[Preamble: I was a delegate of Storage Field Day 15 from Mar 7-9, 2018. My expenses, travel and accommodation were paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]
Storage Field Day 15 was full of technology. There were a few avant garde companies in the line-up which I liked but unfortunately NetApp and IBM were the 2 companies that came in at the least interesting end of the spectrum.
IBM presented their SpectrumProtect Plus. The data protection space, especially backup isn’t exactly my forte when it comes to solution architecture but I know enough to get by. However, as IBM presented, there were some many questions racing through my mind. I was interrupting myself so much because almost everything presented wasn’t new to me. “Wait a minute … didn’t Company X already had this?” or “Company Y had this years ago” or “Isn’t this…??“
I was questioning myself to validate my understanding of the backup tech shared by the IBM SpectrumProtect Plus team. And they presented with such passion and gusto which made me wonder if I was wrong in the first place. Maybe my experience and knowledge in the backup software space weren’t good enough. But then the chatter in the SFD15 Slack channel started pouring in. Comments, unfortunately were mostly negative, and jibes became jokes. One comment, in particular, nailed it. “This is Veeam 0.2“, and then someone else downgraded to version 0.1.
NetApp, my ex-company, was another one which was unimpressive. The SFD15 delegates were there to be wooed and wowed. I was waiting to be wooed and wowed. But it turned out limp.
It was nice to see NetApp has a deep learning/machine learning play now. The presenter, Santosh Rao, started with a Data Pipeline (video) story which I thought was different from the usual NetApp ONTAP or SolidFire pitches. There was a stronger message there, and it felt like NetApp was finally moving up the stack towards the industrial applications. Maybe I have stopped drinking NetApp’s Kool-Aid years ago, but I only saw a patched up link between the Data Pipeline and the Data Fabric story which had impressed me in the past. I found one of Santosh’s blog online which explains this Data Pipeline, and I will be digesting it soon to have a deeper understanding.
Sandwiched between the Data Pipeline and the ONTAP 9.3 updates, we also heard of their ONTAP Select initiative with Vector Data. I didn’t know enough about this partnership, but the first thing that came to my mind was it was an OEM business. OEM business wasn’t exactly NetApp’s forte. Remember the N-series OEM with IBM? That partnership ended in 2014, and IBM weighed NetApp like an anchor.
A quick search on the web revealed that VectorData has been supplying NEBS-3 compliant NetApp FAS since 2008. But I am not a big believer in the OEM business unless it was developed and managed higher up in the application stack. But NetApp’s OEM with VectorData seemed to be at the infrastructure level and these days, the stickiness down there is short of supply. There are too many competitors in the OEM space who could probably offer more or less the same functionalities with very small margins to play with.
It wasn’t any wonder when I met many ex-NetApp at Cohesity the next day.
Things have changed and tech behemoths like NetApp and IBM are not as innovative anymore. They have settled and it’s a bad thing. Taking a quote from my favourite marketing entrepreneur, Seth Godin –
They have to start taking more risk to innovate. Do the spin-in tech start-ups; Do skunkworks; share your skunkworks because the Storage Field Day delegates are not your usual audience. Once inspired, once convinced, once believed, they can be your strong allies in tech marketing.
I do hope to see stronger, more innovative techs coming from NetApp and IBM in future Field Days. I wish them well in days ahead.