NetApp on rough ground, or a diamond in the rough?

June 7, 2012 – 9:40 am

Storage I/O Industry Trends and Perspectives

In case you missed it, NetApp announced their most recent quarterly earnings a few weeks ago which in themselves were not bad. However what some of their competition jumping up and down for joy while others are scratching their heads is the forward-looking guidance given by NetApp.

NetApp can be seen as being on rough ground given their forward-looking guidance over the next year which could be seen as either very conservative, or an admission that they are not growing as fast as some of their competitors are challenging them.

Reading between the lines, looking at various financial and other resources in addition to factoring in technology items, there is more to NetApp then meets the eye and current stock price or product portfolio.

For example, NetApp is sitting on over $4 Billion USD cash that they could use for an acquisition, buying back stock, launching a major sales and marketing initiative to expand into new or adjacent markets or other activities. Speaking of acquisitions, NetApp has done some in the past including Spinnaker, which is now integrated with Ontap (e.g. clustering), Topio, Decru (security encryption) and Onaro (DCIM and IRM management software tools). More recently, NetApp has acquired Bycast (archiving and policy storage management software), Akorri (capacity management and DCIM and IRM software) and Engenio. NetApp is also maintaining good margins via both direct, channel and OEM activities while launching new products such as the channel and SMB focused FAS 2220.

Its arguable depending upon your point of view (or who you for or are a fan of) if NetApp has all the right product pieces now, in the works, or on their radar for acquisitions. Assuming that NetApp has the pieces, they also need to move beyond selling simply what is on the truck or what is safe and comfortable or perhaps easy to sell. This is not to say that NetApp is not being effective in selling what they have and pushing the envelope, however keeping in mind who their main competitor is, the old sales saying of being able to sell ice to an Eskimo comes to mind.

Two companies on parralel tracks offset by time: EMC and NetApp

In the case of NetApp, when the competition makes an issue about scalibility or performance of their flagship storage systems FAS and Ontap storage software, change the playing field leveraging all the tools in their portfolio. NetApp like EMC before them is figuring out how to sell via different channels or venues their complete portfolio with a mix of direct, channel and OEM. After all, it seems like only yesterday that EMC was trying to figure out where and when to sell CLARiiON (e.g. now VNX) as opposed to avoiding competing with the Symmetrix (aka now the VMAX) not to mention expanding from a direct to channel and OEM model. Perhaps NetApp can continue to figure out how to leverage more effectively the Engenio E series for big bandwidth beyond their current OEMs. NetApp can also leverage their existing partners who have embraced Bycast (aka StorageGrid) while finding new ones.

The reality is that NetApp is being challenged by EMC who is moving down market into some of NetApp’s traditional accounts along with in the scale-out NAS and big data sectors. This is where NetApp can leverage their technical capabilities including people combined with some effective sales and marketing execution to change the playing field vs. responding to EMC and others.

NetApp has many of the pieces, parts, products, people, programs and partners so now how can they leverage those to expand both their revenues, as well as support margin to grow the business, unless they are looking to be acquired.

I still subscribe that NetApp and EMC are two similar companies on parallel tracks offset by time, by about a decade or decade and a half.

Storage I/O Industry Trends and Perspectives

Thus, IMHO NetApp is a diamond in the rough, granted I am guessing EMC and some others do not see it that way. However, there was a time when EMC was seen as a diamond in the rough while others discounted that notion, particularly an Itty Bitty Manufacturing company from New York who is now focusing on services among other things.

Keep in mind however, diamonds can also be lost or taken as well as there can be fake gems.

Here are some related links:
Unified storage systems showdown: NetApp FAS vs. EMC VNX
Two companies on parallel tracks moving like trains offset by time: EMC and NetApp
NetApp buying LSI’s Engenio Storage Business Unit

Ok, nuff said for now

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

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