NetApp jumps into the hyperconverged infrastructure market
Four months after revealing plans to enter the hyperconverged infrastructure market, NetApp Inc. is officially joining the fray with a new system it’s touting as the “most far-reaching” innovation in its 25-year history.
The NetApp HCI is an appliance that offers up to 36 processing cores for running virtual machines and as much as 44 terabytes worth of effective flash capacity. According to the company, it’s based on a modular design that provides the ability to scale processing power separately from storage or vice versa, a feature not found in many alternatives. The other major selling point is the management software that ships with the system.
The storage component of NetApp HCI, the main highlight, is powered by the operating system that the company obtained through its $870 million acquisition of SolidFire Inc. in 2015. The software is responsible for providing scalability and other low-level functions, while file access is managed by an implementation of NetApp’s homegrown OnTap platform.
Rounding out the value proposition is a set of integrations designed to extend the appliance’s core capabilities. The most significant of the bunch is a plugin for VMware’s popular vCenter management software that lets administrators manage Netapp HCI deployments through its familiar interface. It’s joined by connectors for NetApp’s Data Fabric, a suite of products for moving data to and from the cloud.
The latter integrations are designed to help companies deal with information that the system might not be able to store efficiently on its local hardware. Companies can move data to Amazon S3 if it needs to be accessed in object form, archive old records in NetApp’s cloud-based AltaVault archiving service and pull them back on-premises when the situation calls for it.
NetApp HCI has the potential to open a lucrative revenue stream for the company. Despite some recent market consolidation, hyperconverged systems are seeing rapid uptake among enterprises seeking to eliminate the burden of separately managing their storage and server infrastructure. Entering this market could give NetApp a much-needed boost amid the growing pressure on its core array business, which is facing competition from not only traditional rivals such as Dell Technologies Inc. but also cloud providers.
How much the product will improve NetApp’s fortunes remains in doubt, though. “NetApp HCI should increase NetApp’s exposure to the high-growth hyperconverged market, which is still considerably fragmented, but competition could be heating up,” Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a note to clients today. “NetApp’s continued focus on strengthening its strategic portfolio is encouraging, but we expect intensifying competition, storage workloads increasingly moving to the public cloud and tough comps approaching to make the stock’s future appreciation potential more challenging.”
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