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Beyond Tiresome….

Please stop it now….

Would NetApp please stop using their infamous CX3 Model 40 benchmark; you can’t even buy that array from EMC any more and haven’t been able to do so for some time. Weasel-worded apologies that you can’t find any newer data is just that….weasel-words!

Move on, you’ll be better for it! And if you constantly compare yourself to outdated technology, it really does not do you any favours at all!


Handbags At Dawn….

Every now and then, it is good to see Storagezilla let fly as he does here and here. Yes, I know I normally rail against such behaviour but it’s always good to see Storagezilla frothing at the mouth in full rabid attack dog mode.

I find myself in the strange position in agreeing with both Zilla and Alex tho’…

Alex is right that the market has changed and some not-so-new requirements have bubbled up the agenda and are becoming more than a niche. And NetApp needed to do something to address these customer requirements.

Storagezilla is right that NetApp are basically finding themselves dangling from their own petard and could do with a dose of mea cupla.

The Cult of WAFL really meant that NetApp could not develop themselves out of the situation they had got themselves into; the only way to jump-start their presence into this ‘new’ market was to buy themselves into it.

Much as we’d all like this storage thing to be unified and simple (well, some of us would anyway); it’s not and I for one welcome NetApp to reality.

But it does give NetApp a small market positioning issue; you can’t well point at EMC and say that they obviously don’t believe in Unified Storage because they have different products to meet different requirements…EMC have acknowledged in a few places that they got it wrong with regards with Unified Storage perhaps, just perhaps, NetApp can say the same thing.

Of course, EMC never, ever told us that Celerra with MPFS was a better solution to scale-out-storage than Isilon. They certainly don’t now.

I also sometimes wonder why EMC never released Infiniflex as a stand-alone product; now that’d be a very interesting product in the Big Data world. Sometimes the value is lack of frills; not every product needs frills beyond excellent engineering.

But I’m not sure EMC would want to add another storage product to their portfolio….well, not this week.



EMC join the race (at the front??)

So EMC have had to bow to the inevitable and join the Storage Performance Council; as Chuck mentions in his reply to Chris’ article, there are public agencies now mandating SPC membership for RFP submission; I am also aware that there are some large other storage users who are starting to do similar. But will we see benchmark wars and will it be a phoney war?

EMC have been selectively cherry-picking the SpecFS benchmarks for some time; they are inordinately proud with regards to their benchmarks around SMB performance and I suspect such cherry-picking will continue. Certainly, many of the other vendor’s cherry-pick; for example, IBM won’t submit XIV (unless something has changed) because it will crash and burn. The configurations benchmarked are very often completely out of kilter with any real world configuration but at least any records EMC break in this area will have more relevance than someone jumping over a number of arrays on a motor-bike.

And I wonder if EMC’s volte-face will fit very nicely into their current ‘Breaking Records’ campaign; what better way to announce your ’embracing’ of a benchmark than smashing it out of sight for the time being? And if they fail to do so, I do however have it on good authority that EMC are going to submit the number of people you can fit in a Mini and array jumping as a standard to SPC.

Is it a case that we can finally beat them, so we’ll join them? As NetApp continue to slowly transmogrify into EMC, I wonder if EMC are going to meet them halfway.

Atmos Offline?

So Atmos Online has become Atmos Offline; well, okay, not quite yet but it's on the way to becoming so. There does appear to be alot of spinning going on from EMC about precisely what Atmos Online was and that is to be expected but it's really okay to try something and fail, it really is. I don't think EMC need to lick their wounds too much on this and I suspect they have learnt quite a lot from the experience i.e being a Service Provider is actually quite hard.

But it beggars another question, I wonder how well the other EMC Atmos based services are doing and how much traction they are getting against S3? It's funny, many of EMC's competitors in the storage world talk about EMC as some kind of marketing behemoth but in the competition for mindshare and getting traction in this space, they appear to be really struggling to get any kind of message out there. I suspect many EMC's competitors will also struggle to get traction against S3; so it is far too early for them to be crowing about EMC's failure as they haven't delivered anything in this space either. 

Although it is still early days, it does appear at present that Amazon's S3 is really ruling the roost in this space but EMC's Atmos in a Box might help them in this space; if they bother to tell anyone about it. 

