Storage vendors are always looking for the next big thing, and they bang the drums loudly when they think they’ve found it — often long before customers are ready to buy. Now they are making a lot of noise around clustered systems, particularly when it comes to selling to new types of businesses such as Web-based merchants and service providers.
Sun, EMC and IBM, which have mostly slideware at this point, have all disclolsed intentions to tackle this space over the past month or so. IBM backed up the talk by acquiring grid storage system vendor XIV this week in a deal reportedly worth $300 to $350 million.
But it’s still early in the cluster game, as Isilon painfully found out. Isilon went public on the strength of its success in the clustered NAS market, but that market apparently isn’t as big as Isilon’s execs and investors expected. Its first year as a public company was marked by disappointing revenues and a plummeting stock price.
NetApp, meanwhile, is finding it hard to cluster its traditional non-clustered NAS. More than four years after it acquired cluster technology from Spinnaker, NetApp hasn’t had great success with its OnTap GX product. Users report that many features they’ve come to expect from NetApp aren’t working yet with GX. NetApp considers its clustered product mainly for the small high performance computing (HPC) market at this stage. Others, such as startup Panasas, also sell clusters mainly to HPC customers .
So it will be interesting to see how much success IBM has with XIV’s Nextra systems, and what EMC and Sun come up with.
There is one Web 2.0 company that has successfully deployed a highly parallel compute farm in massive scale production, but it developed the technology in-house. That is Google, which built Googleplex with nary a single storage vendor’s salemsan present. But Google’s system isn’t for sale — much to the relief of storage vendors but not their would-be customers.