NetApp’s Successful Tryst with India :By- George Thomas
One of the overnight success stories, since its inception in 1992, NetApp has been steadily building on its networked-attached storage (NAS) filer base and is jockeying for the top position in the storage space.
Data is core to every organization – be it small or large. Needless to say, the storage, archival and backup of data is essential for the smooth functioning of any organization. Even a very small organization uses some form of storage and some form of archival and backup. As a matter of fact, the ratio of storage of data in small organizations is more than the large organizations because they cannot leave the tendency of storing every piece of information so easily – be it relevant or irrelevant. But it becomes inconvenient while trying to sort out the relevant data from the pile of information. If this persists in the large enterprises, I think everything will be chaotic – the impact will be more–staggering. So, they need really intelligent storage and quick backup mechanism to adapt to their business uninterpretability.
It is not surprising that the storage solutions market is, at present, one of the fastest growing markets in the IT industry. With the expansion of enterprises, the accumulation of more and more data is now a reality. As the storage of the data is sine qua non for an organization, there is a quest for vendors providing storage management solutions.
As there are lots of players offering storage management solutions, with high level of product evolution making the market more competitive, it becomes a difficult proposition for the customers to select the right one. However, NetApp is one such company that rises to the end-users’ expectations.
NetApp offers a complete storage solution, with a touch of simplicity. “Simplifying Data Management” is a quick summary of NetApp. It captures something that we care deeply about and focus much of our product development effort on. And this is the key to our competitive advantage,” says George Thomas, Country Manager, India & SAARC, NetApp.
The storage solution of NetApp represents a good value for investment. The Return-on-Investment (RoI) is enormous. The company is valued by the customers because of the ease and flexibility of its operations. “One of the things we are most proud of about NetApp is that customers often tell us how much easier it is to work with NetApp equipment than our competitors“– easier to install, easier to provision a new LUN, easier to increase/shrink volumes on the fly to reclaim unused storage space, easier to replicate data and so on,” says Thomas.
“For example, we are one of the largest vendors of replication software that protects data by making remote site copies. We believe this is because configuring replication for most storage systems is so complex that people use it less than they’d like, and we have done better,” adds Thomas.
NetApp has made a strategic alliance with IBM by which both the companies extended an OEM agreement into virtualization technology.
As a result, Big Blue combines its virtualization technologies with NetApp’s V-Series and Fabric Attached Storage systems to develop a wide range of integrated products and services, available through IBM’s VAR network.
“Our relationship with IBM is ramping up significantly and we have had a number of joint enterprise wins in the recent past. Our field sales/pre-sales teams are closely engaging with their counterparts at IBM and going forward, we see this relationship as contributing significantly to our market presence in India,” says Thomas.
How India fits in the NetApp’s scheme of things can be gauged from what Thomas says. According to him, India is one of the fastest growing storage markets and one of the key markets marked for top investment by the company this year.
“We are seeing tremendous growth of our business in one of the fastest growing storage markets in the world and we are continuously investing in systems, infrastructure and people to take advantage of this opportunity,” says Thomas.
“Having a strong and sustainable position in the markets like India is a clear priority for NetApp, and combined with our product leadership, we believe we are well positioned to lead the Indian market going forward.
According to the research firm IDC, for 1H CY 06, NetApp had 20 per cent-plus share of the Indian networked storage market by revenue. “We have consistently maintained our position among the top networked storage vendors in India over the last few years,” adds Thomas.
Recently, the company has announced that it is planning to beef up its three-year-old engineering and support site in Bangalore. The development centre, which currently employs 600 workers, is expected to have about 750 engineers over the next year.
NetApp is making significant investments in people, infrastructure, training and education, and partner enablement, to take its business in India to the next level. “We are also rolling out new marketing initiatives to increase our share in specific verticals as well as product segments. From the marketing perspective, we run a series of end-user events and participate in the industry trade shows to increase our contact base. In addition, we have two great online resources which are valuable to anyone deciding on storage“––Tech OnTap, our monthly e-newsletter on the latest in storage technology and TechTalk, a series of on-demand/live webcasts that discuss a range of storage subject, featuring NetApp product experts, analysts and customer speakers.
“We also participate in enterprise-focussed marketing initiatives rolled out by our alliance partners, to reinforce our strengths in those application/infrastructure environments,” adds Thomas.
