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Gartner: all-flash array market ‘visionaries’ include Tintri

Several vendors with spotty fiscal histories made Gartner’s list of competitors angling for all-flash array market share.

Gartner listed Tintri as a “visionary” in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays research report, which was made available this week. Gartner  identified X-IO Technologies as a niche player following a management reorganization forced upon it by dwindling capital.

Tintri launched a lackluster initial public offering in June 2017. Poor sales and financial woes forced Tintri into bankruptcy last month. The vendor has agreed to sell its assets to DataDirect Networks under a court-administered transaction. Garntner noted that in the Magic Quadrant report, but those problems did not disqualify Tintri from inclusion. Gartner defines a vendor in the visionaries quadrant as one with innovative products but no demonstrated ability to capture market share or sustain profitability. “Visionary vendors are frequently privately held companies and acquisition targets for larger, established companies,” the report stated.

Gartner said a “reinvigorated” X-IO has regained momentum with customers and increased investment on innovation. Gartner considers the niche category for vendors focusing on specific markets or verticals, those ramping flash array products, or larger vendors having problems “developing and executing” their vision.

Violin Systems, formerly known as Violin Memory, did not make the Magic Quadrant. Violin is a pioneer in the all-flash array market that was rescued from  bankruptcy in 2016 by a private hedge fund.

The Gartner report mostly analyzes all-flash arrays that take SAS, SATA and nonvolatile memory express (NVMe)  SSDs, although storage systems are included that can use emerging storage class memory and other flash types.  Gartner excludes hybrid arrays that mix electromechanical spinning disk and SSDs.

Overall, Gartner included 12 solid-state storage array vendors, including seven identified as market leaders: Pure Storage, NetApp, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell EMC, IBM, Hitachi Vantara and Kaminario. Pure Storage has remained atop the Gartner rankings for several years.

Pure solid-state arrays include the block-protocol-based FlashArray family,  including FlashArray//M and NVMe-based FlashArray//X, and FlashBlade arrays for file and object storage. Among Gartner’s cautions on Pure is the he inability to disable inline data reduction on FlashArray and lack of data deduplication and replication on FlashBlade.  Pure also needs to expand its presence in government and other industry verticals, Gartner said.

NetApp’s incremental improvements in flash mark a departure from several years ago, when it lagged competitors in the all-flash market. Gartner said NetApp’s Data Fabric technology “resonates well” with enterprises that want a single platform to manage data across cloud, data center and edge infrastructures. NetApp in May added an NVMe-based version of its All Flash FAS arrays.

Also aiding NetApp’s rise are the emergence of the first all-flash arrays based on its 2015 acquisition of SolidFire, including the SF38410 and FlexPod SF converged infrastructure.  Gartner noted that NetApp has engineering work to do to extend the SolidFire Active IQ predictive analytics beyond storage and across the stack, and to enable inline deduplication on SolidFire hardware to be disabled on a per-volume basis.

Rounding out Gartner’s leaders are Hewlett Packard Enterprises, IBM, Dell EMC and Hitachi Vantara, which was formed in September 2017 from the amalgamation of Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group and Pentaho.

Kaminario’s financial situation is also unclear, as a private company that  last received venture funding in January 2017. Garntner highlights Kaminario’s partnership with Tech Data, which packages Kaminario software on hardware appliances, but also noted the deal signed six months ago is unproven. However, Gartner noted that Kaminaro grew its revenue and was able to outperform the aggregate all-flash array market in 2017. The vendor in January announced it would no longer directly carry hardware inventory,  but offer its K2 arrays as consumable reference architecture with its Kaminario Cloud Fabric software-defined storage utility

Gartner said the all-flash array market experienced 27% year-over-year growth in 2017, with vendors combining to generate $6.3 billion in sales. Arrays that use NVMe flash internally accounted for less than 1% of the revenue, although Gartner estimates NVMe storage will represent about 30% of the market by 2021.

Like Tintri, Gartner characterizes Western Digital’s Tegile IntelliFlash as a market visionary. Western Digital (WD) acquired Tegile in September 2017. The IntelliFlash all-flash system originally was developed by SanDisk, which Western Digital also owns.

All-flash challengers include Fujitsu, with recent product upgrades to its Eternus arrays, and newcomer Huawai Technologies,  a Chinese vendor that added the OceanStor Dorado V3 and OceanStor F V5 arrays to its all-flash portfolio. According to Gartner, challengers are vendors that “execute well enough to be a serious threat” to market leaders, but don’t possess the same “size and influence.”

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