AIAB may allow developers to play with Atmos and develop cool services on top of it. They could also do with getting some books written on working and developing Atmos, building a development community around Atmos might also be a good thing. EMC are not a company which immediately comes to a developer's mind when they are developing cloud-services; they need to work to change this; this is a new market for EMC to learn how to compete in.  

But let's not forget that in the pile it high and sell it cheap world of consumer cloud storage, EMC have Mozy and Iomega. This combination is a service that people do want and with people like Asus offering cloud storage with their NetBooks, this is a growth market. 

I wouldn't count EMC out of the public Cloud market just yet; an early knock-down doesn't necessarily mean an early knock-out. If anything, they got into the ring and tripped over their shoelaces whilst swinging for someone who was either in a different ring or not actually turned up yet. 

They know Jack….

After latest 'twit-piss' mostly between NetApp and EMC, although HP also chimed in, I posted a tweet which most people seemed to agree with and it got retweeted a lot.

'Let me summarize NTAP know shit about EMC who know shit about IBM who know shit about HDS who know shit about HP who know shit about Oracle!'

But sadly, I don't think it's true at all! I think really goes something along the lines of

'NTAP pretend to know shit about EMC who pretend to know shit about IBM who pretend to know shit about HDS who pretend to know….'

Well you get the gist of it. 

Or perhaps

'NTAP marketing know shit about EMC, whose marketing know about IBM whose…'

Well you get the gist again!

You see there's a big game going on here and actually it's not doing us the customer any particular favours; you see most of the big vendors know alot about their competitors kit, they just can't admit it. I, suspect like most of my readers, have visited large vendor facilities and have been given the full on guided tour; often on these tours, one is taken to the interoperability lab. What's in in the interoperability lab? Well, just about every flavour of competitive kit going. All in the name of testing interoperability but are you really telling me that more doesn't go on? Are you really telling me that performance tests are not run? Are you telling me that the kit is not put through the same type of torture tests that their own kit is put through and that the results are not pored over? 

Frankly I don't believe it! So why don't we get to see the results? Funny isn't it!? 

Perhaps it's just a Mutually Assured Disinformation pact!?

Dealing with Legacy

Storagezilla's post on Clariion LUNs demonstrates aptly EMC's and many other vendor's problems with dealing the legacy; when I see gloating posts from the newer vendors, I feel very tempted to save the posts in order to bring them up in ten or fifteen years when they themselves are struggling to cope with an established customer base and legacy arrays.

Dealing with legacy is a big deal for all of the vendors; if you move away from the legacy, you potentially upset your customer base but if you continue to support the legacy, you find yourself building on more and more cruft. Customers with long established process, procedures and scripts are loath to change them. 

And indeed, even the vendor's own staff may well be treating the new features with suspicion. How many times have you sat in a meeting with a vendor's staff who tell you that they wouldn't touch that release of the code yet as it's too new and not 'Enterprise' ready. 

Yet vendors spend a huge amount of money QAing their code; 50% of product development time is often QA. However, we often get code which is still not bug-free and still often has some whopping bugs in it but in many ways, we as customers do add to the problem. We insist on using deprecated commands, not trusting the new features and generally insisting that the vendor supports features from 10-20 years ago. 

All of this adds complexity into the code-base; inefficiencies and mis-understandings creep in, bits of code become fossilised and no-one knows what they do anymore. 

However how does a vendor take its customers on a journey allowing them to transition to a newer, better way of doing things? I'm not sure but certainly their own field-staff need to show confidence in their own products; they need to redouble their efforts to ensure that nothing ships with service impacting bugs. Some serious thought needs to be applied to creating tools which migrate scripts and allow customers to move into new features. But there will always be customer resistance to change.

EMC's problems are fairly horrible for them to deal with; their plethora of product lines does make dealing with this legacy harder. And at present, we just see that product-base expand; even if they just turn all of their products into personality modes which run on a base platform, they will still have an ever expanding mountain of code to deal with.

To be honest, I think that at some point EMC will have to bite the bullet and consolidate their product-sets but which one? There are significant overlaps and the overlaps are getting worse not better; the low-end Clariion overlaps with the new rackmount Iomega and the high-end Clariion overlaps with the low-end Symm. And if we throw VPLEX into the mix? 

