Tag Archives | netapp

Thoughts on the NetApp-SolidFire Acquisition

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General Industry Observations

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of rumors these days about change in the storage industry. “IPO” vs. “Acquisition” is really the only way forward, and due to stumbles by Pure Storage, Violin and others, IPO is simply not in the cards for most of the independents looking to find their product/market fit. NetApp‘s acquisition of SolidFire is only the latest in the ongoing consolidation in the storage space; it won’t be the last.

While this is definitely not the first time NetApp has attempted to acquire a company with a technology they needed, this is definitely one that many see as absolutely necessary for NetApp to keep up with & remain relevant in comparison to the pure-play AFA vendors. *I don’t normally comment on this kind of activity, but being that I was at NetApp for the better part of 3yr, I had to comment, this being their first major acquisition since I left and also due to all of the management shake-up over the past year.

Is SolidFire the Right Fit for NetApp?

No one really knows the answer to this or how this will pan out, but I happen to know that both SolidFire and NetApp have a lot of smart people to try and make it happen; many of them, I consider very close industry friends. I do see areas where NetApp is weak technically (block) and market-wise (service providers) that SolidFire could help to fill a gap. Will SolidFire remain a separate product line? I hope NetApp has learned their lesson on this one.

Both NetApp and SolidFire have “scale-out” technologies that would seem to conflict with one another; I don’t see this as a strength.

What’s interesting to me about both NetApp and SolidFire is their reliance on dedupe and/or compression to get to optimal pricing economies with both of their product lines. I’ve seen quite a bit of commentary lately as well as around how dedupe is going to be less and less important as next generation media decreases in cost and increases in density. As this happens over the next couple of years, their value prop will resonate less and less. The real winners will be vendors like Coho Data who have optimized (and are continuing to optimize) their stack from a performance perspective, regardless of the storage medium. Whether it be disk, PCIe flash, NVMe Flash, SATA SSD, SAS SSD or even NVDIMM, etc… Will we add dedupe? Absolutely, YES (it’s being worked on right now). But it’s really, really nice to know that despite how we implement it, we’ll rely on it less than the other guys. Add to this the fact that those who are leveraging complementary technologies, like SDN, to scale-out are better positioned to grow from a performance perspective.

Who are the Winners and Losers?

The winners are NetApp in the short-term as they remove a competitor in the flash market, and temporarily silence those that say they aren’t innovating and are no longer relevant in today’s storage market. The other winners are the SolidFire shareholders, of course. NetApp customers can also be considered winners, albeit with more choices and less clarity if they continue on as NetApp customers. The other guys out in the storage start-up world could be considered winers as well, since this legitimizes them, brings them unhappy SolidFire and NetApp customers and potentially starts a bidding war for the next best thing…

The losers are SolidFire customers, of course. SolidFire had a unique product and solid customer base in the service provider market, but it remains unclear on how NetApp will integrate them into their organization. What also remains to be seen is whether SolidFire can continue to keep the pace of innovation required to keep up with Pure Storage, and other scrappy start-ups with unique and game-changing technology that will now challenge NetApp for the next generation of the storage market…

We live in interesting times friends, interesting times indeed!

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Why I Joined a Start-up

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Image courtesy: http://www.mekuriageti.net/

One finds themselves at a point in their career when they have a desire to do more. I don’t necessarily mean something different (although that plays into it). I know this sounds somewhat simple or cliché, so it of course warrants further elaboration.

Background

First of all, a little bit of backstory… I was approached by/reached out to a certain All Flash Array vendor about an open Technical Marketing Engineer (TME) position almost a year ago. They were starting to ramp-up their TME organization and were looking to add someone to work on solutions in the VMware and virtualization space. These types of openings seem  to come out of the woodwork in the months and weeks leading up to VMworld. I did a few preliminary interviews with them but at the time I didn’t have any desire to move to California, but I continued on with the stipulation that I didn’t want to relocate. It turns out that they decided not to hire outside of California for this role, so I became instantly out of the running.

