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NetApp says ILM not there yet

NetApp general manager Suresh Vasudevan talks with about ILM, security, the OEM deal with IBM and a reshuffle in the company's executive team.

NetApp general manager Suresh Vasudevan talks with about ILM, security, the OEM deal with IBM and a reshuffle in the company's executive team.

What technologies look interesting to you that NetApp [Network Appliance Inc.] doesn't offer today?

Suresh Vasudevan: Let me touch on some of the spaces where we've already made investments, but customer problems indicate there's more work left for us to do.

One of these spaces is data protection, specifically with disk-to-disk backup. It's become accepted that tape is a pain point for most customers, and that virtual tape libraries are a way to solve the backup window problem. But there are more options we can still do, and we're looking into that.

Data classification and managing tiered storage is another area. Most customers right now can basically do two things with ILM [information lifecycle management] and tiered storage. First, they've gone down the path of tiering storage and identifying what is Tier-1, Tier-2, Tier-3 and so on. The second thing is that when they have a new application, they can identify which tier it belongs to -- and they've begun archiving specific application data, such as e-mails and documents. They're able to manage archiving pretty well.

But there are also two further things they can't do yet. There's the notion of being able to migrate a given set of data back and forth between tiers of storage. While the concept is appealing, the technology doesn't exist for existing applications -- it's not something anyone's solved yet. Second, for most corporations, unstructured data has been the biggest problem. It's hard to get control of unstructured data. How do I classify, archive and create policies for unstructured data? That whole area is where customers are looking for solutions, and that's an area we're looking at again.

Is this where your OEM relationship with data classification software maker Kazeon [Systems Inc.] fits in?

Vasudevan: Certainly, Kazeon is one solution in managing unstructured data.

What doesn't it do?

Vasudevan: If you think of the whole chain of what you want to do -- not only classify unstructured data, but also put in policies based on what you see from the classification scheme. Protection, archiving and migration actions, that type of thing. Our relationship with Kazeon focuses on classifying and things like legal discovery. Over time, a broader solution needs to encompass the specific action a user wants to take with data once it's classified.

How long do you expect your partnership with IBM to continue?

Vasudevan: Well, hopefully for several years at least. The relationship is one where we're provided our entire portfolio of technology for NAS and iSCSI solutions. They have access to our entire product portfolio -- this isn't something you'd do on a short term basis because of the huge investment on both sides. Our goal is to make this a successful long-term relationship. I don't think there's a time span or thinking about it from a 'when does it end?' perspective.

What kind of further integration can we expect with IBM?

Vasudevan: The first stage, and the one that we are most focused on, is making sure our entire product portfolio is taken by IBM. Over the next six months we look to have the whole portfolio to market through IBM, making sure engineering, manufacturing, procurement and all the internal organizations are ready.

We foresee a deeper technological integration on things like Tivoli. NetApp has had a successful relationship with Veritas [Software Corp.] on the storage management side -- we see that as the next logical place for integration. It's something both companies have talked about.

We also have a good partnership with Oracle -- databases are a large portion of our business. Oracle is a significant customer and partner for us -- the value proposition we bring to bear in an Oracle environment is easily applicable in [IBM] DB2 database environments as well.

We heard that NetApp is porting Data OnTap to an IBM chip. Is this true and why are you doing this?

Michael Moschler, NetApp public relations: We're not going to comment on rumors and speculation.

Suresh, do you have anything to add?

Vasudevan: No, I think I'll let Mike handle it. He jumped in before I could say anything stupid ( laughs).

Moving on, then. Hitachi Data Systems [Inc.] [HDS] took a completely different tack from IBM and killed its reseller relationship with NetApp to build a NAS blade for its TagmaStore array. Why do you think IBM and HDS went in such different directions?

Vasudevan: From our perspective HDS has a very strong hardware-centric approach to selling storage. Their product focus tends to be around large-scale arrays. NAS tends to be more of a software-centric approach, something I think is less relevant to how their sales force approaches storage problems. That's one reason why IBM views things so differently from HDS.

I think IBM has had a number of in-house attempts to build their own NAS and has concluded this is the best way to win in the NAS space. Time will tell if HDS is successful on its own. Pretty much every large storage vendor has had multiple attempts at their own NAS solutions over the course of the last several years. There are pretty much two vendors that have a giant share of the market at this point -- part of that is simply implementing the protocol stack, but creating a scalable NAS solution that's easy to manage and easily deployable is the hard part.

What effect did HDS's move have on NetApp?

Marginal. We still have an interoperability relationship with HDS. The nature of our relationship with HDS is very different than the one with IBM. HDS just resells our V-series product line as a gateway. IBM is not just using the V-series, but our entire product portfolio.

We heard you're now in charge of Decru [Inc.]?

Vasudevan: That's really fast! ( laughs) That's correct. That was only announced internally yesterday. I was leading all of product management for what we now call the enterprise storage business, and I've just moved on to being general manager of the Decru business unit.

How is that going?

Vasudevan: Well, it's only a day old! ( laughs) I'm extremely excited about what I think the technology is capable of and the problem it's addressing. I'm sure you're familiar with all the wide publicity associated with security breaches. Demand for data security, at least in terms of customer interest, is extremely high. It's a space that will become even more significant.

Fill us in on the integration with Decru. What further steps are left?

Vasudevan: The first thing to clarify is that we're not going to be integrating too deeply. We have the firm intention to manage Decru as an independent business unit and we're focused on driving Decru as the storage security standard.

We've partnered with their sales force, as have NetApp's competitors. We firmly believe that the storage security space is one where we don't want to integrate with just Network Appliance storage systems. We want it integrated with everybody's storage systems -- the best endorsement of that strategy was when EMC decided to resell the Decru product.

So the integration has been between our internal infrastructure rather than the technology aspects of the company -- integrating things like financial systems.

A recent NetApp SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] filing named former Engenio [Information] Technologies [Inc.] CEO Tom Georgens executive VP [vice president] and general manager of NetApp's enterprise storage systems business. Georgens was very clear that it is a goal of his to run a public company. Is NetApp's current CEO Dan Warmenhoven grooming his replacement?

Vasudevan: We've had the same very strong executive team for a long time and we've added quite a few people to our executive team over the years. Tom brings enormous talent to that executive team -- he's someone who deepens the bench considerably. From our perspective, it just strengthens the amount of talent, but isn't necessarily a replacement for anybody.

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