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And Bod Makes Three

It is funny that whenever you write negative about NetApp, it is often that accusations of bias fly. I will admit that this rarely comes from the NetApp bloggers but there does appear to be vociferous chorus of what could be called 'Fanbois'. I can pretty much write whatever I want about EMC, HDS, HP or IBM (with the exception of XIV) el al and expect the criticism to be taken on the chin or at least rebuffed in reasoned and reasonable terms.

NetApp have a great product; they changed the NAS storage market, indeed arguably they created the market. Yes, I know I am ignoring Auspex and unlike many, I actually used an Auspex but it was NetApp which took the market by storm. NetApp are the currently deservedly the market leader in this space but I would suggest that currently that their technical lead is slowly been eaten away. The leader is there to be shot at and the bullets are flying. 

My good friends Chris and Ian have written a couple of blog entries; a bit critical but more importantly they ask some questions of NetApp. I think there are more questions to be asked. 

I cannot be the only one who is wondering why we have not seen a major hardware refresh in the Filer range; OnTap 8 probably drives the hardware harder and I do wonder if some of the restrictions around ASIS volume sizes are simply down to lack of sheer grunt in the existing Filers?  

Although we often say that the hardware is no longer important and it's all down to the software; it is important that the software runs on the best possible and most cost effective platform. The more grunt you have, the more that your software can do. And it is surprising that we've not seen a hardware refresh as it should be relatively easy to do but I suppose keeping the Filers on 'old' technology improves margins for NetApp. 

And as a unified storage platform; the vSeries especially could do with being able to support more ports/interfaces. 

As well as the hardware, there is also the Bycast acquisition; this area has gone particularly quiet and pretty much into stealth mode. In fact, I challenge you to find a link to  on the NetApp front page? It's actually hidden under Products >> Management Software; the same category as Sanscreen. In fact, Sanscreen is not something you hear a great deal about at the moment either.

EMC got complacent and let HDS and then NetApp make hay in their core markets. VMware gave NetApp a huge-in by advocating NFS when EMC's products were not strong in that place. It's very easy to get complacent when you are making money hand over fist and when at times it feels like your competitors are doing their level best to trip up.


  1. Chuck Hollis says:

    Hi Martin
    As usual, I’d agree with most of your points. Most of us storage vendors can handle a bit of back and forth while maintaining a decent level of civility, but say anything negative about NetApp, and they all come out of the woodwork, guns blazing.
    I’d also agree that any differentiation that they may have once had is now finding its way into all sorts of competitive products, including EMC’s.
    Going further, there are clear advances in this particular segment where they haven’t seem to made the investment required — use of SSDs, spin-down, object storage, and a few other areas.
    Complacency in this industry is usually a temporary phenomenon — it’s not long before someone figures out how to eat your lunch, or the market moves in a new direction. I’ve been at the receiving end of both, by the way.
    One minor clarification: IDC notes that EMC has been the market share leader in NAS for many years — last quarter it was tagged at 45%. Understandably, their counting schema includes object storage as well.
    Big changes are happening in this industry — consolidation of players, vertical stack integration, the move to cloud models — disruption is everywhere.
    Andy Grove said it best: only the paranoid survive.
    — Chuck

  2. dannyboy1121 says:

    I don’t really consider the 3100 series to be ancient and even the entry level has fairly new membership with the 2040 – but agree that a hardware refresh is due. It would surprise me if something isn’t announced soon ™ or perhaps at Insight later this year?
    Expansion is a real issue that needs to be looked at – especially now we’re expected to underpin higher density disk offerings with PAM/Flash Cache. Combined with HA Multipath (now mandated even on the old DS14 FC systems as well as most DS4243 configurations) and V-Series which also supports locally attached disk!

