Dell acquires AppAssure

Congrats to my friends in Round Rock ... and my other friends in Virginia ... you've done a good thing!

Dell continues to broaden its Storage Solutions portfolio and its metamorphosis from a reseller to an OEM - with all the margin riches that entails. Following on to investments made in the storage world, which include block solutions like EqualLogic and Compellent, Dell now sets its sights on data protection with AppAssure. I've had the privilege of working with all of those companies both before and after their acquisitions by Dell. In the former cases, it was great to see innovative technologies discover new channels ... and to watch Dell customers discover new technologies that may have not appeared on their evaluation plate beforehand.

That's what will happen with AppAssure. Folks that are struggling with not only backup, but archiving and replication, are about to discover a hidden gem that protects both VMware and Hyper-V, along with all of the other core Windows applications and some interesting DR scenarios.

Prior to the acquisition, AppAssure was doing what ISVs do - building software, earning awards, creating marketing awareness, all while helping customers solve their data protection problems. Often those customers may have had a challenge with one of the "big guys" or, as SMBs, felt they couldn't get or afford enterprise backup capabilities. Hmmm, SMBs wanting enterprise capabilities, but not enterprise prices? That's how many, many folks first discovered Dell over the years. With AppAssure, that story gets an additional chapter.

I used to wonder why Dell didn't buy CommVault. But I have had past opportunities in previous lives to watch CommVault acquisition discussions (both as to-be-bought and to-buy-others), and they seem happy to be themselves and keep making money. CommVault has its own channel and enterprise play, as well as multiple profitable OEM relationships (including NTAP SnapProtect and with Dell) - and they offer some solutions that are not yet core to Dell's story. So what happens to them at Dell?

Of course, Dell will still resell software from and deliver backup appliances that are powered by CommVault and Symantec for the foreseeable future. For those software vendors, Dell's channel is a powerful and profitable thing that anyone that has worked to become part of will not walk away from. And for Dell, disk-based protection drives both server hardware and disk consumption (along with OEM software revenue). And while AppAssure offers solid technology, it isn't a universal solution. There are data protection/management capabilities found in both CommVault and Symantec that are not in AppAssure - some of which may eventually be there, and others that don't fit AppAssure's core and won't be there, and that is okay too. But I wouldn't be surprised to see an AppAssure-powered appliance someday.

Looking ahead, what will be interesting to watch from the trenches will be how the Dell field and partner channels talk about data protection by 2013. While Dell's channels are definitely evolving around "solution sales," those discussions start with understanding the customers' problems and then lead to talking about which parts of the Dell portfolio can help solve them. Based on my own experiences, their field will lead with the product lines that they wholly own (if it is a good fit for the customer) before they bring their resold products, just because field people tend to be coin-operated. Where the wholly owned (AppAssure) solution doesn't completely meet the needs of their customer, the OEM'ed CV and SYMC solutions will likely solve broader enterprise problems and also apply to the sales quota (OEM incentives aside). So Dell customers will still get what they need, but some will likely discover and acquire AppAssure when they wouldn't have even known who they were before - that is the power of joining the Dell family.

As I said, Dell continues to offer solutions that solve a wider range of problems for customers (while driving consumption of Dell hardware and services), bringing enterprise capabilities to companies of all sizes. With that lens, AppAssure was another smart add to the Dell portfolio.

Congrats to not only the two companies, but also to the Dell partners and customers who will benefit from today's news.