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February 13, 2009, 2:50 pm
The Survivors: Data Firms Grow Despite Recession
By Ashlee Vance
Many of the major technology companies find themselves tumbling quarter-by-quarter
through the rings of Dante’s Inferno, as customers pull back on their purchases of
equipment at a startling rate. And yet there’s an eclectic group of smaller high-tech
players that have managed to keep posting double-digit growth and attract new business.
In many cases, members of the survivor list are companies shuffling, analyzing or
fine-tuning the flow of data across corporations.
The most prominent member of the club is VMware, a software maker majority-owned
by EMC. After rising to prominence during the dot-com bust, VMware has now shown
for the second time that its software plays well during tough economic times. Companies
can run more software on each physical server with VMware’s products, saving on hardware
and energy costs.
In addition, VMware finds itself at the heart of a major shift in the technology
landscape where the fluid movement of applications around servers has started to
erode traditional boundaries between servers, storage systems and networking.
In its most recent quarter, VMware posted revenue growth of 25 percent to $515 million,
while its net income rose to $111 million from $78 million in the same period last
As mentioned, however, most of the survivors deal in data.
CommVault, for example, produces the Simpana software for creating backup copies
of data and holding and searching documents in legal cases. Most of CommVault’s major
competitors, including Symantec, I.B.M. and EMC, sell a combination of different
software packages to handle similar functions. So, CommVault argues that it can save
customers money on licensing and hardware costs by giving them just one product.
And, like its competitors, CommVault throws in a variety of tools that reduce the
amount of data that customers must store.
It’s a pitch that seems to have traction even in this market, with CommVault’s third-quarter
revenue rising 19 percent year-over-year to $60 million.
Bob Hammer, the chief executive at CommVault, conceded that growth has slowed as
a result of the economy and says that deals are proving tougher to close.
“But we’re still seeing demand across the board,” Mr. Hammer said. “This may surprise
you, but we are seeing very strong demand in finance and banking. Even though those
companies are cutting back, they’re looking for ways to save money.”
Autonomy plays in the legal compliance software realm as well making a series of
products centered on its sophisticated search technology. The company’s sales rose
26 percent last quarter to $145 million. Autonomy had gross profit margins of 92
percent during the quarter and reported a gross profit of $133 million.
Last month, Autonomy acquired Interwoven, a content management software maker, for
Here’s a quick look at a few other survivors:
· Riverbed Technology -– This company makes software and hardware which speeds the
flow of data across corporate networks by reducing the amount of data companies need
to shuffle back and forth between their offices. Last week, it reported a 21 percent
rise in fourth-quarter revenue to $92.2 million. Net income for the quarter rose
to $23.3 million from $4.8 million in the same period last year.
· Ingres -– A producer of open-source database software, Ingres saw revenue rise
last year by 32 percent to $68 million from $52 million in 2007.
· NetSuite -– The larger companies selling software as a service over the Internet
appear to be holding up well during the downturn. NetSuite, which offers a variety
of business applications, posted a 31 percent rise in fourth-quarter revenue to $41.4
million. Its net loss, however, rose to $4.5 million from $3.3 million in the same
period last year.
· Terremark -– This company sells space in its data centers and has moved into the
cloud computing business, providing access to various business applications. It has
a large data center in Miami and handles much of the Internet traffic moving between
the United States and South America. Last quarter, Terremark reported a 32 percent
rise in revenue to $66 million.
· DataFirm.Com a smaller company growing despite the economic down turn. In a niche
market this company provides great opportunities for the average person to get training
though their programs and get started in the data entry market as new business owners.
This company and its members are growing at a rate of 21% and generating a profit
for all its members.