With more storage starting to show up in the form of Flash memory that is directly attached to the server, traditional storage vendors are starting to have an issue with relevancy. In theory, at least, as more I/O requests are handled in memory, storage systems get relegated to being little more than data repositories based on inexpensive SAS drives.
NetApp this week moved to address that issue head on with its first foray into server-side technologies. The company announced it is extending its own software to include the ability to manage server-side Flash storage technologies and that it has certified its software on products from Fusion-io, LSI, Micron, SanDisk Enterprise Storage Solutions, STEC and Virident. In addition, NetApp will resell Flash memory storage card for servers developed by Fusion-io.
According to Tim Russell, vice president of the data lifecycle ecosystem for NetApp, the company’s storage management software is applicable across multiple tiers of storage regardless of where the storage process is actually occurring. As such, Russell says IT organizations should expect to see NetApp extend its storage software out to a variety of server-side storage technologies, especially when you consider the fact that NetApp has a well-established reputation that Russell says goes beyond storage administrators.
Of course, this shift in the way storage is managed coincides with the continued convergence of management functions across the data center that is being driven by the rise of virtualization and pre-integrated servers. The combination of these two trends puts a significant amount of pressure on storage vendors that are keen to stay in control of data management largely because they make most of the money from selling software rather than hardware.
NetApp’s immediate response to that challenge is a step in the right direction. But like most things related to the data center, it comes at a time of great change. Whether NetApp or any other storage vendor is going to remain a major force in the data center remains to be seen, as every provider of IT infrastructure to one degree or another now competes in the data management space. But the one thing that is for certain is that without being able to manage data on both sides of the server and storage system divide, they won’t stand a chance at all.