Careful, the Sleeping Storage Giants are Awakening

Last week I spent a nice day in Boston that happened to also to be Halloween for an event with EMC’s executives. There was a general sense of fun in the air because of the Boston Red Sox’s World Series victory the night before as well as the fact that it was Halloween. It was during the EMC event that the light bulb went on for me – that all these storage guys are definitely not asleep at the wheel when it comes to cloud.

This week is OpenStack’s conference in Hong Kong and next week is Amazon’s annual event re: Invent in Las Vegas. There is a lot going on with both of these events that I’ll cover in another blog – so in contrast to what everyone else is writing about, I thought I’d talk about the big storage companies and what they are doing in the cloud.

NetApp: I posted a blog in the past few months about what NetApp is doing in the cloud which can be found how-netapp-is-conquering-the-cloud/index.html" target="_blank">here. What is really important in my mind about NetApp’s strategy is that they are adding more and more software functionality and as they do that, they are transforming Data Ontap into a platform – in fact, I’d say it's a cloud storage platform that includes some key data services for the cloud and it seems obvious that they would continue to add to the data services over time. NetApp continues to extend its data management capabilities that make it more valuable to the enterprise as part of a hybrid cloud solution. They have 3 years of heritage with FlexPod – an integrated platform for delivering virtualization and cloud workloads in a box. They have also strengthened their relationship with Cisco and recently with Citrix as well – not to mention their continued investment in OpenStack. The way I see it is they use important strategies to extend the FlexPod type of integrated platform to support multiple cloud platforms.

EMC: Though this is a company that once was very much in the specialized storage space, they definitely have, over time, added much more software capability in the mix. While some specialized array capabilities are needed for extreme workloads – the real changes I see happening are the move towards more software capabilities abstracted with virtualization and cloud capabilities built in. We all seem to forget this company spends more than $2B a year in R&D alone. It is no wonder EMC seems to be embracing the fact that they need to participate in all the cloud ecosystems. Their investments include AWS support in ViPR, Openstack contributions, and of course continued acceleration of VMware capabilities as well. As the ViPR capabilities continue to provide more data services capabilities (data protection, availability) and cloud storage management (AWS, OpenStack) – I think we’ll see EMC become a much more interesting cloud storage platform in the next year. People talk about AWS object stores like they are something new – and quite frankly, EMC has many petabytes of object storage in their customer base for around a decade now. This seems to be somewhat understated by them at times, but their ability to provide block, file, and object storage to customers has been going on for quite a while.

HDS: And HDS continues to do very well with their converged infrastructure as well as their own object storage offerings. They continue to be relevant and focused on virtualized and private cloud storage to their customers. Multi-tenancy, content management, and scale are all key design points that HDS has built into their platform to provide cloud storage services that fit many enterprise needs. Add to this their partnerships with all the key technology vendors and their investment in the open source community with OpenStack, and it isn’t hard to see how HDS is working toward continuing to be important to their customers who want to move to cloud services.

I think too many people have counted these great storage companies out of the running when it comes to the cloud, which I think is wrong. I see 2014 as a year that will bring some very important innovations and integrations with the cloud ecosystems that enterprises are going to invest in – because they will see a set of companies that have been listening to their customers and are adapting to the disruption in the marketplace. It is going to be a fun year next year – just like this one was – to see these giants continue to show they are wide awake as they deliver critical infrastructure with full cloud capabilities.

Topics: Cloud Services & Orchestration