Thursday, 15 April 2010

NotApp takes a byte of objects?

So NetApp have finally shown their cards with regards to their previous press noises on cloud & object storage, with their acquisition of Bycast Inc here

Now eager followers (it's legit to use plural as there are at least 2 of you!) will recall that I commented about NetApp and cloud storage last year here (NotApp or NetApp) and here (NetApp cloud or fog) - so of course I'm rather interested to follow-up and hear how @valb00 carries through with his statement on my blog comments from Aug 2009 of :-
"- Finally we come to the highly anticipated Object Storage question. Without pre-announcing anything, I will divulge that our solution will prove the value of Spinnaker’s scale-out excellence, particularly beyond NAS or even SAN/iSCSI configurations. Priorities of REST, XAM, SOAP and others are really interesting to us at the early (pre-standards) market phase"
I must admit to being a little disappointed by the announcement - much like @StorageBod, I had been allowed to gather the impression that they were much further along with their own internal object work. One assumption would be that what was being alluded to was a whole bag of empty :( Of course the another possibility is that the internal work is going fine and this is an stand-alone additional product line?

Either way, the timing of NotApp & ByCost gives me a wry smile given length of time between 'object strategy' PR statements to actually starting doing something.... (let alone the GA/GD date of the final solution)

Fundamentally I still have the same questions plus naturally some addition new ones :)

Clearly there are some of the obvious questions :-
  1. How quickly they make this a native capability of Ontap and not just a standalone product or a bolt-on gateway? (frankly I'm not taking bets on anything earlier than the GD release of v8.3??)
  2. What pricing model & cost they sell the tech at - the object model will not stand NetApp's traditional COGs, let alone combined COGs of NotApp plus Bycost
  3. How NetApp intends to handle Bycast as a company? As let's face it, NotApp's acquisition history isn't exactly great, and their software dev trains are rather muddled and overly complex right now
  4. How will NetApp manage to hold on to the people & desire fuelling the drive and innovation at Bycast? Especially when they faced with the monolithic wall of spaghetti code that OnTap must be by now...
  5. How much did NetApp pay for Bycast? and thus how much additional value do they need to return to their shareholders over what period of time?
But there are some other questions that come to mind as well :-
  1. Would I have purchased from Bycast before? no. Would I now via NetApp? don't know - far too early to understand
  2. What's the product costs and the combined/revised TCO model?
  3. How will NetApp position this pure software only model, that allows for felxibility with hardware (eg server reuse, DAS pricing models, capex risk mitigation with repurposing etc), against their normal hardware + software model?
  4. When will they include compatibility for the AWS S3 object APIs standard? As this is most definitely the de-factor standard that people are interested in right now..
  5. What will Netapp do for globally local deployment skills & support?
  6. "Is this too little too late?" @RandyBias asks here - interesting question! All depends on things like the API model, product cost, time to deliver real integration, where it fits in sales proposition, roadmap integration etc...
  7. How will NetApp build upon Bycast and what is their 18mth roadmap for the Bycast technology?
  8. What difference will being part of NetApp make to Bycast? and how will this improve their products and services?
  9. How will NotApp adapt the waffle maker to be able to efficiently cope with the metadata needed in an object platform?
  10. How does it relate to OnTap 8 distributed file-system mngt? is this helping in-fill minds, technology, issues in that space?
  11. Does NetApp have the suitable culture to be able to connect and deliver in this space? interesting... in the enterprise market for internal object stores - maybe... for the web 2.0 uber scale developer lead object stores then no... They certainly are not the driving culture innovator they once were, just look how hard EMC have fround this area with Atmush and the squillions of $s & good minds that they've poured into CIB & Atmush so far... (and that's a not too bad a product - some material API standards issues but mainly internal culture, sales & cost issues...). Now given that NetApp are nowadays more like EMC in the 90s than any other company I've ever met (ie complacent, out of touch, expensive, slow to react, storage only player, rhubarb for ears etc - but interestingly still better NAS than the rest) - how on earth wil NotApp's sales-force get their heads around selling something at much lower costs, higher value and address the margin cannibalisation directly?
  12. Will NetApp want to get into the IaaS/SaaS market directly by offering an object store service directly to compete with AWS & EMC etc? and if so how will they handle the 'competing with their own customer' bit?
  13. How will the competition react?
  14. Who will look to snap-up the other software only storage cloud players out there?
  15. Will NetApp now finally calling 'any shared bit of tin' a cloud and use the term with a bit more respect?
Now - quick breather - time to comment on Bycast and their products :-
  • Prior to this I was aware of them, but they weren't somebody I was actively engaged in discussions with
  • I think it's good that they are working with the SNIA CDMI standards (I'm guessing this is where the acquisition discussions may have started from)
  • David Slik's blog here seems to have plenty of good content in it
  • Bycast certainly seem to have a bunch of happy customers so far
  • The fact that it already supports multiple types & staus of target media is very positive, as is the support of running under VMWare (and hence being hardware agnostic)
  • The data on the website is rather light on specific numbers (volume, qty scale, performance etc) and details on policy mngt & metadata
  • One thing that annoys me, is that to find any information out (documentation, technical, support etc) it would appear I have to register (and wait for an email of the document and for the inevitable sales droid to try and contact me) - big hint, you want me to look at your company & product? Make it easy! (especially when I tried it the system crashed with Siebel OnDemand errors all over the place)
  • Clearly the devil is in the details, I'll wait to find out more over time
So the big question is - "when & what are you going to do with your new baby now NetApp?", I'm grabbing a beer and going to sit, watch & wait... :)

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