Network Appliances Grand Plan

Network Appliance Inc. co-founder Dave Hitz is on a mission: "Our long-term goal is to displace EMC."

Network Appliance Inc. co-founder Dave Hitz is on a mission: "Our long-term goal is to displace EMC [Corp.]."

To help the company in its quest, Hitz, who is also vice president of engineering at the Sunnyvale, Calif., company that specializes in network-attached storage, told eWEEK his company is preparing to unroll a massive product road map that includes its biggest product yet, an 18-terabyte unit, due early next year.

According to Hitz, although a quarter of the Network Appliances customer base are enterprises, the evolution of high-end storage from servers into systems from the likes of Hopkinton, Mass.s EMC and its rivals is not complete.

"Heres the next big conceptual change in what were doing. ... We are just starting to incorporate block level interfaces into our products," which is especially useful for integrating storage with legacy and mainframe applications, he said. "Were going further. Were going to support iSCSI, were going to support fiber channel block-level access. … Youre going to start seeing very interesting hybrids of this." That will start in the second half of 2002, he said.

Future markets for such features, Hitz said, could be different than the horizontal market most storage companies seek today.

"What were starting to move into more is applications focused on verticals," he said.

Rich media is another large, unfilled territory: "If you sell storage, you should follow the data, and if you follow the data, its going to land you in rich media," he said.

Vinod Kaila, a network manager at Continental Airlines Inc., in Houston, agrees with Hitzs vision. "At times likes this, the demand for information storage doesnt go down, but you cant pay much," he said.

Continentals Network Appliance units run 12 terabytes of data and are easy to administer, he said. "Thats where we can save a lot of money. We feel there is a lot more intelligence in the file system. You need three times as much storage in order to do it," from EMC, he said.

Continental would like to see Network Appliance add more processors to its products, Kaila said. But, he added, "Any improvement is icing on the cake."

Hitz said he recognizes that such refinement is needed, along with certifying more applications. Also, the company is overdue on normal process of meeting with users to get feedback.

"We last did it about a year ago," he said.

In bringing high-level storage to low-level networking employees, "were merging different sides of a business that people hadnt thought of as merged," he said. But, he noted, "Ethernet has quite a history of clobbering technologies it competed against."