Storage vendors that don’t look like storage vendors any more

Solidfire is cool. I reckon NetApp's got a hidden gem here

Comment Yesterday I was at the Solidfire Analyst day and this idea about the cloud-enabling vendor popped up just after a couple of hours of presentations and demos. The new licensing model, new features and also how the software works and is presented is unusual, not only from traditional storage vendors, but also from many storage startups.

From this point of view, and looking at the “good enough” AFF (all-flash array), the role of Solidfire in NetApp’s product family is even more defined and forward looking.

The news

What I liked the most is the new FlashForward licensing program. If I were you I’d pay special attention to this capacity-based licensing model, which makes it possible to buy software and hardware separately.

It adds a lot of flexibility and freedom of choice for end users and also for those (relatively) small customers who aren’t sure what will happen in the future regarding capacity/performance growth. This, again, is a sign of the spirit of the company, which wants to align storage acquisition/consumption to new cloud infrastructure models.

It’s all about cloud, after all

NetApp already has plenty of products to cover traditional storage markets. Yes, we all agree that this company needed a breath of fresh air and a stronger flash-based strategy/product (if nothing else, they needed it from the market perception standpoint). Even though NetApp has been showing less than brilliant financial results for a while now (but who has among primary vendors?), it’s plain to see their message is now much more diversified than in the past; for example, StoreGRID Object storage and AltaVault cloud-based VTL, among other products.

Excluding Ceph (and without counting how many times Ceph is deployed for non-production workloads only), Solidfire is very relevant when it comes to OpenStack storage. And, as far as I know, Solidfire is working hard to repeat this success with Docker, or containers in general.

Once again, what struck me the most during the day about Solidfire is that it is really trying to change its role from being a storage vendor to being a cloud-enabling vendor!

It’s not unusual now, but the fact that several presenters (especially during demos) mentioned that a storage admin is no longer needed to manage your storage resources is quite interesting. Policies, APIs, QoS and many other details can help you do it all from vCenter, scripts or whatever software can use SolidFire APIs.

The paradigm has changed drastically. Thanks to the introduction of Flash, IOPS and latency are less of an issue. Hence, capacity and resource management at scale are major concerns now. If you can do that granularly with QoS, VVOLs, APIs and so on, storage can be automated and management moved to the upper layer, contributing to overall infrastructure simplification and agility.

Closing the circle

The storage admin is dead. I’ve already told you that. But that’s not the point today... or, maybe it’s exactly that.

The number of innovative startups like Solidfire is growing like crazy. Different ideas? Yes. Different products and philosophies? Yes. But they are all storage vendors that don’t look like storage vendors anymore but enable the end-user to buy, deliver and consume storage in a much cloudier way.

They are working to make storage transparent and easy to consume from the upper layers of the stack – and without human intervention. Exactly as is happening for all other resources available in the data centre that are targeted towards the realisation of cloud infrastructures. Again, farewell to the “traditional” storage admin!


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