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EMC, Pure Storage, IBM and HP Lead Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays

SolidFire, Kaminario and Tegile visionaries
This is a Press Release edited by StorageNewsletter.com on 2015.07.01

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This report, Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays, published on June 25, 2015, was written by Gartner, Inc.'s analysts Valdis Filks, Joseph Unsworth and Arun Chandrasekaran.

View Summary
Solid-state arrays (SSAs) provide performance levels an order of magnitude faster than disk-based storage arrays at competitive prices per gigabyte, enabled by in-line data reduction and lower-cost flash memory. This Magic Quadrant will help IT leaders better understand SSA vendors' positioning.

This Magic Quadrant covers SSA vendors that offer dedicated SSA product lines positioned and marketed with specific model numbers, which cannot be used as, upgraded or converted to general-purpose or hybrid storage arrays.

Considering the potentially disruptive nature of SSAs on the general-purpose external controller-based (ECB) disk storage market, Gartner has elected to report only on vendors that qualify as an SSA vendor. We do not consider SSD-only general-purpose disk array configurations in this research. To meet these inclusion criteria, SSA vendors must have a dedicated model and name, available by 31 December 2014, and the product cannot be configured with HDDs at any time. These systems typically (but not always) include an OS and data management software optimized for solid-state technology.

Market Overview
Demand for SSAs continues to exceed market expectations. A few customers are moving to all-flash and SSA data centers for primary storage when the data reduction ratio makes the SSA's capacity utilization competitive with HDD arrays or hybrid arrays. This high adoption rate is due not only to the hard requirements, such as increases in productivity, reduced environmental footprint and storage efficiency, but also to the desire for a new storage technology and its order-of-magnitude improvement in performance. Even though many do not need it, if the desire is sufficient, the need will be justified. From an empirical perspective, SSA success is also due to historic stagnation and inability of hard-disk-drive-based storage to increase performance in terms of latency compared to the increase in CPU performance. Similarly, the reduced latency of solid-state arrays has enabled the creation of data reduction features, which provide higher storage utilization rates, reduce writes and improve cost-effectiveness. The advent of these factors has led to the continuing high rate of adoption of SSAs, evidenced by the fact that the SSA market segment more than doubled in 2014 compared to 2013, with total market revenue for SSAs in 2014 totaling $1.43 billion.

Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays
gartner,Magic Quadrant,Solid-State Arrays
(Source: Gartner, June 2015)

A vendor's position on the Magic Quadrant should not be equated with its product's attractiveness or suitability for every client's requirements. If the solutions better fit your needs, have the appropriate support capabilities and are attractively priced, then it is perfectly acceptable to acquire solutions from vendors that are not in the Leaders quadrant.

Vendor Strengths and Cautions

Cisco
Cisco entered the SSA market through the acquisition of Whiptail in 2013. In 2014, Cisco briefly halted the shipping of SSAs due to quality issues. After re-engineering efforts that involved transitioning from white-label hardware to Unified Computing System (UCS) hardware design and fixing critical software bugs, the Cisco UCS Invicta series was relaunched in January 2015, having been closely integrated with UCS fabric and management platforms. Cisco now offers two products - UCS Invicta Appliance and the UCS Invicta Scaling System - segmenting the market based on customer needs for scalability and performance. The Invicta Appliance is a 2U appliance that can scale up to 24TB, while the Invicta Scaling System can scale up to six nodes for a maximum raw capacity of 144TB.

Strengths

  • The Invicta series offers customers the flexibility to start small, and then cost-effectively scale based on workload characteristics.
  • Cisco UCS customers benefit from Invicta's close integration with UCS Director and UCS Fabric Interconnects.
  • Deduplication is offered as an add-on feature, allowing customers to trade off data reduction for performance based on specific application requirements.

Cautions

  • There hasn't been much innovation and sales execution from Cisco after the Whiptail acquisition, casting a shadow on Invicta's future.
  • The attrition in the Whiptail organization and the lack of focus on SSAs from Cisco are negatively impacting implementation and technical support services.
  • Pricing is still on an a la carte basis, charging for individual data services such as deduplication and replication, while most other vendors are gravitating toward unified, all-inclusive base pricing.

EMC
EMC offers two SSA products on the market: XtremIO and the VNX-F; however, EMC leads with XtremIO as its strategic SSA offering. XtremIO was purpose-built as a scale-out SSA. It is the only EMC offering with in-line data reduction, and it was designed from inception to be simple to administer and operate. As it did with the disruptive upgrade in September 2014 that resulted in several disgruntled customers during the 2.4 to 3.0 migration, EMC is able to quickly address upgrade issues and reduce migration outages. Overall, EMC has been able to successfully sell and market XtremIO due to its vast sales force, channel bandwidth and execution prowess. The XtremIO product has gone through several software updates in the past year, and EMC has additional changes in the pipeline to improve reliability, performance and data protection.

