back to article NetApp's customers resisting Clustered ONTAP transition

Customer resistance to complex Clustered ONTAP migrations caused a slowdown in hardware sales at NetApp, with revenues clearly shrinking. Fiscal 2015 fourth-quarter revenues declined 6.6 per cent year-on-year from $1.65bn to $1.54bn. Net income was $135m, down from $197m (32 per cent). The full-year revenues told the same …

  1. unredeemed

    In the real world and not what a CEO says to appease investors, NetApp has been in a decline for years. The startup hybrid arrays like Nimble have been eating their lunch. EMC has taken their share, and sweetened the deals with VPLEX to make migrations easy, Of course there are the Pure's of the world and Tegile but those are isolated cases and workloads.

    Where I used to battle NetApp and lose to features. I'm beating them for not being a scaleable product, or the whole story of ONTAP for storage and backup/DR is falling apart at scale; and products like Commvault/EMC/Veeam/ec are taking share minimizing the need for more expensive disk and snapshot space.

    Perhaps NetApp should buy a backup software company to better round out their portfolio...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The last thing netapps need to do is bungle yet another acquisition.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If EMC is taking NetApp's market share from them, why isn't EMC's market share growing?

  2. klaxhu

    epic fail

    from what ex netapp-ers are telling me, the values there have faded long ago and people went to all kind of different startups. once you lose you good people, its AMIN.

    we will remember netapp filers like we remember compact discs nowdays (and use them: the same, whenever when the cloud it's down)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CDOT fail

    The failure in migration to CDOT is typical NetApp: not only there is no direct upgrade path from 7-mode to CDOT, but CDOT breaks feature compatibility with 7-mode so that you cannot, for example, SnapMirror from a 7-mode filer to a CDOT filer, meaning that a company which upgrades interoperating filers must upgrade them all at once or stop using that feature, in which case the NetApp advantage is diminished. What I observe is that NetApp still has some cool technology, but they aren't able to deliver either the cutting-edge performance and features of new players nor the polish and complete portfolio of certain large three-initial companies.

    1. John Stoffel

      Re: CDOT fail

      I'm in the middle of a 7-mode to cDOT transition, and it's not easy. But... once you've made it, the benefits really are there. It's just that the cost of the storage is still way too high. And for simple NFS only file shares, the new cDOT is *much* more complex and harder to do the simple things.

      But don't get me wrong, this is the transition they needed to make, they just should have made it five years ago, and done it with more of a break IMHO, so that they could really encourage people to move.

      Now you can snapmirror volumes from 7-mode to cDOT, it's not impossible like one of the posters said. Is it simple? Yes. Do you run into problems? Yes. I tried doing this over a WAN link and we ended up having to stop it because of major problems with volumes locking up. But for short term quick copies/migrations, it does work. And it might also be that the newer version we're on will have fixed those issues.

      The other big issue which has been fixed with cDOT 8.3 is that you do NOT need to dedicate entire disks to the root aggregate and volume any more, they now spread that across multiple disk using that magic technology... partitions! This fixes a major issue lotso f people had, that on small systems, you lost alot of disk to core OS overhead. It's still not perfect, but it's better.

      So on the whole, I'm happy with cDOT and I really like how I can setup virtial filers for seperate groups and consolidate stuff and yet not worry about someone bringing down other groups when they screw something up on thier Virtual Filer (SVM). It's liberating, sorta like early VMware/Xen/KVM was. IT's still rought around the edges, but it's getting more polished all the time.

      Now they just need to bring down the price so as to encourage sales so they can amortize their sunk costs across as big a base as possible. Really, they can do this, it will just take time. And they need to in some ways also simplify their offerings and work hard to provide value again. Stop trying to be everything to everyone, just provide the best NFS/CIFS/iSCSI/FC storage they can, with emphasis on the first two like in the past.