  3. Martin G says:

    Danny, just shows my ‘bias’ I guess that I forget about the lower-end Filers.
    Chuck, I’m going to be scrupulously fair on this; NetApp appear to have some serious architectural differences of opinion on SSD-usage. Differences of opinion has served them well so far, perhaps it will continue to do so. And personally, I’m yet to be shown a serious compelling case for spin-down disk which doesn’t lead to compromises elsewhere.
    And I take every industry figure with a massive pinch of salt!
    As for ‘guns blazing’; well, you vendors do like to take potshots at each other. I find that the NetApp bloggers are pretty good at not shooting at the neutrals tho’; the supporters, not so and look for bias in everything written.

  4. TimC says:

    The 3100 series was June 2008, and the 2040 was Sept. 2009 how often should they be refreshing?
    I’m also not sure on the “being attacked” part. Typically what I see, just as the two blogs you linked, are people with incomplete, or misinformation, making claims that just aren’t true. The EMC horde is quick to jump on anyone that does the same of their products… you don’t seem to take issue with that? Were you expecting users and employees of NetApp to just sit back and watch the FUD run wild? I would think you, as an admin, would welcome someone providing accurate information to set proper expectations. I know I do.

  5. Calvin Zito says:

    Martin –
    I guess I was a little naive when I jumped into blogging and Twitter. My first exposure to NetApp blogs was when I saw the HP attacks they initiated. Since we’ve had a few posts talking about NetApp. I’ve learned a lot from watching those conversations either on Twitter or the blog. Here are a couple of them (there are more, but I’ll keep this brief):
    1). You said “this rarely comes from the NetApp bloggers”. My experience is rather different from your observation. I see as many NetApp bloggers or Tweeps leading what often are personal attacks, name calling and as you said, not engaging in debate on “reasoned and reasonable terms”. The NetApp tactic that is most predictable is personal attack. Props go to John Martin as one person at NetApp that I’ve found does consistently use reasoned and reasonable terms.
    2) We’ve learned to be philosophical when we have talked about NetApp. We expect the heat and are never disappointed. It’s the one sure way to know you’ve hit a weakness when they come guns blazing.
    Calvin Zito (@HPStorageGuy)

  6. Mike Shea says:

    Hi Martin – as usual your posts are thoughtful. This one is no different.
    I’ve spent nearly 6 years here at NetApp, and prior to that 5 at EMC. Technical philosophies are very divergent at these companies, as anyone moving between them will tell you.
    Perhaps what I found most divergent is the approach each company takes in communicating with the market. NetApp, on the whole, refrains from ‘bluster marketing’. That is my terminology. We are certainly much quieter, and in fact that only makes sense, we are much, smaller and focused solely on storage. Interestingly enough, despite our relative size differential, NetApp is still one of the planets very few multi-billion dollar high growth companies.
    Culturally, we at NetApp like to talk about things when they are baked and ready. Personally, I like the idea of selling futures, but as many consumer bloggers point out, you cannot run your business on PowerPoint, and frankly, have you ever seen a road map deliver 100% on time? Me neither.
    Be assured that there is much more going on at NetApp than what the still surface seems to indicate. We will let everyone know, when it is ready for them.
    In the mean time – keep up the yeoman’s work of blogging. Asa customer, you keep us on our toes!

  7. Martin G says:

    Tim, what I take issue with is the often aggressive responses which seem to be tinged with paranoia. I assure you that neither myself, Chris or Ian have no hidden agendas and there is no value for any of us to throw FUD. Courteous correction is fine. I tend to focus on the high-end storage arrays and often pay not as much attention as I should to the lower-end arrays. What I should have said is that ‘I think we are long overdue a refresh of the 6000 series; some of the features in OnTap 8, especially at the high-end could probably do with more grunt to support them!’
    Calvin, it would be nice if all the vendor bloggers could be courteous to one another and enter into reasonable debate. Every now and then peace breaks but someone inevitably throws a rock; you are all equally guilty.
    Mike, I was thinking about NetApp’s predicament when it comes to announcements but before I do, how long were NetApp talking about OnTap 8 for before it became reality? It seemed an age!
    However back to the issue, as you point out, NetApp are a multi-billion dollar company but unlike many multi-billion dollar companies, you are arguably a single product multi-billion dollar company. I guess this makes showing constant progress hard as you don’t have a huge amount of products to be updating the market about. So at times the perception is that you are not progressing. Also NetApp appear to refresh the various models of arrays at different times, so unlike EMC who big-bang refresh the Clariion, then big-bang refresh DMX/VMAX; I guess your refreshes are easy to miss.
    I am sure there is a lot going on at NetApp that you wish you could tell us all about but I always find roadmap discussions funny. For example, the number of conversations I had with various vendors about FAST-like technology with them all claiming that this was going to be revolutionary and make them unique was frankly hilarious. Almost every time a vendor tells me about a unique feature coming, I know of at least one other vendor who is working on the exact same feature.
    As I say, I do feel that the high-end NetApp arrays could do with a refresh and I suspect that one is coming.

