Network Appliance takes on storage mindset

Successful storage solutions are more about software than hardware, according to Network Appliance, and that mindset is reflected in its latest batch of products.

“The amount of data is still growing, and the priority

to manage it is becoming more acute,” said Jeff Goldstein, Canadian general manager for Mississauga, Ont.-based Network Appliance Canada Ltd.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Network Appliance Inc. is expanding its storage management and virtualization portfolio with DataFabric Manager 2.0 Appliance Watch. The gear lets companies remotely manage NetApp storage solutions from one central location, as well as its MultiStore software, which facilitates enterprise storage consolidation across multiple domains and servers by enabling a single NetApp filer to be securely partitioned into several virtual filers.

NetApp Monday also released new hardware and software to help enterprises mitigate the risks associated with downtime with NearStore R100, SnapMirror, SnapVault and SnapRestore.

The NearStore R100 is the only new hardware product, and the first storage appliance to debut in the NearStore product family. Goldstein said data recovery is just as critical as backing up the data in the first place. NearStore is a type of stopgap between taped backups and disk. It is not as slow as tape, and it falls in the middle when it comes to cost per megabyte.

“Customers are asking for quicker, more efficient, less expensive storage and backup,” said Alan Freedman, research manager for servers and workstations at IDC Canada in Toronto. “What (NearStore) is doing is narrowing the gap.”

Network Appliance is not the only company to put more emphasis on software than hardware, he added.

“If you speak to companies like EMC, they’re going to tell you that they’re a software company, not a hardware company. All of the major storage players have realized that without the manageability and the availability software, your product is going nowhere.”

EMC is also planning to upgrade software produced as part of a partnership with Dell Computer. Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC is working with the PC maker to enhance the Dell-EMC ControlCenter Navisphere, MirrorView and SnapView software suites. The upgrades will enable customers to securely manage storage networks from remote locations and increase a storage network’s uptime.

A recent report from Gartner Dataquest put EMC’s worldwide market share at 30.4 per cent in 2001, up from 28.3 per cent of the market in 2000. Veritas Software was second with 19.8 percent, and IBM came in third with 14.2 per cent.

“Every vendor is trying to get into the storage business,” said Goldstein. “The real question is, are they enterprise-class solution providers?”

Freedman said customers are also demanding that storage products, especially software, be compatible in a multi-vendor environment.

The storage-only vendors are going to have a much better perception in the market of being able to provide a multi-platform, multi-vendor solution, he said. “Right off the bat they’re going to have increased mindshare. It’s a tough road for the multi-function vendors because while you want to create some sort of advantage in utilizing the entire solution from one company, you don’t want to shut out a large part of the addressable market.”

Multi-function vendors can add functionality to their captive installed base, Freedman said, but they have to be ready to integrate with heterogenous environments if they want new customers.

“If they’re not willing to play in a multi-vendor, multi-platform arena, then they’re going to be shut out in the long run.”

Because storage is more than just a hardware sale, it translates into increased opportunities and better margins for the NetApp’s channel partners, said Goldstein.

“The first thing we’ve done is recruited partners that we really call storage integrators. These are not the traditional fulfillment folks. Our partners are really folks who understand these issues and whose job it is to help customers understand. And because it’s complex, they actually make more of their margin now through the services and the integration capability than the hardware.”

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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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