It’s the middle of summer. While for some that means time for a well-needed vacation, for those of us in the enterprise storage industry, it means that VMworld is just around the corner. Over the past few years, VMworld has become the premier multi-vendor storage industry event. While there is some debate on whether that status may be up for grabs over the next few years, VMworld still serves as an opportunity to take stock of the latest in storage innovations and capture a glimpse of how storage vendors' strategies are progressing with their customers.
One reason why VMworld has become such a powerful event for the storage industry is that it seems like nearly every storage solution can and does serve virtualized environments. Fibre Channel, iSCSI, NAS, all-flash, hybrid, scale-out, scale-up, software–defined storage, converged, and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) all can and do serve virtualized environments. And I didn’t even get into cloud. This presents an interesting challenge for storage vendors. It was not too long ago that the external storage market was essentially just SAN and NAS, each had a specific function with very little overlap. While differentiation still exists, the overlap in terms of the types of workloads these storage technologies can address is tremendous. So the question is: with so many options to essentially deliver the same thing, a safe place to keep and access your data, how do storage vendors separate their offerings and themselves from the other players in the industry?
For storage vendors that focus on one or two types of storage technology, the overlap is less of an issue. These companies often just focus on the chosen technology. Larger vendors, however, have been embracing broader storage portfolio variety while seemingly trying to have one (or more than one) of each type of technology, while simultaneously driving a strategic conversation based on larger cloud or workload-based messages. The challenge for these larger players, of course, is the in-between, the gap between the application and the infrastructure. How does the resulting technology portfolio actually get the infrastructure buyer from where they are now to where they want to be?
And for VMworld, I am very curious in seeing the progress of two companies in particular, HPE and NetApp. Both of these companies have filled out their storage portfolios recently, while adding innovation focused on delivering hybrid cloud infrastructure. So for NetApp and HPE, the cloud is more than just talk, but how much more, and how do their newly augmented portfolios resonate with their customers?
In the past year, HPE’s acquired Nimble and SimpliVity, adding these technologies to 3PAR as well as MSA. Each of these solutions is differentiated from the others (especially with SimpliVity being an HCI offering), but each also serves the virtualization space. How is that overlap evolving since the acquisition(s)? And on solving the complexity between the application and the infrastructure, Nimble’s “app data gap” message highlights that the entire data path matters. Delivering the hybrid cloud, however, extends beyond just the data path and HPE has innovation in this area. And as such, VMworld provides an excellent opportunity to see how HPE positions these solutions in light of whatever announcements VMware shares at VMworld.
In a similar fashion, NetApp has broadened its portfolio with a recently announced HCI solution offering. This augments a portfolio that already features a number of all-flash solutions with the acquisition of SolidFire over a year ago. Additionally, innovations such as NetApp’s ONTAP Cloud Data Management software strengthen NetApp’s cloud story. VMworld provides an opportunity to see how these innovations are coalescing.
Given HPE and NetApp recent movements and releases, both companies are evolving their storage stories, and I for one am very interested in seeing how these stories progress in August.
As the storage industry converges on VMworld, HPE and NetApp are poised to make noise.