Netapp SolidFire: FlashFoward notes

I had the privilege of attending the Netapp SolidFire Analyst day last Thursday- and rather than go through what the company told us (which was all great stuff), what I heard from SolidFire’s customers while there was probably more relevant and important.

I won’t repeat what’s been detailed elsewhere about the new capacity licensing model from Netapp SolidFire, which breaks the storage appliance model by decoupling the software license from the hardware it runs on.  This new model, called “FlashForward”, allows for a flexibility and a return on investment previously unavailable in the enterprise storage market.

The service provider customers that participated in the breakouts unanimously agreed that this new licensing model was going to be a huge win for them.  The most striking point was one service provider who had different depreciation schedules for software versus hardware –  something that couldn’t be taken advantage of with the appliance model.  Now, since the FlashForward program allows licenses to be moved between hardware instances, the software can now be depreciated over a longer timeframe (in this SP’s case it was 7 years).  Hardware refreshes now come at a much lower cost in year 3-4.  This all results in the ability to provision resources to tenants with a lower incremental cost per resource.

This could also have a major impact in the ability of companies to finance/lease SolidFire solutions- If you’re financing a given set of software over 6-7 years, obviously the monthly bill for that will be less than if you’re amortizing it over 3 years.   Hardware remains at a 36 month lease with its typical residual.  In a given year, that has the possibility of reducing cash out considerably.

Enterprise customers weren’t quite as giddy about FlashFoward as they were about the SolidFire technology itself; however the folks there were all IT, not finance.  Service Provider folks tend to be more focused on the economics of resource delivery.  The Enterprise IT folks were all about the “set-it and forget-it” benefits of their SolidFire implementations, with one customer stating that they only had to call support once in two years, for an event that wasn’t even SolidFire-related.  Certainly, we had happy customers at the Analyst event, but their stories were all those of the challenges of choosing a smaller storage vendor (at the time), against major industry headwinds and having to justify that decision with full proof-of-concepts.  Impressive stuff.

Of course SolidFire has made its name in the Service Provider market; their embrace of automation technology and the devops philosophy is recognized as leading the market.  This is precisely why we should be keeping a very close eye on these folks, as Enterprise IT looks to become its own Service Provider, and automate its on-premises resources in the same manner in which it automates its cloud resources.  Given this automation advantage and the acquisitional flexibility now offered,  SolidFire is going to align very well with enterprises that have historically implemented the straight SAN storage appliance model but are looking to transform and modernize.

Netapp SolidFire: FlashFoward notes

Solidfire Analyst Day – 6/2/16 – Live Blog

  • (7:52AM MDT) Exciting day in Boulder, CO, where a bunch of folks from Solidfire (and Netapp) are going to be going through the state of their business, and announce all sorts of stuff.  So, instead of trying to fit everything into tweets, I figured I’d do my best live blog impersonation! Stay here for updates, keep refreshing!


8:07am:  Here we go!  John Rollason, SolidFire Marketing director, takes (and sets the stage).

8:12am: #BringontheFuture is the hashtag of the day.  Coming up is the keynote from Solidfire founder Dave Wright.  This will be simulcast.  I already see tweets about the new purchasing model, yet nobody’s ANNOUNCED anything.  Oooh, Jeremiah Dooley’s going to do FIVE demos later.  AND, George Kurian hits the stage at 5:15.


8:24am:  John Rollason having a heck of a time trying to pronounce “Chautauqua”, which is where Solidfire will be taking folks for hiking tomorrow. Also- phones on “stun” please.

10:31am: Dave Wright in on stage. IMG_2240 2

“One storage product cannot cover all the use cases for Flash in the datacenter”.

  • EF- SPEED Demon. (One person sitting with me called it the “Ricky Bobby” flash storage.

This portfolio is now a $700M/year run rate.  If you think Netapp is a laggard, you haven’t been paying attention!!  The Analyst view of the AFA Market WAY over-estimated the impact of hybrid vs all-flash.

Per dave: “Netapp KILLING IT with all-flash adoption.  Way Way ahead of analyst projections.”  33% of bookings are now all-flash.  The adoption curve is so far ahead of what analysts projects, one wonders what they were thinking.

HA! graphic– headstone, RIP HYBRID STORAGE.

ANNOUNCEMENT : One platform, Multiple Consumption Models!

-VVOLS done right with per-vm QoS, New UI, VRF Multi-Tenant networking, 3x FC Performance and increase scale with 4 FC nodes now.
Functional AND sexy.

