3PAR, NetApp Join Ranks

Customers asked for it, vendors say; but it could be a strategic move for both

June 6, 2007

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

3PAR has inked a deal with Network Appliance whereby the two will offer joint support agreements to customers who prefer to use 3PAR as the back end to NetApp's filers. (See 3PAR, NetApp Team Up.)

The agreement, unveiled today, assures customers of either vendor that 3PAR's InServ systems will interoperate with NetApp's V-Series 3000 and 6000. Either vendor will serve as a single point of support for both products. Connectivity between the units is Fibre Channel, though iSCSI can be attached to the NetApp gear.

The move is part of a trend toward joint support among leading vendors of block- and file-based storage. It mirrors similar deals that 3PAR has with Ibrix, OnStor, and Polyserve; that BlueArc has separately with HDS and LSI; and that NetApp has with EMC, Fujitsu, IBM, HDS, and HP. (See HDS Hikes High-End NAS, HDS, BlueArc in Big NAS Deal, and IBM Swings NetApp Gateway.) In all instances, the vendors involved are looking to meet customer demand for both SAN and NAS.

At least one analyst, who asked not to be named, thinks this latest deal underscores a big shift where NetApp's concerned. "I suspect this is more of a strategic alliance than a customer push," he says. "Jay Kidd's team at NetApp is expanding the relationships for the V-series to capture more market share. I know they are signing up a number of OEMs and strategic partners. From 3PAR's vantage point, this gives them a 'big' name partner to help them fend off EMC. Overall, I think it makes sense for both vendors."

Another analyst concurs with that assessment. "It shows that NetApp is open to listening and working with their customers even if it means putting their file gateway in front of other vendors' storage," says analyst Greg Schulz of the StorageIO consultancy.NetApp's real claim to fame lies in its filer head and software, not in the underlying storage systems, Schulz maintains, so it's no skin off NetApp's back. "For 3PAR it's a good win as well, as they add more support from multiple NAS gateway vendors to support their Fibre Channel and iSCSI block-based storage," he says.

Still, these kinds of arrangements are typically made to extend a supplier's customer base. And often, it's because the vendor either lacks the other technology or is weak in it. So does this reflect badly on NetApp, which, after all has its own SAN gear? (See NetApp Sharpens SAN Focus.)

"There's no question at all that NetApp has a strong presence in NAS. But it's not a given, when you talk to customers, that they'd automatically use one vendor's SAN because they use their NAS," says Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group consultancy. Customers are showing they don't mind being selective, even if it means having two storage vendors in the shop. And this move is evidence that NetApp recognizes that.

3PAR CEO David Scott isn't cutting NetApp any breaks, though. "This is a customer-driven alliance. We have a number of customers in financial services, government, and legal who chose 3PAR for block storage, thanks to scaleablity and other features, and have said, 'Look, NetApp, if you want to be part of our environment with file services, you'll have to support 3PAR on the back end.' "

Scott claims many joint customers insist on using 3PAR's thin provisioning and other storage features, though NetApp has its own roster.To this NetApp has the following response, from Brendon Howe, senior director and GM of the V-Series business unit at NetApp: "Regarding block services and thin provisioning, the NetApp V-series systems can provide both block and file services as well as thin provisioning for both. 3PAR provides block services only. It's certainly possible that the customer wants to use 3PAR for block services, but not a requirement. In fact, NetApp has several V-series customers with non 3PAR arrays that use NetApp for both in order to achieve a single approach to overall data management."

Despite this kind of back and forth, neither 3PAR nor NetApp will quantify how many customers are involved in joint accounts. The only customers offered for comment, Dan Grillo, senior director of hosting at Ariba Inc., which offers corporate spending analysis and consulting, is not using the joint support and was out of pocket at press time.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • BlueArc Corp.

  • World Cellular Information Service (WCIS)

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • Ibrix Inc.

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • ONStor Inc.

  • PolyServe Inc.

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Taneja Group

  • 3PAR Inc.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights