Another year, another magic quadrant. Gartner has long been revered by IT executives as the gold standard to narrow the field in evaluating new technology, and with good reason. Gartner takes a meticulous approach at evaluating OEM roadmaps, current products and talking to customers to better understand real-world experience with an OEM's products and services. This year, Gartner made a major change in their storage magic quadrant by taking two of their past year quadrants and merging them into a single output: the primary storage magic quadrant.

As of 2019, Gartner took their SSA, or solid-state arrays, and their general purpose storage arrays magic quadrants and merged them together to produce the primary storage magic quadrant therefore eliminating the delineation between hybrid arrays and solid state or all-flash arrays.

The quadrant also does not differentiate platforms based on protocols, meaning this quadrant represents all primary storage regardless of whether they provide host connectivity through NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, FCP or NVMeOF.  The aggregation makes tremendous sense given that companies like NetApp and Dell/EMC have taken hybrid platforms and produced all-flash variants of those platforms for years already (all-flash unity, Isilon with the F800, NetApp AFF and EF-series systems).

Obviously, as vendors introduced those platforms, a certain level of software optimization was done to yield greater performance, reliability and serviceability for the platforms, but the main goal of those all-flash platforms was to capitalize on years of development and customer familiarity to gain market share.

Gartner is very thorough in their effort to cover the primary storage space by including 18 different vendors in their analysis. Reading through the 26 page report, leaves you with two impressions: First, this is a long report. and second, why so few details about the OEM I really want to hear about?

For each of the OEMs, Gartner issues three strengths and three cautions alongside a short descriptive paragraph to justify their placement in the quadrant. This understates the amounts of efforts invested by Gartner to produce the report, but as a reader, I'm left questioning why Gartner provides as much details about the likes of Synology, Infotrend, Infinidat, Inspur and Kaminaro as they do for OEMs such as Dell/EMC, NetApp, Pure Storage and HPE?  I would have loved for Gartner to provide more detail about the most impactful players in the market.

Also, the use of a single position in the quadrant for an OEM's entire portfolio of products seems overly general.  In looking at any of the OEMs with large portfolios, it's clear that not all the products in their portfolio perform equally and that there would be a massive benefit of breaking out individual products to provide IT decision makers more specific and relevant decision-making criteria.

Next, we feel there is an under representation of automation and orchestration (A&O) as evaluation criteria, which we think is incredibly relevant for modernizing primary storage. Our engineering and architecture teams support some of the largest enterprise customers and the topic of automation and orchestration comes up in almost every conversation. Large customers have been concerned about the ability to automate day 2 operations for years given the size of the estate they have to manage. Mature customers understand that automation is the only path to lower service delivery times and at the same time increase delivery accuracy by eliminating human error.

One area we like seeing is cloud data management, which is well represented in the report, as Gartner puts a good amount of emphasis on vendor's ability to help customers get their data out to the cloud.

We see customer conversations around this topic becoming more prevalent. The adoption of cloud data management solutions is still fairly low, but any CIO acquiring new datacenter assets has to live with the decision for three to five years, which is why cloud connectivity is such an important decision criterion.

One last thought I want to leave you with is timing.

As we all know, producing a report like the Gartner Magic Quadrant requires a lot effort and time. Compiling the information and writing the report can take months. This unfortunately means that the most recently released products are often not included as part of the report and this creates a lag between the actual state of the market and the evaluation from Gartner that can sometimes be quite significant.

At WWT, we make a living out of helping our customers evaluate storage platforms with specific application workloads by running complex proofs of concept in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC).

In the ATC you will find a full portfolio of each of the top vendor's equipment available to our customers for evaluation, including on-demand demos and labs for our most popular equipment and scheduled labs for all others.  You can also engage our experts in a briefing or workshop to get our view of the primary storage landscape based on our hands-on experience with real workloads.

We look forward to hosting you in Silicon Valley in St. Louis sometime soon!