  • Strengths
  • Has highly responsive sales and marketing organizations, which publicly and very successfully articulate XtremIO roadmaps, problems, fixes and issues.
  • Provides existing customers with higher-than-competitor discounts, and advantageous XtremIO purchase terms for warranty and maintenance.
  • Has an extremely capable in-house global support and service organization that is responsive with upgrade equipment when customer have to perform upgrades and replacements.

Cautions

  • XtremIO's cadence of fixes and software upgrades has been, and will continue to be, overwhelming for many customers as the vendor strives to achieve feature parity or exceed the capabilities of competitors.
  • XtremIO provides global deduplication, but it does not have detailed data reduction reporting by LUN (LUN) or volume; data reduction reporting is only available at the X-Brick or cluster level.
  • Extra products such as RecoverPoint and VPLEX often need to be purchased to provide HA and replication, at extra cost and administration complexity.

Fujitsu
With the Eternus DX200F becoming available in June 2014, Fujitsu is a latecomer to the SSA marketplace as it took a long time for it to decide whether to stay with a hybrid general-purpose array product strategy containing tiers of SSDs and HDDs, or to have an additional dedicated SSA offering. Fujitsu's short-term tactics are to resell t,he Violin Memory SSA when customers require larger capacity SSAs, and the DX200F when smaller capacities are required. This will continue until Fujitsu has its own larger capacity offerings and data reduction ability. Fujitsu also offers an inclusive software licensing method, which makes it quicker and simpler for customers to purchase all features and expand the array with fewer hidden and upgrade costs.

Strengths

  • The product offers proven synchronous and asynchronous replication features based on the DX array software.
  • There is common administration and configuration software between all disk and solid-state arrays.
  • HA clustering provides quick failover and synchronization between systems.

Cautions

  • Eternus DX200F is a relatively new product, with few public references and case studies.
  • The product has no in-line data reduction features, such as deduplication and compression.
  • Fujitsu has limited sales and support coverage in the Americas.

HP
HP continues to invest in its SSA portfolio through enhancements in its existing 3PAR StoreServ 7450c product, as well as the introduction of a cost-effective, entry-level solution, the 3PAR StoreServ 7200c All-Flash Array. The 3PAR hardware architecture and management platform lends itself well to efficient use of underlying SSD technology, and to QoS, which continues to improve. The SSA product portfolio is robust and excels in key functionality like thin provisioning and resiliency; however, it still lacks other key features such as compression. HP's scale-out approach and lower entry point in the market was supported by a regalvanized sales and marketing campaign that paid dividends for HP during 2H14, with substantial revenue recognition and market share gain. HP's sales and channel execution was supported by an aggressive pricing campaign that points back to the efficiency of HP's hardware architecture.

Strengths

  • Proven reliability, features and scale within the 3PAR architecture with a single, familiar platform appeals to HP's existing general-purpose storage array customer base.
  • Given its efficient use of SSD capacity, can sustainably offer very aggressive pricing that can rival nearly all vendors.
  • Has demonstrated that its sales and channel bandwidth can quickly scale to attract, address and react quickly to the needs of a growing, global installed base.

Cautions

  • Full in-line deduplication effectiveness is relatively unproven, and compression is currently unavailable.
  • Offers a cost-effective alternative; however, a demonstrable ROI is needed to distinguish that its product functionality and capability can rival other feature-rich offerings.
  • Reporting and analytical features continue to evolve, but need further improvement.

Huawei
Huawei's SSA product line consists of the OceanStor Dorado5100 and Dorado2100 G2 series, which are second generation, and the recently introduced OceanStor 18800F. Because it is headquartered in China, Huawei derives more than half of its revenue from AsiaPac customers, but has had severe brand perception and execution challenges in the U.S. Huawei relies on its direct sales force to generate a majority of its SSA sales, although channel development efforts are starting to pay off in Asia (outside of China), EMEA and South America. Huawei has an aggressive sales approach, offering steep discounts off the list price for qualified enterprise customers. From an engineering perspective, Huawei has significant R&D investments in flash, with deep vertical integration through design and development of ASIC-based SSD controllers and SSDs.

Strengths

  • Has multiple hybrid and solid-state product lines aimed at common customer workloads across block, file and object protocols with a common management interface.
  • It offers differentiated performance improvements and pricing flexibility due to its vertically integrated design and engineering enhancements.
  • Is striving to create transparency around its performance through participation in standardized benchmarking tests.

