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Compellent could rise into Gartner's leader box

HP could become a mere visionary

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Comment We got hold of a Gartner magic quadrant diagram for mid-range storage arrays from late last year, showing Compellent poised to cross over into the leader's box and HP not very far inside it. Could the unthinkable happen and Compellent and HP change places?

Gartner's MQ is the most famous, or notorious depending upon your point of view, 4-box diagram in the IT world. It separates suppliers into leaders (top right), challengers (top left), visionaries (bottom right) and niche players (bottom left).

Cynics say there is a progression from the losers' niche players' bottom left corner to the leaders' top right corner by either the visionaries (aka we don't sell a lot but do we have good ideas) or challengers (we sell lots of ordinary stuff in an ordinary way) corners. They also say that a supplier's ranking in the MQ diagram might oddly have a correlation with the amount of money it spends with Gartner, a point of view strongly denied by Gartner and by suppliers in the various quadrants.

The mid-range storage MQ box is basically for suppliers of non-mainframe-attached and RAIDed dual-controller and block-access storage with an average selling price of $24,999 or more. This November 2009 version has a darn near empty challenger's box, with just Fujitsu and Sun in it and both of them just over the dividing line from the niche players. Unless Oracle sorts out Sun's storage, and Fujitsu brings its various separate storage operations together under a single well-marketed and driven brand, then they are both likely to plunge into niche playerdom soon.

Infortrend, SGI and Nexsan are more or less centred in the niche player box. NEC could climb out into challenger status and DataDirect Networks is within a whisker of slipping through into the visionaries' box and joining five other suppliers there.

This famous five are 3PAR, BlueArc, Compellent, Pillar Data and Xiotech. They're the second string of suppliers, generally speaking, and they are looking ahead at the sexy six in the leaders box: Dell, EMC, Hitachi, HP and IBM. Of this top six HP looks to have the flakiest position. Gartner offers a little strengths and weaknesses note, actually cautions, for each supplier. What's it say about HP?

The EVA line is not competitive enough, lacking thin provisioning, automated quality of service and intelligent power management. There is a positioning overlap between the EVA and LeftHand P4000 lines leading to confusion. Also HP is not positioned as a thought or market leader in this product area.

Ouch. It looks like HP better sort this out in order to remain in the leader box.

On the other hand, could Compellent move up?

Gartner says it has limited penetration and brand awareness in international markets. It needs integrated file access rather than a separate NAS head. The good stuff is its enthusiastic channel, increasing market penetration (sales) and automated tiering, business continuity and other goodies in its Storage Center software. Basically, it has to screw up what it's currently doing to miss out on the leader's box.

NEC could move up into the challengers' box if, the Gartner oracle says, its relatively new US management continues getting its revenue growth act together. It also needs to build brand awareness and sales channel strengths outside its home base, Japan.

Back in the place no-one wants to be, could DataDirect escape into the visionaries' box? Gartner says it's got to broaden its product features, adding things like snapshots, remote copy, thin provisioning and iSCSI access, because that's what the competition has. Also, Gartner says, it needs to provide financial transparency. It's a private company.

Gartner reckons Fujitsu has to stop its sales organisations selling non-Fujitsu storage gear - a no-brainer really - and market its products better in the Americas and Asia outside Japan. It needs to get its international and inhouse acts together, really.

This MQ is a fun snapshot of the mid-range storage market. It's from last November and to that extent out of date, but the broad comparisons seem true enough and the borderline situation analysis is fair, as far as it goes.

What a kerfuffle there will be if HP slips down into the visionaries' box. Oh, David Donatelli, prepare your answers to the enquiring phone call from Mark Hurd that will surely follow. ®

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