  8. Radek says:

    I need to echo @TimC’s comments, specifically around Chris Evans. You have the benefit of knowing him personally which I don’t, but his online actions speak louder than your claims.
    Generally, I find Ian’s and your blogs/comments to be well-balanced and constructive overall. But Chris appears to be the most dangerous type of blogger – supposedly objective but with a simmering underlying bias. I struggle to find balanced info regarding NetApp on his blog.
    For example, his latest post regarding flexvols contains either selective or uninformed half-truths. His last related comment exposes his subjective bias better than I could personally articulate. In the same breath as claiming to be “objective & independent”, he makes this baseless claim:
    “Large enterprises are stretching Netapp’s technology and they’re not keeping up”.
    This type of comment is nothing more than cheap flame-baiting and contributes nothing to improve the knowledge of the storage community. If Chris is looking to be a tabloid-style blogger, then he should say so. If he wants credibility as an objective industry watcher, then he should act accordingly.
    My higher-level point is around timely access to vital information such as vendor roadmaps. That is very strategic and confidential info to the vendors. You have to earn their trust to gain access. Acting responsibly online has become a primary requirement in earning that trust.
    Writing tabloid-style blogs is the surest way to prevent access to vendor roadmaps. The resulting lack of information can become a vicious cycle if you let it.
    My contention is that self-created roadmap knowledge vacuums are not conducive to high-value consulting for one’s clients.

  9. Chuck Hollis says:

    You are quite right to point out that — ideally — everyone would have access to vendor roadmaps and “perfect information”. That ain’t going to happen, we live in a world of imperfect information, and we all make judgments with what we know and see, not on implied and imagined secrets.
    One observation — you apparently aren’t familiar with the types of storage environments that Chris works in. I am. His comments are much more reasonable and approachable if you understand his particular context.
    Finally, I’d encourage you to view all roadmaps with a grain of salt or two. I have been guilty of “roadmap marketing” as the next guy in my past 🙂
    — Chuck

  10. Martin G says:

    arguably, the largest enterprises and Chris does consultancy work at high levels for some of these; are stretching not just NetApp’s technology but all of the storage vendors’ technology. Data growth and management continues to be a huge problem for all of us.
    Roadmaps are interesting but until they are real product, they are just a promise of jam tomorrow. Of course they influence purchasing decisions but too often this leads to frustration when time-scales slip. I prefer to make decisions made on what I can buy today, I’ve been burnt by broken vendor promises.
    As for Chris’ access to vendors at the highest level, I can assure you that Chris has all the access he needs at most major vendors. And I suspect that NetApp will or have offered to brief him on their roadmap because Chris is immensely respected in the blogging community by pretty much everyone.
    I doubt anyone in NetApp would accuse Chris of ‘tabloid blogging’. And as for simmering bias, I could find simmering bias in Chris’ blog against all of the vendors. He’s slammed them all in the past and will continue to do so I hope. Most of the vendors don’t mind and learn from what we have to say because we don’t have any vested interest; I like to think that they read our blogs precisely because we tend to speak our mind and we are not anyone’s lap-dog.
    I’m sure you have something constructive to say and contribute to the online storage community; can I respectively suggest that you stop looking for bias and contribute your obviously deep knowledge of NetApp, you are obviously a passionate advocate of their technology. But please try to avoid personal attacks, the vendors are bad enough without drawing the few independents into the mire.