This ignited in me the idea that, “Hey, you’re in IT, you have been for 15+ years now, maybe it’s time to step up to the big leagues and relocate to Silicon Valley”… I had lived in the Southwest (in Phoenix) for about 4yrs from 2000-2004 and worked at an enterprise software company. Those were some of the best growth years of my IT career. It was also the time that I was introduced to VMware. Being in the Western US and in the software industry, I had always had a desire to live in Silicon Valley. I had been there enough times to visit friends and remember seeing the HQs of Netscape, Oracle, and so on in my time there, not to mention the times I have been out for conferences and the like.

So I pitched the idea to my wife (who is from Japan) about the potential of moving to Cali. At the very least she’d be closer to her family and surrounded by an even-richer Asian community in “The Valley”. At the worst it would be a new adventure for both of us and our kids. A change of pace, if you will.

Renewed Opportunity

Fast forward to a few months ago, just after the beginning of 2014, when I get a message on LinkedIn from a VP at a stealth start-up in the Valley looking for TME talent. Well, I was immediately intrigued to say the least. It’s not that often that a company at this stage of the game reaches out to you to help them as they build their business. This contact re-ignited my desire to more aggressively pursue a potential move. With all the buzz around flash, software-defined this and that and with the multitude of colleagues leaving NetApp for new opportunities, I thought this would be the ideal time to give it another go.

I ended up doing interviews for various TME roles, one at a storage company designed specifically for virtualization, one at a player in the “hyper-convergence” arena, and one at the big ‘V’ itself. These companies varied in size from 30, to 250, to one with over 10,000. I really didn’t want to work at another company similar in size to NetApp, but I thought there might the possibility to focus in on a particular area in that role, which sounded interesting. For the medium sized company I’d be one of a handful of TMEs that joined recently and would have some say in what I worked on but didn’t have quite as much control of my own destiny as I would have liked. Finally, the smallest company (the stealth startup) was still in alpha and I felt as though I could have more confidence joining a company that was selling or had recently GA’ed their product.

So at this point from what I had seen, I was definitely leaning toward the smaller companies, i.e. 250 or fewer employees. Some would consider both of these to be startups as neither of them are public companies. One hasn’t even launched yet and hence I won’t call out the name here.

Time to Reflect

While I waited to hear back from them about offers, I couldn’t help but start to evaluate the various strengths and weaknesses of each, look at their prospects for the current market as well as prospects for the future. Would the product of the stealth company be differentiated enough to succeed? Could I reasonably expect myself to be able to help sell this product? These are the types of questions I started asking. I could elaborate, but that really isn’t at the core of this post.

Completing the Puzzle

As I tend to do when I have these sorts of philosophical questions, especially when making the decision of a new company to work at (which really is what we do; it’s us evaluating the company as much as it is them evaluating us), I took my search for answers to my questions to the web. I started to check around and see what some competitors of the aforementioned companies are doing and equally important… are any of them hiring?

I visited all of the usual haunts when searching for this sort of thing. In this case I reviewed some of the recent Tech Field Day events to see what companies were participating, and what was new, different and innovative about what they were selling. One vendor stood out from this list, Coho Data.

Coho Data was founded by the XenSource team and leverages their experience supporting web-scale virtualized compute and storage for Amazon to create a new model for scale-out storage that brings web-scale operations and economics to any enterprise datacenter.  The company was launched publicly last October, with several hosting providers participating as part of last year’s POCs and now running their v1 GA code.  They are building a VMware storage building block geared toward private cloud deployments.

The Coho Data base offering delivers 180K IOPS in 2U with linear performance scaling using patented OpenFlow SDN technology, which is more performance for the dollar than any other solution on the market today, with the ability to mix and match heterogenous hardware in your cluster to match your specific application performance needs dynamically.