      1. zbmwzm3

        Re: CDOT fail

        Waiting for sync snapmirror in CDOT. Need it because we run a true active/active at multiple sites. Since we can't do that now we are just stuck in 7-mode. Not sure if there is any one else in this situation but if Netapp supports synchronous snapmirror in C-DOT I think it will help sales. I personally like C-DOT, but yes it's definitely more complicated to setup than a 7-mode system.

        1. smanohar

          Re: CDOT fail

          With the new CDOT release, it is much better and on par with the features that 7 mode provided. You should give it another thought. Just checkout! It has most features and much more.

        2. MityDK

          Re: CDOT fail

          Sounds like you guys are migrating TO a 4 year old legacy array. That's the problem right there. CDOT is not ONTAP, and it's not simple, not easy and not elegant. CDOT's big features? Federated move+manage. Extremely compelling tech about 5 years ago--today.. not so much.

          1. bitpushr

            Re: CDOT fail

            cDOT's big feature isn't "federated move and manage". Rather, I would argue that the big feature is "non-disruptive operations at scale". You can move volumes while serving data. You can move aggregates while serving data. You can add & remove nodes while serving data. You can add & remove network interfaces while serving data. You can upgrade node hardware while serving data. Hell, you can even upgrade & downgrade Data ONTAP while serving data!

            Nobody else can do this today. And certainly nobody could do this 5 years ago, either.

            Disclaimer: I am a NetApp employee

  4. mikidutzaa

    Don't forget about support

    Lately the quality of their tech support went down, way down. That's why people aren't buying it anymore (besides high price and CDOT).

    I went to Compellent and never looked back - Copilot is real support.

  5. RollTide14

    I think there are a ton of factors in play right now that are hurting NetApp's revenues but I don't think the "migration" from 7Mode to CDOT is one of them. Look at EMC over the past 5 years in terms of migration paths (CX - VNX - VNX2 - Xtremio)....everyone one of those required a disruptive migration.

    There are just more players in the market these days. Looking back a few years there were really only a handful of players in "Enterprise" Storage. EMC, HDS, NetApp (and maybe add HP to the mix). Now youve got the same players as before + the Pure's & Nimbles of the world + the Nutanix's of the World + the cloud. You've got 10X the competition fighting for the same $$$$.

    Nobody is doing well in the storage space. EMC has gotten a few shiny new products to try and sell but they are struggling (VMAX & VNX business is down big time and Xtremio is not making up the difference) and their QoQ revenues have declined. They can do a much better job hiding the decline with other products. HP is struggling as a company. No clue how HDS is doing.

    As far as all the startups like Nimble & Nutanix? Nimble is growing at a decent clip, but as they should be....they do like $200M a year in revenue. If these are prime growth years for them they should be growing 75% y/y

    As a former NetApp sales rep I can say that the people that had our technology (CDOT) loved it. When we got a chance to compete for the business we usually won, but since our sales staff is so depleted we didn't get a ton of chances. I competed against 20+ EMC reps heck Nimble had more sales reps in our area than we did. The $200M company had more reps than the $6B one.........think about that.

    I still think they've got great technology. There leadership team just needs to figure out what they want to do and if they can't do that then they need to go.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NetApp has a point about cloud storage taking their business

    But I bet they are losing more to converged players (Cisco?) and the gaggle of sub $500 million revenue storage companies out there.

    1. rugby01

      Re: NetApp has a point about cloud storage taking their business

      You have a great point here. NetApp partnered with AWS to provide a virtual filer in the cloud, and removed the entire market to force customers to build local in-house clouds with NetApp hardware. Not the smartest move to show customers they could host their storage in a cheap and easy cloud. When I was at EMC we had the Virtual Data Domain up and running for years, but management know a virtual DD device would pull a ton of $$$ away from hardware sales and the product was never released to the public, until this EMC world. Sorry EMC, you must have new management that likes losing revenue too.

  7. petersonmercy

    Revenue down because prices are down.

