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2011 appears to the year where everyone bunches up as they try to climb the mountain of storage efficiency and effectiveness. Premium features which were defining unique selling points will become common place and this will lead to some desperate measures to define uniqueness and market superiority.

I’d like to take a smaller and relatively unknown player in the storage market as example of how features which even last year were company defining could become rapidly common place; certainly if you are outside the world of media and working in a more traditional enterprise, I would be surprised if you had come across a company called Infortrend. Infortrend make low to mid-range storage arrays which seem to turn up fairly often in media; often packaged as part of a vertical solutions, it is not a company you would really expect to tick all of the boxes with regards to the latest features. Yet if you look at their latest press release, you will find that they offer or are planning to offer over the next year

  • Thin provisioning
  • Deduplication
  • Automated Storage Tiering
  • Replication
  • Snapshots
  • etc, etc…

So if even the smaller vendors are offering these features; what are the big boys going to have to do to try to differentiate their offerings? Vertical integration and partnerships with the other enterprise vendors such as VMware and Cisco is going to be one area where they can differentiate, their size makes the levels of investment required in these partnerships a lot easier. However sometimes, these smaller vendors such as Infortrend plough an interesting furrow by partnering with smaller niche application vendors who do not have the clout to get time with the bigger vendors. And before we count this out as a strategy; Isilon managed to grow at first as a niche company.

Management tools and automation are one place which needs continuing innovation and investment but interestingly enough, often the smaller vendors excel in ease-of-use out of necessity. Smaller sales-forces, smaller technical support teams and a channel-focused approach to market means that their systems must be easy to use, although they do often fall down on the scalable management and automation front.

Yet at the end of the day, it could well come down to a marketing war and marketing budgets.


  1. Anthony V says:

    Great post.
    I think start-ups have one huge advantage: No legacy compatibility issues with older architectures… leaving them free to write their own rules and be really innovative.

    I think that proves harder after they are acquired….

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  3. Chris Cowley says:

    @Anthony V: Infortrend are not a start up, I have a Xyratex 4200 array that is more than 6 years old – it has Infortrend controllers.

    I have 1 Eonstor, which I have to be honest has had a couple of significant hiccups – it has twice caused about 10 VMs to come to a grinding halt! However, a company we spun off has 2 and they have been absolutely fine, so I was probably unlucky. For the price it is excellent and it holds up pretty well against a much newer Dot Hill Titanium.

    Also, lets not forget that CERN uses a huge amount of them on the LHC.

    @ Martin, the Eonstor is vertical, but the ESVA is horizontal. They cover both bases, but they are ardent FC guys from what I can make out.

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