ANY: Sphere 3D Corp Analysis and Research Report
2018-04-09 - by Asif , Contributing Analyst - 259 views
Sphere 3D provides next-generation solutions for standalone storage and long-term data archive products, as well as technologies that converge the traditional silos of compute, storage and network into one integrated “hyper-converged” or converged solution. The company provide enterprise storage management solutions, the archiving of the data created by these solutions, and the ability to connect to public cloud services such as Microsoft Azure for additional delivery options and hybrid cloud capabilities. The company's solutions are tightly integrated and include a patented portfolio for operating systems for storage, proprietary virtual desktop orchestration software, and proprietary application container software. The company's software, combined with commodity x86 servers, or its purpose built appliances, deliver solutions that provide application mobility, security, data integrity and simplified management. These solutions can be deployed through a public, private or hybrid cloud and are delivered through its global reseller network and professional services organization. Sphere 3D Corp has a portfolio of brands including Overland-Tandberg™, HVE ConneXions and UCX ConneXions, dedicated to helping customers achieve their IT goals.
Sphere 3D Corp has created its own platform, Glassware 2.0TM (“Glassware”), for the delivery of applications from a server-based computing architecture. This is accomplished through a number of approaches to virtualization utilized by Glassware including the use of software “containers” and “microvisors.” A container refers to software that takes an application and all the things required to run that application and encapsulates them with software. By doing so, users can run numerous applications from a single server and on a single copy of the operating system. A microvisor refers to the technology that allows non-Windows® based applications to run on the same servers as Windows software using a lightweight emulator. Glassware sales are not material.
Warrant Exchange Agreement
On March 16, 2018, the Company entered into warrant exchange agreements, in a privately negotiated exchange under Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, pursuant to which the Company issued 1,430,998 common shares in exchange for the surrender and cancellation of the Company’s outstanding March 24, 2017 warrants (the “Exchange”). Immediately after the Exchange, the previously issued warrants became null and void. MF Ventures, LLC, participated in the Exchange by acquiring 299,999 common shares in exchange for a warrant to purchase 272,727 common shares.
Related Party Share Purchase Agreement
On February 20, 2018, the Company, Overland Storage, Inc., a California corporation and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company (“Overland”), and Silicon Valley Technology Partners LLC, a Delaware limited liability company established and controlled by Eric Kelly, the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors (the “Purchaser”) entered into a share purchase agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”), pursuant to which, among other things, and subject to certain closing conditions, the Company will sell to Purchaser all of the issued and outstanding shares of capital stock of Overland for $45.0 million (the “Purchase Price”), subject to a working capital adjustment (the “Share Purchase”). The net proceeds from the Share Purchase will be used to repay: (i) the Company’s outstanding obligations under its Credit Agreement with Opus Bank; (ii) its outstanding obligations under the related party convertible note with FBC Holdings S.a.r.l. (“FBC Holdings”); and (iii) its related party subordinated promissory note with MF Ventures, LLC. The Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the Company and the Board of Directors of the Company (with Eric Kelly recusing himself) unanimously approved the entry into the Purchase Agreement by the Company.
Under the terms of the Purchase Agreement, the Share Purchase is contingent upon, and Purchaser must use its best efforts to arrange for, debt and/or equity financing in an amount at least equal to the Purchase Price in order to consummate the Share Purchase (the “Financing”). In addition, the Company must use commercially reasonable efforts to provide all cooperation reasonably requested by Purchaser regarding the Financing. Until the Financing is committed in accordance with Contingency Termination Event (as defined below), the Company is free to solicit and negotiate other offers to purchase the Company, Overland or any or all of their assets and has the right to terminate the Purchase Agreement for any or no reason without penalty.
The closing of the Share Purchase and of the other transactions contemplated by the Purchase Agreement are subject to (i) the adoption of the Purchase Agreement by the affirmative vote of the holders of (a) at least 66 2/3% of the outstanding common shares of the Company cast in person or by proxy at the special meeting of shareholders and (b) a majority of the votes cast by certain “minority shareholders” in person or by proxy at the special meeting of shareholders (the “Shareholder Approval”) and (ii) the transfer by the Company of (a) the businesses of (x) Unified ConneXions, Inc. and (y) HVE ConneXions, LLC (including the provision of information technology consulting services and hardware solutions around cloud computing, data storage and server virtualization to corporate, government, and educational institutions), and (b) the SNAP® network attached storage business to a subsidiary of the Company other than Overland or a subsidiary of Overland. The closing of the Share Purchase and of the other transactions contemplated by the Purchase Agreement are also subject to various other conditions, including the consummation of the Financing, the absence of any order, statute, rule, regulation, executive order, decree or injunction issued by any governmental entity prohibiting the Share Purchase, the absence of a pending claim, suit, action or proceeding material claims seeking to prohibit the Share Purchase, the accuracy of the representations and warranties contained in the Purchase Agreement, compliance with the covenants and agreements contained in the Purchase Agreement in all material respects, and the absence of a material adverse effect on either the Company or Overland.
