NetApp StorageGrid – More Questions than Answers?

Okay, so NetApp have announced the NetApp StorageGrid product, however at the moment as far as I can see it is a simple rebrand of the ByCast product. I am not sure whether I was expecting anything more or whether I was expecting them to go dark with the Bycast product set for the time being whilst they work out what the hell they are going to do with it and at least come up with an integration strategy for the products.

Like many I wonder what this does to the whole Unified Storage message because NetApp now have two disparate storage product sets which are not integrated; I’m sure that they are briefing the integration message under NDA and if not, I’d ask why? But I’d interested to see what form the integration takes, will be it be at the tools level or will be it more fundamental integration more akin to OnTap 8.

As NetApp have announced it under the Storage Management Software product set, it appears to be the former, certainly for the short to medium term and I suspect that NetApp are going to be very wary about going after a full blown integration or at least a public statement on it after the torturous integration of Spinnaker.

The data-sheet shows a software gateway layer sitting above the OnTap filers, well I think that’s what it shows. It says that the front-end app server supports NFS/CIFS/HTTP(Restful) protocols communicating with the back-end storage via NFSv3; so theoretically, the back-end storage could be anything supporting NFSv3? But at present the data sheet actually shows a very restricted storage environment supported, namely FAS31x0 and FAS20xx and only SATA drives, so there seems to be no way of utilising your legacy storage in your StorageGrid. This is a little disappointing but no huge surprise, if EMC decide to ‘support’ third party storage with Atmos, it should be no biggie for NetApp to follow suit with StorageGrid; or perhaps vice-versa.

And as ByCast StorageGrid was resold by a number of other vendors, what is the ongoing roadmap for those customers who are running StorageGrid with different vendors storage behind it? Are these customer’s going to be expected to move to NetApp storage?

Also from the diagram in the data-sheet;

‘NetApp StorageGRID object-based storage solution brings the best of NAS and RESTful HTTP client access together’

Now I am willing accept that NetApp claim that the Filer product set are the best of NAS but to provide this ‘best of breed functionality’ with the StorageGrid product would imply a deeper level of integration than I can currently see or are they claiming that the Bycast product was actually the best NAS product out there?

Is the Filer behind the Gateway being treated as pretty a dumb-share-only Filer and not leveraging any of the OnTap features at all? Even if this is the case, it is a cute move politically as the sales-team will not see any potential Filer sales being cannibalised by this new product. A problem that I believe that EMC might have had to deal with the Atmos product set.

One of the keys will be how NetApp present the integration; will they add StorageGrid to Ops Manager? It seems to make sense that you add it at that level because Ops Manager is the preferred way of managing multiple Filers and to get the most out of StorageGrid, there will be many Filers.It also keeps it in the realms of the familiar.

If it is seen as very much a different product it makes the Unified Storage pitch a little harder as it becomes mostly-Unified-Storage product which is a bit like being a little bit unique.

So this announcement asks many more questions than it answers!

And one final comment, what is the difference between an Storage Grid and a Storage Cloud? Is it an Object Cloud or an Object Grid? Does the Object Cloud live in the Storage Grid??

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Martin Glassborow

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