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November 18, 2010

Ain’t no stoppin’ us now: Q&A with Andreas König, NetApp’s SVP and general manager, EMEA

Storage player NetApp has seen impressive growth over recent years and has its sights on the number one spot. CBR catches up with EMEA boss with Andreas König

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You’ve stated it’s your aim to become the number one storage player in the game. What have you got to do to achieve that?
Sell more.

Andreas Konig, NetApp

That’s easier said than done though. I’m sure our readers will want to hear more. Why should they pick you ahead of EMC, for example?
Our market share is going up, but obviously that doesn’t happen by assuming and hoping. We have a number of methods: We want to make it extremely simple for SMBs and partners in that field to buy our equipment, repackage it, so it’s really targeted towards this market. That brought a lot of success. We have over 2,000 partners in that field already, and are the number one in that space.

We wanted to get our sales team to focus on the shared IT infrastructure message for the big accounts. That’s a longer process and will sustain our momentum in the future. We’re really pushing into emerging markets such as Russia, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, and have hired someone specifically to look after that strategy.

Finally, return on investment. We created a team in Europe of financial people rather than technical. They can use a customer’s own data to show them how much money they can save with our products and how long it will take them to achieve RoI. You can talk about features and technical functions but this will mean you are stuck on the technical side. But in a recession money counts, and this will not change. It’s been burned into everyone’s brain that you really need to watch your budget. We’re getting in front of CEOs because they want to see how they can transform their infrastructure.

Is talking and selling to CEOs, rather than someone directly involved in IT, a new development?
What happened in the past, and maybe that was a mistake, was that we were pushing too much technically. We are now aggressively translating our technical message into a cost message and that is resonating very well.

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Is that a reflection on the wider storage industry and the fact that CEOs are looking more at data centre costs?
I believe data centres are becoming a weapon for speeding up business and transitioning it faster. The CIO of JP Morgan, a customer of ours, has daily meetings with his CEO to talk about what he wants to change, how to speed up the transition of their branches and businesses so they can gain more market share. In the past I don’t think a CEO was really interested in IT, but now it’s becoming a strategic weapon for them.

There’s a lot of consolidation in the data centre at the moment. Why do you think that is?
There are two trends we were seeing. Companies were trying to buy everything so they can deliver it out of one hand; the other was best of breed. For a while we were worried that it may go the way of ‘everything out of one brand’, but that is not what the customer wants. That’s why we’re doing the FlexPod project with Cisco and VMware, because customers want to be able to choose. It was kicked off by the recession, because if there’s a positive thing about a recession it’s that people start to rethink their whole strategy – IT, people, business, go-to-market.

With all the technical advances in storage over the last few years, including your recent announcements, tape seems to have been left behind. Are you seeing much demand for it?
Tape! You’re the first to ask about tape in a long time. I haven’t heard many customers talk about it lately. A lot only keep it for legal reasons, not backup anymore. We said a while ago that tape will be a niche, and that’s what’s happening. If you look at the numbers – IBM’s tape business is tanking. I think that’s a true sign that it’s running out as a medium. It’s no longer true that it’s cheaper. It will survive longer than many think but in niche markets.

You lost out to EMC in the battle for Data Domain. Are you still looking at acquisitions in that space?
If there is an interesting opportunity that fits our needs, makes sense and is adjacent to our market, then we’ll look at it. Do we look for something to replace Data Domain? I don’t know, and I don’t think it matters. A lot of people thought we needed that to grow faster, but without it we grew faster than ever before. When looking at opportunities, an acquisition is not always the best thing.

Growing at an impressive rate is one thing, keeping that growth going is another. How do you plan on doing that?
We will continue with our strategy that has worked so far. Partnerships are important, because they got us where we are. To me it’s really about execution. We have the right products, strategy, partners and the right team. It’s going to be very difficult to stop us. Everyone tries but I don’t see how they can. That’s why we’re so open with our strategy. Even if competitors see it, so what? They can’t copy it.

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