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Could NetApp's purchase of SolidFire see the end of ONTAP?

A Clarion call

Comment NetApp has finally bitten the bullet and bought an AFA vendor, plumping for the technology-driven SolidFire as opposed to some of the marketing-driven competitors in the space.

At less than a billion dollars, it appears to be a very good deal for NetApp and perhaps with an ever-decreasing number of suitors, it is a good deal for SolidFire, which now avoids the long march to an IPO.

Obviously, the whole deal will be painted as complementary to NetApp’s current product set, but many will hope that SolidFire will (long-term) supplant the long-in-the-tooth ONTAP. NetApp needs to swallow its pride and move on.

It can’t do this immediately. It needs work and it is not yet a solution for unstructured data. However, putting data services on top of it should not be a massive task as long as that is what NetApp decides to do ... and doesn't decide to try to integrate it with ONTAP.

NetApp can’t afford another decade of engineering faff! Funnily enough though, Fibre Channel is seen as a relatively weak point for SolidFire, but where have we heard that before?

This could be as big a deal for NetApp as EMC’s acquisition of Data General in 1999; the purchase brought some great engineers as well as a business that turned into a cash-cow. It allowed EMC to move into a different space and gave it options, and probably helped the company while it was dealing with the Symmetrix line.

And whilst EMC/Dell are integrating themselves, NetApp has a decent opportunity to steal a march on its rivals, especially if it takes a light touch and continues to allow SolidFire to act as if an engineering-led start-up.

I still have my doubts whether a storage-focused behemoth can actually survive long-term as data centres change and buying behaviours alter. But for the time being, NetApp has an interesting product again.

Interesting times for friends at both companies. By the way, does anyone want to buy a pair of SolidFire socks? Might be a nice last-minute Christmas present. ®

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