  11. Tom Petrocelli says:

    Martin, I find this discussion fascinating. All technical arguments aside, it hits on two important aspects of all media but especially social media – civility and bias. We all have biases. It’s human to be such. Our experiences and sometimes our responsibilities create them. We are not often even aware of them. As a vendor, one has to drink the Kool-Aid. It’s part of the job. To admit your biases adds credibly not diminishes it. Kudo to you for doing so.
    There is no excuse for lack of civility, especially competitiveness. It is, frankly, off putting and hence, terrible marketing. Passion is also not a good excuse to act in an uncivil manner.
    I love that your blog has generated an interesting technical discussion and an interesting social one – a two-fer! Be proud.

  12. Erick Moore says:

    Danny hit it on the head with expandability. We bought a 3170 last year, and that system can expand to 6 loops. The problem is you only have 4 slots, and 3 are required for full loop expansion (if you want multi-path HA for each loop which of course you do). Without 10GB Ethernet onboard you have to make a choice between going 10GB for your IP storage, Flash Cache (formerly PAM), and full loop expansion. It boggles my mind that on such an expensive system I can’t take full advantage of its capabilities.

  13. Radek says:

    I have a fair amount of systems integration experience with mission-critical (i.e. life & death) as well as business-critical systems myself. I analyze the storage marketplace every year as new projects come up. Vendor roadmaps are a key part of the planning process, but far from the sole criterion. Vendor reputation, viability, supportability and licensing costs dominate those criteria. Over the past 3 years, NetApp has been selected more often than not for many of my projects because they come up on top in that equation. That does not mean they are perfect, nor does it mean I have no criticisms of their products. However, my experience is that professional and discreet communications are the best way to obtain current and accurate roadmap information – rather than putting the vendor publicly “on the spot”.
    I strive to have a positive mutually beneficial relationship with my account team and the rest of the NetApp staff I am exposed to. Privileged information is just that. It is not a right. I don’t abuse that privilege by posting incorrect information as fact, then lamenting why NetApp representatives don’t coddle me with correct information at my beck and call.
    I don’t know him so I am not attacking Chris personally. I am objecting to his online actions, which are my only interactions with him. Those who know me understand that I don’t suffer fools gladly. When someone claims to be an expert, they need to refrain from amateurish statements in their claimed fields of expertise.
    Chris made several incorrect statements about flexvols which were easy to disprove via trivial RTFM efforts. He then went on to defend those incorrect statements using legacy storage constructs which don’t apply to NetApp. Therefore judging by his words & actions he is neither an expert on NetApp, nor objective, although he still is independent by some definition of that word. As a result, Chris’ blog is in my own personal “penalty box” because he cannot seem to write anything balanced about NetApp. Other readers will of course make their own objectivity assessments and feeder edits as appropriate.
    Why the rant? Because as you say the storage vendor bloggers already spend enough time attacking each other with slanted versions of the truth. If we can’t find refuge from spin on independent blogs, there is not much hope for the online storage community at large. A community which has been a valuable source of information for me in the past and for which I have many hopes in the future.

  14. ianhf says:

    Some interesting points and comments, and interesting to see how the same written words can be perceived & interpreted from different personal contexts.
    So a couple of comments – firstly I know Chris well both personally and professionally, and value his options very highly & happily put my reputation in his hands any time. He is impartial, knowledgeable, experienced and works in the top tier of global storage businesses.
    With regards to myself, I’ve worked in the IT infrastructure industry for longer than I care to mention. I’m a decent sized customer of all the main storage companies in over 30 countries, yes we have many PBs of each provider & , I meet with the top mngt of most companies on a regular basis. I am in a privileged position of seeing and influencing many products long in advance. Do I have any bias? Probably but not consciously – my main issue is with overpaying, under delivery & FUD. I’m flattered & surprised that people read my blogs & tweets, let alone if they resonate.
    If there are issues with content validity I’d encourage vendors to take a hard think about how you communicate with the technical community.
    Anyway its a Friday night, the wine is chilled and I’ve got more blogs to publish 🙂

