VMWORLD 2016 NetApp founder Dave Hitz has apologised to a VMworld 2016 audience for being slow to produce proper flash arrays.
In a session on the future of storage he shared with SolidFire founder Dave Wright, Hitz said that work on Clustered ONTAP had consumed more resources and time than the company anticipated, leaving it short of personnel to design flashy kit. Once ONTAP was done, NetApp was able to throw more people at Flash.
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“We were late to market,” he admitted, but feels the company has managed to emerge from the delay in decent shape. 85 per cent of ONTAP sales last quarter were clustered, he said. “That is pretty far along. That is enough to say we are mostly done.”
He's therefore pleased that despite starting late, NetApp to claim the number two slot in recent analysts' assessments of flash array sales, behind only EMC.
Hitz is also happy that Solidfire gives NetApp a way to sell to people “who f*cking hate storage”, a line he said he borrowed from Wright.
Wright did not protest he'd been traduced and said “People who run virtualisation are all over the details of storage.” Hitz chimed in: “People who buy SolidFire say they don't want to hear all of this stuff about storage.”
Hitz continued by saying he now thinks of SolidFire and NetApp as representing the smartphone generation vs. the PC generation.“I love my smartphone,” he said, saying that while he can edit Word documents on that device, “I still do lots of important work on my laptop.”
The NetApp founder also revealed the genesis of the decision to acquire SolidFire came in a lost sale. Hitz recounted how a vice president of sales at NetApp confidently predicted an imminent meeting would cap a long pursuit of a cable operator and result in a substantial purchase order. Instead the meeting resulted in that sales veep heading to Google to learn about SolidFire and how it was possible for the upstart to topple the top-tier storage player.
That experience led Hitz and NetApp to consider the emerging class of buyer – usually folks concerned with application development, not infrastructure - that have little no interest in the nuances of storage, but wants a pool of it that's easy to manage and scale.
Hitz thinks there's a transition on in storage from traditional scale-up arrays to scale-out kit and that the shift is seismic along the lines of the move from Mainframe to Unix or minicomputers to PCs and client/server. While the prospect of that shift makes ONTAP engineers “throw up in their mouths a little bit”, the founder thinks that selling both types of storage can't hurt NetApp because it can now address two distinct markets. ®