With Data Domain done, what’s next for NetApp?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Simon Robinson

Data Domain was originally slated to report second-quarter earnings later this afternoon. Instead, the data de-duplication specialist is done as as an independent company, with the acquisition by EMC for the princely sum of $2.3bn closing today. The deal looks even ‘princelier’ when we consider the markdown M&A that we’ve been seeing recently. In fact, EMC’s bid values Data Domain at 7.4 times its trailing 12-month (TTM) revenue. That’s the richest multiple paid for a US public company since March 2008, when Ansys paid 8.2 times TTM sales for Ansoft.

Assuming the deal does indeed go through as expected, we wonder what will happen with the vendor that originally put Data Domain in play, NetApp. Certainly, the proposed pairing, which was approved by the boards at both firms, would have been a boost for NetApp. The storage system giant could certainly benefit from a midrange de-dupe product to serve customers beyond its existing base, which is precisely what Data Domain would have provided. The head of our storage practice, Simon Robinson, recently speculated that NetApp may well target other de-dupe providers. None of the potential candidates appears to fit as cleanly into NetApp as Data Domain would have, but there are nonetheless cases to be made for both CommVault and ExaGrid Systems.

While CommVault does indeed offer de-dupe technology, its backup software would pose a tricky integration challenge for NetApp, which sells appliances as an alternative to traditional backup software. (Keep in mind, too, that NetApp’s M&A track record hardly inspires confidence.) Meanwhile, ExaGrid is a company that in many ways has shaped itself in the image of Data Domain, albeit while selling de-dupe appliances. Buying ExaGrid wouldn’t bring NetApp the same heft as picking up Data Domain, but it would fit nicely into its focus on the SME market. If nothing else, NetApp could put some of the windfall of the $57m breakup fee that it received from the Data Domain deal toward another de-dupe move.