To me this sounded like a very unique combination of SDS and SDN, so I had to learn more. I looked at their Tech Field Day videos, whitepaper and other collateral as well as their website and low and behold, they were looking for a TME. Nice!

Coming Full Circle

By the time I headed out to The Valley (for the 3rd time in about a month) I had offers from the other 2 start-ups I spoke with, so I wasn’t expecting a 3rd offer, to be honest. I figured let’s finish the face-to-face interviews, meet the team and see how it goes. The 3-4 people I met with were very personable and I felt the best culture fit of the companies I had talked with. Combine that with the fact that they had just released a GA product and had a plan going forward, made me feel a bit more at-ease. Finally, the pedigree of the management team and their vision for future paths of revenue left me blown away!

At the end of the day, I had an offer letter on-site and accepted at 9:00AM the very next morning. I hadn’t even slept after my redeye the night before. It was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made and I very much look forward to what’s in store for the future. From my perspective, there looks to be unlimited potential!

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NetApp VSC 5.0 Beta – Request for Feedback

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Boy, oh, boy. This has been the longest gap between posts since I started blogging back in 2010. I won’t make excuses, but instead state that I was “heads down” on some high priority stuff. I’ll share some of that with you as soon as it’s public. But for now, I have a plea for your participation…

For those readers out there who are NetApp customers, the VSC team needs your help.

The first phase of the VSC 5.0 Beta program – which highlights our brand new vSphere web client plugin – was kicked off a month ago. Since this is a major change in the VSC UI, we really, really want feedback, so I’m reaching out to see if some of you can do the test-driving and provide us feedback.

Go to: https://communities.netapp.com/community/products_and_solutions/virtualization/vsc

The new VSC web client plugin is MUCH MORE than just a port. It provides:

  • Tighter integration with vCenter (No more VSC “tabs”; instead, VSC 5.0 has NetApp-specific portlets and columns right alongside VMware information)
  • Consolidated controller information
  • NetApp storage systems and backup jobs added to vCenter inventory
  • Streamlined VSC wizards following vCenter “style”
  • More right-click actions (on a host to set NetApp recommended settings or to install the NFS VAAI plugin, on a VM/datastore to add it to an existing backup job, and on a clone parent VM to redeploy clones)
  • Backup jobs/backups as related objects for VMs/datastores

The second phase of the VSC 5.0 Beta is targeted to be published in a few weeks, and will add policy-based Management:

  • VASA Provider for cDOT
  • Policy-based datastore provisioning

VASA Provider for clustered Data ONTAP

  • Policy-based datastore provisioning

If you have any feedback, please feel free to comment on this post or elsewhere on the NetApp Communities site. Happy ‘bug-hunting’ and I’ll see you back again here real soon!

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NetApp Content Pack for VMware vCenter Log Insight

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Today I’d like to share the annoucement of NetApp’s Data ONTAP Content Pack for VMware vCenter Log Insight. As some of you may know, Log Insight offers the ability to automate log management using analytics, aggregation and search.

The NetApp Data ONTAP content pack allows users to take advantage of NetApp-specific metrics to provide insight into the performance and operations of your storage infrastructure. You’ll gain the ability to perform root cause analysis and troubleshoot your entire VMware environment on NetApp storage from a single interface.

The NetApp Data ONTAP Content Pack for VMware vCenter Log Insight provides the following:

  • A set of read-only dashboards
  • 15 pre-defined fields containing data extracted from clustered Data ONTAP logs
  • Several pre-defined queries
  • Alerts using the NetApp Event Management System (EMS), which is provided with Data ONTAP.

While VMware delivers a content pack for VMware-related information, the NetApp Content Pack is custom-designed by NetApp to provide information specific to NetApp. When used with Log Insight, the NetApp Content Pack provides monitoring and analysis of NetApp clustered Data ONTAP logs.

The NetApp Content Pack is absolutely free and can be downloaded from the VMware Solution Exchange here.

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For more information on the NetApp Content Pack for vCenter Log Insight, click here.

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