NetApp is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Only 15% of companies that go public on the Nasdaq exchange survive 20 years. NetApp’s IPO was 22 years ago and Dave Hitz, co-founder and EVP at NetApp, attributes the company’s durability to its ability to change.
“When the internet happened, we spotted it and rode it,” he says. “That took us to being a grown-up company. When the dot com crash happened, we transitioned again to enterprise environments and enabled more growth.
“Then with VMware’s server virtualisation we were supposedly going to die again because they were going to virtualise storage too, but we did instead and partnered with them. We continued to partner better with VMware after EMC’s acquisition than EMC did. Now everybody’s saying cloud is going to kill us but we’re transforming again.”
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Indeed, in the last two years CEO George Kurian has transformed, possibly saved, the company. Kurian was originally hired by NetApp from Cisco six years ago to lead its flagship storage management product OnTap, where revenues were sinking. Kurian quickly turned things around and OnTap now accounts for the majority of new shipments at NetApp, whose board asked Kurian to take over 10-year CEO Tom Georgens in 2015.
At the start of 2016, Kurian laid off 12% of the company, 1,500 people, and spent that year putting the foundations in place for a major transformation programme. In December 2015, he splurged $870 million on all-flash storage maker SolidFire in a critical move that put NetApp back in the driving seat of the storage industry as it moved rapidly to this new area.
Indeed, all-flash arrays were integral to the 7% year-on-year revenue growth reported in NetApp’s fourth-quarter financial results two months ago, the the third quarter in a row to show revenue and profit growth. NetApp is the fastest-growing vendor in the all-flash array market and closed the year by added a customer a day, almost 400 net new customers since the acquisition. “We hope to increase that to adding two customers a day,” says Kurian.
“It has been the best year of market share gains in the 25 years of the company. We have gained share against competitors in every conceivable market we compete in. We are not only the fastest-growing solid state array vendor (number 2 overall), but we are also the fastest-growing storage area network provider – bigger than Hitachi and I’m the first NetApp CEO to be able to say that.”
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Last month, NetApp and Cisco launched a converged infrastructure solution, FlexPod SF, for data-intensive, scale-out workloads. The solution combines SolidFire’s all-flash arrays with Cisco’s unified computing system (UCS) B-Series servers and Nexus switching. According to the companies, FlexPod SF can support enterprise and emerging architectures with precise storage capacity and performance tailored to the needs of individual tenants in multitenant environments.
The new solution extends the FlexPod technology portfolio that has been deployed by over 8,400 global customers and 1,100 partners that serve 100 countries. The portfolio has generated a total of $8 billion in combined revenue across Cisco and NetApp to date.
“Data is at the heart of business success in the digital era,” commented Brett Roscoe, NetApp’s VP of products, solutions and services marketing, at the launch of the product. “Together, Cisco and NetApp offer a family of solutions that give organisations access to the full value of their data for competitive advantage.
“FlexPod SF helps customers maximise that value with a new kind of converged infrastructure that easily scales, performs predictably and offers better economics.”
“To help businesses capitalize on their digital transformation, IT needs a new kind of cloud infrastructure that is simply, agile, and performs predictably as application requirements rapidly change,” said
Satinder Sethi, VP of data centre solutions at Cisco, added: “FlexPod SF offers a prevalidated, next-generation software–defined converged architecture solution that customers can deploy with confidence to meet their transformational goals.”