The Company has made customary representations, warranties and covenants in the Purchase Agreement, including, among others, covenants (i) to conduct its business in the ordinary course during the period between the execution of the Purchaser Agreement and the closing of the Share Purchase, (ii) not to engage in specified types of transactions during this period unless agreed to in writing by Purchaser, (iii) to convene and hold a meeting of its shareholders for the purpose of obtaining the Shareholder Approval and (iv) subject to certain exceptions and only following the occurrence of the Contingency Termination Event (as defined below), not to solicit and negotiate other offers to purchase the Company, Overland or any or all of their assets or to withdraw, modify or qualify in a manner adverse to Purchaser the recommendation of the Board that the Company’s shareholders vote in favor of approving the Share Purchase. The Company has also agreed to indemnification provisions in favor of Purchaser that are customary for transactions of this type.
Prior to the (i) execution and delivery of financing commitments in forms reasonably acceptable to the Company, which provide, among other things, for commitments from financing sources sufficient to pay the Purchase Price in the Share Purchase, (ii) execution and delivery by Purchaser of an irrevocable waiver in a form reasonably acceptable to the Company waiving Purchaser’s condition to the obligation to close the Share Purchase that the Financing has been received and (iii) an executed certificate delivered by Purchaser to the Company regarding the accuracy of certain representations regarding the Financing (the “Contingency Termination Event”), the Company has the right to terminate the Purchase Agreement for any reason or for no reason. The Purchase Agreement also provides that, upon such termination of the Purchase Agreement by the Company, the Company has agreed to reimburse Purchaser up to approximately $350,000 for the reasonable and documented out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the Purchaser and the sources for the Financing in connection with the negotiation, execution and performance of the Purchase Agreement and the transactions contemplated thereby, as well as the fees and expenses of the Purchaser's outside counsel.
In addition, the Purchase Agreement contains certain other termination rights, including, following the occurrence of the Contingency Termination Event, the right of the Company to terminate the Purchase Agreement under specified circumstances to accept an unsolicited superior proposal from a third party. The Purchase Agreement provides that, following the occurrence of the Contingency Termination Event and upon termination of the Purchase Agreement by the Company under specified circumstances (including termination by the Company to accept a superior proposal) or by Purchaser under specified circumstances, a termination fee equal to the lesser of (i) $1.0 million and (ii) the amount of Purchaser’s reasonable fees and expenses in connection with the negotiation, execution and performance of the Purchase Agreement (including the amount that the Purchaser must pay or reimburse to the sources for the Financing) will be payable by the Company to the Purchaser. Such termination fee is also payable following the occurrence of the Contingency Termination Event under certain other specified circumstances set forth in the Purchase Agreement. The Purchase Agreement also provides that each party to the Purchase Agreement may compel the other party or parties thereto to specifically perform its or their obligations under the Purchase Agreement. However, if the Purchase Agreement is terminated such that the Company termination fee becomes payable, the Purchaser will be precluded from any other remedy against the Company or Overland, including expense reimbursement and specific performance. Further, if the Purchase Agreement is terminated such that the expense reimbursement becomes payable, the Purchaser will be precluded from any other remedy against the Company or Overland, including the Company termination fee and specific performance. Subject to certain exceptions and limitations, either party may terminate the Purchase Agreement if the Share Purchase is not consummated by August 19, 2018.
Reverse Stock Split
On July 5, 2017, the Board of Directors of the Company authorized a share consolidation (also known as a reverse stock split) of the Company’s issued and outstanding common shares at a ratio of 1-for-25, which became effective on July 11, 2017. All share and per share amounts in the accompanying consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto have been restated for all periods to reflect the share consolidation.
