NetApp Says It Scooped EMC On Unified Storage

EMC archrival NetApp said it remains unfazed over EMC's new push into the SMB storage market with a new line of unified storage appliances.

Indeed, NetApp and one of its largest solution providers said they welcome EMC's move as a way to increase awareness the of unified storage among customers.

EMC on Tuesday unveiled its new VNX and VNXe storage appliances which target the same SMB market occupied by many of its rivals, including NetApp, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and numerous smaller companies.

The VNX and VNXe storage appliances are EMC's first venture into the unified storage market. Unified storage allows block-level (SAN), file-level (NAS), and direct-attached storage protocols to be used simultaneously within a single appliance, thereby simplifying the management of the storage.

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The most important aspect of the EMC release is that it is finally acknowledging the importance of customer demand for unified storage, said Patrick Rogers, vice president of corporate alliances and solutions at NetApp, EMC's primary rival in the storage market.

"NetApp has been doing unified storage for nine years, based on customer demand," Rogers said. "Customer's don't want to manage multiple platforms."

Rogers said EMC is taking its first steps towards unified storage, but there appear to be gaps in developing a complete solution.

For instance, Rogers said, it doesn't look like EMC has really combined its storage operating systems into a single software stack. NetApp, he said, uses the same OnTap unified storage operating system with all its storage appliances.

An EMC spokesperson said that EMC's FLARE operating system, which comes from its Clariion line of SAN appliances, and DART operating system, which comes from its Celerra NAS appliances, are both present in the VNX and VNXe.

The VNXe series runs a single operating environment using FLARE and DART technologies on storage processors that support both file and block access, while the VNX series runs the VNX Operating Environment for Block, based on FLARE, on storage processors, and the VNX Operating Environment For File, based on DART, on the Celerra X-blade nodes, the EMC spokesperson said.

Rogers also said that it's hard to judge the performance of the new EMC storage appliances.

"EMC tends to compare against itself, and not use industry benchmarks," he said. "These are things that allow industry comparisons, but things EMC doesn't publish. If (the performance) was better, I suspect EMC would have done the industry benchmarks."

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However, EMC's new line is a nice acknowledgement that it sees that unified storage is the future, Rogers said. "To play in this space, you have to have a unified storage model," he said.

Rolf Strasheim, director of client solutions at Peak Uptime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider and long-time major NetApp partner, said it is about time EMC starts moving to catch up with NetApp.

"Unified storage is so a-decade-ago," Strasheim said. "Great. I guess if you have a propensity for EMC, it's good news. But at NetApp, unified storage is not an after-thought. It's part of their core architecture."

Customers understand the benefits of unified storage, and EMC's new VNX/VNXe release will help further show the benefits, Strasheim said. "I don't know why EMC took so long to do it," he said. "What NetApp has been doing for a decade, EMC can now do. So this is exciting news (only) for large EMC shops or existing EMC customers."