Is Riverbed the next Data Domain?

Contact: Brenon Daly

With Data Domain off the market, we did a bit of blue-sky thinking about which company might find itself snapped up in a similar scenario. Our pick? Riverbed Technology. We’re not suggesting that the vendor is in play by any means, but hear us out on this one.

For starters, both Data Domain and Riverbed are fast-growing, single-product companies in markets that are dominated by mature technology vendors that have deep pockets and are hungry for growth. In the case of Data Domain it’s the storage market, while for Riverbed it’s the networking market. (To put some numbers around the differences, consider that Data Domain more than doubled its revenue in 2008, while its acquirer, EMC, saw storage revenue inch up just 10% last year.)

The obvious buyer of Riverbed would be Cisco. That’s so obvious, in fact, that we heard Cisco made at least two overtures to Riverbed before the company went public in September 2006. (However, one source characterized Cisco’s interest more as ‘industrial espionage’ than acquisition negotiations.) So we don’t see Riverbed going to Cisco. Instead, we like Hewlett-Packard as the acquirer of Riverbed.

The two companies have been friendly for years. HP originally had an OEM deal with Riverbed, and later resold the Riverbed product. HP has also integrated the Riverbed Optimization Software into its ProCurve infrastructure. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that there’s anything more than technology talks between the two sides right now. But if HP wanted to bolster ProCurve, picking up Riverbed would do that. Plus, such a deal could help HP stick it to Cisco, which took a swipe at HP earlier this year by jumping into the server market. Maybe HP is interested in countering with a big buy into one of the fastest-growing segments of the networking market.