Western Digital goes big in storage

Contact: Henry Baltazar, Brenon Daly

After flirting with a potential IPO, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) is set to be snapped up by its hard drive manufacturing rival Western Digital (WD) for $4.25bn in cash and stock. The deal would be the largest transaction in the storage industry in more than seven years, and would solidify WD’s position as the biggest hard drive vendor.

Beyond the benefits of consolidated manufacturing and increased market share, the Hitachi GST acquisition provides WD with credibility in the enterprise market, which was the key handicap it had to overcome against its longtime rival Seagate. Wall Street certainly saw it that way, sending WD shares up 14% in heavy Monday-morning trading. (WD indicated that the combination, which is expected to close in the third quarter, would be immediately accretive to non-GAAP earnings.)

We would also note that Hitachi GST’s expertise in enterprise SAS and fiber-channel hard drives was the key asset that led to its partnership with Intel for enterprise-class solid-state disks, and WD will now benefit from having these high-performance NAND flash products in its lineup. In the Hitachi GST/Intel partnership, though Intel manufactures the drives and supplies the NAND flash for the units, the products have Hitachi GST branding and are sold through Hitachi GST’s business partners.

The logic behind that strategy stemmed from the fact that Hitachi GST already had relationships with major enterprise storage and server providers, which would have made it easier for the products to get through qualification cycles at OEM partner sites. With this deal, WD will also attempt to leverage these relationships to build up its market share well beyond the consumer space.

Net effect from Intel’s buy

-by Thomas Rasmussen

It’s a somber 10-year anniversary for 10-Gigabit Ethernet vendor NetEffect. The company was picked up by Intel in a bankruptcy asset sale last week for a bargain $8m. Its technology, along with 30 of its engineers, will be rolled into Intel’s LAN Access Division. NetEffect has burned through some $50m in funding since recapitalizing in 2004. The company, which we once heralded as an innovator and potential leader in 10GigE technology, simply ran out of cash.

One reason for NetEffect’s scrap sale might be the increased competition. Big players like Intel, with its own organic offerings and its tuck-in of NetEffect, and Broadcom, with its $77m acquisition of Siliquent Technologies in 2005, have been crowding an already teeming market. This, coupled with scarce funding and lack of widespread adoption of the technology, makes us wonder what will happen to NetEffect’s surviving former rival startups still trying to stay afloat.

Venture capitalists have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at 10GigE companies, with little to no payoff. We suspect the wind-down of NetEffect is an indication that VCs have had enough. Tehuti Networks, iVivity, Myricom, Neterion Technologies and Alacritech are some of the many startups in this sector that could potentially feel the net effect from this. In fact, iVivity seems to have quietly hit the switch already; its website is down and its phones are off the hook. Firms that will benefit from this include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Hitachi, which are likely to follow Intel’s lead and peruse the bargain bin.

Known funding of select 10GigE players

Company Total funding Last round Status
Chelsio Communications $100m $25m series E (2008) Active
iVivity $60m $10m series D (2006) Missing in action
NetEffect $47m $25m series B (2006) Acquired by Intel for $8m
Siliquent Technologies $40m $21m (2004) Acquired by Broadcom in 2005 for $77m
Silverback Systems $51m $16m series D (2006) Acquired by Brocade Communications in 2007 for less than $10m*
Tehuti Networks Unknown Series B (2008) Active

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *Official 451 Group estimate