EMC are not the only company with this problem but they are the company with the largest problem due to the size of their install base, the maturity of the install base and also the fact that they make all of their own stuff. They have also been very good about ensuring a certain level of compatibility and retaining features for almost no good reason. 

Yes, they do deprecate hardware; I don't really blame them for this, the CX4 for example is significantly more powerful than the CX3. And with VMAX, it is a completely different processor architecture to the DMX.

Companies like IBM and HP, who at first look to have similar issues, do OEM at least some of their product base. And IBM were very ruthless when they moved from ESS to the DS8k range; changing CLIs for example. But they had less customers to piss off really!

But to poke at EMC, for at least trying to support their legacy and doing the right thing by the customer; is a little small. When you've had products in existence for as long as EMC and others and you find the magic bullet for dealing with legacy; then you can poke.

And yes, NetApp et all; your unified storage approach helps in that it reduces the number of code-bases that you have to support but don't pretend that there are not some wierd and wonderful legacy structures that you probably would rather not support. 

More Vendor Bashing!

What a hornet's nest I stirred up with my blog; firstly it was good to see a lot of the NetApp guys coming out swinging in defence of their company, you should have passion for the company you work for but…..and there's always a but, it was not suprising to see that most missed the point! I was not attacking the Filer product, it is actually a great product for most people. However it is a single great product which you have built a business on but it is just a single product. 

There comes a time I think that once a company gets to certain size and I think that NetApp are at that size; that a company needs to start to diversify. NetApp's performance on acquistion has quite frankly been terrible; perhaps Georgen's can turn this round and they can acquire and integrate well. NetApp for too long have traded on being 'not EMC'; I am not convinced that this is any longer a credible strategy which brings me on nicely to didn't actually think I was going to let EMC off the hook?

EMC have exactly the opposite problem to NetApp; they actually have too many products and the 'Cloud' strategy actually sums them up! Their strategy is made of cloud, it's large, all encompassing and when you try to get hold of it; well….Put it like this, the average sales-man cannot articulate it, they don't even get to arm-waving bit, there's a blank look and then they try to sell you some storage. But at least you have Chuck's Blog!

So it's about time EMC started to make their sale-guy's lives a bit easier and shrunk their product catalogue. Clariion and Celerra need to become the same product line; yep, you need to copy NetApp and have a truly unified storage platform. You've got some bright guys who understand file-systems, containers etc; just admit the NetApp were right in the mid-range space and launch the Celariion. If you were feeling really brave, you could keep the gateway product and virtualise other vendor's disk. 

Next have a look at the CMA area; what exactly does Documentum do for you?  And when you start to drill down into the Documentum product set, there's some real cruft in there. Does anyone actually use your Digital Asset Management tools for example? The whole CMA area needs looking at and streamlining. 

Ionix? A rebranding exercise at the moment. The whole product set needs integrating and you need to sit down with the people who use this stuff on a day-to-day basis, you could streamline and much improve this product set. And as your friends at NetApp seem to be asleep at the wheel with SanScreen; you could actually catch up and go past them. 

Like Ionix, your BURA product set needs integrating and streamlining; the Avamar/Data Domain story is confusing customers everywhere, it makes us go cross-eyed at times. For example, we were looking deduplication last year prior to your Data Domain acquisition and you were trying to sell us Avamar against Data Domain; now you want to sell us Data Domain. Confused and we aren't the only ones!

EMC Consulting would be a good idea, not EMC paid-for PreSales which unfortunately it currently often turns into. You do have some good guys but stop brainwashing them and allow them independance of thought. I won't rant about EMC-UK but it's broken; if you want more information, contact me directly. 

I think that like NetApp, you are in no-man's land as an organisation and there's a wonderful British expression 'eyes too big for your belly' which sums you up nicely at the moment!  And like NetApp, you have some interesting challenges ahead and some interesting challengers but quietly and privately, you appear to acknowledge that. 

I do want EMC, NetApp and all the other storage companies to succeed and grow; in IT infrastructure, it's the only place where there's any kind of product differentiation. The server market is quite frankly, boring and the network market suffers from the big kid in the playground syndrome.

‘Meh…it’s only a Billion Dollars…’

NetApp worry me as a company; despite their record revenues this quarter, they strike me as a company in trouble. And as an end-user who wants/needs a competive storage market, this is a little concerning.

