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December 21, 2004

ILM, not utility, says EMC for Smarts buy

EMC Corp is set to splash out around $260 million in an acquisition that in the medium term will bolster its position in the storage market, and just might become part of a future move into utility-style combined server and storage systems management.

By CBR Staff Writer

The storage giant is to buy Smarts Inc, a privately held developer of software that is used to diagnose problems in data networks. With around 4,500 customers, Smarts’ revenue this year was $60 million, up from $48 million last year. EMC says the primary reason for the purchase is to work Smarts’ software into its existing SAN management tools, which it says it will do in the medium term.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst William Hurley said: Today there are no tools for deep analysis of storage networks. This acquisition puts EMC on the path to filling a very strong need. He added: It’s a defensive move. EMC is expanding its footprint in the corporate data center. To do that, it needs to secure its storage beachhead, he said.

The purchase is due to close next quarter and will be the company’s second acquisition of a systems management supplier within around a year. The first was the purchase of server virtualization specialist VMWare Inc. During the announcement this prompted analysts to ask EMC about any plans to develop combined storage and server management. Such a move would mirror the direction already being taken by EMC’s arch-rival Veritas Software Corp.

EMC ducked the question. The company’s executive vice president Howard Elias said: At this point we’re continuing with our strategic plan focused on ILM, which requires more and more application awareness and a more complete understanding of infrastructure.

Smarts’ customers are large organizations, and many of them are telecoms services providers. EMC said the two companies’ customer bases overlap almost entirely. Founded in 1993, Smarts began shipping its network analysis software in 2000, and has signed an OEM deal with Cisco Systems Inc. In Smarts’ case Cisco obviously forsook its habit of buying whatever start-up technology it needs.

The Smarts software can be used to tune networks and analyze performance after changes, or when problems occur. It present network views or topologies, with information about applications and business impact. The software draws its data from larger systems management tools such as the frameworks supplied by IBM Tivoli, CA, or HP. According to Hurley, the strongest feature of Smarts’ software is its analysis or modeling engine, but the product is not unique and its functions are duplicated in other start-up products, and to at least some extent in Tivoli, CA and HP’s systems management tools.

This summer Smarts said it had been profitable for 11 straight quarters. EMC said it expects the purchase to close in the next quarter, and to have no material impact on its earnings next year.

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