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Enrico Signoretti

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By | Enrico Signoretti 18th December 2015 09:29

Cisco needs to get off its backside if it's to remain storage king in 2016

Look, guys, you know I said I wouldn't do predictions? Err...

As unbelievable as it may sound, Cisco could be the most decisive vendor next year when it comes to the storage market.

Every year I tell myself I won’t fall into the “fortune telling” trap again… but then I can’t refrain and I eventually write something about what I think we will be seeing in the near future anyway.

The hyper-converged market will change drastically

The Springpath situation is quite curious. Some pundits have been saying that Cisco has a strong interest in acquiring Springpath. I don’t know whether or not this is true, but if so it would put many startups in a very delicate position.

With NetApp more interested in buying Solidfire than playing in the hyper-convergence market, there aren’t many buyers left. Only a few vendors (Nutanix, and maybe Simplivity) could aspire to an IPO; for the others it’s only a dream. At the end of the day, in many cases, it’s hard to find a differentiator and most of the large vendors already have a solution in that space. HPE is one of the few that can potentially ditch its StoreVirtual VSA but I don’t know how long it will take it to recover from the HP Inc-HPE split and start thinking about strategic moves.

Primary storage: Cisco has to do something. Quickly

Dell-EMC is working to build the ultimate end-to-end infrastructure one stop shop. HPE, after the split, will be more focused than ever and already has all the infrastructure components involved in every IT infrastructure project. Both of them are working to cut any non-essential component, and it would seem that “services” is it for both of them.

Cisco completely lacks the storage part, doesn’t it? Springpath can be considered a part-solution, the first part maybe, of a much wider product portfolio that Cisco must build quickly and without stumbling like it did with Whiptail. In fact, when the rumour about the Solidfire acquisition came up, I thought about Cisco. But if it isn’t in the race to buy it, then it absolutely needs to find something else.

There is plenty to choose from out there and some of the options could come very cheaply; look at Violin for example, its market cap is just ridiculous. (It's $90m at the time of publication – Ed.)

More flash and trash

Non-volatile primary storage technology use is growing fast. NVMe over Fabrics will be ratified as a standard. This is not a prediction as we are almost there. It’s just a matter of time. Then high-end all-flash array systems will start adopting it. Even more, the first 3D Xpoint-based products are making their appearance in the second half of the year.

On the other hand S3 will be adopted by a larger number of enterprises of every size. This is thanks to on-premises object stores that can now start at a very few terabytes, public cloud acceptance, even in the most conservative European countries and by end users, and a growing number of gateways/connectors that leverage the S3 protocol.

This year we will see more primary-to-object storage integration. Solidfire started a while ago with the ability to save snapshots to an object store, others will follow the same path. For example NetApp is working on a feature to do that with SnapMirror/Vault and its StorageGRID.

At the same time, regarding the object storage market, there is a problem with the growing number of startups: I can’t see many of them surviving. HP has a reselling agreement with Scality, and all the other primary vendors, again, except Cisco, have options now. How many independent startup object storage vendors will be able to make a dent in this market?

Historically, object stores are ISP/cloud things but lately they have become more common in large enterprises. Moreover, a good part of the scale-out storage is commodity x86 hardware and good networking. (Psst – Cisco, isn’t this your comfort zone? Where are you?)

Closing the circle

2016 will be an interesting year for storage and IT infrastructure in general. And Cisco could either have an important role in it or start to become less relevant than in the past. Yes, it still has 60 per cent of data centre networking and a very good computing platform… but will it be enough to compete? HPE and EMC-Dell have less network appeal, for sure, but they have end-to-end solutions for everything.

Will Cisco in 2016 be able to build a credible storage group, make the right acquisition(s) and become credible as an end-to-end solution provider?

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