NetApp Eyes SAN Arena

CEO Warmenhoven outlines how new product line to foreshadow merger of NAS and SAN products.

Daniel Warmenhoven, CEO of Network Appliance Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., took charge of the company in 1994 and has led NetApp to a prominent role in NAS products. Now NetApp is poised to embark on a new strategy that includes SAN products as well. Warmenhoven, who was with IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. and served as CEO of Network Equipment Technologies Inc., was interviewed last week by eWeek Executive Editor Stan Gibson and Senior Writer Evan Koblentz.

eWeek: Network Appliance constructed its business around NAS. Where is network-attached storage now, and where is it headed?

Warmenhoven: Some companies recommend not putting any databases on NAS. But 40 percent of our business is database, for which NAS is very efficient and cost-effective. NAS provides a simpler interface to both access and manage the information. We believe that storage should be network-attached, rather than directly attached to a server. Should that storage be NAS or SAN [storage area network]? We think there are advantages to NAS, but most customers require both. So our strategy has been to provide an integrated solution to allow customers to access data in either way. We have talked about bringing to market this fall systems that can be used as either SAN or NAS—to converge those styles of network into a single infrastructure.

eWeek: Can we look for an announcement, say, Oct. 1?

Warmenhoven: There will be an analysts meeting on Oct. 1, and Ill be in New York to meet with them. Im sure this will be discussed.

eWeek: We understand the product line will be called the 900 series; it will have more application support, and you are increasing the drives to 18 terabytes and 36 terabytes from the 9 and 18 in the current F880.

Warmenhoven: Whenever we refresh our product line, we generally add more capacity. Over the last four years, weve gone from 1 and a half terabytes to 18 terabytes, and you should expect us to increase that again.

eWeek: Will it include enhanced storage management software?

Warmenhoven: Yes. The software will enable the SAN services. We did not build SAN on NAS. But we went down to the foundation and built a new set of services. We converged SAN and NAS. In the same operating system, you can have two personalities, and the two can share the storage infrastructure. Thats where the real breakthrough is.

eWeek: After you make your products SAN-enabled this fall, what will be the next major thing?

Warmenhoven: Youll see NAS and SAN blend together. I dont think its going to be NAS or SAN. NAS and SAN will be attachment types rather than infrastructure or architecture types. Fibre Channel will give way, over time, to iSCSI Ethernet, so NAS and SAN would run over the same wires. I should point out weve been shipping a converged NAS and SAN product for over a year. The [Microsoft Corp.] Exchange server is block services running over iSCSI over Ethernet—the same wire as file services—and it really simplifies the management infrastructure.

eWeek: Will you offer software for hardware from multiple vendors?

Warmenhoven: First, we believe that all of our core technology is software. The hardware systems are important, but over 80 percent of our development efforts are on software. At the same time, we are not going to do multivendor management. We will partner with [IBMs] Tivoli [Software Group] and Veritas [Software Corp]. I view [EMC Corp.s] AutoIS as vendor- proprietary software that manages only EMCs own environments. They are trying to repair a deficiency. I think Common Information Model and Bluefin are on the right track. Bluefin is a proposal thats going to get modified.

eWeek: How do you feel about Cisco Systems Inc.s entry?

Warmenhoven: Cisco is a very potent force, but Cisco has never heretofore proven expertise in storage networks, which have issues that are different from internetworking. The bigger question is the evolution and adoption of iSCSI. Cisco is in a position to push that along.

eWeek: Microsoft seems to be moving upstream very consciously with its Server Application Kit. Your thoughts?

Warmenhoven: I havent seen any demonstration of that. Im a skeptic. Microsoft has said they will base the SAK on the core Windows OS, but its based on the trailing version of the OS, not XP. I dont understand how you can build a storage appliance out of the Windows NT technology. We have developed an embedded operating system thats analogous to the Cisco IOS [Internetwork Operating System]. Its very different from a general- purpose operating system.

eWeek: What are your views on the HP-Compaq Computer Corp. acquisition?

Warmenhoven: If I were [HP Chairman and CEO] Carly [Fiorina], I would not have done it. With regard to storage, Compaq had StorageWorks, which came from Digital [Equipment Corp.]. My view is that the acquisition will be disruptive, and well have an opportunity there.

eWeek: What vulnerabilities can you exploit at EMC?

Warmenhoven: I believe their cost structure is such that they will have a great deal of difficulty making Symmetrix cost-competitive. We are more cost-effective than EMC. They will also have to decide how far they will allow Clariion and Centera to encroach on Symmetrix. Were offering ATA drives in NearStore because I dont care if I cannibalize myself. Im much more interested in cannibalizing the market that I dont have already. ¥

ëOur strategy has been to provide an integrated solution to allow customers to access data in either [NAS or SAN].