Coming just a day before the announcement of its financial results for the first quarter, Microsoft has announced that it has bought cloud-storage provider StorSimple for an undisclosed sum.

Cloud Storage Market

There may not be any significance in the fact that this deal comes so close to the earnings announcement -- except that IBM announced its third quarter results last night, and they weren’t good.

In fact, Mark Loughbridge, IBM’s CFO, said in the earnings call after the results were released that IBM would be looking at analytics, its Smarter Planet initiative (which is closely connected to Big Data) and cloud computing to add US$ 20 billion to its books by 2015.

Microsoft has come under some fire in the past about its cloud ambitions and functionality, but it has done a lot of running in the past year. With this buy, the company will be able to increase its ability send data into the Azure cloud, not to mention Google and Amazon Web Services.

Microsoft, StorSimple

And that’s the real functionality value of this deal. StorSimple was created nearly four years ago to provide cloud-integrated storage solutions and has worked with Microsoft in the past. In 2010, it optimized its products to work with Microsoft applications. This made it a sure target for Microsoft as it clawed back ground it lost to other cloud providers because it wasn't quick enough off the mark.

Microsoft is not saying how much it paid for StorSimple, but we have found in the past that this usually means that, relatively speaking, they haven’t paid a whole lot.

But strategically, when StorSimple is added into the Microsoft mix, it should produce a really heady brew -- and that’s where Microsoft is going with this. Microsoft says that the addition of cloud-integrated storage systems will “advance Microsoft’s Cloud OS vision."

It may also be important to note here that StorSimple already works with Microsoft SharePoint (cloud storage is a great way to improve the performance of SharePoint).

Microsoft’s Hybrid Cloud Storage Strategy

In practical terms, what this means is that Microsoft is going into the hybrid cloud market in a big way. Combining primary storage, backup, archiving and disaster recovery with cloud integration, this will enable users decide to where their data should be stored.

Customers faced with explosive growth in data are looking to the cloud to help them store, manage and archive that data. But, to be effective, cloud storage needs to integrate with IT's current investments … StorSimple's approach helps customers seamlessly integrate on-premises storage with cloud storage through intelligent automation and management," said Michael Park, Corporate Vice President, Server and Tools Division for Microsoft.

StorSimple solutions combine the data management functions of primary storage, backup, archive and disaster recovery with cloud integration, enabling customers to optimize storage costs, data protection and service agility.

With it, enterprises will be able to protect and restore production data using public clouds. Using encryption, cloud providers will be able to send data over the web securely, using compression technologies and de-duplication technologies to eliminate multiple copies of data.

StorSimple appliances currently have storage capacities ranging from 2TB to 20 TBs with prices starting at around US$ 40,000.