    We have 6 cDOT clusters (6280s, 6290s, 80x0s). I don't think cDOT is harder to use than 7-mode, quiet the contrary. The issue is that cDOT is radically different than 7-mode and there is a steep learning curve. Also, some of the tools like performance monitoring are immature.

    Regarding migrations: Most of our migrations have been done using either some type of volume manager (ASM, AIX LVM) or VMware svMotion, all with no outage. We haven't moved our NAS shares from 7-mode yet, but that may turn out to be a little bit more complex, but still simpler than moving shares from Celerra to Netapp. 7MTT tool seems to work as advertised in my limited tests. I'd like to hear about tools for migrating CIFS shares and NFS exports without incurring an outage that work well, cost being a factor of course.

  8. JohnDomar

    In Denial

    Seems to me that NetApp has forgotten what its core business was. Denying the growth in on site competitors offering cheaper, easier to manage systems would be short sighted, if they hadn't been doing it for years. I'm currently using NetApp and can't afford to replace it with new NetApp with similar features as the migration costs are just uneconomical for me. I'll be looking at one of the hybrid alternatives, which are cheaper and easier to maintain, or just investing in lots of cheaper disk to increase my i/o through spindle count. Don't get me wrong I love NetApp its rock solid, its just too expensive.

  9. Mark Burgess

    The storage market is very tough for everyone

    The market is incredibly competitive, on top of that you have customers leveraging the cloud and also sweating their assets for longer - the net result is all the major vendors core products are down on revenue.

    With regard to price I think it is absolutely true that NetApp was too expensive, but this was due to the lack of competition. I think you would say the same about the other four big players (EMC, HP, IBM and HDS).

    This is no longer sustainable and I think NetApp has responded with significantly better value for money solutions - take a look at for some examples.

    I also think NetApp are in a decent place regarding cDOT as they have now finally "killed off" 7-mode.

    Is there another storage platform out their that can match the capabilities of FAS? I don't think so, but I would be pleased to be proved wrong.

    Comparing EMC's mid-market portfolio to FAS does not look good for EMC - I even wrote a blog about it at

    Is FAS perfect? Absolutely not, there is huge room for improvement, but I still think it is better than anything else out there when it comes to its range of capabilities.

    1. klaxhu

      Re: The storage market is very tough for everyone

      that is not the point. yes, the tech is great, but many companies with great products died or are on their way out because they could not look into the future a bit, or even worse, look around in the present!

      take blockbuster, blackberry, nokia and the list can continue. they ALL had great products, remember ?:)

  10. Bcraig

    Netapp pricing

    Middle of June I hear that price will never be a factor in Netapp losing deals. Now if they can rebuild the sales force!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netapp pricing

      There are several issues

      1) Significant Data Migration pain with customers having to pay for it

      2) Licensing costs

      3) Management complexity. ONTAP has many many features *but* it also has several layers one has to configure, manage and monitor. You certainly need the appropriate skill set to do it although the technology is very good. It's just too damn complex.

      4) netapp partners are having to constantly design around limitations and various rules. They have gotten tired of it especially with many available options around them these days

      5) Lack of good management software. You may start at the UI and end up at the CLI to finish a task.

      6) No good way to troubleshoot performance on this system. You need a PhD to figure out where things have gone wrong. Why do I need to always take a perfstat? We don't have time for this. Show us where the problems are, tell us what to do.

      If you have an army of knowledgeable storage guys clustered ontap is very powerful but If you don't you'll spend more time managing it than you need to. It can be like driving a car without headlights at midnight.

      1. Mark Burgess

        Re: Netapp pricing

        Clearly cDOT is a powerful product that I think most people on this thread seem to agree has a greater range of capabilities than anything else available. Therefore it is never going to win a contest as the simplest storage platform to deploy - if you want that deploy E-Series which is clearly designed to be the polar opposite of FAS.

        Also it sounds to me like some of your comments are based on legacy technology rather than the latest versions (i.e. 7MTT is free and so is Performance Manager, and costs have come down from what I have seen).

