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NetApp/Data Domain deal: The impact on VARs

Find out what the likely impact of the NetApp/Data Domain deal will be on value-added resellers (VARs) and other solution providers and how you should proceed.

You know that NetApp made a bid a few weeks ago to buy Data Domain for $1.5 billion (and EMC eclipsed that with a $1.8 billion bid this week). What would an acquisition by NetApp mean to you?

Initially, not much. The sale would take 100 days or so at a minimum and even longer for any significant changes within the organizations or technologies. Expect NetApp to move slowly with integration; you don't spend $1.5 billion and pay a 40% premium without carefully planning your next moves. Any moves both from a business perspective and a technology perspective are likely to come at a snail's pace, and the last thing you want to do is break what is obviously working at Data Domain.

More on the NetApp/Data Domain deal
NetApp acquires Data Domain for $1.5 billion

Storage Soup blog post

One challenge that especially a loyal Data Domain reseller is going to face is in discussing the deal with customers and prospects. They are going to get hit with a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) as this transition begins, and they'll need to respond with a level of calmness and be able to clearly articulate the situation. If you're in this situation, one of the best things you can do is point out to customers that their Data Domain systems are not going to suddenly shut down; those machines are unaware of the news and will keep performing as always.

Another challenge that a Data Domain reseller might face -- and I have been through this during other acquisitions -- is pressure around selling products that are competitive to NetApp's. For instance, if you're a Data Domain reseller for backup and an HDS, Compellent or Xiotech reseller for primary storage, are you going to be welcomed into the new family? Will you be able to continue to sell competitive products, or will it be "strongly suggested" that you start to sell NetApp storage instead?

I've seen this handled in two very different ways, ironically by the same company: EMC. When EMC bought Legato, there was a lot of messaging to legacy Legato resellers that they could continue to sell Legato and storage hardware that was competitive to EMC and would not be pressured to sell EMC storage, but behind the scenes there was incredibly strong pressure to drop other product lines and sell EMC storage with Legato software.

But when EMC bought VMware, it took almost the exact opposite approach with resellers; in fact, VMware was so independent that they really didn't consider themselves to be part of the same company, and the channel strategy was left untouched. There are many NetApp resellers that will tell you they can sell a VMware/NetApp combined solution with almost no repercussions from EMC.

The best advice I can give you for this situation is to wait and see. Look for what NetApp does, not what it says.

One final note: If you're not a Data Domain reseller, you won't be unaffected by this deal. If NetApp handles the transition well or even just better than average, you may end up with a stronger competitor in backup dedupe environments. And, your current solution might be the next target; as NetApp just proved, no company is off limits.

About the author

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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