  15. TimC says:

    I agree. Just looking at the timeline on the wikipedia page, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet something should be coming. I can’t really speak to why you see the responses you do from NetApp employee’s, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s due to the climate that EMC has created in the market. Obviously that doesn’t make it OK, but it is what it is I suppose.
    This is where Chuck claims their sales staff and “thought leaders” are all good-hearted souls who wouldn’t dream of throwing out FUD at any given opportunity instead of selling on merit. Yet a quick look at one of his high-level employee’s Mr. Burke shows he’s yet AGAIN throwing FUD against IBM and their DS line. *SHOCKING*
    If you can’t win on merit, revert to middle school antics and throw a tantrum.
    If you use SAS trays, there is no issue maxing out a 3170 while using PAM and 10Gbe.

  16. Martin G says:

    SAS trays don’t help if you’ve gone down the vSeries route. But they are helpful in the FAS. However as a unified storage array, it could do with being able to support more ports.
    And I just ignore Barry’s blogs about other vendors stuff…especially the DS8K, I think he has one at home and is just covering up.I’ve said it before, blog about your own kit and let the users and independent bloggers do the critical analysis of you and your competitors.

  17. TimC says:

    There’s even less issue maxing out the system in a v-series configuration unless you’ve got 4+ arrays you’re trying to virtualize… and at that point I’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason not to move to the 6000 series. The only time the limitation should come into play is with the legacy ESH shelves. However, that should have been obvious at time of purchase just looking at a spec sheet.
    The ports aren’t an issue, the pci slots are, but that’s also why they’ve got the 6000 line-up. That’s (number of ports) not really a NetApp specific problem though; you sure as heck can’t get as many ports on a clariion or AMS as you can on a Symm or USP.
    We all want our cake, right? 🙂

  18. I find the comments on this post remarkably interesting. It appears most people can keep things civilised apart from one person who doesn’t need to be named. I thank those who have come to my defence with their comments. In terms of Netapp bias, I’d ask to to regard the following posts: and
    Neither of the above are Netapp negative, in fact the first highlights a Netapp competition (which sadly I heard nothing further on).
    I work on behalf of the customer. I make my money by providing advice and consultancy that helps custoemrs reduce their costs, implement the best technology and cut through vendor marketing. Inevitably, I write blog entries that challenge vendor claims. It’s disappointing that some people (not necessarily the vendor themselves) can’t cope with this.
    I will continue to challenge vendor’s positions when I believe they are not credible. I hold no bias either towards or against particular vendors, however I freely admit to liking certain technology – because I know it works for customers.
    There are many, many instances of shocking vendor behaviour with customers that I’d like to talk about. I can’t because they are commercially confidential and sensitive. What I try to do is talk in generalities that reflect the issues I’ve seen. This obviously forms my opinions.
    Martin, thanks for widening the discussion with this post. Long may courteous discussion continue.

  19. Radek Kubka says:

    A good friend of mine called me today mentioning this and some other blog post. To my surprise he has automatically assumed ‘Radek’ equals ‘Radek Kubka’ – turns out I am a ‘recognizable’ individual amongst Storage/NetApp community. So simply to differentiate & make things clear for people who may know me from other places: I am not the same Radek as the one who put a number of comments here.
    Radek Kubka

  20. Yves Pelster says:

    Martin, in your article you’re stating a sentence which worries me – you are saying that from IBM XIV you have not received a reasonable discussion upon ‘prodding’ them.
    I do work (not only, but too) for XIV, so I have the highest interest in seeing the product discussed fairly and on a professional level.
    If I can help, please send me an email.
    …this post is on my very own behalf and I have not discussed that with my company…

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