NetApp Kills StoreVault Line, Gets Mixed VAR Reaction


NetApp has quietly decided to kill its line of storage appliances for SMBs, a move which caused mixed feelings in the storage vendor's solution provider community.

NetApp told some users and partners that it has decided to end the availability of its S550 platform, which was the last product in its StoreVault line of appliances.

NetApp unveiled its StoreVault line in May of 2006 as a way of entering the SMB market.

StoreVault was originally set up as a separate business group within NetApp. However, NetApp in June brought the StoreVault business back within the NetApp-branded business, including the 800 or so StoreVault solution providers, of which about 90 percent were in the U.S.

Instead of the S550, which is the last of the StoreVault line, NetApp is encouraging solution providers and customers to move to its FAS2020 product.

Unlike the StoreVault product line, the FAS2020 is based on the same ONTAP platform as NetApp's entire line of storage appliances.

NetApp declined to discuss the reasons for deciding to eliminate its S550 platform.

However, Julie Parrish, vice president of worldwide channel sales at NetApp, issued a statement.

"Moving forward, NetApp will focus its MSE [midsize and small enterprise] efforts by building out our award-winning FAS2000 platform. As a result, we will launch channel-only FAS2020 NetApp Select Bundles that will provide our MSE customers with enterprise- level performance at a midmarket price point along with easier ordering options," Parrish said. "At the same time, we will no longer provide any additional enhancements to our S550 platform. We believe this product platform consolidation will offer our channel partners the opportunity to sell a more market-competitive set of products based on NetApp's unified storage architecture -- providing more value-add to their customers."

Parrish, in a follow-up e-mail, also said that NetApp announced the end of availability of the S550 platform to partners and customers on Jan. 23. Orders will be taken through March, with support of the existing S550 customer base available into 2012.

NetApp's larger solution providers said the move is logical because it gives NetApp a single integrated product line that, at its lowest end, meets the needs of many of the vendor's StoreVault customers.

Rick Marcotte, president and CEO of DLT Solutions, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider focusing on the government sector, wrote in an e-mail to Channelweb.com that the impact might be more felt among solution providers targeting the commercial market because of limited functionality compared to NetApp's ONTAP-based offerings.

"[NetApp] is building out their lower-end line (2000 Series) which has full capabilities and leverages their core technology and is enjoying market success in the segments we address," Marcotte wrote. "Moving it 'up-market' to the SMB space is a likely scenario if StoreVault is no longer offered. Even though it has a higher price point, the value proposition is much stronger than StoreVault and we have found that customers are willing to pay for the full functionality and capabilities that [NetApp] is known for."

The decision to end the StoreVault line was expected once NetApp rolled the StoreVault business back into the company as a whole, said Rolf Strasheim, director of client solutions at Peak UpTime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider and NetApp partner.

The StoreVault appliances had some of the look-and-feel of NetApp's other products, but was definitely different as they hit a different part of the market, Strasheim said. "But given the value that small businesses need, I'm sure we'll see a replacement from NetApp," he said.

To Strasheim, the move is not so much the death of StoreVault as it is the evolution of NetApp in terms of working with the SME market. "They will make a new offering to replace it, and include the simplicity of NetApp," he said. "NetApp won't cede that market share."

In many ways, StoreVault was not the ideal product for the small and midsize business market, Strasheim said. For instance, he said, it originally did not support Snap Manager for Exchange and some other features that were eventually added.

"The problem was, StoreVault's focus was on the SME space, bombarded by ads from companies like Buffalo Tech and others," he said. "StoreVault was not the least expensive. NetApp realized it didn't need a separate infrastructure to support. And NetApp realized its strength is in its scalability. But while NetApp may be pulling out of that product line, it's not out of that market."

Actually, it might be out of that market, said one solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous.

"We saw the writing on the wall when NetApp folded StoreVault into NetApp," that solution provider said. "So we started with EqualLogic. I was hoping they'd sell the StoreVault line so it could continue."

George Vahle, vice president of The I.T. Pros, a San Diego-based solution provider and NetApp partner, said he was disappointed in NetApp's decision to cut the StoreVault line.

"We saw a huge market opportunity for the StoreVault product line in the SMB space, in particular the 'S' in SMB," Vahle said. "Now we are positioning low-cost iSCSI SAN products to replace the StoreVault products."

The FAS2020 fills the requirements of a larger part of NetApp's client base, said Mike Adams, storage practice leader at Lighthouse Computer Services, a Lincoln, R.I.-based solution provider and NetApp partner.

"The 2020 has added functionality, more performance, more scalability, and better integration with the rest of the NetApp line," Adams said.