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No. of Recommendations: 6
I know I am risking offending a lot of people here but I just don't understand all the NTAP hype. They do compete in a growing market and they do have very good products. They are not a Gorilla and I don't think they can be called a Rule Breaker. They really haven't done anything new they have just done it better than most.

Their system was, and I think still is, a PC with an Intel CPU. They use a home-grown operating system instead of Win9x or Unix, and attach lots of disk drives. Others machines on the network access the data on them using the standard NFS (network file system) protocol.

Let's see how NTAP fares against the Gorilla characteristics:

Is there a discontinuous innovation or a proprietary open architecture? Large and small NFS data servers have been around for years since Sun developed the NFS protocol. Other systems on the network can't tell a difference between an NTAP system or a Windows PC running NFS.

Are there high barriers to entry and high switching costs? No. NTAP and others use an industry standard protocol, NFS, to communicate with other computers. NFS, like TCP/IP and HTTP, hide the details of the systems on the other end of the network. Have you ever cared what kind of web server gives you Motley Fool content? Anyone with a Unix server and a bunch of disk drives can create a comparable solution. It is quite simple with an HP, DEC, Compaq, or Sun machine. You may even be able to do it with a PC running Linux. What would happen to NTAP if Microsoft decided to market large disk farms with Windows 2000?

I bought two of their systems a couple of years ago. I found them to be simple, fast, and easy to configure. The support from NTAP was top notch. I'm sure they are a good invesment and the company will grow. But I don't see a world dominating company here.

- Alan
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No. of Recommendations: 17
They really haven't done anything new they have just done it better than most.

I strongly disagree with this statement. What NTAP did that nobody else did was to recognize that higher bandwidth within local area networks was going to allow storage appliances to be connected directly to the network, as opposed to a separate, complex and costly SAN, and to develop hardware and software to develop a market that nobody else was really promoting. Since most of the big enterprise storage networks were very committed to SAN, NTAP attacked by promoting their product in the internet space, populated with companies with lean IT staffs and IT budgets that placed great value on low cost (initial and ongoing) and simple deployment. Other major storage companies like EMC and IBM dismissed NAS as a niche, inefficient category, and the NAS concept would have never been deployed broadly if NTAP had not come along with the vision and the focus to implement the solution. They have entrenched themselves in the internet space, and as the hardware and software progressed toward increased scalability, NTAP are making great inroads in enterprise storage systems and will continue to do so.

NTAP's product is not just the storage appliance. It is a system that includes software to make it easy to implement and operate, as you admit, and this "package" IS a discontinuous innovation in storage markets, which heretofore consisted of proprietary, complex and costly solutions.

NTAP's greatest "barriers to entry" are: (1) they have become THE company to go to for quick efficient deployment fo storage systems for internet operations. First-mover advantage has become one of the great cliches of our time, but it does make a difference when introducing a disruptive innovation from below, and (2) the large storage companies, in order to advance their NAS operations, will have to do so at the expense of their highly proprietary, complex, and expensive storage solutions. It is very difficult for these large incumbents to make the decision to cannibalize their existing business in order to attack NTAP in its own turf.

If EMC and others are going to attack NTAP, it's going to have to be within their established customer base where they enjoy the benefit of a relationship; an internet company not currently doing business with EMC is unlikely to go with EMC when NTAP has become THE place to go for NAS solutions. And attacking within their customer base means cannibalizing other business.

If the established players wanted to attack NTAP, you are probably right that the barriers to entry are not insurmountable from a technology point of view. But I just don't see EMC promoting cheap NAS solutions at the expense of their high-margin, expensive storage solutions. They are not really gaining ground on NTAP.

If your argument is that NTAP is not currently a pure gorilla, I probably agree. In fact, I'm not sure that they will ever satisfy all the traditional metrics of such a creature. But to say that they have done nothing new is stretching it, a lot. Don't think that the only value in the business world is creating proprietary enabling technology and becoming a full-fledged gorilla.

--fox


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No. of Recommendations: 2
I don't think anybody has credibly touted NTAP as a Gorilla candidate. Pure NAS just isn't that kind of technology. Neither is SAN, I think.
Is it possible that some future storage model could become a Gorilla Game?
All the "hype" probably comes from the fact that NAS seems to be in the Tornado, with Netapp as the dominant player. This makes for a rather marvelous royalty game, with many of us already very richly rewarded for recognizing it early.

Fox (the other)
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No. of Recommendations: 2
I am long NTAP, so judge my comments accordingly.

I have researched NTAP both here and on the Silicon Investor (SI) website. Although NTAP may look to be in a royalty game, it has been stated that NTAP's Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) system is the proprietary advantage that may make NTAP a Gorilla. I refer you to Reply #15401, written by garyx, in the Gorilla and King Portfolio candidates message thread.

Maybe an expert like Bruce Brown or Mike Buckley can further enlighten us.

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No. of Recommendations: 16
Their system was, and I think still is, a PC with an Intel CPU. They use a home-grown operating system instead of Win9x or Unix, and attach lots of disk drives. Others machines on the network access the data on them using the standard NFS (network file system) protocol.

Alan, you are sorta right, but the strength of NTAP lies in the details.
1) NTAP's OS, ONTAP, is unique in this market space. It is designed to do one thing--serve data. All of the unnecessary overhead (system and sys admin) of a general purpose OS is eliminated.
2) NTAP's platform architecture includes Alpha CPUs. In the past, both Alpha and Intel CPUs have been used. It is very easy for NTAP to port to new CPUs.
3) NTAP has a proprietary, patented file layout called Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL). I won't bore you with the details, but this file layout affords a much faster read/write speed and uses RAID 4. WAFL provides as a consequence of its design the ability to perform SNAPSHOTS which capture the entire file system at points in time, require only a second or two to create and cause very little (<20% storage overhead).
4) NTAP's use of non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) is unique and guarantees that no writes are lost even during a catastrophic failure.
5) NTAP's clustering architecture provides fully functioning, but redundant soft fail over for near 100% availability.

There is a whole hell of a lot more to tell you, but I won't waste your time here. If you are really interested in what makes NTAP the rule maker and perhaps the Gorilla of network attached storage (NAS) you may wish to read these posts on SI:

http://talk.techstocks.com/~wsapi/investor/reply-12426817
http://talk.techstocks.com/~wsapi/investor/reply-12573356

Anyone with a Unix server and a bunch of disk drives can create a comparable solution. It is quite simple with an HP, DEC, Compaq, or Sun machine. You may even be able to do it with a PC running Linux. What would happen to NTAP if Microsoft decided to market large disk farms with Windows 2000?

You may not realize that NTAP supports concurrent, secure access to any file from both NFS and Windows clients/servers. They have mapped the security systems such that the security of the file is virtually identical regardless of the protocol being used to access it.

Your assertion that "anyone...can create a comparable solution" makes sense until you understand the innovations that NTAP has designed and patented in file serving, security, reliability and sys admin. It just ain't that simple.

I do not expect anyone to be able to meet NTAP's price/performance benchmark anytime soon.

jerryn (aka "DownSouth" on SI)





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