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DataDirect Networks ready to aim directly at NetApp NAS

When NetApp closes its $480 million acquisition of LSI’s Engenio storage division, it will move into head-to-head competition with high performance computing storage vendor DataDirect Networks in markets where NetApp barely plays today. And DDN will soon respond by moving into NetApp’s mainstream NAS space.

DDN is preparing to launch – probably next month – a NASScaler product that DDN’s EVP of strategy and technology Jean-Luc Chatelain said will be “aimed at the NetApp market” rather than HPC.

“It has standard IT NAS-type behavior,” Chatelain said. “We realized the demand for the density, bandwidth, capacity and performance that we used to see in specialty machines has migrated toward the traditional NAS market. It’s the standard NFS behavior on top of high performance computing.”

The NASScaler will be DDN’s fourth file storage system, to go with its xStreamScaler for media and entertainment, GridScaler for cloud and HPC and ExaScaler for supercomputing.

DDN bills itself as the largest private storage vendor, an assessment that IDC agrees with. DDN executives claim the vendor generated $180 million in revenue in 2010 and grew about 40% in 2009 and 2010. The vendor’s storage sells into what EMC calls “big data” markets, which are the same ones NetApp intends to chase with LSI Engenio. Those markets include HPC, media and entertainment, digital security, and as a platform for cloud providers.

It will take awhile before DDN can provide NetApp with solid competition in mainstream NAS, but the vendors will contend for both end user customers and OEM partners in the HPC space. The Engenio 7900 Storage System competes with DDN’s products, and is sold by OEMs including Cray, Teradata and SGI.

“It will be interesting to see what happens now,” Chatelain said. “NetApp is not focused on the domain where we play. NetApp is not a brand name in the world of high performance computing or rich media. We are known as people committed to those verticals.”

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