NetApp is storage #1. Oh, really?

On the streets around VMware’s VMworld Europe 2012 event this week you could see a mobile advertising vehicle bearing a hoarding that declares: “NetApp Data ONTAP is the world’s #1 storage OS? Yep.”

It’s a bold claim, and if true, NetApp would be right to plaster it to the side of vans. But it’s not as straightforward as they’d like it to be.

In formal terms it’s true. NetApp commands the second-biggest or close to second-biggest market share among storage vendors globally and all its storage arrays use the Data ONTAP OS. The world’s biggest storage vendor, EMC, has plenty more market share but uses different OSs in its midrange and high-end arrays so loses out on the ability to declare any of them “the world’s #1”.

But, what is the claim to be world’s number one storage OS really worth? Not a lot really. Firstly, NetApp gets to claim that mantle because their position in the market. It’s a bit like Toyota declaring Toyota engines are the world’s most popular, which is true because they are the biggest seller of cars worldwide. Just like you don’t get a Toyota without one of its engines in it, you don’t get a NetApp filer without ONTAP in it.

And, while NetApp probably has EMC’s multi-OS product range in its sights as a subtext to the advert, the claim to have a single OS across all products is only worth anything if that means many of your devices can work together. NetApp has made strides towards this with its recent announcement of true NAS clustering that can scale to 20 PB and 20 billion files in ONTAP 8.1.1 but that is currently limited to five HA pairs of devices.

So, really, the NetApp ad should read: NetApp Data ONTAP is the world’s #1 storage OS? So what?”

(For blog posts before mid-September2012 see UK Data Storage Buzz.)