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The Week In Storage: Nutanix Vs. VMware Round 3, NetAPP Staff Get The Ax, Clinton Group Strikes Again

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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The week found us on the road taking in the sights and sounds of the IBM PartnerWorld event in sunny Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, being out of the lab does not shut off the firehose of daily storage news, so let's recap.

Fittingly, the week began with news of IBM's z13s mainframe, which encrypts and decrypts data at twice the speed of the previous-generation products. IBM also announced the addition of three new V5000-series hybrid storage systems to bring flash-powered petabyte-scale to the mid-market.

EMC and VMware teamed up to offer a new VxRail appliance through the successful VCE franchise. VCE's converged systems have been a phenomenal success and generated a $3 billion run rate last year, and the addition of the VxRail hyperconverged appliance rounds out the product stack. VCE will likely enjoy yet another year of record growth as it barrels into 2016 with its new offspring in tow.

The HDD vendors are waging a new performance war that brings incredible random workload performance to the table via new caching techniques - these aren't your father's nearline HDDs. We take the latest and greatest for a spin in the Seagate 8 TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v5 Review

Nutanix Jumps in VMware's Ring - Again

VMware and Nutanix spend quite a bit of time eyeing each other suspiciously from their opposing corners of the virtualization ring, and occasionally they spring up and trade jabs. We witnessed a few interesting VMware versus Nutanix bouts in 2015, be it Nutanix's successful efforts to block VMware's massive 5-year $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. government, or the particularly nasty dueling blog posts between high level executives on both sides of the ring.

Public accusations of "brain-rapes" and other colorful insults aside, Nutanix curiously chose VMware/EMC's release day, which EMC telegraphed weeks ahead of time by a webpage and invitations, to weigh in with its own updated hyperconverged software stack. Nutanix software Version 4.6 offers, among other things, a new 1-click Hypervisor Conversion feature, which allows users to replace the VMware vSphere hypervisor with the Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor with just one simple click.

That should smooth things over.

The pending Dell/EMC merger complicates matters. VMware is a subsidiary of EMC, and Dell has customarily been the largest Nutanix customer. Nutanix recently announced its pending IPO, and Dell has voiced its continued support for its Nutanix-infused products. In either case, it will be interesting to watch the next rumble in the jungle with Dell in the ring as the new referee.

Clinton Group Stalks Violin

First Imation, now Violin. The NYSE recently threatened Violin with a permanent closing bell, and the activist investor Clinton Group is not helping matters as it threatens to smash the Stradivarius. 

The Clinton Group, which engineered the takeover of Imation and is selling off pieces of the company, insisted that Violin sell itself and threatened to seek the election of new board members if the process did not proceed quickly. Violin's CEO released a letter in January stating that the company was seeking strategic alternatives, but apparently the search has not progressed fast enough for the Clinton Group. 

The Clinton Group penned a thoughtful letter with some frightening language, at least if you are a member of the Violin board, on Friday. Interestingly enough, Clinton Group also roped in Imation, which it took over through a similar series of actions, to pressure Violin.

Clinton Group's ode to Violin indicates that it is unhappy and wishes for the company to sell itself.

"...Clinton Group and Imation believe that Violin Memory should be sold to a strategic buyer.  As we expect the process to conclude in the coming...These stakeholders, who have witnessed significant value destruction at the hands of the Company's Board of Directors and management team, should be allowed the opportunity to execute confidentiality agreements and opine on final proposals in an unbiased fashion," stated Joseph A. De Perio, Senior Portfolio Manager, Activist Investments, at Clinton Group. 

The release goes on to remind the reader that in January the Clinton Group and assimilated attack drone Imation submitted a notice of their intent to nominate three individuals to Violin's Board of Directors at the forthcoming 2016 Annual Meeting, which is the coup d’état that Clinton Group needs to assume control of Violin.

The war of words is surely going to progress to a war of action soon.

12 Percent Of NetAPP Workers Get The Ax

NetAPP announced its fiscal 3Q16 results and that it would be laying off roughly 12 percent of its staff, or 1,450 employees. The company intends to save nearly $200 million in the streamlining move. The pain stems from NetAPP's ninth consecutive quarter of diminishing sales, which fell 4 percent sequentially and 10 percent yearly. 

The woes at NetAPP largely originate from declining sales in its mature product lines, such as OEM, ONTAP 7-Mode and add-on storage, which suffered a 40 percent drubbing in comparison to last year. NetAPP's strategy is to replace the lost sales with flashy new products, such as its all-flash arrays, hybrid cloud solutions and branded E-Series systems. However, the segue to these targeted growth areas isn't moving along quite as quickly as planned, and with 26 percent YoY growth these segments aren't offsetting the losses from the mature products.

NetAPP also announced its plans to realize an additional $400 million in annual run rate savings by engaging in other belt-tightening measures, which include consolidating engineering and manufacturing operations teams, implementing tighter spending controls and improving its supply chain efficiency.

NetAPP indicated that its $600 million all-flash run rate did not include revenues from its SolidFire purchase, and one would expect the pending SolidFire cash to be a ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds. However, the company indicated that it expects minimal revenue generation from its $870-million acquisition in Q4.

The cost-cutting measures seem to have appeased NetAPP's fickle investors, which punished the company with a 17 percent loss in stock valuation in January. Its stocks are up 2.97 percent at the time of this writing.

This Week's Storage Nugget

A Boeing 787 airliner generates 40 TB of data per hour in flight. Though most of this is likely for tracking the up-charges on no-frills carriers, it would be interesting to know how much of that data is actually stored. A 12 hour flight generates 480TB of data, or nearly half a petabyte. One has to wonder just how many drives are spinning away in the belly of the aircraft.

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's IT Pro, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.