Gartner Primary Storage Magic Quadrant Review
In this article
As with the 2021 primary storage Magic Quadrant report, the six leaders, Dell, Hitachi, HPE, NetApp, IBM and Pure, have maintained their positions within the quadrant.
We're happy that Gartner didn't make major changes to their primary storage definitions from the previous year. Table stakes for all enterprise storage arrays are RAS features (reliability, availability, serviceability). Storage systems must be highly available and serviceable with no downtime. Additional emphasis on the following are also important characteristics for primary storage:
- Seamless Hybrid Multi-Cloud (HMC)
- Software-defined storage (SDS)
- Flexible consumption/STorage as-a-Service (STaaS)
HMC continues to be front of mind for most of our customers. They want to consume the cloud on their terms, deciding which provider and which services they want to use. Current supply chain issues have intensified this HMC push. The cloud can provide an instant method to support new business lines and/or new customers without concern for hardware availability.
Another technology the cloud has accelerated is software-defined storage (SDS). The general thought is, if it runs in the cloud, I should be able to run it on-premises on my hardware. The OEMs in the magic quadrant commonly have SDS offerings. There are limitations and variations from the offerings based on the OEM, but the field is steadily improving.
We have seen a strong interest in OEM STaaS offerings. Customers want the ability to consume on premises storage in the same, streamlined way they consume cloud. STaaS is often thought of as a bridge to the cloud and can be quite appealing to those with cloud first initiatives but still need on premises storage. Additionally, STaaS is treated as an operating expense vs. a traditional capital expense.
For more information on other trends from our customers, see our article top-8-trends-in-data-storage-for-2022.
Here's our take on the GMQ leaders (ordered alphabetically):
Dell substantially advanced their storage systems in the past year. With the narrowing of the portfolio, they refocused development efforts on the continuing platforms, making significant leaps such as:
- PowerMax 10 – Version ten of the long-running PowerMax platform doubles the performance and halves the rack space required. Its ransomware chops have improved; the array can support 64 million snapshots and can alarm when malware activity patterns are detected. Finally, the platform's NAS capabilities got a significant upgrade.
- PowerStore 3.0 – The long-awaited software update brings a major update to its NAS capabilities. New NAS features are: NAS replication, file-level retention, and advanced VMware NFS datastores with VAAI. On the hardware front, there are new, improved models, NVMe expansion shelves, and 100Gb/s frontend ports for driving massive I/O.
- PowerFlex 4.0 – PowerFlex got two major additions. It now features an NVMe over TCP target in addition to the proprietary client driver. Also new is NAS functionality, with specialized nodes running the same SDNAS codebase used in Unity, PowerStore, and PowerMax 10.
- Project Alpine – Dell created a portfolio-wide project to create cloud-native versions of their storage arrays. The first product launched under this project is PowerFlex inside AWS, making AWS's most performant storage array. From here, you can replicate to or from your on-premises or other AWS installation. While the cloud offerings are limited today, they have acknowledged and are addressing the gap.
Dell's impressive supply chain management has allowed them to avoid the parts constraints over the past few years. Couple that with their APEX portfolio (formerly Dell Financial Services) and you are sure to be able to get the capacity you need at a consumption model that makes sense for your business.
Our take on Gartner's Strengths and Cautions for Dell:
- Based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria, we believe this report only includes PowerMax, PowerStore, PowerFlex, and Unity. Because SC-Series and XtremIO are end-of-sale (not end-of-support), they are not included in Gartner's analysis.
- Gartner got this right. Dell has a broad portfolio that covers everything you'd need in the IT space, from mousepads to mobile data centers; this is a blessing (and a curse, as noted below). The full-featured Apex portfolio, including the STaaS offering, has a way for you to get everything in their portfolio acquired via an on-demand consumption model.