ANNOUNCEMENT: FULL FLEXPOD INTEGRATION!  Converged Infrastructure – VMWare, OpenStack, one of the most compelling converged infrastructure offerings in the market.

ANNOUNCEMENT: SF19210 Appliance- 2x perf, 2x capacity, 30% lower $/GB, >1PB Effective Capacity & 1.5M IOPS in 15U.

“Appliance licensing is too rigid for advanced enterprises, agile datacenters”.
cost all up front, can’t be transferred, data reduction impose uncertainty/risk around actual cost of storage

ANNOUNCEMENT: SF FlashForward Storage

License Element OS SW on an Enterprise-wide basis.  Based on Max Prov capacity
Purchase SF-cert’d HW nodes on a pass-thru cost basis

  • Flexible – can purchase SW/HW separately – more efficient spend
  • Efficient – No need to re-purchase when replacing, upgrading, consolidating – no stranded capacity
  • Predictable – no sw cost penalty from low-efficiency workloads.
  • Scalable – usage-based discount scheme, pass-through HW pricing – no unness sw or support costs increases as footprint expands

9:30am: Brendan Howe takes the stage to give a business update.

  • Runs Emerging Products group @ Netapp.
  • Reaching “extended customer communities”
    • Run
    • Grow
    • Transform
  • Scale  (SF) vs. Data Services (AFF) vs. Speed (EF) (same story as before)

Opinion – perhaps this is TOO discrete of a model for positioning. Certainly SF is perfectly (perhaps MORE) appropriate for certain classic datacenter storage use cases than AFF at times.  Anyone who sticks to this religiously is missing the point IMO.

  • Operational Integration –
    • Structured SF Business Unit
    • GTM Specialists Team under James Whitmore
    • Broad scale & pathway enablement
      • global scale , “all-in”
    • Fully integrated shared services
    • SolidFire office of the CTO (headed by CTO Val Bercovici)
    • Must protect this investment

9:47am : James Whitmore takes the stageIMG_2241


  • VP of Sales & Marketing
  • 46% YoY bookings growth
  • deal size >$240k avg
  • 57% Net New Account acquisition YoY
  • 218 Node largest single customer purchase (!!!!)
  • >75% bookings through channel partners
  • >30 countries
  • 77% in the Americas
  • Comcast, Walmart, Target, AT&T, TWC, Century Link
  • 2 segments
    • Transforming Digitals
      • Nike, BNP Paribas
    • Native Digitals
      • Ebay
      • Kinx
    • Cloud/Hosting Providers
      • SaaS
      • Cloud/Hosting
      • Cable/Telco
  • >80% increase in Enterprise Net-new account
    • wins across every major vertical/use case
      • finance, healthcase, SaaS, Energy, VMW/HyperV, Ora/SQL, VDI, Openstack
    • customers truly committed to transforming their datacenters
    • dominance in service provider market
    • 20% YoY increase in # of SP’s, but a 3x+ increase in capacity!
    • Very strong repeat business
  • Channel Integration
    • merge programs
    • enable new-to-SF partners
    • Leverage global distribution network
  • SF Specialist Team
    • Invest to accelerate growth
    • Transfer product capability across org
    • Direct specialists to high-growth segments and products

10:16am – Dave Cahill takes the stage.

  • Talking about FlashForward program.
  • Senior Director, Product & Strategy, Netapp SolidFire
  • “Flexible and Fair”
  • How it works
    • Buy Element OS Cap License
    • Choose a certified SF HW platform
    • Order through SF or preferred channel partner
  • Flexible, Efficient, Predictable, Scalable
  • Tiered pricing model
  • FullSizeRender
  • Top left blue is $1/GB, 20% support based on graph.  Towards right side of graph, at 25% support.
  • OPINION: Even for customers that will purchase capacity licenses 
    and hardware at equal paces, the cumulative tiered discount model 
    ensures that customers who grow are rewarded with lower incremental
    cost per TB.  This is similar to Commvault's recent licensing model
  • The analysts are really grilling Dave on the model…question from the field about overlapping licenses during migration…question on ratio of HW/SW costs…
  • If you over-estimate the efficiency ratio- only buying more hardware- NOT more appliances.
  • Snapshots are NOT included in provisioned capacity license (good)- but if you want to hold extended retention, just more hardware.

IMPORTANT: THIN-PROVISIONING WILL CONSUME CAPACITY LICENSE at the provisioned amount, whether actually consumed or now. 

QUESTION: Is capacity  license consumed PRE-efficiency or POST-efficiency?

10:50am- Dan Berg & Jeremiah Dooley going to do geek stuff!