        What do you mean by "design around limitations and various rules"?

        It is very easy to criticise the likes of NetApp, but who do you think is doing a better job in storage, both technically and commercially?

        I do not think you can count the start-ups as they have a fraction of the turnover of NetApp and they do not make a profit from what I see (i.e. they are subsidised by VCs).

        EMC is the commercial leader, but outside of the enterprise market (i.e. with VMAX and Isilon) I struggle to see how they have a better technology story than NetApp and talk about complex as every requirement has to have its own product - to do what FAS does you would need VNX, Isilon, XtremIO, Data Domain and Avamar/NetWorker - suddenly FAS is actually looking pretty easy to deploy/manage and cost-effective.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Netapp pricing

          Ok so let me explain myself further

          1) 7MTT maybe free but you need a "Transition Team" and pay for the migration because customers are not doing it.

          2) E-series is simple but lacks usable features. Usable in the sense that the tradeoffs one can make are not severe. This is not the case with E-series. It maybe simple to use, but snapshots, thin provisioning and caching capabilities are terrible.

          3) Why do I need to install Performance Manager? Why do I need to dedicate a VM which I have to manage and then I also need Unified Manager which I also have to manage? Why can't netapp provide me with performance stats on the native UI or collect all that info in regular intervals and give access and analysis via AutoSupport?

          4) Limitations? I shouldn't mix SAS or SSD with SATA on the same node because perf with take a hit due to different watermarks. I can use Advanced Data Partitioning on the FAS2500 series with HDDs but I can't on the 8000 series. I can use SnapManager for Exchange with RDMs or physical disks, but I can't with VMFS/VMDKs. If i want Metrocluster with 8.3 I need to decide upfront because I can't simply convert an existing 8.3 system to metrocluster without data migration. Again! I have many more to list. I'm not saying they are the only ones with limitations but certainly the number of "gotchas" with Clustered ONTAP has increased exponentially to the point that people are simply tired.

          Some of us criticize NetApp simply because we expect much better from them. For sure Clustered ONTAP is much more capable OS than anything else but at the current state it is simply a Pain in the Ass, from a deployment, management and day to day operations perspective. Never mind that the cost of the solution is unrealistic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Netapp pricing

            You can't use VMDKs for Exchange databases because Microsoft says you can't. Their requirements for visualized storage are here:

            No storage vendors are mentioned: not NetApp, not EMC, not Hitachi, not HP.

            You can't use VMDKs but you can use VHDs. It's not storage-specific, it's hypervisor-specific. One can only imagine that Microsoft learned this trick from Oracle!

            1. ZenaB

              Re: Netapp pricing

              That page says no such thing - it gives examples for hyperv and doesn't days the list is exclusive. The only thing MS say for Exchange is that it's not supported on an NFS data store, for unspecified reasons..

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Netapp pricing

                Unspecified reasons? Think for a moment which is the largest virtualization platform out there.. and has used NFS datastores since version 2.5 (I think)... it rhymes with "BSX" :-)

  11. dikrek

    The limitations you mention are either not there or rapidly going away

    Hi all, Dimitris from NetApp here (

    Technology evolves at a rapid clip - and ONTAP more rapidly than most think.

    Think about it - we have needed a disruptive upgrade only TWICE since 1992 (TradVols->FlexVols, and 7mode->cDOT). Yet we allow full hardware re-use and don't force customers to buy all new stuff. It's not like a 7-mode system can't be re-initialized and join a cDOT cluster... :)

    Other vendors force major migrations and hardware swaps upon customers every 3-5 years and XtremIO needed TWO destructive upgrades the past year alone. And most startups are too new - will their architecture stand the test of time so much that they need 2 disruptive upgrades or less in over 20 years? Really?

    Puts things in perspective a bit.

    To adress your points:

    1. 7MTT is absolutely available for use by customers now, no PS or transition team needed.