- Because Dell's storage portfolio (in this case, primary) covers such a wide range of data storage use cases, there is overlap which allows you to use the same system for multiple access types. WWT has a copy of the decoder ring and can aid in selecting which of Dell's systems are right for you. As noted above, the launch of Project Alpine is a signal Dell understands its gap in cloud-native storage capabilities and is working to close it. If you look under the covers of their arrays, they've generally decoupled the software and hardware and standardized on x86. Hopefully the launch of something like cloud-based PowerStore is not too distant as our customers look to potentially shift disaster recovery capabilities into the hyperscalers. In the end, it is likely their public cloud weakness that led to their positioning in the chart. As we've seen in the past, Dell isn't always first to every market, but when they get there, they operate with elegance at scale.
Hitachi continued their heritage of enterprise bullet-proof availability by updating and consolidating its offerings.
- Hitachi updated their latest VSP 5000 families with 5200 and 5600 systems. These systems have the option to add hardware accelerated compression engines.
- Typical transactional workloads like Oracle do not dudupe well but do compress well. Adding a hardware acceleration option makes a lot of sense.
- FC-NVMe for frontend NVMeoF access for VSP 5000 systems
- Introduced the new E1090 to replace E990. E1090 has the option to add hardware accelerated compression engines.
- E1090 going forward enabled Data-In-Place upgrades.
- Consolidating the product line to have VSP 5000 series at the high-end and E-Series; E1090, E790, and E590 at the mid-tier enterprise.
Our take on Gartner's Strengths and Cautions for Hitachi:
Notes: We pretty much agree with Gartner.
- One discrepancy is that everyone seems to have been affected by the supply chain constraints. These are not unique to Hitachi.
- Hitachi has always been very reliable. All their primary storage products offer 100% data availability guarantee.
- Hitachi has made a great stride to simplify storage management with Hitachi Ops Center Suite, and their embedded storage advisor on their E-series systems, but Hitachi isn't as easy to manage as other OEM's.
HPE has been working to become an as-a-service company, expanding their STaaS offerings to include the latest HPE Greenlake for Block Storage service. Additional notable announcements are:
- Introduction of Alletra storage platforms for a cloud-native management framework. Initially called Common Cloud Platform and later renamed Greenlake Cloud Platform (GLCP). HPE GLCP has many applications including Aruba Central, Compute Ops Manager, Data Services Cloud Console, and Greenlake Central.
- Expanded the DSCC (Data Services Cloud Console) application by adding Greenlake for Backup and Recovery service. In the future, additional Greenlake services will be added for Disaster Recovery and Data Fabrics. DSCC has an easy-to-use AI-driven provisioning tool called Intent Based Provisioning. This tool allows cloud-like self-services by novices with limited storage expertise. This reduces the complexity associated with storage management.
- Adding Alletra 5000 series to the Alletra family. It's for the midmarket hybrid storage requirements. Replacing Gen 5 Hybrid Nimble systems.
- Adding FC-NVMe frontend NVMe capabilities to Alletra 9000 series.
Our take on Gartner's Strengths and Cautions for HPE:
Notes: Pretty much agree with Gartner.
- One thing we would like to point out is that services like Greenlake for Disaster Recovery and Greenlake for Backup and Recovery will allow HPE customers to work in multi-cloud environment without the cloud native software-defined storage product. For example, Greenlake for Disaster Recovery for example is based on Zerto. Zerto allows customers to migrate data from on premises data centers to the public clouds. Another advantage to this approach is that it's not dependent and locked into a storage vendor. In a typical large enterprise, we see a heterogeneous storage environment made up of different OEM's. Having an OEM specific software-defined storage product only solves a portion of the enterprise need since these offerings are limited to the particular OEM.
- In the combination with Greenlake offerings and the Greenlake offerings for the near cloud environment, Greenlake for CoLo may be a better solution for the customers hybrid cloud requirements.
- HPE's comprehensive cloud-based management and AI backed Infosight to automate the management and monitoring of the storage systems are market -leading. HPE's STaaS as part of the comprehensive XaaS offerings is very innovative and market leading.
