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By | Simon Sharwood 30th July 2015 01:29

NetApp sees IBM/Cisco VersaStack as 'huge' threat to FlexPod

Competitive intel docs leak to forums, reveal NetApp beaten by SolidFire for Cisco sale

NetApp has inadvertently leaked competitive intelligence documents to a community newsfeed, and the contents reveal it worries that IBM and Cisco's VersaStack will threaten its FlexPod business and that SolidFire has emerged as a threat.

Several documents penned by the “NetApp Competitive Advantage Team” have reached a public feed that The Register monitors. Most offer just links to documents on a site titled “fieldportal.netapp.com,” a name we'll guess denotes the content it bears is intended for consumption by NetApp staffers who work in the field, in customer-facing roles. Those documents appear not to be accessible to the public.

But some material did make it into the feed, notably a document titled “Cisco and IBM announce data center solution – VersaStack,” dated December 8th, 2014.

As we noted when Cisco and IBM launched VersaStack, the new collaboration looks a lot like Cisco and NetApp's FlexPods. NetApp thinks so too, as the document says:

Competitively, VersaStack has close similarities to NetApp's FlexPod solutions which also leverage Cisco's server and networking technologies. Cisco and IBM are huge Storage Giants and if they work out a selling motion and demand generation details, it can be a 'huge' threat to NetApp.

Additionally IBM will try to push VersaStack to their huge install base customers, which could eat up some shares of NetApp. VersaStack is a reference architecture which would enable IBM's sales force to reach out to their customers who are not only looking for Infrastructure solutions, but are also seeking IBM-centric solutions that complement to their existing IT infrastructure. Sales should be confident when talking to customers about the capabilities of FlexPod and its integrated solutions.

The document goes on to say that sales staff should point out that “Cisco is broadening their storage partner eco-system with IBM,” rather than freezing out NetApp. There's also lots of data to calm sales folk and customers alike, by noting “The growth and demand for FlexPod continues to grow, and after almost four years has generated $3 billion in joint sales and reached a $2 billion annualized demand run rate, with more than 5,000 shared customers.”

“NetApp looks forward to continued collaboration with Cisco to invest in FlexPod by adding to our almost 100 validated designs. The entry of new players validates the importance of this market, however this will not deter our focus of providing the most complete solution for the needs of the world's leading enterprise customers.”

Other pointers suggest letting would-be VersaStack buyers know that NetApp has a superior hybrid cloud story and that IBM looks to be aiming its new product at private clouds only. Sales folk are also urged to point out that NetApp's EVO:RAIL relationship with VMware means it has more converged infrastructure bases covered than IBM. NetApp's clearly trying to have its cake and eat it too: the document suggests the announcement of VersaStack will lead to fractures in Cisco's relationship with VMware in the VCE joint venture.

Losing to SolidFire, Tegile trashed

Another of the documents, “Field Notes on Tegile,” dismissed the company as a “me-too” offering.

“We have done snapshots for some time and have innovated this process to now include file level snapshots via sis clones that don’t have the limitations or overhead of volume level snapshots,” writes a staffer. “We have better vCenter integration thru VSC for end-to-end management of VMware environments and integration across the VMware product stack via better VAAI support.”

A third document, “What Attracts Customers to SolidFire?” says “We had a notable loss to SolidFire at Cisco CCS where form factor was one of the main reasons.” Cisco CCS is probably Cisco Cloud Services, the Borg's cloudy services caper. The analysis suggests SolidFire is focused on service providers, but is “gaining traction with enterprise customers in recent months.”

“They come-up quite a bit, but I am not sure if they have been very successful here.”

NetApp's forums have leaked this kind of stuff for years: in 2010, in another job, your correspondent was able to access a competitive intelligence database, a confidential quoting tool, and details of CSC's NetApp sales pipeline. The leaks have dried up in recent years and I supposed NetApp had closed whatever loophole it was that allowed material clearly meant for internal eyes to reach the public.

Those holes have either not been wholly closed, or new ones have opened. Either way, for a company that prides itself on securing its customers' data the longitudinal leaks are a lousy look. ®

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