    2. E-Series is indeed not designed to make heavy use of the fancy capabilities - it's more an easy, fast, reliable I/O engine.

    3. Look at the built-in GUI in ONTAP 8.3. Stats are there. We also DO provide performance stats via AutoSupport.

    4. Exchange SnapManager needing RDMs: This is a Microsoft-imposed limitation. For SQL for instance we can use SMSQL even if the SQL VM is running on an NFS data store... :)

    For the rest of the "limitations" - there are best practices and then there are true limitations. Don't confuse the two please.

    ONTAP is still the most flexible storage OS by far. Does it do EVERYTHING? Nothing does. But it deals with more data center problems than any other storage OS extant today. Simple fact.



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The limitations you mention are either not there or rapidly going away

      Hi Dimutris,

      I have been a Netapp user, 7 mode, for many years and in my quest to move to Clustered ONTAP (I have an 8060 HA system) I was given a data migration quote for my entire environment for file and my luns. This happened less than a month ago. I was also told that a netapp transition team will have to be engaged. So for whom is the free? It wasn't for me.

      Did you know that your largest competitor, EMC, migrated their xtremeio customers for free? If you're going cause me pain you need to eat the cost. I'm sure you know this, but data migration is not a fun exercise for distributed environments like ours and let me tell you something else. I have 23 systems in remote locations replicating centrally a lot of critical data, where do I start without losing the ability to replicate? Do you see my pain here? Capex pain, and operational pain.

      I'm using netapp already Dimitris and have seen the GUI. Do I have per LUN stats, per flexvol stats, cache hits etc? Where is that located in the native GUI? We're running 8.3 on our 8060.

      The Exchange problem is not a microsoft limitation. Per netapp support It is a problem between the netapp VSS provider and the vmware one. SQL Server is using a different backup method via the virtual disk interface.

      Ontap is surely flexible but it is also very complex with subpar management tools. One can make the argument there are worse things I could be managing, however, I have made the choice to use netapp, for 11 years and things have gotten worse from a management viewpoint while the product complexity has increased exponentially with clustered ontap.

      You are right netapp hasn't caused many migrations over the last 20 years. Trad to Flex, 7 mode to Clustered Ontap. That's certainly a better record that a few others.

      That said, I can't convert my existing 8060 which already runs Clustered Ontap to a Clustered Ontap Metrocluster without data migration can I? I was told I couldn't do it because it would require yet another data migration. Don't really understand the reasoning, however, I don't really care. We just don't like to deal with migrations. I'm sure I'm not alone.

      Have I told you how much I hate perfstat? I think I've mentioned it before somewhere in this thread. I hate perfstat! It's 2015, an intelligent storage system should make it easy on the administrator to access performance data. In fact, it should analyze that data itself. You should not be asking your customers to run perfstat. It kinda defeats the purpose of sending autosupports.

      Some of us are getting tired guys. Really, really tired...


      1. dikrek

        Re: The limitations you mention are either not there or rapidly going away

        With 8.3 7MTT is free to use by customers. You don't NEED migration services but maybe your account team felt it would help. Point them my way if you want. Actually feel free to contact me. Plus I can't discuss any roadmap items in this type of forum.

        EMC had to migrate XtremIO customers for free because they had TWO destructive upgrades in 1 year for a new product. Plus they can do it since there's a tiny number of XtremIO deployed vs ONTAP, VMAX or VNX. Not a lot of resources needed to do it.

        They won't migrate the huge numbers of VMAX or VNX customers for free...

        But there are some new developments and we will be making migrations a lot less expensive going forward.

        8.3 has more performance stats in the GUI than previous releases and future releases will bring even more. In the meantime you can use OPM (free).

        I double-checked and the Exchange integration requiring RDMs or physical LUNs has to do with how Microsoft does Exchange VSS integration vs how SQL does it (VDS). It does require Microsoft to make some changes.

        At the moment you can't flip a switch and convert a FAS to a MetroCluster - MetroCluster is far more than just sync replication and needs some extra hardware in order to be set up.