UCX and HVE Acquisition
In January 2017, the company completed its acquisition of all of the outstanding equity interests of UCX and HVE (the “January 2017 acquisition”). UCX and HVE provide information technology consulting services and hardware solutions around cloud computing, data storage and server virtualization to corporate, government, and educational institutions primarily in the southern central United States. By adding UCX’s products, technologies, professional services and engineering talent, and HVE’s engineering and virtualization expertise, the company intend to expand its virtualization offerings as well as enhance its ability to accelerate the delivery of hybrid cloud solutions to customers.
At this time, Sphere 3D Corp has included UCX and HVE’s product revenue with its disk systems products. The business activities of UCX and HVE may result in individual transactions that are more significant than those that normally result from its legacy business lines. Those significant transactions may involve multiple elements and may involve circumstances where, based on customer requests, equipment may be delivered either to the end customer location or to a third-party location specified by the customer.
RDX® Asset Acquisition
In August 2015, the company completed an acquisition of assets related to the RDX® removable disk product lines from Imation Corp. (“Imation”). The company issued 61,165 common shares with an approximate value of $6.1 million, and a warrant exercisable for 10,000 additional common shares exercisable in connection with certain purchase price adjustments under the asset purchase agreement.
Products and Service
RDX® Removable Disk Solutions
RDX® is a removable, purpose built back-up appliance on the market. The RDX® series provides scalability, centralized management, encryption and duplication, and reliability for backup, archive, data interchange and disaster recovery. RDX® provides enterprise performance and fast access, with transfer rates of up to 1188 gigabytes (“GB”) per hour and capacities up to four terabytes (“TB”) per cartridge, plus future expansion to larger capacity media enabled by its RDX+™ technology.
RDX® QuikStor® is available as an external desktop or internal server drive with SATA III, USB 3.0 or USB3+ connectivity. RDX QuikStation®4 and RDX QuikStation®8 are rackmount and removable disk appliances for SMBs, offering one GbE or ten GbE iSCSI connectivity and an online capacity of up to 32 TB. RDX HDD media are available in the range between 500 GB and four TB, RDX SSD media up to 256 GB and RDX WORM media with 500 GB and one TB. All RDX® media capacities are forward and backward compatible.
In 2017, the company launched its rdxLOCK RansomBlock Feature to address certain cyber threats for organizations, including Ransomware. The RansomBlock functionality sets all data on the RDX® WORM media into a read-only mode. Additionally, it allows write operations to RDX® media for granted applications and processes similar to a personal fire wall.
HVE Converged and Hyper-converged Infrastructure
In 2017, the company acquired HVE, a technology provider of next generation converged and hyper-converged infrastructure dedicated to creating Manageable, Scalable, Reproducible, and Predictable (“MSRP”) solutions based on virtualization technologies running on high-performance, next generation platforms. HVE solutions are engineered, purpose-built converged and hyper-converged virtual workspace and server solutions that support a distributed architecture, scalable with predictable performances, and come bundled with continuous active monitoring. HVE product can include support for its Desktop Cloud Orchestrator™ (“DCO”) based on customer requirements.
- The HVE-STACK high density server provides the computer and storage appliance for the data center and is ideal for high performance computing (“HPC”), cloud computing and virtual desktop infrastructure (“VDI”). The modular design and swappable components such as hard drives and power supplies great improve efficiency.
- The HVE-VELOCITY High Availability Dual Enclosure storage area network (“SAN”) provides data reliability and integrity for optimal data storage, protection and recovery. It also provides a unified network attached storage (“NAS”) and SAN solution with thin provisioning, compression and deduplication. The HVE-VELOCITY platform eliminates single points of failure. The 12GSAS SSD design allows for faster access to data. It is optimized for mission-critical, enterprise-level storage applications.
- The HVE 3DGFX is a VDI solution that offers that offers hardware and software technologies to provide an appliance that can handle from eight to 128 high demand users in a single 2U appliance. The HVE 3DGFX was designed and engineered as a purpose-built solution based upon the MSRP engineering approach.
G-Series Appliance and G-Series Cloud
The G-Series appliance powered by Glassware containerization technology is designed to simplify Windows application migration and enables access from any device including Macintosh, Windows, iOS, Chrome OS, and Android. The G-Series appliance is optimized for simplicity, flexibility and scalability. Through Glassware, a Microsoft Windows® based container technology, organizations looking to migrate applications to the cloud can quickly deploy a solution for virtualizing 16-bit, 32-bit, or 64-bit applications with their native functionality intact. For the provisioning of a 16-bit application to the G-Series appliance, users will often require advanced technical skills to set-up the application, or can contract professional services from the Company, or one of its certified system integrators. End users can access the containerized applications from cloud-connected devices (iOS, Android or Windows), through a lightweight downloadable app or simply from a browser. The G-Series appliance eliminates the complex tasks of designing, implementing, and maintaining application hosting environments and provides improved application session density and scale when compared to traditional hypervisor-based virtualization solutions.
