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back to article NetApp comes up trumps with fat annual profit

NetApp vindicated its middle-of-the-road virtualisation and cloud service provider stance with a sixfold increase in annual profits. The company is sticking to a core unified storage strategy, avoiding extensions of its product line into extreme scale-out NAS like Isilon, high-end enterprise storage like Symmetrix, or low-end …

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WTF?

Not glamorous???

They may not be glamorous compared to the marketing hype from others... but they work glamorously and NTAP has glamorous profits.

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Pint

define Glamorous?

We all notice the person who walks in a room making their presence felt, we may even enjoy their company and spend fun time with them - but do we take them home to keep in a long term relationship?

NetApp has been 'getting it right' for years, the joke is IBM who have access to the product are incapable of using it to their advantage.

I will enjoy my beer while they keep my shop running.

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Thumb Up

Good on NetApp

More customers should be realising that the overpriced Jurassic big iron crap the other vendors are flogging is not a solution, just another problem.

NetApp deliver a lovely ratio of

disk : crap that isn't disk

and don't make stupid claims about availability that can't be substantiated despite the price being 10X what it should. I hope they continue to thrive, they are one of the few storage companies that make revenue by delivering a decent product that does what customers actually need instead of making overpriced crap and then buying all their sales people supercars and yachts when they manage to trick customers into buying it.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't believe their hype

Have you compared NetApp pricing to comparable competitive stuff lately? I'm assuming not if you consider NetApp to not be over-priced in comparison. NetApp is typically one of the more expensive mid-range solutions, definitely one of the more complex, and probably the most 'Jurassic'. Every development that NetApp makes is to get around an inherent problem in its' design. It is having to live now with decisions that were made in 1992, when it was designed as a very different product aimed at a very different market.

As for 'shouting the loudest' - NetApp marketing is one of the most in your face in the industry, and certainly the most mis-leading with all their capacity guarantees, and crazy claims. Try meeting the criteria for the guarantees ... I bet you can't.

But enjoy your beer whilst NetApp keeps your shop running, just don't forget to run your defrag! Oh and make sure you don't run out of space for your snaps!

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Pirate

@Don't beleive(sic) their Hype

I don't run out of space for snaps, defrag(reorg) is scheduled. My beer is still cold and refreshing.

I first used NetApp in 1996, and EMC symmetrix in 1997, StorageWorks from Digital/Compaq/HP since 1993 and worked for DG when Clariion was first announced.

I have made a living from competing in the market with ALL the major storage vendors in my portfolio, and sometimes have had to install, integrate and support systems which were not my first recomendation for financial, political or inertia to change reasons.

However I would be delighted if you could articulate what the 'inherent problem in its' design' is that NetApp has. Just because you may disagree on design does not count - what exactly is broken?

If this is too difficult I will assume it is an inherent problem in your capacity to work it out.

Stand by for boarding

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Well it's a file server for starters ...

One of the main inherent problems is that it was originally designed to be a low end file server, which I will accept it is very good at. However, it was not designed to be a high end fibre channel array! It was also designed to initially operate in a write dominant world, hence WAFL is highly optimised for writes. But it genuinely isn't so well suited to read heavy workloads. It does slow down as it fills up. It's clustering really isn't that clever. The dedupe is free for a reason. And so on. NetApp are very good at some things but I think their marketing lets them down by claiming to be all things to all men. I'm a decent soccer player but that doesn't make me a great all round sportsman!

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Anonymous Coward

File server?

Quote: "One of the main inherent problems is that it was originally designed to be a low end file server, which I will accept it is very good at. However, "

it was not designed to be a high end fibre channel array!

- So? Does it work as FC SAN, or are you throwing 16 year old assumptions as FUD? Customer references appears to indicate that it actually works.

It was also designed to initially operate in a write dominant world, hence WAFL is highly optimised for writes.

- So? Your assumption is that a file server originated as a write dominant product. Despite every general purpose file service ever shows a pattern of store-once and never change for 95% of the files stored? If you are right, even then 16 years ago Netapp must have gotten it all wrong.

But it genuinely isn't so well suited to read heavy workloads.

- So? Systems of today are +1000x the capacity of the systems of 1994. Still, it works? And it performs well? What's the problem? What's your claim?

It does slow down as it fills up.

- So? If it works decently, even when it is full or near full. Then what is the problem?

It's clustering really isn't that clever.

- So? If it works well enough for some of the biggest companies around - It may just be good enough?

The dedupe is free for a reason.

- Why? You don't think the ability to store significantly less data represents any value to customers?