        About perfstats - that tool goes far deeper than any normal performance monitoring program. For general performance stuff it's not really needed but I have to admit our support wants one for every case it seems since it captures so much stuff. I can talk to you about that once you reach out.



        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The limitations you mention are either not there or rapidly going away

          D, There it is right there, if you are arguing with a customer, that's fail right there. It's the attitude that has customers running, basically patching your way through life cycle of the product, little innovation moving forward, sad to see all this happen to a once great company with a once great product.

          Yes, I get your passion D, but look how the "Moose Drive" issue was handled, mute communication from affected customers while some hotshot was swinging his (lets say golf club) in Vagas and in Hawaii. But what do you expect from a company that it's culture is built around YLF shirts, and "You see the money you take the money" form a customer prospective, not to mention on stage VP of sales saying, "I don't feel sorry for these guys" after the massive layoffs two year ago, thats culture and that's sorry to see happen.

          Yup, it was a cool product, but now it's expensive to run with a huge Professional Service practice around a one product company (Yes I know there are other product, but still in single digit % of the overall business.) See that, proof point it's not simple. And lets just say that support is more like walking through customs on a unannounced flight into Pyongyang.

          Get the picture?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The limitations you mention are either not there or rapidly going away

        EMC didn't migrate your data for free, unless their Professional Services people who did the migrations are volunteers. They simply built the cost of your migration into the cost of the hardware that they sold you.

        Public companies with shareholders and activist board members don't give something for nothing. They just move the money behind on the back-end and show you a cost of $0 of the quote or purchase order. But as Milton Friedman said, "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

  12. Bcraig

    Data migration can be a b!tch no matter if it's EMC, Netapp, Pure, whatever....not sure why Netapp should get a bad rap for those pains. Having said that, most of our customers are VMWare shops and we just migrate using Storage vMotion with no pain. The handful of RDM's we just migrate using 7MTT or other methods. In most instances the customer takes over once we test a few VM migrations. Again, breaking replication pairs and reseeding are not a unique issue with Netapp.

    Now the management piece we can agree on, long overdue for an overhaul. I have 15 years of Netapp exposure so it seem logical to me, but to the newcomer I can see where it could be daunting. It should be easier, maybe "mask" a lot of the complexity of CDOT for the customers that don't need it?

  13. Cloud 9

    Here's the bit I don't quite follow ..

    Georgens: "It is unlikely that customers will adopt competitive technologies that have fewer features and require even more complex migrations when compared with clustered ONTAP."

    If the alternative does the bare minimum, is cheaper and flies like shit off a stick - trust me, they will adopt the competitor.

    1. dikrek

      Re: Here's the bit I don't quite follow ..

      you honestly think that's how people buy stuff?

      1. Cloud 9

        Re: Here's the bit I don't quite follow ..

        Over simplified? Yes.

        Further from the truth than "People won't budge because they don't want to lose bells and whistles" ?? Not really.

        This statement assumes that companies and their practices have evolved with the product rather than away from it. What do you think? Are people still intent on doing things at the infrastructure tier or are they perhaps solving problems in the hypervisor or in software these days? What matters if it's the latter? Bells and whistles or price & performance?

        Like it or not, people will evaluate their options if they face a change. The 7 to CDOT transition is not comparable to the Trad to Flexvol switch. Why? Because the market and the quality of the competition 10 years ago were entirely different. NetApp were still fresh and WAFL felt unique. Now they're fighting a war on multiple fronts and customers have a wide range of credible options to chose from.

  14. Liger

    Intellectually dishonest

    The exec position just seems flat wrong. Startups are taking up the slack; cloud is a smokescreen.

    Pure + Nimble + Nutanix + one or two others represent about $1B in revenue not captured by existing array vendors last year. They're growing like weeds. The idea that Georgens doesn't see this means he's covering for NetApp's inability to adapt fast enough -- or else he's incompetent. Or both.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022