NetApp Sharpens SAN Focus

Leader in NAS, iSCSI markets continues to sell Fibre Channel SANs to the data center

November 7, 2006

4 Min Read
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Network Appliance is taking the next step in its quest to become more of an enterprise SAN player by expanding its midrange platform with the FAS3070, bridging the gap between the 3000 and high-end FAS6000 systems.

NetApp is also enhancing is software, with SRM and file virtualization applications through OEM partnerships and upgraded versions of SnapManager. It will officially announce the FAS3070 and new software Tuesday.

Like all of NetApp's FAS systems, the 3070 supports NAS as well as iSCSI and Fibre Channel SAN. And although NetApp is also rolling out a V3070 NAS gateway, it is clearly chasing the Fibre Channel SAN market with its new release. With 64-bit architecture, 16 Gbytes of cache, and support for 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, NetApp is positioning the FAS3070 as a system for large and medium database-intensive enterprises rather than looking for file services.

Patrick Rogers, NetApp VP of products and partners, says the FAS3070 is designed to trump the highest end midrange systems of its main SAN competitors -- EMC's CX3-80 and Hewlett-Packard's EVA 8000.

The FAS3070 is higher capacity than those systems, but Rogers says the biggest advantage is that NetApp's systems provide "a seamless upgrade" to the FAS6000. Because the systems run the same operating system and have the same architecture, customers can upgrade from the FAS3070 to the FAS6030 by swapping out controllers.EMC's midrange Clariion and high-end Symmetrix are different product families, and HP resells Hitachi Data System's TagmaStore for its high-end SAN platform. That means EMC and HP customers cannot upgrade from their midrange to the high-end systems without hardware and software replacements.

"I can't think of why any customer would want to start with a CX3-80 because there's nowhere to go," Rogers says. "We have an upgrade path, you have the freedom to expand. There's no need to rip, replace, and retrain your staff. There's no data reload required."

There's another way of looking at it: NetApp's highest end system, the FAS6070, doesn't scale nearly as high as competing systems from EMC and Hitachi's TagmaStore, which HP and Sun resell. So that might dampen the desire of NetApp customers to upgrade. (See NetApp Scales Up.)

The FAS3070 holds up to 504 drives and 252 Tbytes, which is more than the CX3-80 (480 drives, 240 Tbytes) and EVA 800 (240 drives, 120 Tbytes). But NetApp is playing catch-up against its main competitor in other areas. The FAS3070 is its first midrange system with 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel support, 16-Gbyte cache and 64-bit architecture. EMC has supported all three since it upgraded its Clariion platform in May. (See EMC Uncages 4-Gig Clariions.)

The FAS3070 isn't end-to-end 4-Gbit/s yet. It doesn't support 4-Gbit/s hard drives, although expects that support soon.Still, NetApp claims the FAS3000 series it launched last year and the FAS6000 has helped it make headway in large data centers, particularly with Fibre Channel SAN customers. (See NetApp Solid On SANs and NetApp: 'We're Winning'.) NetApp executives say they reeled in two $10 million-plus deals in the quarter that ended July, and that the percentage of customers with SAN connectivity is steadily growing.

According to IDC, NAS still made up 72 percent of NetApp's total revenue in the first half of this year, but that's down from 85 percent from 2004. In that span, Fibre Channel SAN revenue has gone from 8 percent of NetApp's business to 17 percent and iSCSI increased from 6 percent to 11 percent.

"We see NetApp continuing to make inroads to the data enter and gradually going deeper into the enterprise," says Brad Nisbet, IDC's program manager for storage systems. "While this is not purely based on the growth of their Fibre Channel business, it does serve as a good indicator."

Pricing for the FAS starts at around $115,000 for 1 Tbyte of capacity. It is generally available now. IBM is expected to add the system to its portfolio within 90 days as part of an OEM deal with NetApp.(See IBM Swings NetApp Gateway.)

Two of NetApp's software enhancements involved partners. It launched NetApp CommandCentral Storage by Symantec as part of an OEM deal announced in May. (See NetApp Brands Symantec SRM.) CommandCentral provides SRM for heterogenous SANs.NetApp also released the most recent versions of the Virtual File Manager (VFM) global namespace software it sells through an OEM deal with Brocade. VFM now has two editions -- VFM Enterprise Edition and VFM Migration Edition. Enterprise edition now supports UNIX as well as Windows. The new Migration edition is a lighter version of VFM that only handles migration of Windows files. NetApp has sold VFM since 2002 through an OEM deal with NuView, which Brocade acquired last March. (See NetApp OEMs NuView and Brocade Bags NuView.)

NetApp also enhanced its SnapManager for Exchange and Oracle applications used to take snapshots. NetApp added support for Exchange 2007 in SnapManager for Exchange, and enhanced SnapManager for Oracle to let customers clone production databases and added support for AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, and SUSE Linux operating systems.

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • Network Appliance Inc.

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