Cautions

  • Support capabilities outside of China are weak, effecting resolution times for complex problems.
  • Innovation at the software layer continues to lag behind hardware-layer enhancements.
  • When Huawei introduces data reduction capabilities in its product line, customers need to be prepared to cope with a disruptive upgrade.

IBM
IBM understands the changing direction of the storage array market, evidenced by its aggressive investments in its SSA products and a renewed sales focus. IBM led and outgrew the market in terms of shipments; however, it did not grow as fast as the market in revenue. While this indicates an aggressive pricing strategy and successfully selling into its installed base, it also signifies the need to add more premium data management services as it continues to expand in and outside of its customer base. IBM procures NAND components, which it optimizes through its own engineering and testing. These efforts were further enhanced via a strategic NAND relationship announcement with Micron Technology that allowed IBM to make performance and reliability improvements. This latest announcement coincides with the debut of IBM FlashSystem V9000 and FlashSystem 900, which are updates to FlashSystem V840 and FlashSystem 840. FlashSystem V840 is based on IBM Spectrum Virtualize software and the underlying FlashSystem hardware, which provides the all-flash storage capacity. The Spectrum Virtualize software, which is the new name for the SAN Volume Controller (SVC) software component, provides data services and virtualization capabilities.

Strengths

  • Has a strong heritage in providing a high-performance SSA with the ability to adapt to changing storage technologies.
  • Has a strategic supplier NAND relationship for flash cost and quality optimization, which provides security of supply for its customers.
  • There is a consistent investment and cadence of additional hardware development and software product updates.

Cautions

  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize software has the majority of its software used in many other IBM storage products, which implies software, update and fix dependencies, plus resource prioritization challenges.
  • No native deduplication features are offered, but they can be provided by IBM partners - such as Atlantis Computing and Permabit - at extra cost and complexity.
  • Leveraging IBM Spectrum Virtualize software that sits in the data path introduces additional latency, rack space requirements and potential HA challenges, and more elements to service, when compared to FlashSystem 840.

Kaminario
Kaminario is one of the more tested SSA start-ups. Delivering its products for more than four years, it is now on its fifth-generation product. The Kaminario K2 architecture is a mature and proven platform offering flexible deployment through a scale-up or scale-out approach. It has versatile selectable data reduction options at the LUN level. Array design decisions provide Kaminario with the ability to leverage more cost-effective SSD technology with little compromise. The company promotes transparency with its business programs and public benchmarks. Kaminario has improved its awareness with creative marketing efforts, which paid off in 2014 as it more than doubled its sales. After raising $68 million between December 2014 and February 2015, Kaminario will now need to raise its mind share further in order to attract leading channel partners, grow internationally and, ultimately, continue to grow sales.

Strengths

  • Has a scale-up/scale-out architecture with rich features that has demonstrated strong performance and reliability over its past five product generations.
  • Utilizes flexible storage efficiency and resiliency technologies to maximize cost structure that enables its bold guarantee program for an average of $2/GB usable capacity.
  • With its recent funding raise from December 2014, continues to invest in execution through global channel expansion.

Cautions

  • Has limited marketing ability to gain mind share, which is important in order to expand its sales channel bandwidth and long-term viability.
  • Sales and support is focused on the U.S. and Europe, so buyers outside these geographies should understand support ramifications and Kaminario's ability to scale support.
  • Interoperability with ISVs trails competitors in the depth of integration with VMware, Microsoft and OpenStack hypervisor and cloud management APIs.

NetApp
NetApp was a late entrant into the SSA market, with a diverse portfolio consisting of three distinct products. While its execution is consistent, it has grown at a slower rate than the market. The EF-Series (based on the hybrid E-Series) remains the flagship product, and is focused on workloads that do not need data reduction capabilities. The All-Flash FAS, productized during June 2014, is aimed at the traditional fabric-attached storage (FAS) customers who would like to preserve their investments in that platform but need more robust performance than what hybrid arrays can offer flashRay is planned as NetApp's purpose-built product for solid-state media, although it is still in limited availability status. Given the overlap between the three different products and the complexity that arises from that overlap, NetApp tries to segment and qualify customer workloads to the appropriate product through workload analysis tools, which channel partners and its internal sales force can leverage. Our conclusion is that, in the long term, the FAS SSA will be the strategic product for NetApp and will incorporate elements of FlashRay.

