I woke up this morning to interesting news: Dell announcing that they acquired backup software company AppAssure, marking the first acquisition made by John Swainson, the new president of Dell Software Group. This is actually the second significant announcement from Dell this year around backup. A little more than a month ago, the company also came to market with a new SMB backup appliance, the DR4000, based on IP from Ocarina (acquired in 2010). These two announcements in quick succession, coupled with the late 2011 news that Dell will no longer be reselling EMC Data Domain, signals that Dell is finally getting serious about addressing the backup and recovery market.

You might be wondering, "Who the heck is AppAssure?" Besides providing image-based backup and recovery and continuous data protection (CDP), AppAssure's software has basic disaster recovery capabilities with automated failover and the ability to rapidly boot backups into VMs (something which the larger players are just coming to market with now). When I first spoke with AppAssure in late 2010, they had less than 70 employees and only just over 1,000 customers worldwide. Fast-forward to today, AppAssure has 230 employees and claim over 6,000 customers worldwide. No matter how you slice it, that's some impressive growth.

What does this mean to you? If you work at a small or medium-size business, you have another major backup player in the mix to choose from. However, longer term, it appears that Dell is planning on growing AppAssure to address their larger client's needs as well. This paragraph from the Dell corporate blog is telling:

"Dell will extend the benefit of AppAssure across our enterprise solutions and services portfolio. Initially, it will be a software-only solution, and then over time we will offer additional data protection solutions tightly integrated in our Fluid Data architecture as we’ve done with our other acquired IP, including EqualLogic, Compellent and the Fluid File System."

Long term, I wouldn't be surprised if Dell also leveraged the DR4000 along with AppAssure to create another converged backup appliance to compete with EMC's Avamar and Symantec's Backup Exec (and maybe even NetBackup) appliance series. On a related note, AppAssure's software also has many of the raw components of a solid disaster recovery in the cloud offering, as Dell moves into the cloud space, could this be another use for the IP?

I'm curious about what you think: Can Dell be a legitimate player in the backup & recovery market? Or is this effort too little, too late?