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Is Nexenta exposing a vast core storage market vulnerability?

Pretty soon a small crack can become a gaping chasm

Comment Nexenta CEO and evangelist Tarkan Maner has talked about potentially displacing double-digit petabytes of NetApp storage at a global net giant.

He mentions that SAP has an RFP (a "request for proposal"; essentially a solicitation from a body interested in buying something) out to move 74PB of secondary storage off EMC and NetApp arrays onto cheaper Supermicro storage boxes.

The University of Toronto is moving most of its storage onto commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and Nexenta software – three times cheaper than its legacy storage and representing $9m in OPEX savings over five years.

Then there's Wipro, Cox Communications, a Turkish bank, Hyundai running its global car-connected cloud on Nexenta, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and many more customer wins.

Are these just individual straws blown up and around in the standard storage array refresh cycle, or is there something deeper, more substantial going on?

Maner thinks there is, but he would, wouldn't he? He has a business to grow and investors to please.

That said, his business actually is growing. "Q1 and Q2 were great," Maner said. "It was our best first half ever; 50 per cent year-on-year growth. We're backend loaded and the plan is 100 per cent year-on-year growth for the full year."

It has more than 6,000 customers and passed 1,200PB (yes, that's 1.2 exabytes) figure under management by its software products.

We hear of a mainstream system vendor using Nexenta software and COTS hardware for storing its backup data because the in-house products were too expensive.

Just imagine if companies such as SAP really are looking to save tens of millions of dollars by moving secondary data, the vast bulk of their stored data estate, off EMC, NetApp, HDS, HP, etc. arrays and onto Supermicro-type hardware and Nexenta software. I know, I know, it's a cliche to talk about tipping points and paradigm shifts, but ...

No way, rubbish, unrealistic, alarmist, the traditional vendors will say.

And yet, mainstream monolithic and dual-controller array sales are trending down; witness EMC, IBM and NetApp's results. These arrays are under sustained technology and marketing attacks from faster all-flash arrays, newer hybrid arrays, software-only storage, hyper-converged infrastructure appliances, and of course the public cloud.

Proliferating copies of primary data are being addressed by Actifo, Catalogic and Delphix. Fast-access primary data is moving (a) to flash and, (b) to flash in servers and not arrays, leaving the bulk storage of secondary, copy-type data, backup and online reference data on shared storage arrays.

Maner is hearing from CEOs and CIOs that mainstream arrays are just too expensive for it, and that Nexenta's storage software-only approach opens their doors to cheap white box Supermicro/Quanta-type storage that is plenty good enough for the need.

It's not that Nexenta offers a radically superior storage technology, merely it's as good as, generally, the storage software from mainstream vendors. As for the hardware, nobody can pretend that Supermicro hardware is inferior in any meaningful sense to HP or Cisco or whoever's branded server tech, not for this storage job.

Just ask why SAP-level CEOs and CIOs buy storage from firms such as IBM, EMC and NetApp for their petabyte-level secondary storage needs. It's faith in the product and supplier as much as cost justifications. If these people really are thinking that Nexenta/Supermicro-class storage is perfectly adequate for their needs and will save them tens of millions of dollars, then they will switch.

You read that correctly.

They will switch their multi-million annual storage spend away from legacy vendors towards Nexenta/Supermicro-type vendors. Tens of billions of dollars of storage spend suddenly looks vulnerable to change.

I agree, this really is alarmist and "out there", and surely I must be smoking something strong to say it – but remember the Dam Busters? Bouncing bombs skipping across the waters of dammed-up lakes to explode underwater by the dam, crack it so the water pressure behind blows it apart, and sends the waters roaring down the valley.

Could Nexenta/Supermicro-class storage be the bouncing bomb skipping across the enterprise data lakes?



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