And so on. NetApp are very good at some things but I think their marketing lets them down by claiming to be all things to all men. I'm a decent soccer player but that doesn't make me a great all round sportsman!

- Well, maybe you are right and it makes sense to invest lots and lots in different incompatible systems, learn how to manage different incompatible systems and don't do thin provision without cave-eats, don't do smart and space-efficient clones, don't do snapshots to enable a quick restore - and store the same data in many many copies.

.... Or maybe the over-marketed fileserver of significant age is just good enough and presents a fair value for the buck?

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Pirate

@Man Mountain

Well that was pretty weak, but at least you started with youir prejudicial assumption "Well it's a file server for starters ...".

So lets try to have a proper go.

NetApp designed from day one to be a storage device - go look at all the components that are storage oriented versus those that are server oriented - and I will remind you that originally NAS meant Network Attached STORAGE not server. So what was required -

RAID protected disks

battery backed up cache

simple controller code without the ability to run external applications

management that only covered allocating space and access, not that used the data itself.

The big design difference was that that netApp chose to relocate the metadata responsibility of the file system from servers to the storage. And no it was not designed to be low end - even today it outperforms server based file systems by a big margin. Scale out clusters are however another area and we were contrasting EMC which does not do that either.

Secondly the systems have enjoyed 18 years of development, and Dave Hitz and others are on record about how well the basic design of the system lent itself to development, often to their delight and surprise. There are no penalties for serendipity.

No it is not the best in neverything it does, and there are a multitude of edge cases where a particular product is better in some respect. But there is no other single product which covers such a large section of market requirement with the same level of performance, protection and reliability, let alone versatility.

Are there weaknesses?. of course - but funnily enough some of those you mention are exactly that - and are not relevant in all cases, or easily managed.

" it was originally designed to be a low end file server, which I will accept it is very good at" as you must since the highest demand users from WETA/Industrial Light and Magic through Yahoo choose them first.

"WAFL is highly optimised for writes" correct - so it is weaker on sequential read (only if the file has been repeatedly modified and fragmented), excellent on random read (wide stripe plus greater time allocation to reading), standard on sequential write and excellent on random write.

"But it genuinely isn't so well suited to read heavy workloads. It does slow down as it fills up" depends on what you refer to - seq read agreed to above - the point being that it starts at a faster level than the competition - see http://blogs.netapp.com/shadeofblue/2008/10/finding-a-pair.html and really look at the graph.

I agree the clustering is not that clever - and for a SAN implementation rather clunky

"The dedupe is free for a reason" is really dismissive without any credibility - it works wonders for some applications and does little for others - granted, and you get it without any extra cost is a bad thing?

So what has emerged each time is repetitive banging on about how bad they are and must be avoided because of some particular behaviour or feature which is not as perfect as you would like it to be - so would I, but which you do not offer a better single solution.

So this is a call out - put something forward that you will defend as better all round

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Standard NetApp responses!

You're right, I probably can't put forward a single solution that can claim to be better 'all round'. But that is because most manufacturers accept that storage isn't a one size fits all, 'the answers a filer, what's the question' type discussion. NetApp has a great message, I know cos I have sold it all be it with a different badge on it, and the answer to just about any question is yes! Yes it can! But would you want to is a different question. Or is it a good idea to? The way we sold it was very different to the way NetApp sold it and that was because we had other things on the truck. We didn't need to shoe horn it into requirements that it wasn't best suited to and we didn't need to brush over its' flaws.

In a FC SAN environment, it really isn't that well suited. If your FC environment is a small part of your overall infrastructure then you might be prepared to live with that but if you're looking for a FC storage array then NetApp should not be your first choice. You need to over allocate disk capacity, deduping a LUN doesn't save any disk space, etc. So yes it will work, but is it the best solution or even necessarily a good solution?

It does slow down as it fills up - fact. And this can be considerable depending upon And from a fairly low level of utilisation. And it doesn't start at a higher level of performance than the competition at all - it is typically sized up front to take into account the performance degredation - therefore you have to buy a lot more iron up front than with some competitive solutions.

The second to last posters responses are all based around the idea that 'it might still be good enough' for some customers. And I agree, there are some customers out there for whom the NetApp messaging and solution is perfect. But I'd argue that they are a lot less than NetApp claim and that there are plenty of customers out there learning to live with weaknesses that weren't initially made apparent. The 'NetApp' by another name was dead easy to sell ... but we had so many customer problems and that was despite us being slightly more conservative in how we positioned it. I do love the way that NetApp employees and the small number of satisfied clients aggressively jump to its' defense though!

If you really think its' good enough and represents 'fair value for the buck' then I suggest you shop around!

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