NetApp Goes Sub-$20K On Full-Feature, Cloud-Capable All-Flash Storage

The new AFF C190 all-flash array includes the full range of NetApp storage services for building hybrid multi-cloud infrastructures and is central to a channel-only move by the vendor to build its largely untapped commercial storage market.


NetApp’s Jeff McCullough unveils the C190 to partners.

NetApp is pushing hard into the commercial part of the storage market with a new channel-led strategy and the introduction of a new all-flash storage array it said is not only low in cost but which carries with it all the enterprise capabilities of its other lines.

That new array, the AFF C190, offers all the storage services and hybrid multi-cloud capabilities of its entire AFF all-flash FAS storage line, but comes in a limited number of entry-level configurations that bring the starting price to below $20,000.

NetApp has only reached about 5 percent of the commercial market and knows it needs channel partners to make serious inroads into that largely untapped market, said Jeff McCullough, vice president of Americas partner sales.

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[Related: Channel VP Jeff McCullough On How NetApp Partners Can Profit By Selling AWS, Azure, Google]

McCullough, speaking Wednesday to an audience of about 250 channel partner executives during the company's C3 conference in San Diego, defined the commercial market as the 69,000 customers that have the potential to purchase a minimum of $1 million per year in NetApp products. He estimated that that market has a total value of about $7 billion and said it is a market that NetApp wants to be 100 percent channel-partner-led.

"For us, it is practically greenfield," he said.

NetApp wants partners to lead conversations with customers that are looking at investing in all-flash storage and help them slowly move along that path, McCullough said.

"Those customers are the ones that will grow into petabytes and petabytes in years to come," he said. "We believe this allows you to go into commercial in a big way."

The NetApp AFF C190 combines the performance of all-flash storage with NetApp's full range of enterprise-class data services, cloud connectivity and integrated data protection, McCullough said. It manages both file and block data, and supports encryption of data and connectivity to all the major public clouds.

The C190 supports NetApp's latest storage operating system, Ontap 9.6, along with 10-Gbit Ethernet, Fibre Channel or Fibre Channel over Ethernet. It is slated to be available in early July in four configurations to simplify ordering, he said.

Henri Richard, NetApp's executive vice president of worldwide field and customer operations, said NetApp has seen business with its existing commercial business customers fall over the past five years, but that 2019 is a real opportunity for the company and its channel partners.

"A lot of NetApp products in those customers are end-of-life, and we have nothing to replace earlier hybrid flash storage systems," Richard told CRN. "These commercial customers know NetApp and probably still use our products. We're re-engaging them with partners who had good commercial storage business. Transitioning them to flash is a perfect opportunity for us to come into this market."

NetApp solution providers agree the time is right to grab commercial storage business market share and that the new NetApp AFF C190 is a good start.

The renewed focus on the commercial storage business has a lot of upside, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"We plan to double down on that business," Woodall told CRN. "This is clearly an investment focus for NetApp. And as a partner, it makes sense for us to focus on it as well."

The C190 will help in that focus, Woodall said. "The commercial market is price-sensitive," he said. “As a partner going after that segment, those are the types of customers where we can add a lot of services. And for NetApp, it's 100 percent channel-focused."

The value of an appliance-like device like the NetApp AFF C190 is in helping customers prepare to fully embrace the cloud, said Jerry McIntosh, senior vice president for advanced technology sales at ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"This is the kind of thing that can help accelerate clients' cloud strategy," McIntosh told CRN. "We talk to companies about going cloud-native, about Data Fabric, and about how to help customers without needing to move everything to the cloud. The C190 is a hybrid device, and can run on-prem with data in the public cloud. It's NetApp taking Ontap, Cloud Volumes and more to let customers run cloud-native on-premises."

The NetApp AFF C190 appears built specifically for the lower-end commercial business, said Suzanne Becker, vice president, cloud and data center transformation, at Insight, a Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"It's really built to give smaller businesses an opportunity to experience NetApp," Becker told CRN. "Flash storage for that market is a smart move. It fuels some of the commercial aspirations NetApp has."