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Will the real legacy storage vendor please stand up?

Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin

May I have your attention, please? May I have your attention, please? Will the real legacy vendor please stand up? I repeat, will the real legacy vendor please stand up? We're gonna have a problem here – A nod to Eminem

It was the early 2010s, Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call me maybe” topped the charts, Call of Duty was the highest grossing video game, and the top concern among IT was how to manage a mobile workforce that was increasingly bringing their personal devices to work.

And Pure Storage was rocking up the charts building the kind of business growth that comes from selling twenty-dollar bills for fifteen bucks a piece and telling everyone it was because of its radical differentiation that came from:

  1. All flash
  2. Data reduction
  3. Simplicity
  4. Financial engineering (Evergreen)
But just like you wouldn’t be caught dead with an iPhone 4S today, Pure’s advantages in 2012 are today’s table stakes. It is worth noting that Purity is over ten years old, and STILL looks a lot like ancient versions of ONTAP 7.3. Purity is older than clustered data ONTAP which was designed specifically to deliver scalable storage as a service. It’s the foundation for NetApp’s data fabric technologies and public cloud storage services from Azure, Google, and IBM. It’s why the CEO’s of those three companies all presented at our last technical conference. Pure, and everyone else for that matter, is a long, long way behind in the most important race to hybrid cloud and are desperate to catch up to where NetApp is now.

It’s time to have a candid discussion on what it means to be a legacy storage vendor. The problem for Pure, is that “All Flash” isn’t disruptive anymore. It’s ubiquitous, leaving Pure looking like nothing more than a Dell mini-me. A box pusher stuck in the past, looking in its rear mirror while blindly heading down a path dominated by datacenters and storage media, still obsessed with simplistic proprietary hardware offerings as a road to differentiation. Looking at Pure’s most recent results, that is a steep uphill road with no profitability in sight. Pure doesn’t get cloud, Pure can’t do real data management, and when Pure does get software, it seems the first thing it tries to do with it is to shove it inside of a box full of proprietary tin.

Back in October, our friends over at Pure Storage ran an ad featuring NetApp in its rear mirror and called us out as legacy. To be honest, we expected something at least a bit more creative. It’s the same old tune Pure’s been pushing out since it came out in the market with tech that looked more like a backup target than primary storage. In fact, it shows about as much marketing innovation as Dull Powerstore shows technical innovation.  But then again, it’s Pure, and real innovation doesn't seem to be one of its strong suits anymore.

Well, there may be some truth to the rearview mirror analogy. NetApp already lapped Pure once when we screamed passed in all flash revenue and market share. Then we did it again when we shipped end-to-end NVMe. And again, when we crushed the performance of Pure’s proprietary hardware based top-end arrays. So, doing it yet again in cloud and with software will be fun.

Pure is stuck with the legacy approach to technology and business that NetApp has successfully grown out of. So now after ten years of profitless business, Pure is desperately gambling large chunks of its dwindling funds at the R&D and M&A casino, hoping for a payoff that may never come. End-to-end NVMe was meant to fix John Colgrove’s “built for slow from the ground up” Purity performance problems, but it didn’t. Evergreen has lost its differentiation and is now little more than the most expensive way to purchase a new storage controller ever devised. And Pure’s belated attempts to buy its way into cloud relevance are too little, too late.

The new NetApp is already where Pure needs to be. Cloud led, data-centric, software first – it’s true, that we’ve travelled a long road getting here while looking after everyone who has put their faith and trust in us, returning profit and value to our customers, shareholders, and community. We’ve worked hard to get where we are, we didn’t take shortcuts, we didn’t claim stuff we couldn’t do, we didn’t over-hype stuff, or spread baseless FUD. We took our time and we got it right, and that’s what makes NetApp the mother flippin’ cloud storage specialists.

Now, will the real legacy storage vendor please stand up.

For more information visit us at think twice, migrate once.

Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin leads NetApp’s global market strategy for its portfolio of hybrid cloud solutions, providing technology insights and market intelligence to trends that impact NetApp and its customers. With nearly 40 years of IT industry experience, Ricky joined NetApp as a systems engineer in 2006, and has served in various leadership roles in the NetApp APAC region including developing and advocating NetApp’s solutions for artificial intelligence, machine learning and large-scale data lakes.

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