Now obviously, you are now thinking that 'Bod has gone mad, so I better explain my reasoning.

Over the past year or so, NetApp have been quietly dropping products under the guise of focussing more on their core but if you look at things, their core is actually very narrow. Dropping unprofitable lines is obviously generally good business but I don't see these lines being replaced with anything. Their product range is narrowing, this is not the actions of company confident in their ability to provide solutions to a market-place which will become increasing solution orientated. This is a company who is willing to be a little cog in the grander scheme of things!

The struggle to get OnTap 8 out of the door has in my opinion meant that the company has not really focussed on providing innovative new products. NetApp are currently not innovating and the rest of the market are catching up and some could rocket past them.

Some of the comments I've heard from people who have looked in more detail at OnTap 8 are concerning as well. If you are running OnTap 7; it appears that there is little for you, if you merely upgrade. It sounds like that a full re-implementation is required to take advantage of features like 64 bit aggregates.

When EMC announced Atmos, NetApp dropped big hints that they had a RESTful object oriented storage product in the works. This has yet to surface and I've not heard anything more than 'watch this space' muttering but there's no product shipping.

Another reason that I am concerned about NetApp are that they are a single product company; if OnTap 8 struggles to gain acceptance, there is little for the company to fall back on. And there seems to be little appetite at the moment to broaden the NetApp product range and as I said earlier, they are indeed shrinking their portfolio.

The failure to take over Data Domain and loosing that battle to EMC, I suspect damaged the company's confidence internally and I wonder whether they currently have the appetite to embark on an aquisition campaign but surely that is what is needed if they are to grow quickly enough to survive as a company long term?

The clustered NAS vendors could cause them pain going forward, the Isilons of this world are looking to do to NetApp what NetApp did to EMC. In fact NetApp remind me alot of EMC of four or five years ago, which is ironic as much of NetApp's appeal was that they are not EMC!

And what's worse, you've got some big players who could do immense damage to NetApp; I'm thinking IBM, Oracle and HP. IBM with SONAS could hurt them at the high-end and Oracle with the 7000 series could really hurt them in what has been traditionally their heartland; medium-sized NAS environments. HP could revitalise their storage business under Dave D but that is probably a longer term turn-around as opposed to immediate threat.

Yes NetApp have spent time building some strong partnerships but even this is a bit 'meh'; not a huge amount of organisational innovation here. Nothing which made us sit up and think, 'blimey, that was a clever move!'

In fact at the moment, 'meh' pretty much sums up NetApp as a company. Lots of companies go through a 'meh' period; HDS have been sitting in theirs for some time and need to come out pretty soon. EMC went through their 'meh' moment…IBM and HP have managed to have 'meh' decades in the past! Can NetApp come out of a 'meh' moment fighting and innovating? Lets hope so!

p.s I've labelled my own post as FUD…because if a vendor had written this…I might have accused them of writing FUD!

I spy FUD

When I see things which are blatantly FUD; I get really annoyed! And every now and then, I am going to call it! Hu posts on SVC, it's always a bad start when you dedicate an entire article to a competitors product, it can never end well.

And there is a big, whopping piece of FUD in the article and I quote Hu here!

"I asked why they were converting from Brocade to CISCO, and their
answer was that they were planning ahead for FCoE. I pointed out that
the SVC may work well in a FC SAN, but may have to do a lot more work
to guarantee delivery of packets in a lossy network like Ethernet. The
SVC will have to be reworked in order to work in a non FC environment,
where packets may be dropped when the network gets congested.   Since
the USP V does its virtualization in the storage controller, we would
be able to convert the front end ports to FCoE ports and not do a major
revision of the storage virtualization functions."

Yes, you can if you are insane run FCoE over non-DCE; you can run it over 1 GbE if you insist (I have for experimentation purposes at home) but the whole point of running FCoE is that you run it over DCE which is lossless; it implements flow control!

FCoE is fibre channel! IBM are not going to support FCoE over anything else apart from DCE! FCoE is fibre-channel! Perhaps Hu has confused iSCSI with FCoE?

So is Hu going to go back to that customer and apologise? What he should have done was said, why are you converting to Cisco to get FCoE? Brocade has a roadmap to support FCoE, you may have good reasons to go to Cisco but FCoE at this point probably should not be the driver!