NetApp was once known for mainly focussing on the technical markets such as life sciences or engineering. But, of late, the company has expanded into the enterprise segment, along with its range of enterprise storage solutions.”“While it is true that technical markets are large market spaces for NetApp, it is also true that we have been in the enterprise data centre space for a long time,” says Thomas.
“Specifically, over the last twelve months, we have introduced a series of products/solutions/capabilities that are helping NetApp consolidate its position in the enterprise space in a big way. We are winning new enterprise customers worldwide, including India and this is a testimony to the fact that enterprise CIOs are seeing the value that NetApp can bring them,” says Thomas.
“Our progress in enterprise is also catching analysts’ attention. For example, according to Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant report (November 2006), in which NetApp continues to occupy the Leaders’ quadrant, key messages remain focussed on the advantages of unified storage architecture, ease of use, improving utilization rates and low TCOs. SAN revenues are growing; NetApp credibility in mission-critical environments is improving; and the IBM relationship is on track to becoming an important revenue source,” adds Thomas.
NetApp storage systems scale from 1TB to 500TB, and each system supports all storage networking protocols (NAS, FC SAN, IP SAN) and multiple needs (primary storage, backup/recovery, archival, compliance, data recovery). Starting from the entry-level FAS2x0 series, user can scale up to the high-end FAS60x0 series, seamlessly. “Our Virtual Tape Library provides highly scalable disk-based backup functionality, and the Topio Data Protection Suite offers up-to-the-minute replication/mirroring functionality, for heterogenous primary storage environments. Compliance and storage security solutions complete our range of offerings,” says Thomas.
Though NetApp solutions appeal to mid-large enterprises primarily; small enterprises with large storage requirements also buy its products. For a mid-large enterprise customer, the company has a full range of solutions, appealing to different price/performance/scalability needs.
The SMB market is a good opportunity for NetApp. There is a significant market for an SMB-type of solution, which is plug-and-play, can be deployed in minutes and supported remotely. “We launched our SMB-focussed product StoreVault in the US and a few other markets earlier this year and are in the process of fine-tuning the model for India, in terms of distribution and support. Once that is in place, we would look at launching this product in India,” says Thomas.
However, this does not mean that the company does not have SMB customers in India. “There are many SMBs where data storage is critical, and they would like to deploy our current range of products to solve key data management challenges. In fact, our entry-level product – FAS200 series – has found wide acceptance among SMBs. Our strategy of expanding our Tier 2 reseller channel, via distributors, is also intended to help position our current product range at such SMB accounts,” says Thomas.
NetApp has tight partnerships in place with major application vendors like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Symantec, Filenet, UGS, Cadence, Rational; infrastructure/OS vendors like Cisco, Brocade, RedHat, and with a host of solution providers to ensure that enterprise customers are easily able to deploy the company’s systems for their mission-critical environments.
In India, NetApp has two SI partners, viz. Wipro Infotech and Apara Enterprise Solutions. Apart from these two partners, the company has two distribution partners – Ingram Micro and Inflow Technologies.
“We have our own sales/pre-sales/post-sales staff across Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi to support our partners and have direct touch with key enterprise accounts. We are working closely with our distribution partners to identify, train and register their Tier 2 resellers who are willing to focus on the NetApp business for the long term,” says Thomas.
The commercial benefits that a registered partner, Tier 1 or Tier 2, gets with NetApp are:
® Opportunity registration through NetApp CRM system, which ensures margin protection.
® Base level discounting irrespective of end-user price at which partner sells to a customer.
® Points-based rewards scheme for partner representatives, both sales/pre-sales, where the rewards can be redeemed in cash or kind.
® Back-end rebate programme for certain categories of partners, allowing them to earn higher overall margins subject to achievement of specific sales targets.
“Partner programmes are a critical component of our growth plans and we have an active programme in place, called the“‘VIP Partner Programme’ to register, enable and support our Tiers 1 & 2 resellers,” says Thomas.
The goal for NetApp is clear in the future.
“We are very focussed on going after the enterprise data centre space this year, with solutions for primary storage, disk-to-disk backup, business continuity, archival, compliance, data security. To be able to address our target market, we are aggressively developing our partners and investing in the local infrastructure, systems and additional people to scale up the business,” adds Thomas.
Last year, NetApp reported a turnover of US$2.07 billion and the company is growing at more than 30 per cent year-on-year.