HubStor Gets Evicted from NetApp Alliance Program

August 14, 2017 Geoff Bourgeois Azure, CIFS, HubStor, NetApp, Storage Tiering 0 Comments

... And Responds with Universal Seamless Storage Tiering Innovation!

NetApp has punted HubStor from their Alliance Partner Program.

Why?

They decided HubStor to be a direct competitor.

In a series of posts, we will examine NetApp’s decision; how it frustrated customers and created the necessity that helped to spawn exciting innovation from HubStor.

We mean NetApp no harm in telling this story.

Background

HubStor joined the NetApp Alliance Partner Program earlier this year because our seamless storage tiering features are growing in popularity and IT leaders wish to see them integrate tightly with their CIFS-based NetApp filers.

By joining the NetApp Alliance Partner Program, our plan was to write a version of our Retrieval Service software that would work with ONTAP and likely leverage NetApp’s fpolicy API – the same interface that other file stubbing integrations use with NetApp.

The expectation was set with several of our clients and dozens of our prospects that HubStor’s stubbing integration with NetApp was on the roadmap for late 2017.

Then, out of the blue, NetApp contacted us and said they decided to cancel HubStor from their alliance program.

Apparently, one of the product teams felt that HubStor is competitive to NetApp! Upon further clarification, our NetApp contact said that HubStor was deemed to be a direct competitor to NetApp’s core product AltaVault.

We tried multiple angles to discuss things and explore options with NetApp, but our requests to open a dialogue were ignored.

We Think NetApp’s Decision is Bad for NetApp

Whichever way we slice it, we think NetApp’s decision does not bode well for the company. Here is why:

  1. NetApp did not put customers first. Unfortunately, despite clients expressing their wishes directly to NetApp to have HubStor in the program, NetApp refused to change their position. A former long-time NetApp executive told us that the company has a track record of playing nice whenever client demand supports integration. Are those days history?
  2. NetApp appears to be limiting their clients' data management options for self-serving reasons. If you are a NetApp customer, you probably do not like the idea of your storage vendor restricting your backup and archiving options, especially when it relates to the cloud. Unfortunately for NetApp, the people we spoke with felt the storage giant was trying to slant the deck and force them to either (a) keep their aging data on primary storage or (b) use NetApp software as their only path to the cloud. In our opinion, competition is never a bad thing. Monopoly situations are not known for producing innovation, top quality, and competitive pricing.
  3. NetApp’s competitive landscape becomes massive. HubStor is a startup that is fast gaining momentum with serious client adoption underway, but we are far from being a $5 billion annual revenue company like NetApp. For a large and venerable vendor like NetApp to block a startup is just not cool, especially when they have clients requesting tighter integration with the startup. We expected NetApp to view themselves as a platform in a vibrant ecosystem that is flourishing with partner opportunities. Instead, by labeling HubStor a direct competitor, the storage giant appears to see the cloud as a battlefield with many fronts in the war.
  4. NetApp exhibits inconsistency – Existing NetApp partners that provide cloud backup, hybrid cloud storage, or cloud archiving might want to watch closely. Apparently, NetApp sees itself as competing in these areas.
  5. NetApp did not want to be creative – We are of the mindset at HubStor that a rising tide lifts all boats. We think it is reasonable to expect NetApp to explore commercial options with HubStor before issuing the cancellation edict. We would be happy with an arrangement whereby NetApp has a slice of the pie if we are tiering storage from their filers. We can see other ways HubStor and NetApp might play nicely together in the cloud too, and in hybrid situations where HubStor can drive hardware sales for NetApp. Unfortunately, NetApp showed no interest in exploring options where innovative approaches to partnering are ripe for the picking.

AltaVault vs. HubStor

Let’s take a quick look at the issue of HubStor and AltaVault being in direct competition.

Saying that HubStor competes with AltaVault is like saying a Ferrari competes with a garden tractor (nothing against garden tractors; they are just a different class of motor vehicle).

AltaVault is a cloud gateway appliance. It presents a VTL interface for your backup software to write to as an alternative to tape. It can also present a storage mount point via CIFS or NFS. The AltaVault appliance performs block-level deduplication, compression, and encryption before it sends your backups to cloud storage. Apparently, it sees some traction for its ability to interface with backup software, but it struggles with the archive use case.

HubStor is an entirely different solution.

We believe NetApp’s reasoning around AltaVault is a red herring. To say that HubStor is competitive with NetApp’s Cloud Control (Office 365 backup), ONTAP Cloud (cloud data management), and ONTAP Fabric Pool (block-level storage tiering) would be more accurate. However, even these products are not directly competitive to HubStor because none of them provide file-level stubbing and sophisticated file-level data management in the cloud.

NetApp Cloud Strategy

Is NetApp’s traditional business model feeling the disruptive forces of the cloud? NetApp revenues have been flat, and everyone is watching to see if this once great company is still great.

While working hard to win the war in flash, there is no doubt also concern about the NetApp cloud strategy. Like the other large storage vendors, they recognize that there is no stopping their clients from adopting Microsoft Azure and AWS. They must find ways to grow with the cloud or risk grave consequences as the IT landscape undergoes fundamental change.

So what is the NetApp cloud strategy? New NetApp products like Cloud Control, ONTAP Cloud, and Fabric Pool show they are expanding their product portfolio to have relevance with public cloud adoption. It will be interesting to see how they fare long term in this arena when they motivate would-be partners like HubStor to become competitors.

Conclusion

In the spirit of doing what is right for the customer, we feel the protectionist mindset of an incumbent storage vendor – vis-a-vis their traditional business model and cloud strategy – should be well understood by clients.

Clients adopt CIFS-based storage for better scalability and performance, but then find they become locked into an expensive cycle of expanding storage capacity and hardware refresh schedules without any way out.

We hope that NetApp will change its position and once again work with HubStor – we think it is possible to explore win-win options for working together. However, the position NetApp decided to take on HubStor created the necessity that is the mother of all invention. Today, we no longer need to integrate with NetApp to achieve the seamless file-level cloud storage tiering that our clients require. We now have a universal approach that removes data gravity to break free of CIFS lock-in, whether that be with NetApp, EMC Celerra, or any other storage vendor’s appliance.

In our follow-on post, we will look at the issue of storage freedom and how HubStor can help you break free of storage vendor lock in.

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