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NetApp’s hyper-convergence answer? All-flash and CI arrays

NetApp’s hyper-convergence strategy is to address that market through FlexPod and SolidFire.

FlexPod is the NetApp-Cisco converged infrastructure program, and SolidFire is the all-flash array platform NetApp acquired early this year. Those were the technologies NetApp CEO George Kurian spoke about Wednesday when asked about hyper-convergence on NetApp’s earnings.

Kurian sounded as if the major focus of hyper-convergence is to provide infrastructure for departments and remote offices.

“We have two approaches to compete with hyper-converged solutions,” he said. “One is a set of innovations that we brought to the FlexPod family called FlexPod Automation and the second is with SolidFire, which provides a zero touch storage provisioning solutions. The release of SolidFire that we introduced in the summer of this year called Fluorine allows us to compete very well with hyper-converge solutions and VMware environments, and we have been seeing wins.”

FlexPod with Infrastructure Automation provides a way for smaller companies to expedite the ordering and installation of a bundle consisting of Cisco UCS Mini, NetApp FAS arrays, hypervisors and other management software. But the server and storage are distinct products, while hyper-convergence puts all of that into one chassis.

Fluorine is the latest version of the SolidFire Element operating system. It included support for VMware VVOLs and greater virtual machine integration, but SolidFire is an array without a server built in.

While FlexPod with Infrastructure Automation and SolidFire can serve as storage for virtual desktop infrastructure and remote offices, many hyper-converged products are moving beyond that to serve as organizations’ primary storage.

Hyper-convergence appears to be the biggest hole in NetApp’s product portfolio, now that it selling a good deal of all-flash arrays. Kurian said NetApp was on track to hit $1 billion annual revenue in all-flash, counting All-Flash FAS, E-Series and SolidFire arrays. Still, NetApp’s product revenue of $741 million declined 13% from last year and its overall revenue of $1.34 billion slipped 7.3%. Both results were below Wall Street expectations. The vendor’s $109 million profit was below last year but better than expected, mainly because of cost cuts including layoffs.

NetApp forecasted revenue for this quarter of between $1.325 billion to $1.475 billion, which means it will likely increase over last year’s $1.386 billion.

“We are on track to return the company to long-term growth,” Kurian said.

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