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New Terms for Old Concepts….

So NetApp are in the process of creating a new category of storage to stop it looking like that they are going back on their principles of Unified SAN storage; Shared DAS storage! Shared DAS storage is basically as far as I can see SAN storage without a switch; in fact, it looks very much like the arrays of the past where access was via SCSI. What appears to make it shared is that the LUNs might be shared between multiple hosts; so in old money, that’d be ‘twin tailing’.

Of course, you can do this with any array out there, we have a number of small arrays which we do this with; often in small campus equipment rooms where we cannot justify a full fibre infrastructure but for various reasons the users want the server infrastructure as close to them as possible.

It’s a bit sad that NetApp have to play games to try to justify the change in focus or at least the maturing in strategy. It is also unfortunate that in many cases, you will want your ‘Shared DAS’ on a SAN; for example, one of the popular use cases for the Engenio disk which makes up this new ‘Shared DAS’ is in massively scalable clustered file-systems where you might well want meta-data and real data separated onto different arrays. If you take the ‘Shared DAS’ approach, you are going to start running out of ports on your hosts very quickly.

So instead of inventing new terms, can we just stick the old terms? The Engenio arrays are no-frills, performance-orientated SAN arrays which work well in specific environments and actually due to their no-frills nature lend themselves very nicely to clustered file-systems and indeed to storage virtualisation products such as NetApp’s vSeries.

I think NetApp’s acquisition of Engenio is quite a canny move but really guys, be a bit bolder….don’t become an enormous marketing company!


  1. Martin

    Netapp painted themselves into a corner with their whole single product unified strategy thing. You may remember this post from last year; Netapp had to do something, but how do you reverse on your strategy? You’re right, inventing new product categories isn’t the answer. An honest approach to admitting a company needs to grow and expand/diversify is.


  2. Martin Glassborow says:

    I think we both at times have pointed out the risks that NetApp were taking with their single product strategy and of course, both have been castigated by the fan-boys for doing so…even tho’ many within the company have quietly acknowledged that we had some serious points.

    The Unified Strategy has been becoming an Untied Strategy for a while and it is time for NetApp to move on. This does not make them any less of a company and it does not make their products any less or more technologically sound but it frees them from a religious stand into one which focuses more on the realities of the industry and customer requirements.


  3. Radek Urbanski says:


    Not quite sure what you’re going on about? I have yet to see a single piece of collateral from NetApp attempting to discuss the new E-Series in a Unified Context? The very fact they are targetting this product line at different markets via diffrent channels WITHOUT a Unified Message is the epitome of pragmatism.

    Show me this so-called idealogy regarding E-Series which offends your sensibilities so! And please don’t offer a term such as “Shared DAS” as evidence. It can be interpreted many ways, particularly in the context of Hadoop, host-clustered filesystems and NoSQL databases.


  4. Martin Glassborow says:

    You say pragmatism, I say volte-face.

    No, they are not talking about the ‘new’ e-series as Unified Storage (obviously, it’s not really new; it’s just a rebrand) but when NetApp have built their message on Unified Storage being all you need; it’s an interesting public admission that they might have been a little bit wrong. But to try and hide this by talking about different markets, different channels is the height of marketing arrogance.

    These are generally not new markets; they certainly haven’t created a new channel and they have been competing with the Engenio range for many years.

    Host-clustered file-systems are not new; HPC is not new; media is not new…requirement for screaming performance without the overhead of WAFL and OnTap is not new. For NetApp to pretend that it is…is just marketing.

    ‘Shared DAS’ is a silly term; it wasn’t needed….if NetApp had just explained why the e-Series is particularly suited to specific application profiles and not come up with a new term, I would have seen it as pragmatic and sensible but to cover it marketing speak…well, it’s just plain silly!

    I have absolutely no problem with the product but then again, I have no problem with many products….the marketing of the products is generally what gets me really irritated!

    Still, I await IBM’s relaunch of the 7133 range as ‘Shared DAS’….

  5. I agree HPC & Media are not new markets, but did you ever consider as a PRAGMATIC commercial enterprise, NetApp determined they were interesting (i.e. large & profitable) enough markets now to enter with an optimised product?

    Regardless, you’re totally off-base regarding your claim about NetApp ‘inventing’ new terms. See my web link. I only see NetApp ‘introducing’ the term to their customers.

    Additionally, a noted NoSQL expert has endorsed & amplified the term, quoting directly from Val’s blog:

    NetApp Unified Storage for shared & virtualised (with a HyperVisor, not PaaS) environments remains perfectly consistent. Unlike the rest of the industry, NetApp has no unnecessary overlap with incompatible products for those same requirements.

    OTOH – high-bandwidth storage for distinct (non-virtualised) workloads equates to market expansion, not market confusion!


  6. Martin Glassborow says:

    NetApp have been trying to sell into HPC and Media markets for some time and with their existing product range; unfortunately, they were not getting traction generally. There are always exceptions but quite simply, their existing products were/are not optimised for those workloads. And you never heard NetApp say that their products were not suited for those sort of workloads…

    So they went and bought a company with a product which is a better fit; a product which already had a decent success rate as a SAN attached storage array. The world does not need any more terms for storage arrays and it doesn’t matter what expert endorses and amplifies the term….they are still wrong.

    BTW, there is overlap between NetApp’s eSeries and their Filer range; they would often compete against each other….I’ve had both of them being sold to me to do the same job.

    I’m not attacking the product, I’m attacking what I see as a pointless term and an even more pointless marketing distinction which has little basis in reality. I like the product, I’ve got lots of it!

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