back to article Could NetApp buy SolidFire? It would be outside its comfort zone

So, let me just throw this thought out there – could NetApp buy SolidFire? And if it did, why? Why on earth would NetApp, after scarring and singeing its hands with FlashRay, want to stick its fingers right back in the flash fire? Much safer, surely, to stay in its comfort zone with all-flash HAS and all-flash EF arrays. You …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh what times...

    Given industry whispers... this is a done deal, unless something big changes. However, the one big player that I'm sure would be poking around these parts that wasn't mentioned = Oracle. They will stir the pot in this space at some point, I imagine.

    Hard to keep track...

    EMC = Xtrem hand played, attention now turning DSSD from science project to solution

    Pure Storage = going gangbusters until profits matter more than new logo acquisition

    IBM = true-blue accounts doing well with TMS, still look lost in storage otherwise

    Hitachi = strong transaction flash on VSPs, might need something smaller and 'dedupier'

    HP = 3Par its clear play, not sure they could spell anything else anyway

    Dell = meh, worried about keeping EMC lasso'd

    NetApp needed a life preserver, SolidFire looks like a flashy one - question is, does it excel at the same stuff FAS excels/excelled at, just in Flash form and can it transition to core IT apps? Hmm...

    Cisco still smarting from Whiptail. Would have thought SolidFire a good fit. Interesting. Maybe a Tegile? A Nimble? (Nimble will feel pain from a SolidFire/NTAP combo.) Dunno.

    Oracle will want in. Maybe Kaminario (fast, if not proven out) or Violin (for pennies on the dollar)?

    My cowardly $0.02... what a space.

  2. Wobble1


    SolidFire has some great capabilities in QoS for sure hence how they resonate in the SP market but I do not see it threatening NetApp with its flash capability.

    It is mentioned that NetApp isn't making progress in "cloud provision-style IT shops" - Chris what are you referring to here, please elaborate? NetApp has QoS, API presentation for orchestrators, automation, multi-tenancy, and scale-out too and has had an enormous uptake by service providers and enterprises looking to become service providers to their business. Software-defined and management/monitoring capabilities with OnCommand Insight is there too.

    Its had a tough few years for ONTAP due to the transition but its integration into multiple ecosystems is unparalleled. NetApp are the biggest vendor contributor to OpenStack and you cannot deny it's capabilities with its integration into apps. Building a strategy around an OS (CDOT) that A) Can deliver on scale, availability and speed, B) Can operate in numerous deployment models (On-prem, AWS appliance) is not a bad thing..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: wut?

      "NetApp are the biggest vendor contributor"??????

      Go to - NetApp isn't even in the top 10 of vendor contributors.

    2. MityDK

      Re: wut?

      "Its had a tough few years for ONTAP due to the transition but its integration into multiple ecosystems is unparalleled."

      Stop drinking the kool aid brother, NetApp has had more than a few tough years with NTAP and it's integration USED to be unparalleled, but they sat around for years on their laurels and now are really a legacy player, they are not driving innovation into any spaces for years now.

      The main area where they are completely dead in the water is in their all flash array offerings. Santricity has no value in the enterprise, and AFF is simply not performant or scalable enough when compared to the industry leaders and visionaries.

      1. Wobble1

        Re: wut?

        Check out things like OCI, SDS and cloud integration (Data Fabric). AFF is just one part of the NetApp story. Plenty of innovation, its just this website only seems to focus on IOPs...

  3. Lynrd

    Thats a shame

    Solidfire is an interesting product and technology. They entered the AFA market early with a differentiated approach - its a rough market and a couple others have sucked all the air out of the room for an IPO. So they go the acquisition route by a company with a tremendously poor track record for acquired technology and a horribly fragmented sales and marketing approach to anything that is not ONTAP.

    In my opinion, this sounds more like a PumpnDump rumor to try to get NTAP stock a boost, (like the one a couple months ago about Cisco acquiring Nimble) since their sales performance sure won't be doing it. It would be a shame for the guys who have gotten SolidFire this far to have to exit with a NTAP acquisition.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thats a shame

      I don't think anyone would expect NetApp's stock to go up if they were to spend $1 Billion on a startup. Doesn't usually work that way. In fact, NetApp's stock is down today, presumably based on this widespread rumor.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NetApp acquiring SF? Keep dreaming

    Not much else to say other than SF ain't gonna make it.

    Hey listen...If NetApp takes a system that uses iSCSI redirection with front-end FC gateways to their Enterprise customers they WILL laugh. OK?

    SF was build for Service Providers and iSCSI. It was built as a horse and then they decided to make it a fucking Camel by adding Fibre Channel.

    It's a joke at the Enterprise Level.

    End of Story

    1. MityDK

      Re: NetApp acquiring SF? Keep dreaming

      "It's a joke at the Enterprise Level."

      This, exactly this.

