Game On With NetApp As Nimble Storage Pushes Into Fibre Channel Connectivity

Hybrid hard disk and flash storage array vendor Nimble Storage plans to expand its solution portfolio with Fibre Channel connectivity in a move that could make it a more formidable competitor to NetApp.

Nimble Storage's CS-Series of storage arrays currently supports the iSCSI protocol, but has had Fibre Channel models in beta testing, according to Piper Jaffray Senior Research Analyst Andrew Nowinski and Research Analyst Ryan Bergan in a recent report.

The addition of Fibre Channel connectivity should increase Nimble Storage's total addressable market by about four times and help the company reach new market segments, the analysts said in their report.

[Related: Nimble Storage Brings New Cisco UCS Mini To Converged Infrastructure]

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The move will likely impact arch-rival NetApp, one solution provider wrote in an email to CRN.

"This should give NetApp more headaches," the solution provider wrote under condition of anonymity due to relationships with Nimble Storage and NetApp.

Steve Welch, CEO at Los Gatos, Calif.-based solution provider and Nimble Storage channel partner Nascent Integrated Solutions, told CRN that Fibre Channel has been a stated direction for Nimble Storage for some time.

"We've been asking for it for a long time," Welch said. "If Nimble adds Fibre Channel, it's the token it needs to play with the big boys. Nimble started with disruptive technology for mid-market customers. But the company's latest CS700 series takes it to a new level. If Nimble adds Fibre Channel, it's game on. It opens up a whole new arena."

While existing customers of Nimble Storage's iSCSI solutions will not likely upgrade to Fibre Channel, the move to adopt Fibre Channel as a new protocol for its storage solutions gives it a potential new enterprise market, the Piper Jaffray analysts wrote.

"The addition of FC support not only increases Nimble's TAM, but also has the potential to enable Nimble to further penetrate the large enterprise market, which is characterized by larger size deals and higher performance requirements. ... Furthermore, we believe Nimble has a number of larger enterprises and financial institutions that are waiting for Nimble to add FC support before deploying a system," the analyst report said.

Spokespersons for Nimble Storage and NetApp were unable to respond to requests for more information by press time.

Nimble Storage has recently been moving quickly to better compete against more established rivals like NetApp and EMC.

The company this week unveiled a utility pricing model under which customers of its storage arrays can pay for actual capacity used on a monthly basis rather than purchase the arrays outright.

Nimble Storage also recently introduced a hyper-converged infrastructure solution combining its midrange CS300 array with the Cisco UCS Mini.