The annual NetApp Insight user conference ran from September 26th through September 29th 2016 in Las Vegas. Evaluator Group participated in keynotes, industry analyst sessions, general sessions and 1 on 1’s with NetApp executives
The event was well attended, with more than 5,000 people participating in person and additional attendees watching on-line. The sessions were aimed at providing details on new technologies and how to utilize NetApp products and features in real-world environments.
NetApp’s CEO George Kurian outlined their rationale for why NetApp has grown market share recently, and why they will continue to do so. In part, due to consolidation in the IT market with the Dell – EMC merger, there are fewer independent storage companies, with NetApp being one of the few established pure storage vendors.
NetApp’s theme and strategy center around a “Data Fabric,” stating “The Data Fabric will help your business manage data, and information is the currency of the digital world.” The term “Data Fabric” was first used by NetApp two years ago, and has remained as a both a slogan and as a loosely defined vision. The newly acquired SolidFire is also a significant part of NetApp’s strategy, playing a significant role in private and public cloud environments.
The Data Fabric strategy has expanded from being ONTAP only to now include SolidFire and to a lesser extent E-series and AltaVault products along with software and services. In essence, Data Fabric is NetApp’s vision of hybrid clouds that includes private, on-premise and cloud hosted IT services that are managed using OnCommand Insight with data mobility provided by NetApp products and features.
Three of NetApp’s most important partners were premier sponsors of Insight and had significant presence both on stage and on the show floor. These include:
NetApp discussed their #2 market position for all-flash storage, with nearly $775M over past 12 months, a 385% year over year growth from the previous year. Revenue is based on E-series, up 10% year for flash and AFF, up 620% year over year.
Recent changes at the EVP level reporting to new CEO George Kurian have been significant, including a new EVP of Sales, a new CTO and a new CMO, all signaling changes from the past at NetApp. A particular focus is on selling the entire NetApp portfolio, with a focus on software, services and SolidFire. Gross margins on deals are more important and selling ONTAP only systems is no longer sufficient. These changes signal that NetApp is becoming a portfolio company, focused on solutions rather than merely updating existing customers to the latest FAS system as had been the customary sales motion.
Note, Evaluator Group has detailed analysis of each of the new NetApp products listed available in the Evaluator Research Series on www.evaluatorgroup.com .
Some of the significant elements of NetApp’s Data Fabric include the following product features:
NetApp has experienced well documented market share and revenue declines over the past several years. This has been the result of their late adoption of NAND flash technology as a primary storage media, rather than as a cache or tier. Additionally, the migration of customers to clustered ONTAP in version 8 and now 9 has been slower than anticipated. However, these issues appear to be largely in the past, with the new executive staff firmly behind the effort to evolve NetApp into a storage company with a portfolio of products.
NetApp’s Data Fabric vision, although not complete, shows potential for delivering an open set of hardware and software products that interoperate well, while supporting other vendors through open interfaces and standards. We believe that NetApp’s assessment of what customers desire is correct, which is products that interoperate with other vendors and work in hybrid cloud environments.
The updates to NetApp’s FAS and all flash products provides an opportunity for NetApp’s account teams to engage their clients with a portfolio of storage and storage management products, along with their vision of a Data Fabric spanning from on-premise to cloud hosted data-centers. Additionally, the acquisition of SolidFire provides another customer base that is largely unfamiliar with traditional storage or NetApp, with whom sales teams can engage. To many loyal NetApp customers, the embrace of all-flash and corporate restructuring may signal that NetApp is once again a growing storage company with a competitive portfolio.