Do you want innovation or Disruption

Do you want Innovation or Disruption?
John Martin, Flash Evangelist, NetApp APAC

There’s a lot of hype around the disruptions caused by the likes of Uber, or Paypal. There are conferences, books, and gurus, all riding on the rhetoric of “Disrupt or Die”. While disruptive technology that helps you reduce your costs is a great idea, in order for you to disrupt your competitors, you must invest in building your own innovation portfolio. Simply buying someone else’s disruptive technology simply isn’t enough.

Often something is labeled as being “Disruptive” as if some magic, disruptive unicorn dust has rubed off and turned a company into the ‘Next Big Thing’. Sadly, and perhaps predictably those technologies often don’t hold up to any kind of substantive definition of being truly disruptive.

Within the data storage industry, the poster child for disruptive technology is the “All Flash Array”. It’s the perfect case study that you can measure up against the theory of disruption that was so elegantly laid out in Clayton Christensen's book “The Innovator's Dilemma”

The Innovator's Dilemma

Flash storage was originally designed for a new set of data storage consumers, consumer devices like digital cameras and music players in SD cards. It created new consumers and new value networks for electronic data storage. Those SD cards and USB sticks then evolved into the Solid State Drive or “SSD” that is currently disrupting the “Performance Magnetic Disk” market. This is classic “Innovator's Dilemma” material. Even before the advent of the SSD, Geoffrey Moore’s book used the hard disk drive industry as a prime example in his seminal book on innovation, because it has been one of the most disruptive and disrupted industries for over thirty years, and this trend still continues today.

As a result, you probably couldn’t find a better example of a disruptive technology than the flash because it appeared

"first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.”

Here’s the kicker though, a flash based SSD by itself currently isn’t cheaper than a performance disk, so it fails to meet the criteria for a truly disruptive product. SSD is certainly cheaper in terms of $/IOPS, and power and increasingly physical density, but not in terms of $/GB. This was especially true when SSD used to be 15-20x more expensive than magnetic disk, though now that difference is closer to about 5x

All Flash Arrays and Disruption

But, this is where the intelligent All Flash Array comes in. If you can make SSD’s 5x more efficient in $/GB through data deduplication and compression without compromising the density and performance advantages, then you can accelerate that disruption point and get all the benefits of this disruption in the disk drive market TODAY !! :-)

So is this disruptive? From the point of view of the manufacturers of performance disk drives, I think it’s pretty obvious. We are clearly in the middle of that disruption right now, which to me is absolutely fascinating. But outside of the manufacturers of disks drives "Is an All Flash Array a disruptive innovation?", I’d have to say no, not really

I say this because new markets don’t start buying storage arrays because they’re built out of all flash. There are no new “value networks” created because your array is now built out of faster better media.

Getting Business Value out of Flash

So, while I don’t think that All Flash Arrays are disruptive by themselves, they are awesome at helping you accelerate your business and lower you costs by allowing your IT to get things done more quickly, and more efficiently as we did for RP-Data.

What is disruptive for our competitors (both NetApp’s and yours), is when we combine the NetApp All Flash FAS array with other technologies such as a Data Fabric. That’s when we can help you enable completely new things for your customers, and help you create new markets and value networks.

We can completely get rid of backups and change windows that slow down datacenter transformation as we did for Mantra group. We can help you use public cloud compute in a truly multi-vendor hybrid cloud. We can transform software development as we did for ING Direct. We can help our you change the way you do business and turn you data into better decisions and better customer outcomes.

It is using this approach built on innovative technology that allows you to build your own innovation portfolio, so you can become the disruptors in your industry. We believe that we can help you on that journey, because we also believe there is always a better way to access and realize the value of your data.