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HDS buys Sepaton, gets its own disk backup appliance

Hitachi Data Systems acquires its disk backup appliance partner Sepaton to enter crowded market; promises aggressive development of data protection technology.

After years of working together in a disk backup appliance partnership, Hitachi Data Systems has added to its own products by acquiring virtual tape library pioneer Sepaton.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) revealed on Wednesday that it has bought Sepaton, an HDS partner since 2010. HDS did not disclose the purchase price.

Sepaton began selling virtual tape libraries (VTLs) in 2004 as part of an early wave of appliances aimed at using disk instead of tape for backups -- Sepaton is "No Tapes" spelled backward. While the disk backup appliance market has become crowded a decade later, Sepaton is more focused on large enterprises than its competitors.

Backup targets with NAS interfaces dominate the market, but Sepaton still sells only Fibre Channel-based VTL systems. It is in development with its first NAS-based product, the VirtuoSO, which was scheduled to ship early in 2014 but is not yet available.

The large enterprise focus fits with HDS, which sells its storage mostly into that market. Sepaton and HDS already have a joint sales partnership and Sepaton has used HDS hardware as its back-end storage since 2010.

Hewlett-Packard has sold Sepaton libraries through an OEM deal since 2005, but phased out those sales in favor of HP-branded StoreOnce appliances in recent years.

We aren't buying customers or a product that gets stuck 'as is' -- suspended, unchanged in amber until the end of time.
Sean MoserHDS vice president of software platforms

Sepaton's S2100 VTL ranges from 27 terabytes (TB) to 3.1 petabytes of usable disk capacity before deduplication, with customers scaling by adding disk shelves. The vendor claims the S2100 can reach an ingest rate of 80 TB per hour in an eight-node system. Its software includes DeltaStore deduplication, DeltaRemote replication and Delta DBeXtream for multi-stream deduplication database backup.

In a blog post announcing the deal, HDS vice president of software platforms Sean Moser said Marlborough, Mass.-based Sepaton would become a subsidiary of HDS, which has headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

HDS would not make any executives available to discuss the deal, but Moser's blog revealed part of its strategy.

"We aren't buying customers or a product that gets stuck 'as is' -- suspended, unchanged in amber until the end of time," he wrote. "We are acquiring pieces of a vision we have -- a best-in-class team that fits well with our partnering, customer-driven culture along with very compelling IP."

He added that HDS would "aggressively develop next generation solutions that will integrate with other HDS assets such as storage and copy creation/management software …"

HDS has sold disk backup appliances through several partners over the years. It sold Diligent products before IBM acquired Diligent in 2008 and sold Data Domain before EMC acquired Data Domain in 2009. It has also been a close partner of VTL software vendor FalconStor and has worked with Sepaton for four years.

"I'm surprised this didn't happen a couple of years ago," said Dave Simpson, senior storage analyst at 451 Research. "Sepaton had failed to establish significant market share, and probably wouldn't have been able to make a go of it alone. It's a good, very high-end fit for HDS. But because HDS was already reselling the Sepaton product, I don't see it upsetting the balance of power in the dedupe backup target market much."

Gartner analyst Dave Russell agrees that Sepaton fits with the HDS legacy of selling to large enterprises, but he said the VirtuoSO system can also help HDS move into smaller enterprises and cloud storage.

Russell said the acquisition should help bring Sepaton more brand awareness, and provide more development resources. As an independent company, Sepaton was often behind the market with technologies such as deduplication and appliances using a NAS interface.

"VirtuoSo is months late. Hitachi can apply the resources to make it happen," Russell said. "Being part of the Hitachi portfolio will get Sepaton more exposure, even if it is just one slide in the HDS deck."

Russell said he expects VirtuoSO to play a big part in the HDS plans for Sepaton. He pointed out that VTLs first came about to allow backup software to write to disk in a similar fashion as it wrote to tape, and that process is no longer necessary.

"We've seen the decline of VTL for the sake of VTL," he said. "In the open systems world, backup software understands how to write to disk. The main reason people seek out VTL is because they have an existing investment or they have 8-gig Fibre Channel deployed and want to take advantage of that infrastructure. But disk masquerading as tape is no longer an issue.

"Hitachi is talking a lot about object storage and cloud. VirtuoSO fits into that use case."

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Is HDS too late to the disk backup appliance game?