Strengths

  • Both the EF-Series and FAS series are mature products that have a large installed base, offering existing customers platform continuity and management familiarity.
  • NetApp has continued to deliver performance enhancements to the EF-Series that include newer CPUs and faster host interfaces (12Gb SAS and 56Gb IB, in addition to 16Gb FC and 10Gb iSCSI).
  • All-Flash FAS is now available as part of the FlexPod reference architecture, which has a strong momentum having achieved $3 billion in sales since its inception in 2010.

Cautions

  • There is significant overlap in NetApp's SSA product portfolio, with three different products causing confusion among customers about sustainable innovation and long-term viability of each of these products.
  • FlashRay, which was announced in 2014 - but is still in limited availability as a single-controller array with several missing software functionalities - raises questions about the ability of NetApp to be competitive amid rapid innovation from competitors.
  • The lack of data reduction capabilities limits the appeal of EF-Series in server virtualization, VDI and OLTP consolidation use cases.

Nimbus Data
Nimbus Data had the foresight to see the advantages of SSA, and so was one of the early entrants into the SSA market. However, it has not grown as fast as the market. The vendor specializes in and concentrates on selling to large customers. The vendor's management structure is lean, and it often does not have the resources to work within or expand out of its existing installed base. Many customers who approach Nimbus Data and request information, offers, quotations and participation in RFIs and RFPs do not receive an answer. Due to lack of resources and external funding to expand, its market share has been declining.

Strengths

  • Has wide feature and unified block and file protocol support, plus IB.
  • The product performs well in high-performance, bandwidth and latency-sensitive environments.
  • Has a broad product portfolio of array capacities that boasts cost-effective price points given the usage of consumer-grade flash technology.

Cautions

  • The vendor has a highly centralized top-down management approach, and this narrow executive hierarchy challenges decision making and could be problematic for long-term viability.
  • The organization has relatively small sales and support staff, which may not scale, especially if outside of the select geographic regions where Nimbus Data currently has support.
  • Lacks financial and organizational transparency and public references.

Pure Storage
Pure Storage has executed well on its vision of software-led SSAs that leverage off-the-shelf cost-effective hardware components providing cost-effective SSAs. Through creative marketing programs and targeted competitive campaigns, it has managed to acieve high customer awareness and challenge the large storage behemoths by making it easy for customers to buy and own its products. This is a testament to Pure's mature and established FA-400 Series, which continues to deliver capable data management services and proven data reduction implementation while based on consumer-grade SSD technology. Pure has done this with an aggressive go-to-market channel strategy, and has maintained high customer satisfaction levels as it has scaled the business. Pure's culture and innovation has been able to attract high-quality personnel as it continues to expand across geographies. Gartner expects that Pure Storage will be publicly traded within the next 12 months.

Strengths

  • Demonstrates that it understands customer pain points through new creative pricing and guarantee programs around controller upgrades, SSD warranties and maintenance pricing.
  • Is moving from being a software-orientated vendor using commodity SSDs to being more of a hardware-engineering organization that designs and tunes its own storage array subsystem.
  • Has gained customer trust by demonstrating it is reliable, stable and easy to work with.

Cautions

  • As a privately held and fast-growing company, there continues to be lack of transparency around its financial metrics such as revenue growth, cash burn rate and profitability.
  • The Pure Storage FA-400 series product has limited scalability when compared to competitive products.
  • Given the rapid revenue growth that it is experiencing, Pure Storage has its task cut out in its ability to grow its workforce, while simultaneously preserving its core culture and practices as it proceeds toward an IPO.

SolidFire
SolidFire's initial focus was on technology companies and service providers offering high-performance IaaS and SaaS. Since early 2014, SolidFire increased its focus on enterprise customers through a reseller agreement (with Dell) and channel programs targeting multitenant private cloud workloads. Recent enhancements include competitive entry-level offerings (SF2405); Element X, a software-only version of the SolidFire product targeted at hyperscale customers; and ActiveIQ, a SaaS-based analytics and reporting platform that delivers proactive support and is available as part of a standard maintenance contract. In addition, SolidFire offers a platform compatibility guarantee, ensuring that all future software and hardware releases will interoperate with existing infrastructure. Customers are allowed to perform their own software and hardware upgrades, which shows a robust and resilient design. SolidFire also offers a competitive unlimited drive wear guarantee and simple, all-inclusive pricing.

Strengths

  • Exhibits growing momentum in the enterprise segment through strong VMware and OpenStack integration, and through the introduction of cost-effective entry-level models, such as SF2405.
  • Offers flexible deployment models that include all software-inclusive appliances, prevalidated reference QoS, multitenancy, API-based storage automation and scale-out capabilities make it an attractive storage platform for diverse storage consolidation and private cloud workloads.