- HPE's cloud capabilities are dependent on the non-native storage system software. For the customers looking for the native storage system cloud capabilities, HPE is not there.
Gartner has named IBM a Leader for Primary Storage for the fifteenth consecutive quarter. This consistency is due in part to IBM's ability to quickly roll out new features and functionality to their platform thanks to their consistent code and architecture across their array family. Some of the interesting announcement for 2022:
- IBM released new models for their primary storage tiers and introduced an integrated security solution targeted at specific end user workloads (Sentinel for Epic).
- IBM continues to offer top-tier performance and density with their proprietary FlashCore modules.
- Due to proprietary architecture, IBM has the advantage of not being subject to the same availability constraints as commodity SSDs.
While IBM's public cloud offering has yet to gain much of a following, they are focused on making their solutions available via Azure and AWS clouds to stay relevant. Their Spectrum Virtualize OS for their primary storage arrays is available via multiple cloud providers, giving customers a consistent option for cloud tiering and replication. In 2022, they also launched a new Storage as a Service offering, which could be seen as an on-prem managed services solution for capex-averse customers.
Our take on Gartner's Strengths and Cautions for IBM:
Strengths: Gartner highlighted some of the most unique overall strengths of the storage portfolio:
- The flexibility of IBM Spectrum Virtualize has been extended to the public cloud layer, giving a consistent user experience for on- and off-prem storage
- IBM FlashCore modules that make up the core of the FlashSystem storage offerings offer industry-leading performance and density, without dependence on 3rd party SSD modules.
- Integration with IBM Security offerings are strengthening IBM's overall go-to-market strategy around cyber resiliency solutions
- IBM's STaaS offering continues to evolve based on the most common demands of end users. The current offering has the same capabilities as traditional storage for performance and availability.
- Their statement regarding maintenance cost increases is difficult to quantify and would depend heavily on the product and competition, but it has not been our experience that it has been out of line with other leaders.
NetApp continues the innovation drive for the HMC. At NetApp Insight in November, they released BlueXP. It's a rename of NetApp Cloud Manager with additional features for managing the HMC through a single control plane regardless of data locale. BlueXP provides the following capabilities:
- Storage management for on premises, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Amazon FSx for ONTAP, Azure NetApp Files, and Cloud Volumes Service
- Data copy and sync, tiering and edge caching with FlexCache
- Feature rich backup & recovery, replication, and ransomware
- Analysis & Control for observability and data classification
FSxN brings file and block storage running ONTAP to the AWS public cloud. For new customers, FSxN provides a new level of cloud native file and block services. For existing NetApp customers, they will have the same ONTAP feature sets they are accustomed to such as deduplication, SnapMirror replication, snapshots, and clones.
At VMware Explore, VMware announced VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC). VMC is a partnership between AWS, NetApp, and VMware to bring a fully managed offering for VMware workloads to the public cloud. One of the benefits of VMC is the ability to independently scale compute and storage.
Our take on Gartner's Strengths and Cautions for NetApp:
Strengths: We generally agree with the NetApp strengths. Some additional highlights from NetApp Insight:
- ONTAP 9.12.1 Release Candidate brings tamperproof snapshots, FlexGroup support with SnapLock for SnapVault, NFS v4 session trunking, increased volume limits, increased NVMe-oF cluster node support, shared data for File and object and FlexGroup to SnapMirror.
- Spot by NetApp for CloudOps covers application services, operations automation, and infrastructure automation.
- NetApp Keystone (STaaS) now includes CI/CD workflow integration, more flexible terms, pay for performance, end-to-end NVMe, including NVMe/TCP.
Cautions: Here are our comments about the cautions:
- We agree that the capabilities of ONTAP can make the platform seem complex for some customers. For others, the ability to simultaneously support NAS, SAN and object protocols, along with the cloud capabilities are a big plus for the platform.
- We have not received any input from our customers about the variable cost of support renewals. As with any product, the cost of support will increase over time and vary by the model and storage media types. Keystone may be an attractive alternative to traditional CapEx storage upgrades.
