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HPE’s Nimble Storage acquisition expands its struggling portfolio

Hewlett Packard Enterprise today made its second major storage acquisition of 2017, spending $1.2 billion on all-flash and hybrid array vendor Nimble Storage.

The Nimble Storage acquisition comes less than two months after HPE bought hyper-converged pioneer SimpliVity for $650 million.

We’ll have more on the HPE-Nimble Storage acquistion on SearchStorage, but here is what we know so far:

HPE executives see Nimble as a complement to its 3PAR storage portfolio that it acquired for $2.35 billion in 2010. 3PAR StoreServ has served as HPE’s flagship storage platform for both flash and hybrid arrays.

In a blog post today, HPE enterprise group GM Antonio Neri characterized 3PAR as supporting “customers experiencing rapid growth and needing a highly scalable, all-flash data center capable of supporting millions of IOPS, petabyte capacity, and a multi-tenant architecture, priced from the midrange to the high-end.” He added “Nimble is ideal for customers needing advanced, flash-optimized data services, including all-flash, hybrid-flash, and multicloud support, underpinned by machine-learning based predictive analytics, all at entry to midrange price points and designed with ease of use at its core.”

Neri and HPE GM of storage and big data Bill Philbin both cited Nimble’s InfoSight predictive analytics as a key part of the Nimble Storage acquisition. Neri wrote that HPE would incorporate InfoSight throughout its storage portfolio. Along with 3PAR, HPE sells XP high-end enterprise storage and SMB-level MSA platforms through OEM deals, and StoreVirtual virtual storage based on technology acquired from acquired from LeftHand Networks in 2008.

Like the other major vendors, HPE has seen storage revenues decline in recent years. It is coming off its worse quarter in years – a 12% year-over-year drop in revenue to $730 million.

Nimble, which became a public company in late 2013, today reported its revenue for last quarter and last year. Revenue for the quarter increased 30% year-over-year to $117 million and for the full year it increased 25% to $403 million.

However, its losses also grew. Nimble lost $158 million last year compared to $120 million the previous year. Its fourth-quarter loss was $36 million compared to $32 million a year ago. Nimble claimed 10,000 customers.

“As proud as we are of what we have accomplished, we face a challenge of scale and significant exposure as a standalone storage company,” Nimble CEO Suresh Vasudevan wrote in a note on the company’s website today. “Our aspiration has always been to be an innovation leader, and see our technology deployed in organizations around the globe.  But, as we weighed the opportunities and risks, we concluded that an acquisition makes sense at the right price with the right partner. We believe we’ve found both.”

Nimble launched in 2010 mainly as a lower-cost alternative to EMC and NetApp in the midrange. From the start, Nimble arrays featured data reduction and used small amounts of flash and the vendor added InfoSight in 2013. Last week Nimble went into beta with Nimble Cloud Volumes, a flash fabric designed to transparently move data between its storage arrays and Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

“When looking at opportunities to complement our existing portfolio, Nimble jumped straight to the top of the list based on combined business opportunity and similarities in engineering design and culture,” HPE’s Philbin wrote. “Much like 3PAR started high and then addressed the needs of customers pushing down market, our interest in Nimble started with an acknowledgement that the flash market is rapidly evolving and those same needs are moving even lower.

“Entry and midrange customers are demanding the same flash-optimized data services that their Enterprise counterparts have enjoyed for several years,” he continued. “However, in this space there is also a need for incredibly straightforward and simple deployment and an expectation for support experience driven by the consumer interactions we all take for granted on our smart phones and devices.”

The HPE-Nimble Storage acquisition is expected to close in April.

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