      And that's not something they can fix, it's a fundamental part of their architecture and would require them building an all new product. Just look at how they handle metadata per node, or access to the primary LUN, or MPIO, or node failover, or iSCSI throughput limitations, etc etc.. it's just not really enterprise gear.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't see it. They are still investing in FlashRay and a "real" version with HA is supposed to be out soon.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If NetApp were to acquire anybody, maybe they should acquire Nimble.

    Nimble is so cheap right now, even NetApp could afford them. According to their Oct 30 balance sheet, NetApp is sitting on almost $2.2 billion in cash and cash equivalents. Nimble's market cap is only about $818 million, and about $200 million of that is cash.

    There's also plenty of former NetApp people already there, including Suresh himself. They could probably just slip right in to the NetApp culture. As far as technology, it's decent hybrid kit, and with an AFA rumored to be on the horizon, might fill some holes for NetApp and finally get them away from being so ONTAP centric. And with Nimble trying to break into the enterprise, maybe NetApp could help in that regard.

    Of course, it could also be like tying two rocks together and expecting them to float, but who knows. Stranger things have happened.

    1. MityDK

      Why in the world would NetApp acquire a technology that is essentially exactly what they already have had for years and years?

      Pretty sure NetApp was the original hybrid vendor, with their PAM cards or Flash Cache read caching in flash and NVRAM handling writes in memory, with HDD to persist the data.

      Nimble's I/O handling architecture is almost identical to NetApp in many ways and they really bring no value add to what NetApp is offering today.

      What they did better was selling a block system with CASL that worked great as a hybrid at a fraction of the cost of NetApp, eliminated the utter BS licensing scams that NetApp was inflicting on their customers, and implemented a super clean, easy to use GUI with a great management program, proactive wellness or Infosight as they call it now I suppose.

      NetApp's block efficiencies sucked and still suck because of WAFL, their software was insanely expensive, maintenance renewals were highway robbery, their GUI wasn't easy to use, and they had no proactive management of the array.

      If NetApp acquires Nimble, what do they get out of the deal? An array that functions basically just like their current hardware does, with unportable and incompatible software and management features, and oh by the way, doesn't support NAS protocols. What they need is a super fast all flash array that they can bring under their NTAP / CDOT feature/management layer to provide performance/scalability their hardware can't do, while still giving their customers all the rich feature sets that NTAP has provided for years, not the other way around.

      Nimble doesn't seem like a great fit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Exactly. This would just result in customer confusion and sales strife. They fit in the exact same spot within the enterprise data center.

      2. bitpushr

        Please tell me more about the supposed "block inefficiencies" of NetApp. #rolleyes

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are no more storage IPO's

    There is a lot of pain coming to the startup storage market. Even with Netapps failures they still have a significant customer base to draw from, taking a decent all flash player that has a design that isn't legacy based is a smart move on their part. The hybrid arrays all making the move to flash, will struggle because their original price point and SMB focus will not transition well to the real enterprise. The likes of Tegile/Tintri/Coho have no legit way to reach escape velocity and the VC money will dry up soon enough. Pure was able to go that route simply because they had enough capital and marketing ability to fool wall street into thinking they were not as horrible as Violin. Say goodbye to Compellant and Equallogic as well, no way EMC lets those dated players stick around. Nimble is done as well, they feasted enough to get their VC's paid, but their limited design makes them Violin 2.0.

    The only route to exit for the storage companies today is acquisition. And as bad as Netapps record has been, I dont see them trying to shove the solidfire stuff into NTAP.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NetApp needs to do something

    AFF is being marketed as being the Hero product of NetApp. In reality customers know they just added some lipstick to an aging architecture that the industry has moved on from.

    Nimble and others have eaten their traditional market because Flashpools is more of a bandaid for NetApp controllers that are typically CPU bound.

    They were too late to the Flash Market, originally it was all about the EF series, then it moved to Flashray being the white hope(internal fighting between Flashray and OnTap hereos screwed that hope) and now it is all flash FAS.

    Seeing AFF in the field and watching NetApp tell customers about its glowing features and then one by one the caveats come out to play.

    While Solidfire makes an ok product, it would make a laughingstock of guys like Lee Caswell and Matt Watts who continually sit by the tyres of the NetApp bike ready to add air to a tyre with a permanent puncture

    1. ZenaB

      Re: NetApp needs to do something

      What caveats are you aware of? We've got 2x AFF arrays and haven't come across any..

    2. Mr.Nobody

      Re: NetApp needs to do something

      Yes, do tell AC - what are the caveats?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NetApp needs to do something


        1. It's CDOT, just with Flash Drives

        2. It's CDOT and the only other option is EF, just with Flash Drives

        3. It's CDOT and the only option is CDOT

        4. too much $$$ has been sunk into CDOT and Flashray

        1. Mr.Nobody

          Re: NetApp needs to do something

          Those don't seem like caveats. CDOT with flash drives? I am trying to see the downside of it.

          If you don't like CDOT, go buy something from another vendor, but there are a lot of benefits to CDOT that are not available from other vendors (Built in NAS, replication, dedupe, interoperabillity with other FAS platforms, inter-pair clustering). Some of these might be available, but not all of them in one product.

