Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Does XIV spell the end for the IBM/Netapp relationship?

There's been a lot of talk recently about the position in the market for Nextra, IBMs disk storage product, acquired with the purchase of XIV at the beginning of the year. I've been mulling it over and I have to say it creates a dichotomy for me.

On the one hand I see some of the technology benefits like the ability to write across all disks in a storage array so that no one disk is the hot spot for write I/O [didn't StorageTek effectively do this with the Iceberg system and in a RAID-5 configuration to boot?]. There's no doubting the performance benefits of distributing writes across as many spindles as possible, but at the expense of only providing RAID-1? I can only assume that either a new RAID paradigm from IBM is imminent or there's going to be some other magic which tells us why we don't need to write two full blocks of data.

That leads to the second part of my cogitation; what exactly is the business benefit of the Nextra? How will IBM pitch it against EMC/HDS/3par/Pillar and most relevant, Netapp?

Tony Pearson's blog entry from 2nd January, he states:

"However, this box was designed for unstructured content, like medical images, music, videos, Web pages, and other discrete files"

Does that mean Nextra's market positioning is in direct competition to Netapp? Surely not! If so, how will IBM determine which product (N-series or Nextra) should be pitched at a customer looking to provide infrastructure to support unstructured data? Netapp would win every time as it holds all the feature cards in its hand.

I'm sure I'm missing something that IBM have spotted with XIV. A little birdie tells me that there will be official product announcements imminently. Perhaps then there will be some light at the end of the tunnel.


Mark said...

I've said this on Tony's blog and I'll say it again. As soon as Moshe can add NAS interface modules to that backend he will.

The EMC way under Moshe was the kill all internal competion. As for partners or OEM relationships, not a chance.

NetApp aren't a competitor to IBM sales so long as they don't step into IBM accounts. I've been in IBM accounts where they have SVC handling block storage with V-Series offering NAS using LUNs provided from SVC.

To the XIV salesforce, built from Ex-EMC Moshe worshippers (Of which I was one) every OEM product in the IBM portfolio is their direct competitor.

The company doesn't matter, the box and the idea behind the box does. These were people who aimed all their firepower at Clariion after EMC bought DG in an attempt to destroy it. Thankfully we lost that fight or there would be no EMC today.

SVC will survive as it's the only successful storage product IBM have had in nearly 15 years but everything else is fair game.

I'd be looking to take the LSI out first. DS8000 is relegated to Mainframe so it's not a long term threat and *then* I'd turn my guns on NetApp.

Moshe has hated NetApp a lot longer than he's hated EMC.

Chris M Evans said...


Very honest comments...

Rob said...

"There's no doubting the performance benefits of distributing writes across as many spindles as possible, but at the expense of only providing RAID-1?"

At first blush, "RAID-1 only" looks like a chink in the architecture. I think they are well positioned for follow-on 10 TByte and 100 TByte drives. Triple-mirrored becomes a standard option at some point as it will take a long time to rebuild at that point.

With much larger drives capacity pissing wars fade into EMC's XIV marketing miasma cloud. The vulnerability during rebuild fades also.

Of course I'm projecting. But triple-mirror seems like a no-brainer of an option (if not a standard).

Open Systems Guy said...

The impression I got from the pre-release chat I had with the IBM marketing people working on the XIV launch was that they are more involved in solidifying the existing business than they are about counting beans and comparing internal market share.

You have to understand- XIV was a small startup before the acquisition, and they are going to have growing pain in spades if they try to service IBM's (or Netapp's) market without the support backbone to hold them up. There's only so big you can get with a startup's resources.