Can NetApp do it a bit better?

[Preamble: I was a delegate of Storage Field Day 12. My expenses, travel and accommodation were paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented in this event]

In Day 2 of Storage Field Day 12, I and the other delegates were hustled to NetApp’s Sunnyvale campus headquarters. That was a homecoming for me, and it was a bit ironic too.

Just 8 months ago, I was NetApp Malaysia Country Manager. That country sales lead role was my second stint with NetApp. I lasted almost 1 year.

17 years ago, my first stint with NetApp was the employee #2 in Malaysia as an SE. That SE stint went by quickly for 5 1/2 years, and I loved that time. Those Fall Classics NetApp used to have at the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude left a mark with me, and the experiences still are as vivid as ever.

Despite what has happened in both stints and even outside the circle, I am still one of NetApp’s active cheerleaders in the Asia Pacific region. I even got accused by being biased as a community leader in the SNIA Malaysia Facebook page (unofficial but recognized by SNIA), because I was supposed to be neutral. I have put in 10 years to promote the storage technology community with SNIA Malaysia. [To the guy named Stanley, my response was be “Too bad, pick a religion“.]

The highlight of the SFD12 NetApp visit was of course, having lunch with Dave Hitz, one of the co-founders and the one still remaining. But throughout the presentations, I was unimpressed.

For me, the only one which stood out was CloudSync. I have read about CloudSync since NetApp Insight 2016 and yes, it’s a nice little piece of data shipping service between on-premise and AWS cloud.

Here’s how CloudSync looks like:

The SFD12 presentations went by, and more mature technologies like AltaVault and StorageGrid Webscale (SGWS) were just rather plain, and the newer ones like Cloud Control and Fabric Pool were a yawn. There were already many other data protection vendors in that space, doing something almost similar and probably a bit more exciting too. My buddies at Interica were already talking about the Interica PARS integration with SGWS 2 years ago.

Here’s a look at Interica PARS with SGWS:

In the past 2 months, Veritas Technologies announced a slew of backup/archive/tiering tie-ups with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google. Acronis and Barracuda Networks have a Cloud Control-like solution for Office 365 for some time now.

The Data Fabric vision in my view, was a good one. I wrote a piece about Data Fabric more than a year and a half ago. I recalled blogging right after the Register wrote a very strong article bashing NetApp. You can read about that Register article here. It was one of the darkest periods NetApp was going through at the time, but through the many months after that, the Data Fabric vision became the pivot the company badly needed.

Soon after, SolidFire was acquired and I released the SolidFire piece to promote them as well.

And the continuous SnapMirror development and adaptation to both SolidFire and AltaVault enhances the Data Fabric vision as well, slowing stitching the spider webs (in the words of Dave Hitz at the SFD12 conversations) into a more fortified fabric in Data Fabric. I must admit I miss OSSV (Open System SnapVault).

Yet to the “little engine that could” (that’s my nickname to NetApp during the early years, because we could beat up the EMCs, IBMs and HPs with ease), the new “innovations” were not fantastic. There weren’t any special differentiation I feel proud to beat the drums in my space.

Even the presentations of Elastifile and Excelero (came out of stealth this week as well) have a more lasting impression than NetApp. Being the last of the independent storage companies and the only one in the Gartner MQ for general purpose disk arrays (Nimble just got acquired by HPE this week), NetApp looked jaded. They must continue to innovate better and stronger to stay relevant. They just have to be a bit better.




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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to know the facts and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

One Response to Can NetApp do it a bit better?

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