Network Appliance (NetApp) is buying privately-held Spinnaker Networks for about US$300 million in an all-stock deal aimed at boosting Network Appliance's high-end storage products line and get its "storage grid" architecture to market more quickly.

Spinnaker develops enterprise-class network attached storage (NAS) products, with a family of NAS servers and a global distributed file system, Spin FS, on the market. Network Appliance provides storage networking infrastructure wares.

The deal was described as primarily a "software technology acquisition" by Network Appliance CEO Dan Warmenhoven. Spinnaker "shares a vision" with Network Appliance, he said. NetApp plans to integrate Spinnaker's product portfolio into its own line of wares and then operate Spinnaker as an engineering and development division when the deal is final. The acquisition is subject to a federal waiting period under US law and possibly anti-trust laws in other countries, and is expected to be complete in January.

NetApp executives did not offer a time frame for when the storage grid architecture will be released, but pledged an update in the coming weeks. Storage grids apply the grid computing concept to storage systems with the goal of helping companies better manage corporate data, including data located in different databases or parts of the network. NetApp is targeting its storage grid architecture as an entry in the information lifecycle management (ILM) market where it will face competition from the likes of Hewlett-Packard and EMC, among others.

ILM involves, in part, integrating metadata -- or data about data -- to track where it resides in a computer network. ILM keeps tabs on data as different applications move it around. That tracking is meant to make it easier and faster to retrieve needed data or to recover data. In the event that data is destroyed, ILM, ideally, ensures that all of the copies of the data are purged from the system.

Spinnaker, which has a range of customers including those in government, biotechnology and science, has 83 employees, with 60 of those in engineering, opened in 1999 and shipped its first product in September 2002. Warmenhoven specifically mentioned the Spinnaker engineering staff as a group NetApp wants to keep on board, and said that the preference is to maintain all of the jobs. However, it remains to be decided what NetApp will do with Spinnaker's Pittsburgh base because that is a new facility for NetApp, he said.