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IDC: NetApp jumps to No. 2 in Q1 all-flash

EMC remained No. 1 and NetApp jumped to No. 2 in all-flash array (AFA) revenue for the first quarter of 2016, according to IDC’s new market share statistics.

EMC had $245.6 million in revenue and 30.9% AFA market share, while NetApp took in $181.1 million and accounted for 22.8%. Rounding out the top five were Pure Storage at 15.0%, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) at 12.4% and IBM at 8.5%.

NetApp benefitted from a change to IDC’s AFA taxonomy with the release of the June 2016 Tracker. Previously, IDC only recognized NetApp’s EF-Series as an AFA. With the new taxonomy, NetApp’s All Flash FAS also qualifies under a new “Type 3” category.

IDC defines an AFA as “any network-based storage array that supports only all-flash media as persistent storage and is available as a unique SKU.” With the new IDC AFA taxonomy, IDC for the first time identified three types of AFAs. Type 1 and Type 2 would have fit the old taxonomy, but Type 3 is new, according to Eric Burgener, an IDC storage research director.

Type 1:  Arrays that were originally “born” as AFAs. Examples include EMX XtremIO, IBM FlashSystem, Kaminario K2, Pure Storage FlashArray//m, NetApp SolidFire FS Series, Tegile IntelliFlash HD, and Violin Memory Flash Storage Platform. Although NetApp acquired SolidFire in December, IDC won’t begin crediting NetApp with the SolidFire revenue until the second quarter, according to Burgener.

Type 2: Arrays that originated as hybrid designs but have undergone significant flash optimization, do not support HDDs, and include some high-performance hardware unique to the all-flash configuration, such as controllers that are faster than those included in the vendor’s hybrid flash arrays (HFAs). Examples include: Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) VSP F Series, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) 3PAR StoreServ 8450, and Tegile IntelliFlash T3800.

Type 3: Arrays that originated as hybrid designs but have undergone significant flash optimization. Type 3 arrays do not support HDDs and do not include hardware, other than flash media, that is different than the hardware the vendor ships on its HFAs. Examples include: EMC VMAX All Flash, Fujitsu DX200F, NEC M710F, and NetApp All Flash FAS.

Burgener said IDC changed its AFA taxonomy for several reasons.

“No. 1 is the level of flash optimization that we were starting to see from the systems that began life years ago as hybrids were producing performance that was not really very distinguishable from purpose-built AFAs,” he said. “Two years ago, there was a big difference in terms of the latencies and the ability to sustain consistent performance. But now, there’s not that big a difference.”

Burgener said storage vendors were selling their all-flash configurations, whether hybrid or not, in a “directly competitive manner to purpose-built AFAs.” Because the products target the same customers in essentially the same market, it made sense to include them, he said.

But, if a storage array ships with only flash drives and can support HDDs, IDC considers it to be a hybrid flash array.

“That gets rid of this whole question: ‘Well, what if I put a disk in later?’ ” Burgener said. “We’ve clarified that now. We just said, ‘Look, let’s simplify it.’ ”

Most of NetApp’s new AFA revenue was due to its All Flash FAS (AFF), according to Burgener.

Burgener said there might have been pent-up demand for a more flash-optimized All Flash FAS with NetApp’s OnTap 8.2 release. But, he expects the pent-up demand will wane, and NetApp’s growth rate will drop by the fourth quarter.

IDC went back and adjusted its historical numbers and forecasts to reflect the new AFA taxonomy. Under the old taxonomy, 2015 revenue for the total AFA market was $2.53 billion. With the new AFA taxonomy, the 2015 revenue figure for the entire market is $2.73 billion, according to Burgener.

NetApp placed fifth in 2015 AFA revenue  under the new IDC taxonomy, but moved ahead of HPE into fourth place in Q4 of 2015, Burgener said.