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Ingenious NetApp buys Engenio

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OEM deal or no OEM deal?

There must be a suspicion that OEM deals with storage companies competing with NetApp will not or may not be renewed, and NetApp will have to sell Engenio arrays to end-user customers. If that is the case it will have to do that before the current OEM deals run out.

NetApp will have a positioning problem as the Engenio arrays are pure block access and will probably/possibly/maybe perform better in storage area network (SAN) applications than NetApp's FAS arrays which are primarily filers with block access added on. The Engenio arrays have a straightforward tiering scheme with STEC flash drives top-ending it and this is different from NetApp's Flash Cache-based FAS controller flash usage and its reluctant-seeming use of flash drives in the FAS arrays.

LSI bought the filer assets of ONStor in September, 2009 to put a NAS head on its block access arrays. We don't know if that technology is included in the Engenio purchase. If it is then NetAp has a potential ready-made NAS head for the Engenio 2600, 4900 and 7900 arrays and would probably integrate that with ONTAP somehow. Alternatively it may provide some kind of V-Series-based NAS functionality to the Engenio gear and dump the ONSTor technology.

NetApp also gets the StoreAge SVM technology which LSI acquired a year or few ago, and may do something with that.

An additional irony is that, as EMC becomes a little more like NetApp with its unified VNX storage line, NetApp becomes a little more like EMC by adding a substantial alternative product line to its previous one group of tricks product pony FAS line. It already has the Bycast object storage business but that is not substantial in the way Engenio is.

HP StorageWorks head David Scott offered his thoughts on the acquisition: "Looks like NetApp is finally going to drop WAFL and adopt ONStor/LSI as their next gen architecture... ...unless of course they're reversing their single architecture dogma. :)"

As far as the basic mechanics of the acquisition are concerned "the Engenio business unit will be integrated into NetApp’s business functions and will be responsible for product development under Manish Goel, EVP of NetApp Product Operations. The NetApp and Engenio sales teams will be combined to maximise opportunities for the Engenio platform." Is that a hint that non-OEM sales of Engenio arrays will be sought? There's no point otherwise as the Engenio team sells to OEMs and NetApp's don't, apart from IBM that is.

For NetApp, this looks a very good deal indeed, so long as any anticipated OEM sales fall-off for Engenio arrays can be compensated for by winning end-user sales. That market is where NetApp has built its business and, El Reg hazards a guess, that market is where NetApp is going to push Engenio SAN storage heavily. ®

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