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Everybody needs a good data storage and information management strategy these days. The amount of information floating around in corporations, government agencies, and other large organizations is growing exponentially. Everyone is getting better at gathering more data -- and then it all needs to be stored and catalogued. And who wouldn't want to fill all of those needs with a single-purchase decision?
That's why data-storage maven NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP ) is building itself into a one-stop shop for storage solutions. By adding data backup specialist Data Domain (Nasdaq: DDUP ) to its already impressive stable of information management solutions, NetApp strengthens its own data deduplication offerings considerably.
(Data dodecahedron? Disenfranchisement? Huh? Deduplication removes extra copies of files in a storage archive, freeing up expensive gigabytes for better use.)
Data Domain generated $76 million of operating cash last year, so it'll take a while to cover the $1.5 billion sticker price. But NetApp CEO Dan Warmenhoven hopes to "amplify Data Domain's success" by giving the smaller company access to NetApp's global sales channels. And the combined beast could reach new customers that never considered NetApp before, as Data Domain's expertise squeezes more value out of the storage infrastructure a company already owns.
The "new NetApp" is starting to look like an EMC (NYSE: EMC ) in miniature, or like the storage division of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) . Astute, hand-picked acquisitions like this one could complete that transformation in short order. The Data Domain deal leaves about $1.1 billion of cash equivalents on NetApp's balance sheet -- and the company created $584 million of free cash flow in the just-completed fiscal year.
The year ended rather well, with $0.23 of earnings per share on sales of $880 million. Both figures were down from the year before, much like Cisco's (Nasdaq: CSCO ) and EMC's recent reports. But NetApp's market is like oxygen to modern business, and with the right growth strategy in place, I don't see how NetApp can fail to get back on the growth track. Sooner rather than later, I say -- companies can't hold back investments in these important technologies forever, come recession or high waters.
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