NetApp adds SAN following customer demand

NEW YORK – After years of positioning itself as a leader in the NAS segment, Network Appliance Inc. has unveiled a strategy to deliver SAN solutions to its customers.

David Hitz, co-founder and executive vice-president of engineering

for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm, said Tuesday he has spent the five years or so telling people why NAS (network-attached storage) is better than SAN (storage area networks).

Now it’s changing its tune, and for a very simple reason: Customers wanted SAN capability from NetApp, said Hitz — and with IT purse strings tightening, it was in the company’s best interest to sell its customers what they were asking for.

Richard Clifton, vice-president of NetApp’s SAN/iSAN business unit, says the company used to try to teach customers the difference between NAS and SAN, but feedback has shown they don’t care. “They have enterprise storage needs,” he said, “and they’re asking us to expand our portfolio.”

NetApp introduced a combination of products, programs and partnerships aimed at helping enterprises manage storage appliances within their data infrastructure and help maintain business continuity.

At the heart of the new product offerings is the company’s latest version of its DataFabric Manager — version 2.1 — a tool that enables centralized management of dispersed NetApp storage solutions, whether in a NAS or SAN environment.

NetApp also unveiled the FAS900 series, the company’s first storage appliance to support Fibre Channel SAN environments.

Jeff Goldstein, general manager of Mississauga, Ont.-based Network Appliance Canada Ltd., said one thing that’s significant for enterprises in this new strategy is that they don’t have to rip out existing systems to take advantages of NetApp’s new offerings because it is still one architecture and one file system. “We’re not asking them to scrap the software and expertise they already have,” he said.

And unlike other vendors, NetApp is not offering different systems for different types of organizations — it’s one product line that can be scaled appropriately for the customer. It’s also flexible to accommodate the needs of different vertical markets.

According to William Lewis, senior research analyst for storage networks and devices at JP Morgan, the storage market is one of the few bright lights when it comes to IT spending. Citing IDC data, he says storage grew to account for 22 per cent of IT budget allocation this from 17 per cent that year.

That being said, Lewis expects growth in the US$25 billion storage market to be flat in 2003 because enterprises are shifting their focus away from building out their infrastructures. “Their focus is on capacity utilization.”

And that capacity is needed. In 2000 alone, the world produced three exabytes (or three billion gigabytes) of new information, and 93 per cent information produced each year is now stored in digital format.

One of the primary forces driving storage adoption is the transition of enterprises from being service-centric to storage-centric. Companies can no longer rely on direct attached storage (DAS), as it slows down performance. “There has been a huge change in the data centre in the last five to seven years,” says Lewis.

The cost of storage systems is dropping and the tools to manage storage are becoming more effective, he adds. A SAN in particular can reduce total cost of ownership by half.

While Network Appliance is a leader in the NAS market, says Lewis, the overall storage market is somewhat fragmented with EMC holding a lead with a 20 per cent share.

“There is a lot of market share to be gained.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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