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As we wave goodbye to 2020 and welcome in 2021, hopefully you were able to take time to unwind, relax, reflect and of course review Gartner's 2020 Primary Storage Magic Quadrant report. If you didn't get to that last part, no worries. We have you covered! 

In a year with so much uncertainty for all storage manufacturers, it's no surprise that this latest iteration provides a limited number of changes from last year. In a report with 33 percent fewer pages for 2020, we still find the same "gang of four" (Dell, HPE, NetApp and Pure) leading the pack. The eligibility criteria have changed slightly from last year, and a much smaller number of manufacturers find their way into the quadrant this year — something we have to praise Gartner for after having criticized them last year for including the likes of Synology, Infortrend and others as part of the report.

Gartner had remained consistent in the defining criteria that lands OEMs on the report for primary storage arrays for two years in a row. The combination of solid-state arrays and hybrid arrays into one report is still the lay of the land. However, there were a few noticeable differences in this year's report.

We can all appreciate that the length was reduced by seven pages largely due to the fact that five OEMs were removed from the quadrant. The removal of these OEMs from the selection criteria was a direct impact of modifying the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The first difference to call out is that in 2019, the minimum average selling price for the entire OEM portfolio moved up from $24,999 to $49,999. Doubling the average selling price from the inclusion criteria most certainly contributed to the removal of OEMs like Synology and Infortrend.

Exclusion criteria were lengthened in this year's report, calling out specifically (in addition to unstructured only arrays in 2019):

  • Storage arrays designed and marketed to specific use cases (like video surveillance appliances).
  • Software-defined storage (SDS) on standard X86 server platforms.
  • Storage products that are purposely designed to solely support both the application and storage volumes that support that application in an integrated form factor.

Silk (Kaminario) is no longer competing in the OEM array space and has shifted to an SDS/cloud model — perhaps we will see them included on a new SDS or Cloud Storage ISV Magic Quadrant in the future?

Overall, we can appreciate Gartner's heavy focus on cloud data management and public cloud integration for the 2020 report. Gartner supplies "Strategic Planning Assumptions" largely based on cloud and storage consumption model numbers over the next few years: "By 2025, at least 50 percent of enterprises will shift toward operating expenditure (OPEX)-based storage consumption models, compared to less than 10 percent today."

As we work firsthand with customers on storage needs, it's evident that the enterprise is beginning to adapt and look for new ways of consuming storage, including strategies for moving data into the public cloud. Storage as a Service (STaaS) models are gaining traction, and we see the leading OEMs in the quadrant all have a methodology for allowing customers to purchase in a traditional manner by onboarding capital expenses, as in years past. However, they also all have a program for allowing customers to adopt a cloud emulating consumption model that formulates an operational cost structure.  

We've worked with customers to adopt these consumption models that bill a customer for the amount of storage they use (similar to most hyper scalers), keeping assets off of their books. They vary in structure and requirements and example programs include:

  • Dell's Flex on Demand
  • HPE's Greenlake
  • Netapp's Keystone
  • Pure's Pure as a Service

Gartner takes the same written report approach as last year, with three strengths and three cautions as the foundation of each OEM breakout and a descriptive paragraph highlighting some high-level OEM specifics. We still question the approach — shouldn't the leaders earn more details on how they landed in that space? And perhaps have some incentive for others that lack certain criteria? 

It's also noteworthy to call out why OEMs moved one direction or another, specifically for those included in the leaders section. That's hard to do in a single paragraph or six bullet points. Why did Pure move out ahead of the pack slightly? Was it the completion of unified code and adding FlashArray //C into the portfolio?

Here are a few specific areas where we think things could be improved:

  • Getting secondhand data from customers is a great way to analyze report data, but at WWT we call that hearsay. Our engineering teams let data represent the foundation of our facts and always allow customers to have a voice in what they perceive as the most important criteria when making critical IT business decisions.
  • Representing OEM's product portfolios by using a single position in the quadrant is a misrepresentation of an OEM's full capability (yes, we still feel the same way as we did in 2019). We see OEMs like Pure adding products to their portfolio while others like Dell are trying to simplify theirs by removing redundancy and overlap. You can't put NetApp EF in the same category as an Ontap system — they are very different products. HPE is all in on Primera but has many legacy customers running 3PAR and Nimble, which aren't exactly Primera. You get the point.
  • What about automation? Are we the only ones having automation conversations with almost every enterprise storage customer we work with?

Why engage WWT?

We are early adopters of technology, both hardware and software, through OEM beta testing programs in our Advanced Technology Center. Often times we work with OEMs by making suggestions on features and functionality before the product goes into general availability. A few recent examples include NetApp A Series, HPE Primera, PowerStore from Dell and FlashArray //C from Pure Storage.

The time we spend hands-on with OEM products and the testing we do in our state-of-the-art lab helps build the foundation of our opinions. We know that the critical capabilities Gartner lists in their report may or may not be important to all customers.

After pointing out several ways to improve Gartner's methodology, we cannot stress enough the importance of engaging with architects and engineers that have hands-on experience with the products you are looking at evaluating. Secondhand customer experiences often convey bias, whereas we can speak firsthand to the more than 600 proofs of concept (POCs) we have executed for customers in 2020. 

In our Enterprise Storage Workshop, we can customize a briefing to compare any subset of products and manufacturers our customers wish to learn more about. Perhaps we can help drive more insights into your data and infrastructure footprint? Our global engineering team looks forward to hosting you soon!

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