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Veeam acquisition, Google-Actifio highlight 2020 storage M&A

Data protection vendors Veeam, Actifio and Datrium were acquisition targets in 2020; Google and VMware opened their wallets; and Intel sold its memory business -- but kept Optane.

Data protection technology was in great demand in 2020, as three of the largest storage acquisition targets involved backup or disaster recovery vendors.

A blockbuster Veeam acquisition in January and Google's buyout of Actifio formed bookends for the year in M&A. In between, VMware acquired Datrium to bolster its disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).

The biggest 2020 deal to touch storage did not involve backup -- that was SK Hynix's $9 billion pickup of Intel's memory group. But data protection, along with cloud and Kubernetes storage, dominated the number of deals. Data protection deals brought in the most money of those.

The following are the most notable storage acquisitions of 2020:

Veeam acquisition brings U.S. ownership

Private equity firm Insight Partners went from minority investors to majority owners of virtual backup specialist Veeam in January, in a deal that valued Veeam at $5 billion.

After the deal, Veeam founders Ratmir Timashev and Andrei Baronov relinquished control of the company, although Timashev remains a Veeam consultant. Longtime Veeam vet Bill Largent moved into the CEO role for the second time. The new Veeam management team said it wanted to increase its presence in the U.S., where sales made up about 15% of its more than $1 billion in 2019 revenue. By the end of 2020, Veeam said it had more than 400,000 customers.

In an interview in June, Largent said there is more than 50% chance that Veeam will become a public company.

Actifio goes to Google Cloud

Google added data protection for its public cloud by acquiring Actifio in December. While Google said little about its plans for Actifio's software, it praised the copy data management pioneer for its backup and disaster recovery capabilities.

Actifio was no stranger to the cloud giant. Actifio GO for GCP launched in 2019 to protect data stored in the Google Cloud Platform, and Actifio also protected data on Google's Bare Metal Solution. Google did not disclose the purchase price for privately held Actifio, which had more than $300 million in funding and was valued at more than $1 billion.

VMware picks Datrium for DRaaS

VMware acquired Datrium for $137 million to bulk up data protection, specifically DRaaS. VMware quickly relaunched Datrium DRaaS as VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery at VMworld in October. The Datrium service joins Site Recovery in VMware's DRaaS lineup. VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery works with any storage that supports VMware vSphere and does not require Datrium DVX software in customers' data centers.

NetApp seeds its cloud

NetApp made three acquisitions to stoke its hybrid cloud strategy: It acquired Talon Software for $23 million in March for file caching software, it bought CloudJumper for $34 million in April for its virtual desktop software and spent $340 million for cloud management software startup Spot in June.

NetApp has already put its new technology to use. It launched Spot Storage by NetApp and Spot Ocean by NetApp for management compute and storage with Kubernetes, integrated Talon software for file caching in NetApp Cloud Volumes OnTap and Microsoft Azure NetApp Files, and turned CloudJumper VDI into NetApp Virtual Desktop Management Service.

Intel dumps NAND SSD, keeps Optane

Seeking to focus on its core CPU business, Intel sold its memory business to rival SK Hynix for $9 billion. Intel did keep the biggest pure storage piece of its memory business -- its Optane platform based on 3D XPoint memory for higher performance than NAND SSDs.

Pure flashes cash on Kubernetes; Veeam buys Kasten

Pure Storage paid $370 million for Kubernetes storage software vendor Portworx in September. The all-flash vendor is trying to stay ahead of the curve by having its own container storage, and will try to integrate code between the Portworx Kubernetes Data Services Platform and the Pure Service Orchestrator.

Veeam spent $150 million of Insight's capital influx on Kubernetes backup vendor Kasten, filling a coming need for container-based protection. Veeam already had a technology and sales partnership with Kasten, but the acquisition gives it more control over the Kubernetes management software.

StorCentric plucks Violin for flash storage

StorCentric added struggling all-flash vendor Violin to its list of disparate storage companies. StorCentric was created through a merger of disk vendor Nexsan and low-end NAS company Drobo in 2018, and added Mac backup software vendor Retrospect and NVMe flash startup Vexata in 2019. Violin gives StorCentric a mature flash systems platform. Violin was an early leader in the flash array game, but the company has twice needed bailing out. Private equity firm Quantum Partners bought Violin's assets out of bankruptcy in 2017 but closed its San Jose, Calif., headquarters and made drastic staffing cuts in 2019 before seeking another buyer.

Panzura finds new owners

Like the Veeam acquisition, cloud NAS startup Panzura was picked up by a private equity firm. Profile Capital Management bought Panzura in May and swapped out CEO Patrick Harr for Jill Stelfox. Profile and Stelfox said they see value in Panzura because of an uptick in cloud use.

Quantum's small leaps

NAS and backup vendor Quantum expanded its product reach with two acquisitions: Quantum bought ActiveScale object storage from Western Digital and acquired Square Box Systems for its CatDV digital asset management software.

Data protection tuck-ins

Backup vendors and security vendors made a few other smaller deals to pick up complementary technologies: Cloud backup vendor Druva acquired sfApex for Salesforce, Rubrick bought Opas AI for its AI technology, and cloud email security firm Zix picked up SaaS backup startup CloudAlly.

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