G-Series Cloud is an offering available through Microsoft Azure and was developed to provide a virtual appliance that can be deployed from the Azure Marketplace to eliminate the task of designing, implementing, and maintaining localized application-hosting environments and their related hardware. G-Series Cloud is pre-configured, can be deployed in minutes and provides for a billing model based on usage.
Glassware Open Virtual Appliance and Open Virtual Format
An Open Virtual Appliance (“OVA”) and Open Virtual Format (“OVF”) compatible version of Glassware are the most recent productized offerings that allow for the deployment of Glassware from within existing VMWare environments. Similar to the G-Series Cloud offering, OVA and OVF versions were specifically developed to provide a virtual appliance from within a VMWare virtual machine and within VMWare environments. Although the format for deployment is similar for an OVA and/or OVF, Glassware is not an open source, as these formats only refer to the deployment methodology. All Glassware products come with a user interface to allow for administrators to quickly deploy applications and integrate with existing work flow and technologies.
SnapServer® Network Attached Storage Solutions
The company's SnapServer® solutions are an ideal platform for primary or nearline storage, and deliver stability and integration with Windows®, UNIX/Linux, and Macintosh environments. For virtual servers and database applications, the SnapServer® family supports iSCSI block-level access with Microsoft VSS and VDS integration to simplify Windows management. For data protection, the SnapServer® family offers RAID protection, and snapshots for point-in-time data recovery. The SnapServer XSR Series™ products support DynamicRAID® and traditional RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10. The Snap family of products, SnapCLOUD®, and SnapServer®, have integrated data mobility tools to enable customers to build private clouds for sharing and synchronizing data for anytime, anywhere access.
- The SnapServer® XSR40 is a 1U server that can be configured with up to four SATA III and SSD drives, and can scale to 400 TB of storage capacity by adding up to three SnapExpansion XSR™ enclosures.
- The SnapServer® XSR120 is a 2U server that can be configured with up to 12 SATA III, SAS and SSD drives, and can scale to 960 TB of storage capacity by adding up to seven SnapExpansion XSR™ enclosures.
The company's GuardianOS® storage software is designed for the SnapServer® family of enterprise-grade NAS systems and delivers simplified data management and consolidation throughout distributed information technology environments by combining cross-platform file sharing with block-level data access on a single system. The flexibility and scalability of GuardianOS® reduces the total cost of ownership of storage infrastructures for small and medium businesses to large Fortune 500 enterprises. In addition to a unified storage architecture, GuardianOS® offers highly differentiated data integrity and storage scalability through features such as DynamicRAID®, centralized storage management, and a comprehensive suite of data protection tools.
The company's Snap Enterprise Data Replicator (“Snap EDR”) provides multi-directional WAN-optimized replication. Administrators can automatically replicate data between SnapServer®, Windows, and Linux systems for data distribution, data consolidation, and disaster recovery.
During 2017, the company announced the availability of its SnapServer® Hybrid and All Flash Array solutions, which is designed to allow information technology departments to modernize their data center, as well as provide the small and medium businesses (“SMBs”) access to the reliability, security, and performance of flash. In addition, the company launched its SnapServer® solutions pre-configured and optimized to work with IP video surveillance cameras and create a new standard for simplicity and integration between IP networked video surveillance systems and data storage.
Tape Automation Systems
NEO® Tape-Based Backup and Long-Term Archive Solutions
The company's NEO Series® Tape Libraries, Tape Autoloaders, stand-alone tape drives and linear tape file system (“LTFS”) solutions are designed for both SMBs looking for simple, cost-effective long-term data protection, as well as for complex enterprises faced with the demands of “big data” storage applications. Regardless of the size or type of environment, information technology managers continue to recognize the efficiency and value tape-based solutions provide for long-term data storage.
