On February 13, 2013, NetApp very quietly acquired ionGrid. ionGrid describes its product, Stratos, as a solution that “brings SharePoint, file shares, and your intranet applications to the iPad securely, reliably, and quickly, without using cloud storage or requiring a VPN”. Essentially it provides file sync and file sharing capabilities between enterprise storage such as NetApp and, specifically, the iPad. Some would describe it as bringing Dropbox-like capabilities into the enterprise.

But wait! EMC announced the availability of “EMC Enterprise Online File Sharing Service from Syncplicity with On-Premise Storage Options” on January 15, 2013, almost a month to the day earlier than NetApp’s acquisition of ionGrid.

This is not the first time that NetApp has trailed EMC on technology. Often, it is reactionary, other times it is poor timing.

Here are some examples:

  • Neuralytix research shows that NetApp was the clear front-runner in terms of delivering compression capabilities to enterprise storage systems, but it held off its announcement until October 1, 2010, over a month after EMC announced its intent to deliver compression to the VNX platform;
  • With respects to scale-out NAS, NetApp was seven to eight years late (depending on how one counts the dates) with delivering scale-out capabilities to its platform. In the meantime, EMC acquried Isilon two years before NetApp made general availability of DataONTAP 8 with cluster mode; allowing EMC to build its Isilon unit into a division that delivered $1B run rate in revenue;
  • NetApp passed over Rainfinity  2002-2003. Rainfinity was ultimately acquired by EMC in 2005;
  • IN 2005, NetApp announced it’s OEM agreement with Kazeon, Kazeon was also ultimately acquired by EMC in 2009;
  • More recently, NetApp’s quiet acquisition of CacheIQ in November 2012 was undoubtedly in reaction to EMC’s acquisition of XtremIO six months earlier.

In each and every one of these situations, NetApp has trailed EMC. In many of these examples, creating perceptions of desperate catch-up on the part of NetApp, in an attempt of somehow create some level of equality between NetApp and EMC.

NetApp is an outright technology leader. It has developed a storage system operating system in DataONTAP that should be lauded and applauded as one of the most comprehensive set of storage services delivered on an integrated platform in the storage market. Instead, NetApp has consistently been let down due to its incapacity to evangelize its achievements, and most importantly its technology leadership.

We believe that NetApp has also over-invested in its FlexPod reference architecture, in an attempt to demonstrate that it has a more powerful grip over Cisco and VMware than EMC. The former, having a joint-venture partner of EMC, in VCE Corporation, that has reached (or very close to reaching) a $1B run rate in revenue; and the latter, a company in which EMC has a significant majority ownership.

NetApp needs to invest in demonstrating to the industry how it has taken its market share from low single digits to the teens, not by being an also-ran, or a “me too” company. Instead it should demonstrate that the maturation of the company and the successes it has achieved is a result of being a technology leader and a visionary company.


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