          I, for one, can't understand why NetApp would buy Solidfire.

        2. Bcraig

          Re: NetApp needs to do something

          That's FUD, not technical reasoning..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: NetApp needs to do something

            Here's some technical reasoning by example:

            Hypervisors have always struggled with certain VM's hogging resources, negatively affecting other VM's. In particular this has been apoarent for storage. On the server the Hypervisor has pretty good control over CPU and Memory, but shared storage lies somewhat beyond the hypervisors influence.

            The reason is that the storage array which is fully packed with features operates similar to a hypervisor. Like the duck analogy the storage array is paddling like crazy in the background(under the water) while tryng to look cool and calm to the hypervisor (above water).

            The problem with Storage operating systems that have lots of features is that they become unpredictable, dragging the hypervisor or storage consumer under water too. Similar to a resource hog in the hypervisor world, there are resource hogs in Data Ontap. Netapp has had twenty years to tame resource hogs in Data Ontap to make the OS a bit more predictable. Reality is that they are still struggling and the more features you enable the more unpredictable the whole infrastructure becomes - all the way up to the application.

            Once you understand this behaviour you realise that the "swiss army knife" argument becomes worthless. You can't use all the features and have a predictable environment. The money you save on buying the all-in-one solution, will be paid in overtime for your storage admin.

            A lot of energy has been spent to take advantage of multithreading capabilities in The controllers CPU. Too little energy has been spent on new features. That's why NetApp consider performance improvements "innovation".

            1. Afrojazz

              Re: NetApp needs to do something

              The funny thing that with flash storage every company became "king of performance". And after all that hype with big performance of flash customers need functionality and reliability. And NetApp is known for their functionality and reliability. They made quite impressive work with ONTAP to deliver consistent low latency performance with AFF. So just take AFF, test it and compare with other vendors.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NetApp needs to do something

      Can someone explain what Lee Caswell does? NetApp's solutions and services marketing has been a train wreck.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given Netapp's track record...

    ...they'll spend 10 years to "integrate" the technology.

    3 years for marketing to come up with a new name, change it several times to confuse the customers.

    A lifetime to get over it...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NetApp To Make $1.2 Billion Bid For SolidFire: Sources

    stop the press...

    who wants to speculate now?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NetApp To Make $1.2 Billion Bid For SolidFire: Sources

      Speculate about what? Another article speculating?

      1. chris coreline

        Re: NetApp To Make $1.2 Billion Bid For SolidFire: Sources

        give you good odds its 'source' is this article. :P

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a done deal!

    Looks like Chris had the upper hand and laughed his way through all those Kool Aid drinking contest to see who was most blue.

    The one thing I see from this Acquisition is the following:

    Name one Acquisition where NetApp was successful at ramping up their products as a main line, just one will be sufficient. Justin case, I will give those here a list to pick from:










    LSI Enginio


    For one, the talk of the town in NetApp is, if it aint WAFL, don't eat it. So feel for all those Solidfire customer.

    On the other hand, how will SolidFire fit into the NetApp culture? Their go to market is about the same for current NetApp, woo you on PowerPoint then let the PS team bring you back to reality, but then there is the margin thing. Solid fire is a company that has build a business model going after service provider at very low margins, yet keeping their operational cost LOW (something NetApp is not able to do.) and with a T&C model of post sales (capacity guarantees and the such) that has been a nightmare for NetApp, so it will be interesting to see how that goes, specially understanding the history of NetApp in M&A.

    Now, I'm a customer I have have to decide, if I own SolidFire today (far and few between), did I buy into a dead end solution with the purchase of NetApp? If I'm a NetApp customer, what do I do? Chose a new technology that has ZERO portably to the SW infrastructure of the Netapp Ecosystem? Do I throw out my cDOT system ASAP and move to SolidFire?

    You see, it's a toss up, but either side of the coin aint pretty... All I'm saying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a done deal!

      You're forgetting Steelstore/AltaVault, but I guess the jury is still out on that one.... Seems to me Spinnaker has made it into the main product line; heck, it kinda is the main product line now. However, I'll give you most of the others. Bytecast/Storagegrid is still a main product line, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it killed off in the near future. I doubt E-Series is going away, though. And while, at least as I read the financials, NTAP hasn't increased E-Series hardware revenue (in fact, I think E-Series hardware revenue has been around the same 750 mil per year since ATT owned them), now that a big chunk of those sales are 'branded', NTAP now charges substantial software 'capacity management' surcharge fees on them (as it does for FAS) and therefore could claim to have increased E-Series 'sales' quite a bit (by charging big software fees for something the OEMs always gave away for free.) NTAP financials are too byzantine for me to put a number on how much that 'capacity management' surcharge revenue is, but it would seem like pure profit-thus I don't see them killing it anytime soon. Even so, Solidfire seems more like Bytecast than E-Series or Spinnaker. It doesn't come attached to a decades long revenue stream that they can add a pure profit surcharge to, or seem all that amenable to cDOT integration.

  12. davebarnes


    The F-86 Sabre which is depicted did not have an afterburner.

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