The Beginning of the End of the All-flash Array Market

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Photo credit: Andrew Hurley / CC

Last month we announced that SolidFire would be acquired by NetApp, creating a tremendous powerhouse in the all-flash array market with solutions targeting every market segment for shared flash, from application-centric deployments to cloud-scale shared infrastructure. Some commentators lamented that the acquisition signals the beginning of the end of the era of stand-alone all-flash storage companies as the strong players consolidate their positions and the weaker ones slowly fall by the wayside. That may be true, but the bigger picture is this: We are witnessing the beginning of the end of all-flash arrays as a market sub-segment at all. 

Of course the analysts will continue to report on all-flash array revenue, which is growing faster than they ever predicted, and companies will continue to jockey for position on the leaderboards. But for customers, the conversation is switching rapidly from “What workloads do I put on flash?” to “What data do I leave on disk?”  That subtle but important change in mindset is playing out across the market today. The default behavior is switching rapidly to a flash-first mentality. And that means that all-flash arrays have shifted from a niche technology to the default choice — from a small slice of the primary storage market to virtually the entire primary storage market. This shift in customer thinking and buying behavior marks the true beginning of the end of all-flash arrays as a market in and of themselves.

If the idea of a flash-first mentality invokes a sense of déjà vu, it’s because we’ve seen the same shift in thinking around cloud technologies over the past five years: From cloud as a niche market for “select” use cases, to large enterprises that have now adopted cloud-first strategies around public, private, and hybrid cloud as they seek to modernize their infrastructure and increase agility in their IT operations. Customers are shifting from asking “What can I put in the cloud?” to “What do I have to leave in my traditional infrastructure?”

Cloud and flash. Two themes I’ve talked about time and time again since my first SolidFire blog post five years ago. Two markets that were immature, immaterial, and poorly understood at the time, are now the most impactful forces in the IT industry, carving a path of creative destruction in their wake. NetApp has hardly been immune to their impact, even as an early promoter of both flash and hybrid cloud technologies. The change has come hard and fast for everyone.

Going forward, SolidFire has a unique role to play both within NetApp and across the broader IT industry. Combining NetApp’s existing flash solutions with SolidFire’s next-generation architecture positions us as the only comprehensive all-flash portfolio in the industry as the conversation shifts from all-flash arrays to the all-flash data center. Integrating SolidFire’s cloud-centric architecture with NetApp’s Data Fabric vision will allow our customers to seamlessly move data to the right place at the right time across all types of cloud infrastructure.

Together, the combined company will be in a unique position to look far beyond today’s narrow view of the all-flash array market and into the next generation data center that lies beyond. I can’t wait to get started.

-Dave

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Posted in Company, Next Generation Data Center.