Hewlett-Packard Co is set to buy start-up PolyServe Inc, its OEM supplier of clustered NAS and database software for the last two years.
Because of its OEM deal with HP, PolyServe has been one of the highest profile of a handful of start-ups selling clustered NAS systems. Other clustered NAS suppliers include Isilon Systems Inc, which last month made a very splashy $1.4bn stock market debut, and Network Appliance Inc and its OEM customer IBM Corp.
The growth in the volumes of file-level data and the limits on the scalability of conventional NAS filers have recently seen the use of clustered NAS begin to spread from niche scientific applications into more mainstream commercial service.
HP and PolyServe would not disclose terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close within the next 60 days.
If that was the price, it’s very fair. Polyserve has a very healthy business with lots of customers and strong revenue, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tony Asora.
Founded in 1999, PolyServe last summer declared its fifth funding round, which took its total VC raised to date to $74m. The company will not say whether it has reached profitability.
This week it claimed to have signed over 500 customers, the same number that it was claiming last summer. HP has brought in another 100-odd customers, according to PolyServe.
PolyServe shared or clustered file system underpins two products sold for two different purposes. The first is as a hosting tool for database consolidation, and the second is as a means of clustering multiple NAS filer heads around a single, shared file system.
So far HP has only been OEM’ing the NAS clustering software, but yesterday it said that the database product was an equally important factor in its decision to buy PolyServe.
The start-up itself has said previously that it has sold more of the database tool than the NAS software. Asora said one reason for this is that the PolyServe file system tops out at just 16TB, which is no larger than the conventional file systems running on non-clustered NAS boxes from NetApp or EMC Corp.
The PolyServe system is not really a strong mainstream NAS product. It’s much better for host clustering of database and email servers, Asora said.
NetApp’s clustered file system was originally developed by Spinnaker Network Inc, and has recently been incorporated into the GX version of NetApp’s OnTap OS.
Because it already dominates the high end of the NAS market where clustered NAS has the most sales potential, NetApp will be the company to beat in this sector. Rivals estimate that it will be around 18 months at most before NetApp completes the integration of Spinnaker with its existing data management tools, and makes its presence really felt.
Like other clustered NAS, PolyServe’s software runs on x86 servers or NAS heads. HP is arguing that its status as the world’s biggest server maker in terms of shipments gives it a margin advantage that NetApp and Isilon will never enjoy. NetApp’s gear is also x86-powered. Yes, but they’re applying their own margins, and they don’t have the volumes that we do, said HP’s NAS marketing vice president Donovan Nickel.
The other NAS giant, EMC Corp, is conspicuous by its absence from the market for NAS driven by clustered file systems. EMC argues that it can meet high-end storage needs with the reselling deal it has with clustered NAS start-up Ibrix Inc, and with its Rainfinity NAS virtualization system, and its Celerra Multi-Path File System, which diverts large-file traffic to fast Fibre Channel block-level links.
That still leaves many people wondering what EMC’s plans really are. The question is – when will EMC get an extensible clustered file system? Your guess is as good as mine, said Asora.