NetApp recently announced that it was acquiring Akorri, a small but highly regarded provider of management solutions for virtualized storage environments. All in all, this is yet another sign of the increasingly strategic importance of virtualized infrastructure and the need for existing players, regardless of how strong their positions are in their respective silos, to acquire additional tools and capabilities for management of an extended virtualized environment.
NetApp, while one of the strongest suppliers in the storage industry, not only faces continued pressure from not only EMC, which owns VMware and has been on a management software acquisition binge for years, but also renewed pressure from IBM and HP, who are increasingly tying their captive storage offerings into their own integrated virtualized infrastructure offerings. This tighter coupling of proprietary technology, while not explicitly disenfranchising external storage vendors, will still tighten the screws slightly and reduce the number of opportunities for NetApp to partner with them. Even Dell, long regarded as the laggard in high-end enterprise presence, has been ramping up its investment management and ability to deliver integrated infrastructure, including both the purchase of storage technology and a very clear signal with its run at 3Par and recent investments in companies such as Scalent (see my previous blog on Dell as an enterprise player and my colleague Andrew Reichman’s discussion of the 3Par acquisition) that it wants to go even further as a supplier of integrated infrastructure.
Fujitsu? Who? I recently attended Fujitsu’s global analyst conference in Boston, which gave me an opportunity to check in with the best kept secret in the North American market. Even Fujitsu execs admit that many people in this largest of IT markets think that Fujitsu has something to do with film, and few of us have ever seen a Fujitsu system installed in the US unless it was a POS system.
So what is the management of this global $50 Billion information and communications technology company, with a competitive portfolio of client, server and storage products and a global service and integration capability, going to do about its lack of presence in the world’s largest IT market? In a word, invest. Fujitsu’s management, judging from their history and what they have disclosed of their plans, intends to invest in the US over the next three to four years to consolidate their estimated $3 Billion in N. American business into a more manageable (simpler) set of operating companies, and to double down on hiring and selling into the N. American market. The fact that they have given themselves multiple years to do so is very indicative of what I have always thought of as Fujitsu’s greatest strength and one of their major weaknesses – they operate on Japanese time, so to speak. For an American company to undertake to build a presence over multiple years with seeming disregard for quarterly earnings would be almost unheard of, so Fujitsu’s management gets major kudos for that. On the other hand, years of observing them from a distance also leads me to believe that their approach to solving problems inherently lacks the sense of urgency of some of their competitors.
Historically, the positioning of Dell versus its two major competitors for high-value enterprise business, particularly where it involved complex services and the ability to deliver deeply integrated infrastructure and management stacks, has been as sort of an also ran. Competitors looked at Dell as a price spoiler and a channel for standard storage and networking offerings from its partners, not as a potential threat to the high-ground of being able to deliver complex integrated infrastructure solutions.
This comforting image of Dell as being a glorified box pusher appears to be coming to an end. When my colleague Andrew Reichman recently wrote about Dell’s attempted acquisition of 3Par, it made me take another look at Dell’s recent pattern of investments and the series of announcements they have made around delivering integrated infrastructure with a message and solution offering that looks like it is aimed squarely at HP and IBM's Virtual Fabric.
Every spring I’m faced with the wonderful opportunity – and challenge – of choosing the best questions for Forrester's annual 20 minute Web survey of commercial buyers of IT infrastructure and hardware across North America and Europe.
As technology industry strategists, what themes or hypotheses in IT infrastructure do you think we should focus on? What are the emerging topics with the potential for large, long term consequences, such as cloud computing, that you’d like to see survey data on? Please offer your suggestions in the comments below by May 21!
This year, I’m proposing the following focus areas for the survey:
New client system deployment strategies– virtual desktops, bring-your-own-PC, Win 7, smartphones, and tablets
Hypothesis: Early adopters are embracing virtual desktops and bring-your-own-PC, but the mainstream will proceed with standard Win 7 deployments
I talk with many IT professionals that are dismayed at how little backup and recovery has changed in the last ten years. Most IT organizations still run traditional weekly fulls and daily incremental backups, they still struggle to meet backup windows and to improve recovery capabilities, to improve backup and restore success rates and to keep up with data growth. Sure there have been some improvements — the shift to disk as the primary target for backup did improve backup and recovery performance, but it hasn't fundamentally changed backup operations or addressed the most basic backup challenges. Why hasn't disk dragged backup out of the dark ages? Well, disk alone can't address some of the underlying causes. Unfortunately, many IT organizations:
Yesterday IBM announced the availability of their new IBM Information Archive Appliance. The appliance replaces IBM’s DR550. The new appliance has significantly increased scale and performance because it’s built on IBM’s Global Parallel File System (GPFS), more interfaces (NAS and an API to Tivoli Storage Manager) and accepts information from multiple sources – IBM content management and archiving software and eventually 3rd party software. Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) is embedded in the appliance to provide automated tiered disk and tape storage as well as block-level deduplication. TSM’s block-level deduplication will reduce storage capacity requirements and its disk and tape management capabilities will let IT continue to leverage tape for long-term data retention. All these appliance subcomponents are transparent to the IT end user who manages the appliance – he or she just sees one console where they define collections and retention policies for those collections.
Storage-as-a-Service is relatively new. Today the main value proposition is as a cloud target for on-premise deployments of backup and archiving software. If you have a need to retain data for extended periods of time (1 year plus in most cases) tape is still the more cost effective option given it's low capital acquisition cost and removability. If you have long term data retention needs and you want to eliminate tape, that's where a cloud storage target comes in. Electronically vault that data to a storage-as-service provider who can store that data at cents per GB. You just can't beat the economies of scale these providers are able to achieve.
If you're a small business and you don't have the staff to implement and manage a backup solution or if you're an enterprise and you're looking for a PC backup or a remote office backup solution, I think it's worthwhile to compare the three year total cost of ownership of an on-premise solution versus backup-as-a-service.