Dave Hitz, NetApp co-founder and EVP
Storage maven NetApp conceded in a CBR interview that it is seeing 3PAR and Compellent in more competitive situations since they were acquired by HP and Dell respectively.
Speaking to me yesterday, NetApp co-founder and executive vice president Dave Hitz conceded that his firm sees 3PAR and Compellent in more competitive situations since HP acquired 3PAR in September 2010 and Dell bought Compellent in December 2010. "We do see [HP 3PAR] more, but people don’t buy HP storage versus everybody else, they see it as convenient and good enough so they get it from HP," he said.
Hitz said that it is not surprising the firm sees Compellent more often due to Dell’s far larger channel reach. "A lot of storage is still just storage attached directly to a server, and if you’re buying a Dell server and that’s what you want then Compellent may be good enough, but in cloud types of environment or multiple systems and sharing, it’s not," he said.
Despite the competition NetApp is clearly doing something right. In IDC’s latest market share report on disk storage systems, NetApp had leapfrogged IBM into second spot behind EMC. EMC remained top dog with $1.73bn sales, 29% of the market. NetApp took second place with 14.1% revenue share, overtaking previous second place-holder IBM, on 11.4%.
Nevertheless NetApp’s investors are still not completely convinced: its shares are currently at $31, down from a 52-week high of $54.57. It still commands a market cap of $11.2bn making it perhaps too large for another firm to easily digest if they were to acquire it, but such has been the land grab for storage companies in recent years it’s perhaps not impossible that an Oracle, Hitachi or IBM might be keeping a close eye.
In the mean time NetApp has just revved its OnTap storage operating system, which it says is the world’s leading storage OS and one that now helps IT departments to become, "intelligent, immortal and infinite".
Hitz said the developments behind the latest release of OnTap are partly driven by the fact that backup and other data tasks were traditionally handled on the server; now that servers are virtual machines that’s not always the best place to handle such tasks, so more intelligence is needed at the storage layer.
Hitz also argued that the server vendors that sell storage – IBM, Dell, Oracle, HP – have, "Reached a tipping point, because they won’t be able to keep up with the R&D costs, and anyway nobody believes that IBM for example can sell storage that sits behind HP servers." In his crystal ball at least, it is the dedicated storage vendors – such as NetApp, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems – that will increasingly dominate.