There are big grins on the faces of some lucky people tonight. Who are they? The backers of Topio. NetApp is buying Topio for $160 million, the same amount EMC paid for Avamar last week. Topio provides software to make disaster recovery (DR) copies of data. This is the Topio Data Protection Suite (TDPS) which can continuously copy and protect data asynchronously over any distance, across heterogeneous infrastructures, without any operational disruption. At the DR site TDPS maintains a 100 percent consistent replica of the source data. (Here is an example customer story.)

This recovery-ready image enables application failover in minutes. That's one benefit. Another is that TDPS allows you to freeze point-in-time copies for any session, whenever you choose, to support centralised backup or testing.

Topio makes a virtue of replicating from any vendor to any vendor. It can replicate from storage area network (SAN) - Fibre Channel or iSCSI, network-attached storage (NAS) or direct-attached storage (DAs) to anyone of these storage set-ups. It can run in a server or on an intelligent director platform in a SAN fabric, such as Cisco's MDS 9000.

It is already well-integrated with NetApp's Data ONTAP O/S and can replicate data from any storage to NetApp FAS. Topio makes the point that this eliminates any need to duplicate expensive production storage for tier 2 applications. In other words you can have your production data on fast, expensive Symmetrix or equivalent arrays from IBM or Hitachi Data Systems, but store your DR copy on cheaper, second tier arrays.

TPDS replicating to NetApp also supports instantaneous on-demand (flex)cloning of up to 256 clones using negligible incremental storage.

At the time of the NetApp Topio strategic partnership, in August, ESG's Steve Duplessie wrote: "This deal is a win-win-win situation. For Topio, it is an important step toward freeing itself of its “start-up” status. It gives Topio TDPS immediate credibility in the marketplace and it puts the company in an OEM-friendly light."

"Topio clearly wants to be more and more of an OEM company, but they shouldn’t be – and wisely, appear not to be -- turning their backs on their product development roots. For users, it means they can now leverage multiple legitimate vendors inside and outside of their data centers and use each for their strong points."

"For NetApp, it is finally a benign way to penetrate the inner circle of the data center without having to argue religion. Once a user lets them in, they have the opportunity to showcase their abilities and that gives them an excellent opportunity to steal some share where they traditionally have not been able to. Will it work? Only time will tell, but the NetApp sales force is a good one, the products work and the company has an excellent track record for seizing opportunities."

How does this give NetApp a foot in the door? "– the integration of Topio’s TDPS software with NetApp Data ONTAP enables users to replicate production data to a NetApp system. From a pure cost perspective, this NetApp system can run an order of magnitude less than a tier-1 enterprise array that is generally used for this purpose and, importantly, offers users significantly more flexibility in moving and manipulating data once it is outside the core."

"The bottom line for users is the integration of these two platforms is an economic no-brainer that can be calculated in both CAPEX (e.g., software and hardware investment) and OPEX (e.g., management, real-time testing and DR, etc.) terms. For NetApp, the deal is brilliant: integrating with the TDPS platform enables NetApp to “crack the core;” it gives NetApp an entry into a market dominated previously by EMC, IBM or HDS."

Lock, stock and two smoking barrels

NetApp has now decided it wants to own Topio lock, stock and barrel; TPDS is a strategic piece of software. Clearly it really believes that TPDS can accelerate the migration of customers using legacy storage systems - meaning non-NetApp - onto NetApp's own SAN storage systems.

In May this year, EMC bought its own replication vendor - Kashya. Now NetApp has responded, in kind too.

Jay Kidd, Netapp's SVP and GM for its emerging products group, said: “The average enterprise creates and stores anywhere between 10 and 20 copies of its data, including testing and application development data, which can increase the amount of storage consumed by 10 to 20 times. This is both expensive and time consuming."

"With the addition of Topio, enterprises using legacy storage systems can create working data copies in seconds while dramatically decreasing overall storage requirements. This not only provides immediate cost savings, but also allows companies to accelerate their application test and development to bring their products to market much more quickly.”

NetApp sees a great fit between TDS and its existing data protection products: "Topio adds heterogeneous DR capabilities to existing heterogeneous disk-to-disk backup solutions from NetApp, which include NearStore VTL for heterogeneous data center backup, Open Systems SnapVault for remote office backup, and SnapVault for NetBackup, a solution jointly engineered with Symantec and highly optimised for NetBackup in any storage environment."

Topio also has an integration deal with HDS. NetApp will hope that this survives.

Founded in 2001, Topio is privately-held with offices in Santa Clara, California, and London. The pace of development has been heady. It only joined the NetApp partner programme in March. Five months later it was in a strategic partnership and now, three months after that it is bought. This has been a whirlwind romance and, instead of being sealed with a kiss, it's been sealed with cash, one hundred and sixty million dollars of it. Topio's backers will be smiling broadly tonight.