- NEO® XL-Series tape libraries are designed for mid-range and enterprise businesses, providing automated backup and archive that combines flexibility, density, high-performance and affordability to ensure that data is protected faster and more cost effectively. NEO® XL-Series tape libraries provide data storage capacity that ranges from 90 TB to 16.8 petabytes (“PB”), enabling customers to expand their storage capability as their storage requirements changes. NEO® XL-Series significantly reduces backup windows and improves efficiency with high-performance data transfer rates that range from 504 GB per hour to over 114 TB per hour. The NEOxl 80 supports up to 80 cartridges and six tape drives per module. Up to six 80-cartridge NEOxl Expansion Modules can be added to provide a total of 560 cartridges and 42 tape drives. In November 2017, the company announced the addition of the NEOxl 8000. NEOxl is a full-rack configuration delivering access to 560 cartridges slots. The NEOxl 8000 will support as many as 42 tape drives and is available in fibre channel (“FC”) configurations offering features such as redundant data path and redundant control path. NEOxl 8000 is designed to be its next-generation solution for enterprise customers requiring large amounts of data storage with high data availability.
- NEO® S-Series libraries provide affordable tape backup and archive for small and medium businesses. NEO® S-Series libraries are available in compact rack-mount configurations with either SAS or FC connectivity. The NEOs StorageLoader is a 1U, eight-cartridge, single-drive autoloader that provides up to 240 TB of storage capacity. The NEOs T24 is a 2U tape library that supports up to 24 cartridge slots and two tape drives, and delivers up to 720 TB of storage capacity. The NEOs T48 is a 4U tape library that supports up to 48 cartridge slots and four tape drives, with a maximum storage capacity of 1.4 PB.
- NEO® 8000e is a 42U tape library that supports up to 500 cartridge slots (up to 7.5 PB) and 12 tape drives (up to 32.4 TB per hour) in a single module. For truly enterprise-class storage requirements, the NEO® 8000e is scalable up to 1,000 cartridge slots (15 PB) and 24 tape drives (64 TB per hour).
- NEO® Agility provides its customers the ability to manage, share and protect data utilizing LTFS technology on premise, in the cloud or a hybrid cloud environment. Providing archiving capability, and serving as a complement to its NEO® Series tape libraries, NEO® Agility allows users to capitalize on the reliability and portability of tape-based storage while benefiting from data access associated with disk-based storage. NEO® Agility consists of a 1U server platform with its LTFS archiving software. While NEO® Agility is optimized for, and compatible with, NEOs T48, NEOxl 80 and NEO® 8000e tape libraries, it is also compatible with tape libraries manufactured by other vendors. In May 2017, the company announced the addition of the NEO® Agility 24. NEO® Agility 24 was added to the portfolio as a solution designed for budget-conscious IT environments requiring smaller storage capacity and slightly lower performance, but still needing the ease of data access associated with the NEO® Agility LTFS technology.
Tape Drives and Media
In addition to its tape automation and LTFS solutions, the company provide stand-alone LTO tape drives and LTO media products.
- Stand-alone LTO tape drives provide low-cost, compact affordable backup and archive abilities. Available either as internal drives to be integrated into server-based bundles or as eternal drives for desktop use, stand-alone tape drives deliver storage capacities ranging from 1.5 TB (LTO-5) to 15 TB (LTO-7). In November 2017, the company added LTO-8 (12TB) stand-alone tape drives to its portfolio. NEO® tape libraries utilizing the LTO-8 technology can store anywhere from 96 TB to 16.8 PB of data.
- LTO media (data cartridges and cleaning cartridges) allows its customers to purchase the media for their tape drives and libraries at the same time they purchase their NEO Series® solution, providing the ability to have their NEO Series® solution fully operational upon installation. With four generations of LTO tape media (LTO-4, LTO-5, LTO-6, and LTO-7) in its portfolio, native capacities range from 800 GB per cartridge to six TB per cartridge. In November 2017, the company announced both standard LTO-8 media and LTO-8M media. LTO-8 data cartridges provide 12 TB of storage capacity on each cartridge. The LTO-8 cartridges should be used in the LTO-8 tape drives to achieve the full 12 TB per cartridge capacity. The LTO-8M provides up to nine TB per cartridge when used in an LTO-8 tape drive with a special media format and library firmware, both of which are available with NEO Series® tape libraries.
Customer service and support are key elements of its strategy and critical components of its commitment in making enterprise-class support and services available to companies of all sizes. The company's technical support staff is trained to assist its customers with deployment and compatibility for any combination of virtual desktop infrastructures, hardware platforms, operating systems and backup, data interchange and storage management software. The company's application engineers are trained to assist with more complex customer issues. The company maintain global toll-free service and support phone lines. Additionally, the company also provide self-service and support through its website support portal and email.
The company's service offerings provide for on-site service and installation options, round-the-clock phone access to solution experts, and proof of concept and architectural design offerings. Sphere 3D Corp is able to provide comprehensive technical assistance on a global scale.
