NetApp takes a swing at Flash rivals

NetApp Logo

NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP) has taken a swipe at its main Flash storage rivals during its annual Partner Executive Forum.

The event last week in Lisbon – which was football-themed – saw Matt Watts, NetApp’s EMEA director of technology and strategy, tell partners that competitor EMC’s products aren’t “a bad set of players but they don’t know how to make them work as a team.”

Watts (pictured) described EMC’s XtremIO Flash storage as “losing traction” and having “some very significant architectural limitations”, before moving onto the vendor’s midrange storage platform EMC Unity.

“If you’re building a Flash array from the ground up, like what they have done, what would be the one feature that would be top of your list when you’re using Flash, which is the most expensive medium you can buy? It would be deduplication. And what’s the one feature it doesn’t have, and have no plans to have? Deduplication. So they clearly seem to be confused as to where they’re taking their products at the moment.”

Moving on to criticise Flash players at the other end of the market, Watts claimed Pure Storage “feels like they’ve got one really, really, really good player, and now everyone’s worked out what his style is and unfortunately one player doesn’t make a team. People want more than that. People want solutions.”

Meanwhile, NetAPP’s VP for EMEA, Gos Hein van de Wouw, indicated that Pure will struggle with the cost of continuing growing its business outside the US. “The financial [investment] has gone and they’ve realised they are just a niche player,” he said.

For its part, NetApp says its All-Flash array business has grown to an annual net revenue run rate of more than $700m.

Latest IDC figures report NetApp’s All Flash Array revenue grew 238.2 percent year over year, 2.7 times faster than the market growth of 87.4 percent year over year. The analyst also says NetApp is now the number two Flash player worldwide, behind EMC.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been in a better position in the products we have, but we’ve also never been in a better position when it comes to the competitive landscape,” said Watts.

Founder of analyst firm Quocirca, Clive Longbottom, agrees that the remainder of 2016 and 2017 will see the death of some All-Flash players “as the incumbents finally get their acts together”. However he believes “Pure has kept up a degree of momentum, and has probably managed to reach critical mass to survive.”

He comments: “Violin has pretty much self-imploded, and will struggle to survive beyond the end of the year. Kaminario, Nimble and others have a lot of work to do in ensuring that their messages resonate fully with the market and to cross the chasm to being of the right critical mass to survive longer term.”

However, the analyst issued a warning to NetApp regarding the vendor’s positioning in object-based storage.

“Although NetApp has an object-based storage appliance, it is not in a position to compete with the up and coming or incumbent object storage vendors, such as HDS, DDN, Scality, HGST, and so on – and object is the fastest growing segment – although starting from a very small base – of the market,” he says.

“So while NetApp seems to be in a far better position than it has been for some time, it still faces its own challenges – especially in a landscape where every Flash vendor is clamouring for a bigger piece of the pie.”

NetApp: “We’ve got our mojo back”

Christine Horton

Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.

Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.