IDC defines three categories of external disk. The midrange market leaders are EMC, Netapp and IBM (followed by Dell and HP with both slipping slightly over the last 12 months). Netapp is almost entirely a midrange business, while EMC and IBM are the market leaders in highend. Over the last 4 quarters midrange has accounted for almost half of the spending in external disk (cf just over a quarter on highend) so clearly midrange is where the action is.
EMC’s CX4 and Netapp’s entire product line would have to be the two best-marketed stories in midrange storage. HP’s EVA might have been a contender once, but product development seems to have stalled and now it’s caught in a pincer between Left Hand and 3PAR.
There is a case to be made to keep disk simple, and put the smarts in the storage virtualisation layer above it (e.g. SVC) but that works mainly in larger environments. For true midrange customers they repeatedly tell me that they want all their function in one place because they find it easier to manage that way. IBM’s DS5000 has strengths around ease of use, performance and scalability, but it doesn’t provide a lot of advanced software functions if you are that way inclined – you’d need to layer SVC on top of it for that. Aside from DS5000, most of the midrange action takes place well below the typical XIV size and IBM’s N Series is generally focused on NAS. So that’s why I exclude IBM from the “best-marketed stories in midrange storage”. The IBM midrange has some breadth, but no strong central lynch-pin which would make it easier for buyers to relate to.
Over the last year IBM has been busy rounding out it’s high-end offerings with XIV now scaling to 161TB, SONAS Scale-out NAS supporting up to 14 Petabytes, SVC 5.1 which scales to 8 Petabytes, and DS8000 which has been rejuvenated with Easy Tier and major ease of use enhancements. Customers now have some great options when it comes to high end requirements.
Now it’s time for IBM to also turn its lamps on midrange storage and produce a kick-ass product that will delight customers with plenty of advanced features and no big buts…