Symantec to Acquire e-Discovery Specialist Clearwell Systems for $390M

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-05-19
 
 
 

Data storage and protection provider Symantec, which has just about everything in its feature arsenal but a complete e-discovery option, took care of that detail May 19 by acquiring Mountain View, Calif., neighbor Clearwell Systems for $390 million.

Clearwell's eDiscovery software package, which Time Warner Communications recently bought for its own corporate system, is well respected in legal and business world. Symantec plans to integrate it with its own Enterprise Vault eDiscovery product to create a "more complete end-to-end e-discovery solution," Symantec said.

Symantec's existing archiving and e-discovery package is "pretty rudimentary" and needed a major augmentation, an industry insider told eWEEK.

What e-Discovery Software Does

E-discovery is the electronic process by which records are gathered from data stores and processed for litigation requirements. This includes anything digital: word processing files, photos, email, audio and video files, instant messaging transcripts, Internet bookmarks-even data center users' logs.

Sales of e-discovery software have been increasing for the last three years as business stakeholders come to realize it as an important investment in their company's overall storage and security scheme. Gartner Research projects the e-discovery software market to grow at a compounded annual rate of 14 percent and to reach $1.7 billion by 2014.

Enterprises with e-discovery systems don't need to hire a service provider to provide law clerks at several hundred dollars per hour to sift through mountains of email, chat records, documents, log files, and video and audio files to find documents in its system required by courts.

Automated and so-called "intelligent" e-discovery, which Clearwell provides, also reduces risk because the element of human error is left out of the equation.

Clearwell's platform comprises several modules. The Processing and Analysis Module provides features such as Transparent Search, discussion threads and people analytics that enable users to accelerate early-case assessment, defensibly eliminate irrelevant documents and false positives (that's where the  "intelligence" comes into play), and rapidly perform a first-pass review, Clearwell Vice President of Products and Marketing Kamal Shah told eWEEK.

The Review and Production Module enables reviewers to view all related documents in context, perform one-click tagging, redact documents and apply reason codes, increasing review throughput and consistency, Shah said.

Deluge of Data Pushing e-Discovery Automation

Brian Dye, Vice President of Product Management at Symantec, told eWEEK that "the whole idea of bringing the best e-discovery vendor and the best archiving technology together is a recipe for success."

Symantec's existing e-discovery product, Enterprise Vault, focuses on early-case assessment, Dye said, which is only one component of the industry standard EDRM (electronic discovery reference model).

Besides identifying email and other documents as potential evidence for litigation, an e-discovery software package that adheres to the EDRM also includes preservation, collection, processing, review, analysis, production and presentation of the documents found in the search.

"The reason we wanted Clearwell is that is includes the entire EDRM (electronic discovery reference model) process," Dye said. "It's not that we're going to get rid of anything within the Symantec portfolio, in fact we're going to leverage the existing integration between Enterprise Vault and Clearwell. We knew we needed that whole portfolio, and rather than try and build it, we wanted to go out and get the best proven technology," Dye said.

Industry Reaction

Reaction from other companies in the market was generally positive.

"Candidly, this is a good move for both companies," Craig Carpenter, vice president of marketing of Recommind, told eWEEK. "Symantec really needed a mass-market type product like this to fit its channel model, and Clearwell-whose growth rate had slowed a bit-could really use that kind of big partner with a lot of resources to help it continue to grow.

"Overall, this is a validation data point that shows that e-discovery is maturing and becoming a standard addition to corporate IT systems."

"Symantec's acquisition of Clearwell Systems signals that the serious consolidation of the e-discovery market has begun," Steven d'Alencon, Chief Marketing Officer of CaseCentral, said in an email to eWEEK.

"The larger software conglomerates clearly see e-discovery as a crucial piece of a larger governance, risk and compliance (GRC) offering. This acquisition by Symantec sets the market value of e-discovery software companies and will lead to more intense competition and similar moves in the market."

Rocket Fuel