A significant number of its components and finished products are manufactured or assembled, in whole or in part, by a limited number of third parties. For certain products, the company control the design process internally and then outsource the manufacturing and assembly in order to achieve lower production costs. For certain RDX® product and SnapServer® products, the company perform product assembly, integration and testing at its manufacturing facilities in Guangzhou, China. The company purchase disk drives, tape drives, chassis, printed circuit boards, integrated circuits, and other major components from outside suppliers. The company carefully select suppliers based on their ability to provide quality parts and components which meet technical specifications and volume requirements. The company actively monitor these suppliers but Sphere 3D Corp is subject to substantial risks associated with the performance of its suppliers. For certain components, the company qualify only a single source, which magnifies the risk of shortages and may decrease its ability to negotiate with that supplier. For a more detailed description of risks related to suppliers, see Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Sales and Distribution
- Distribution channel - Sphere 3D Corp has distribution partners in North America and throughout Europe and Asia. The company sell through a two-tier distribution model where distributors sell its products to system integrators, VARs or DMRs, who in turn sell to end users. The company support these distribution partners through its dedicated field sales force and field engineers. In 2017, no distribution partner accounted for more than 10% of net revenue.
- Reseller channel - The company's worldwide reseller channel includes systems integrators, VARs and DMRs. The company's resellers may package its products as part of complete application and desktop virtualization solutions data processing systems or with other storage devices to deliver complete enterprise information technology infrastructure solutions. The company's resellers also recommend its products as replacement solutions when systems are upgraded, or bundle its products with storage management software specific to the end user’s system. The company support the reseller channel through its dedicated field sales representatives, field engineers and technical support organizations.
- Cloud Marketplace - Since 2015, Sphere 3D Corp has utilized the Microsoft Azure Cloud Marketplace as an additional channel for its cloud solutions to sell to end-users directly. With the pay-per-use model, supported through the Microsoft Azure Cloud, its customers now can accelerate their adoption of cloud based application and data delivery.
Patents and Proprietary Rights
The company rely on a combination of patents, trademarks, trade secret and copyright laws, as well as contractual restrictions, to protect the proprietary aspects of its products and services. Although every effort is made to protect Sphere 3D’s intellectual property, these legal protections may only afford limited protection.
The company may continue to file for patents regarding various aspects of its products, services and delivery method at a later date depending on the costs and timing associated with such filings. The company may make investments to further strengthen its copyright protection going forward, although no assurances can be given that it will be successful in such patent and trademark protection endeavors. The company seek to limit disclosure of its intellectual property by requiring employees, consultants, and partners with access to its proprietary information to execute confidentiality agreements and non-competition agreements (when applicable) and by restricting access to its proprietary information. Due to rapid technological change, the company believe that establishing and maintaining an industry and technology advantage in factors such as the expertise and technological and creative skills of its personnel, as well as new services and enhancements to its existing services, are more important to its company’s business and profitability than other available legal protections.
Despite its efforts to protect its proprietary rights, unauthorized parties may attempt to copy aspects of its services or to obtain and use information that the company regard as proprietary. The laws of many countries do not protect proprietary rights to the same extent as the laws of the U.S. or Canada. Litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce its intellectual property rights, to protect its trade secrets, to determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others or to defend against claims of infringement. Any such litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources and could have a material adverse effect on its business, operating results and financial condition. There can be no assurance that its means of protecting its proprietary rights will be adequate or that its competitors will not independently develop similar services or products. Any failure by it to adequately protect its intellectual property could have a material adverse effect on its business, operating results and financial condition. See Item 1A. Risk Factors under the section Risks Related to Intellectual Property.
The company believe that its products are unique and innovative and afford it various advantages in the market place; however, the market for information technology is highly competitive. Competitors vary in size from small start-ups to large multi-national corporations which may have substantially greater financial, research and development, and marketing resources. Competitive factors in these markets include performance, functionality, scalability, availability, interoperability, connectivity, time to market enhancements, and total cost of ownership. Barriers to entry vary from low, such as those in traditional disk-based backup products, to high, in tape automation and virtualization software. The markets for all of its products are characterized by price competition and as such the company may face price pressure for its products. For a more detailed description of competitive and other risks related to its business, see Item 1A. Risk Factors.
The Company had 388 employees at December 31, 2017. The Company’s employees in Germany and China are covered by labor unions, and the Company believes its relationships with the unions representing these employees are good.