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Storage startup StorCentric takes flier on Retrospect backup

Retrospect backup software has survived a series of owners ranging from EMC to Dantz, and now is part of StorCentric's plan of acquiring storage vendors for midsize enterprises.

A holding company formed to breathe new life into older storage brands hopes to revive a 30-year-old data protection vendor.

StorCentric today acquired midsize enterprise cloud backup vendor Retrospect for an undisclosed sum, marking the fifth time in 15 years the data protection vendor has changed hands. Retrospect's 20 full-time employees will join StorCentric, including CEO JG Heithcock.

NAS vendor Drobo and HDD array maker Nexsan merged in 2018 to create StorCentric. Mihir Shah is CEO and founding Drobo engineer Rod Harrison is CTO. Heithcock joins StorCentric as general manager.

Like those disk-based vendors, Retrospect has a history in storage for small and midsize firms. And like Drobo and Nexsan, Retrospect has undergone several transformations.

StorCentric's Shah said Retrospect advances his goal to acquire undervalued storage companies with mature technologies and established customers.

"We don't want to acquire science projects where there may not be a product fit. I'd rather acquire a business that has a strong set of customers, and enhance technology that may be a little long in the tooth," Shah said.

Retrospect backup: A look back

As with Drobo and Nexsan, Retrospect will operate as a separate entity within StorCentric. Shah said the complementary storage technologies target a market estimated at $100 billion.

Retrospect has been in business since 1989 and sells backup software mainly to the SMB market, including customers in education and government. The company emerged as a private company in 2010 following a series of transactions. The Retrospect agent handles archive and backup, full data encryption and endpoint protection for Mac and Windows environments.

Retrospect started out as backup for locally attached storage for tape and NAS. EMC acquired Retrospect in 2004 from Dantz Development Corp. Sonic Solutions acquired the Retropect assets from EMC in 2010 and folded it under its Roxio brand, but digital media company Rovi bought Sonic a year later and Retrospect founders spun it out as a private company.

Heithcock said Retrospect product development has pushed beyond an initial focus on Mac backup to include Windows and Linux. He said Retrospect has customers in more than 100 countries and 45% of revenue comes from recurring service contracts. The Retrospect platform supports more than 20 cloud storage providers, Heithcock said.

In March, Retrospect Backup 16 was released with support for redeploying Retrospect clients through third-party tools or built-in services for automatic updates. It also allows the creation of storage groups to protect a backup environment with one centralized destination.

StorCentric ambitions include small-cap IPO

Drobo NAS appliances include devices for home use and organizations with about 150 users. The Nexsan storage gear includes unified Unity SANs, block arrays for ruggedized use cases and Assureon active archive appliances.

Drobo and Nexsan have been connected at several points in their respective histories. Shah headed a group of investors that acquired Drobo in 2015 from now-defunct Connected Data. Also in 2015, Nexsan's former parent, Imation Corp., bought sync-and-share Transporter technology from Connected Data.

The addition of Retrospect boosts StorCentric's headcount to 220 employees. Shah said the StorCentric roadmap involves making select transactions to build value during the next several years, potentially leading to an initial public offering. "We're looking at a small-cap listing," he said.

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