the backup space.  It’s a tough space to create product for since it’s so varied and heterogeneous.
  2. Backup software/server/storage integration issues.  If you look at the a lot of backup software vendor web sites, you’ll see where they tell resellers how they can make a ton of money selling hardware.  One reason is that AppAssure tends to offload a lot of processing from the client to the target backup server.  This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it does require more server resources.  This is one of the larger issues with modern backup software that runs as a software application versus some type of integrated appliance.
  3. Desire for enterprise-level functionality and heterogeneity.  Some, not all, of this comes down to block- versus file-level – I’ve posted on this before but building software adaptable to a lot of devices, from NAS to SAN to cluster to whatever – is tough.

Bottom line: we win against AppAssure due to an obsessive focus on a superior customer experience.  Of course, we win against Backup Exec and CommVault for the same reason – plus the fact that Backup Exec and CommVault are not only pricey but complicated as well.

Of course – my perspective is going to be tainted by the fact that I work at Unitrends – the #1 all-in-one integrated backup appliance vendor in the world.  What’s your opinion?