- Cloud Volumes ONTAP scalability and performance limitations are more dictated by the underlying instance types and cloud services vs. the performance of ONTAP itself. WWT can assist with testing your specific workload needs across many on premises and cloud-based services.
Gartner has once again named Pure Storage a leader in their 2022 Magic Quadrant for Primary Storage. In fact, they've named them the highest and furthest to the right for the third year in a row, and Pure has held this position for six of the last nine years in the Leader quadrant for the FlashArray family of unified storage arrays.
Pure has maintained their leader position for the following reasons:
- High Net Promoter Score (NPS) - Customers love Pure's products and support which is why they are ranked in the top 1% with a score of 85.2.
- Pure1 - Pure continues to advance Pure1, which is Pure's monitoring and AIOPS platform by adding AI-driven recommendations and Assessments for Data Protection/Sustainability.
- VMware - New vSphere remote plug-in brings new vVols capabilities including point-in-time recovery from a FlashArray, vVols Replication Manager, simplified VM recovery from FlashArray snapshot, and a revamped wizard for Storage Policy Based Management
- ESG - Pure's Evergreen Storage architecture keeps your storage from getting old resulting in less e-waste filling up the landfills and leading to 84% lower CO2 Emissions.
- Purity//FA 6.3.x - New features added for Auto-on SafeMode to aid in the fight against Ransomware, Self-Service Updates and Continuous replication for both Block and File workloads.
Our take on Gartner's Strengths and Cautions for Pure:
Strengths: No disagreement with the Strengths called out in the article but a few more points that may be worth noting.
- Evergreen//Flex - A new option gives you the freedom to own the hardware and subscribe to the software for the capacity needed for your on-premises workloads.
- Fusion - Pure Fusion is a new service offering that delivers Self-Service, autonomous Storage-as-Code for the consumption and provisioning of storage volumes from your fleet of Pure FlashArrays.
- Portworx - FlashArray is now an integrated storage target for Portworx which is a Kubernetes Data Services Platform for your cloud and container applications. Portworx can automate the provisioning, mapping and mounting of FlashArray volumes to a Portworx cluster while FlashArray provides the performance, resiliency and high availability for your modern applications.
- From a myopic point of view, the cautions called out are accurate. If you step back and look at the bigger picture around the Evergreen architecture that Pure has designed for the FlashArray, your opinion will change. By building a flash only solution from the ground up that isn't constrained by supporting legacy media types allows for not only a better TCO, but a longer expected lifetime of the product in your datacenter at a much smaller footprint. With flash media densities continuing to grow, and coupled with intelligent data services, there's no need for Pure to support the slower speed spinning drives that require more power and cooling.
High Performance Computing
Storage for High Performance Compute (HPC) is worth a mention. Storage OEMs have made many announcements about their offerings around Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep learning (AI/ML/DL). We've seen these announcements from the magic quadrant leaders as well as some upcoming visionaries.
The storage requirements of HPC are different than what we typically see from traditional block and file workloads. A more parallel distribution of storage resources is frequently needed. Whether locating the most searched for flights or creating a virtual model of the universe, AI/ML/DL is here to stay.
Often, HPC can be disruptive from an infrastructure perspective. There is a long list of—and sometimes conflicting—objectives and challenges that must be overcome. This was outlined by Gartner back in 2019 in their article 3 Barriers to AI Adoption. The article remains relevant for today.
Through our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), we have the latest hardware and software from all the primary storage OEMS. We work closely with each OEM to test new products (many not released yet) and even make recommendations for bug fixes or code improvements.
The WWT Platform (www.wwt.com) is the window into the ATC where you will find hands-on labs, articles, case histories, and videos for each of the OEMs included in the Gartner Magic Quadrant.
We offer various workshops and briefings to assist with reviewing current technology trends or challenging technology decisions. Here are some links to help you get started:
Our Primary Storage & Cloud Data Management team of architects is here to help you.