Cautions

  • Success in the market is predicated on rapid evolution of multitenant private clouds, which have been plagued by technology immaturity and cultural challenges in the enterprise.
  • Breadth of reference implementations, depth of ISV partnerships and strength of a presales team focused on enterprise workloads continue to trail competitors.
  • Has limited sales, service and support personnel outside of the U.S., Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia and Western Europe.

Tegile
Founded in 2010, Tegile is a relatively new entrant in the SSA market. Over a short period of time, it has achieved good market adoption of the T3800, which only became available in June 2014. Customers should exploit Tegile's IntelliCare guarantees around price, availability and upgrades. The Tegile T3600 through T3800 SSAs are built on the same platform as the hybrid T3100 through T3400 storage arrays, and, therefore, all have the same administration and configuration GUIs. The reuse of the same proven software used in the hybrid arrays, and a ZFS-based architecture that has been optimized and rewritten, enables Tegile to offer a mature platform. Tegile provides list price and discount%age transparency on its purchase offers. Complementing this openness, it also includes all software features in the base price of the product; therefore, customers do not have to purchase extra licenses as they expand the array. Tegile sells its products via the channel rather than direct, and so far, this indirect go-to-market business model has been successful.

Strengths

  • Has a simple product portfolio, which leverages the same hardware, software and management GUI for all SSAs and hybrid storage arrays.
  • Broad block and file protocol support makes Tegile one of the few unified SSA offerings.
  • Offers selectable data reduction, and detailed instrumentation and data reduction reporting on a storage pool and LUN level.

Cautions

  • Has limited market traction and presence outside North America and Western Europe.
  • Exhibits a lack of enterprise-focused channel partners and an overall limited market awareness.
  • Extra products need to be purchased if synchronous replication is required; only asynchronous replication is available today.

Violin Memory
Violin Memory has traveled a turbulent path over the past few years, as a failed IPO precipitated a complete overhaul of the executive and sales teams. In early 2014, Violin Memory emerged under a new executive team that has endeavored to revitalize the company. Violin continues to leverage its component hardware approach, but it re-engineered a more resilient module on a more advanced flash memory process through its strong relationship with flash memory maker Toshiba. Most importantly, Violin has promoted a more cohesive data management software approach that debuted in early 2015 in its 7300 and 7700 product lines. However, these are new to the market and have limited customer validation compared to the prior series. The advancements in data management software are based mostly upon optimization and redevelopment of intellectual property licensed from FalconStor. With a more comprehensive and integrated data management software suite, many existing customers have been carefully testing and delaying purchases to the detriment of Violin's customer revenue growth. Now that Violin is focusing aggressively on selling its more competitive 7000 series products, its success will be dependent upon the merits of its software and its ability to attract quality channel partners in order to achieve its revenue growth targets.

Strengths

  • Purpose-built hardware delivers strong performance, density and a price that appeals to demanding customers for low-latency workloads.
  • Has demonstrated agility and resilience to accelerate both its hardware and software development efforts in order to swiftly integrate its data management software into its 7000 series.
  • Offers relatively fast product transition to a new product line, with more comprehensive software features in the Concerto OS.

Cautions

  • Software abilities and implementation need to be refined and improved for ease of use.
  • Has considerable concentration among a small group of customers, and while it has diversified over the past quarters, it still deserves to be monitored closely to ensure future company stability.
  • Could be an acquisition target should its data management software not resonate well with existing customers, and if its financial and profitability targets are not achieved by 2016.

Vendors Added and Dropped
We review and adjust our inclusion criteria for Magic Quadrants and MarketScopes as markets change. As a result of these adjustments, the mix of vendors in any Magic Quadrant or MarketScope may change over time. A vendor's appearance in a Magic Quadrant or MarketScope one year and not the next does not necessarily indicate that we have changed our opinion of that vendor. It may be a reflection of a change in the market and, therefore, changed evaluation criteria, or of a change of focus by that vendor.

Added
Fujitsu and Tegile

Dropped
Skyera was purchased by Western Digital in December 2014, but failed to meet our revenue inclusion criteria.

Other vendors and products were considered for the Magic Quadrant but did not meet the inclusion criteria, despite offering SSD-only configuration options to existing products. These vendors and/or specific products may warrant investigation based on your application workload needs for their SSD-only offerings:

  • American Megatrends (AMI) StorTrends 3600i
  • Dell Compellent Storage solutions
  • EMC VMAX
  • Fusion-io ION (acquired by SanDisk)
  • Hitachi Unified Storage (HUS) VM
  • IBM DS8000
  • NEC A5000
  • NetApp FAS (excluding All-Flash FAS)
  • Oracle ZFS
  • X-IO ISE 800 Series
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