Network Appliance Inc. has a challenging couple of years ahead. There's the migration to SpinOS, the company's new distributed operating system, maintaining a lead in iSCSI as everyone else joins in, fighting tough competition in compliance and the ongoing battle with EMC, to name just a few. Dave Hitz, founder and executive vice president of Network Appliance, or NetApp, sat down with SearchStorage.com to talk about how the company plans to tackle these issues.SearchStorage: EMC is building a powerful software business through acquisitions. Will NetApp go down the same path of moving into adjacent markets to continue to grow the company? Hitz: EMC is putting together something that is very different to a storage company. VMware is by far the most interesting of their acquisitions and gets them into the realm of a systems company ... VMware makes the systems guys, like IBM, very nervous as it places an abstraction layer between the OS and the underlying hardware so that multiple operating systems can run on the same server. So there are plenty of sparks flying between those two. It's a reasonable strategy for EMC. They are the No. 1 storage company but still have to grow.
Hitz: If the SEC comes knocking on your door, with NetApp you simply purchase a SnapLock license and use space on your existing systems to lock down the data. With EMC, you are purchasing another different operating system that you have to learn and manage separately. Also Centera uses crypto-hash algorithms and these are being cracked. Sha-1 has just been hacked, and the whole point of this endeavor is to prove that your data is safe, so why would you knowingly deploy a system that could even theoretically be broken into? It's possible to work around it, but Centera is a whole new way to work with storage while the way to access SnapLock is very easy.SearchStorage: The single instance storage feature in Centera is compelling though because it's a money saver. It's hard to argue with that. Hitz: Saving money is always of interest, but the amount of compliance data is relatively small compared to the overall growth of data. The real question is how big of a hammer do you need to solve this problem? NASA for example, spent millions of dollars developing an "astronaut pen" that would work in outer space while the Soviets solved the same problem by simply using pencils. SearchStorage: Does the SEC favor one approach over another? Hitz: The government won't certify vendors as being compliant. You work with the customer and the SEC. Once you submit that the customer is compliant, you wait 90 days and if the SEC doesn't reply, that's a presumed OK. Both EMC and NetApp have customers that have passed that date. SearchStorage: How are your Fibre Channel (FC) and IP SAN businesses going? Hitz: I'll say this: SANs are not going away any time soon. The story of FC is going to be the story of mainframes. For years people have been predicting the death of the mainframe, but the mainframe market is still growing -- even if it's not growing very fast. FC is the same way. The Fortune 1000, they all have their FC SANs, and they're not getting rid of them. ISCSI is FC for the rest of us. I see a lot of people moving to iSCSI directly from DAS -- skipping the FC phase. It's kind of like in emerging economies, how they skip over the landline phase and go directly to cell phones. SearchStorage: Has Microsoft recertifying Exchange on NAS been a problem for you? Hitz: That whole thing was confusing to me. [Ed. note: Microsoft has waffled with its support for Exchange on NAS. Currently, it supports it on Windows-powered NAS platforms.] What we've found though, is that CIFS isn't great for database apps. But if you want to run Exchange or SQL Server, iSCSI is going to work great. Click here for more of today's news.