Published: October 5th, 2017

The migration to flash storage, expanding converged market, and a growing reputation as a cloud vendor have been fuelling NetApp’s stellar channel performance, the company’s vice-president of Americas channel sales told CDN during NetApp Insight, its annual partner conference.

Though Jeff McCullough didn’t have the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage and data management firm’s most recent Q2 data to share, during Q1 NetApp’s external storage market grew 38 per cent across Canada, and its flash category by 68 per cent, while the company remains number one in the traditional HDD category, he said.

Jeff McCullough

“I love the Canadian market, especially just the progressive approach that our partners have up there in embracing cloud, and embracing NetApp as a core part of their strategy,” McCullough said. “We think NetApp is a great platform for them to work with, because we enable so much of what partners want to do, as they diversify from just going through the resell motion to offering our services programs, and the ability to sell and structure cloud on our infrastructure.”

NetApp’s Canadian partners are themselves growing too, and appear to be especially ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing the shift to cloud, McCullough said, citing Ottawa-based Decisive Technologies Inc. and Calgary-based Long View Systems as standouts.

“Not only do we have a strong position in the Canadian market, we have some great partners that are doubling, tripling their business with NetApp,” he said. “It’s partly how we ended up with such strong market share gains. So overall Canada’s doing really well for us.”

Three trends have been key to NetApp’s market gains, McCullough said, both worldwide and in Canada: The aforementioned migration to flash storage, marketwide shift to cloud – combined with, he noted, NetApp’s growing reputation as a cloud-based service provider – and expanding converging market, which NetApp expects to play a greater role in future quarters after releasing its new HCI (hyper-convergence infrastructure) at the end of October.

“Customers don’t necessarily think of NetApp as a cloud vendor,” McCullough acknowledged. “We’re thought of as the guys that sit in the data centre with a bunch of stacked-up discs, and certainly that’s the story today, but if there’s anything we’ve been talking about over the last six months, it’s our cloud portfolio.”

Throughout 2017, he said, NetApp has placed increase focus on, as he puts it “selling storage to customers that don’t buy our storage.”

“We’ll be selling the customer Azure, but then ask them to turn and create an OnTap instance in Azure, and so now they’re a NetApp customer too,” he said. “And the cool thing is the experience they’re having in the cloud is the same experience they’d be having if it was sitting in their data centre.”

“And the powerful opportunity – the a-ha moment for those customers – is, ‘wow, I could buy this and actually have it in my data centre,’” he added. “Or vice-versa. Like, ‘I have this in my data centre, and instead of paying a big capital expense to bring in more infrastructure I could just pay for it by the gigabyte on Azure or AWS.’”

Flash, meanwhile, is currently driving a significant portion of the market overall, McCullough said, with NetApp representing only 10 per cent of market penetration worldwide, “so the opportunity for NetApp is really strong, even if we’re only focused on our install base,” he said.

Finally, the HCI market is expected to grow by 65 per cent per year over the next three years, McCullough said, and while some have responded to NetApp’s own offering, announced in June before its general release was revealed at NetApp Insight this week, by saying it’s late to the market, he prefers to think of the company as releasing a second-generation HCI.

“Our thinking is that where there are established vendors out there offering the 1.0 version, we’re coming in, if you will, with the 2.0 version, focused on providing a multi-application, multi-workload, enterprise-class platform,” he said. “It’s a new product category for us, so while we continue to sell to our install base, we’re going to develop and grow net new customers.”

“We think we have lots of room to grow in the Canadian market,” he added. “It’s exciting times.”