  • Solidfire Products
    • ElementOS
      • Fluorine
        • VVols, VASA2 built into the ElementOS SW – on a fully HA aware cluster!
        • New UI
        • Greater FC perf and scale
        • Tagged default networks support
        • VRF VLAN Support
    • Platforms
      • SF19210 – Highest density & performance
        • Sub-millisecond latency – 100k IOPS
        • 40-80TB effective cap
      • Active IQ
        • New- alerting/mgmt framework
        • predictive cluster growth/capacity forecasting
        • enhanced data granularity
        • significant growth in hist data retention and ingest scale
        • >80% leverage Active IQ
    • Ecosystem Products
      • Programmatic- powershell & sdks
      • open source – docker/openstack/cloudstack
      • Data Protection – VSS, Backup Apps, Snapshot offloading
      • VMW- VCP, vRealize Suite

11:00am – Jeremiah Dooley – Principal Flash Architect

IMG_2248VMWare Virtual Volumes and
Why Architecture Matters

VMFS – the best and worst thing to happen to storage

Nice slide, RIP VMFS.

VVol adoption is “slow” – takes time for partners/vendors to get their “goodies” into there

Since customers are virtualizing critical apps/DBs now, new feature/release adoption is a gen behind typically now

Getting customers in VVOLs

build policies throgh VASA2 like QOS
Move VM form vmfs into VVOLS – 8-line powershell script- ID/migrate/apply

Increase size of VVOLs- big difference from VMFS

GOAL: Do all the provisioning/remediation/growth without talking to the storage team.

Why Openstack?

  • Agility – elasticity, instant provisioning, meet customer demand
  • capex to opex model
  • cluster deployment within an hour, given HW is ready
  • Prod Development- self provisioning/ self service- dev can create/destroy environments
  • Why not? lack of business cases (another guy) – so VMWare good fit for those
  • Docker – openshift – docker/kubernets/docker storm

Imagine moving an 8-node cluster from one rack to another with NO DOWNTIME

12:00 – LUNCH, back at 1pm.

1:00 – Joel Reich takes the stage.


Joel is giving the ONTAP 9 feature set- including the easier application-specific deployments and high capacity flash.

ONTAP Cloud- many of Netapp’s larger customers using this for test/dev, some for Prod and they fail back on-prem.

ONTAP Select – Flexible capacity-based license, on white box equipment

Question: When the heck did White Box ever save anybody ANYthing
in the long run?

ANNOUNCEMENT: ONTAP Select with SolidFire Backend coming!

5:03pm- George Kurian – Closing Keynote

Enabling the Data Powered Digital Future

– Market Outlook- Enterprise IT spending has SLOWED –

ZING: EMC/Dell is a “Tweener” – not as vertically integrated as Oracle, they don’t do the whole stack

  • Kurian- Netapp doesn’t need to be “first to market”.
  • Q1 Market Share in AFA- Netapp 23%!! (IDC)
  • New Netapp: Broad portfolio that addresses broad customer requirements.
  • Netapp – “We protect and manage the world’s data”
  • FY16 $5.5B, Cash $5.3B, total assets $10.0B
  • 85% of shipment are clustered systems
  • $1B free cash flow PER YEAR.  Talk about stability.
  • Pre-IPO,IPO,POst-IPO stories will be written in red ink
  • 1) Pivot to Accelerate growth 2) Improve Productivity
  • Work effectively to deliver results – Priorities, Integrated execution, Follow through
  • Renew the Organization – Leadership, High Perf Culture, Talent
  • 75% of CEOs will say biggest concern is not strategy but execution
  • Incubate – pre-market (i.e. cloud), complete freedom of thinking, fail fast
    • “prodOps”
  • Grow – focus on biggest markets with biggest opp, inspect at district level, is the channel ready
  • Globalize – mainstream GTM through every pathway possible
  • Harvest – prepare for end of life, use revs to fund new businesses
  • $700M+ AFA Annual Run Rate
  • 80% YoY unit growth cDOT, 30% e-series YoY Unit growth
  • 185% AFA YoY rev growth
  • Transforming Netapp
    • remove clutter 20 years of unmanaged growth
    • focus on the best ideas
    • “velocity offerings” – preconfigured offerings
    • fine tune GTM model
    • Shared services
  • Close
    • Fundamental change
    • Good progress and accelerating momentum – more work needed
    • Strong foundation
    • Uniquely positioned to help clients navigate the changing landscape.

That’s it from Boulder, CO!  Off to one of the three dinners that Netapp Solidfire have set up for the crowd tonight!








Solidfire Analyst Day – 6/2/16 – Live Blog