As I said in my introductory post, I have been meaning to do this for a while--start a blog that is--and Mr. Pearson over at IBM has inspired me to kick off with some content. And that is: who has what market share in the world of open system virtual tape?
I'd like to think the answer to this is more than a trivial marketing factoid, by the way. It isn't just a "whose product is bigger/better/faster" question. This is a question about who has managed to own mind share and who has managed to own the discussion and vision around backup and virtual tape. Who has a strategy, and who doesn’t.
These are key questions, crucial really, as we embark upon a period of radical re-imagining of backup. Everything that has been done for the last 30 years is likely to change drastically in the next few years in the world of backup. Some customers have already set off down this path, others are about to. But this is the unavoidable fact: we are just getting started. As an industry, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg so far.
The acceleration in the marketplace of virtual tape, deduplication, and the other technologies that will enable a revolutionary makeover of backup is just starting. We can expect to see growth of the likes that only VMware has been used to in the coming quarters. For those of us who believe strongly that tape will face a significantly shrinking role in backup we only need to realize (statistics courtesy of Mr. Pearson again...) that IBM alone shipped 1,500 PB of tape storage in Q3 '07 alone. If you think that disk and other new technologies can grab a significant share of the tape market in the next decade—and I do—the marketplace has a long way to go.
So can EMC claim to be off to a good start? I think so... Tony Pearson would like people to believe that both IBM and Sun (STK) have significantly outsold EMC when it comes to virtual tape. That EMC places a distant 3rd. Here is a link to the blog in which he states his rather outrageous case: Tony's case, for those of you who don't want to take my word for what he said.
And here is my response, slightly edited from the response I left on his page: Tony wrote: "Let's take a look at the numbers. IBM has sold over 5,400 virtual tape libraries. Sun/STK has sold over 4,000 virtual tape libraries. Both are drastically more than the 1,100 mentioned in Chuck's post."
I think some intellectual honesty is required here. And in that spirit, I will say up front that I am an evangelist. I believe in EMC and our ability to be the best in this marketplace. Having said that, our claim is not just that we are "the best" but that are are #1 in Open Systems virtual tape. What does that mean? Again, I will make an educated guess because I haven't read the specific Forrester report. An Open Systems virtual tape device is one that is used and sold primarily for attachment in a Unix and Windows space, and for us an a backup target for a backup application running on an Open Systems (Unix or Windows) server. Clear?
OK then, how many of those 5,400 virtual tape libraries meet those criteria? Based on personal observation—and clearly not scientific analysis—I would say it is a vanishingly small number. Certainly far below the 1,100 customers we have. (And, as an aside, the number of units we have shipped is much larger than 1,100... customers love them so much many of them buy 2 or 3 or more. But again it is really about honesty and not deliberately confounding the number of customers with the number of units shipped.)
The same can be said for VSM, which I don't believe offers open systems attach at all. So in the spirit of honesty, let’s admit that open systems VTL and mainframe VTL do different things, have different value propositions, and basically don't have a lot in common except a name. How many 3494s do you think are attached to NetBackup? Or NetWorker? I don't think there is any question that EMC has dominated the open systems virtual tape world with our EDL. I guess the key here is that we don't make any comment about our role in the world of mainframe virtual tape, and we certainly are not deliberately trying to confound one with the other. See the difference between IBM and EMC in that respect? But I guess if I was in IBM's position, with virtually no market share in open systems virtual tape, I might want to blur the distinction too, just to give me some shred of credibility.
I am going to finish my comments on market share and VTL with that. But I am going to finish this, my first blog post, with the idea that intellectual honesty is important. We need to be honest if we are going to appreciate what our competitors do that's right, and then beat them. And we need to be honest in understanding what we do that is good, and telling our customers that. If we can stand up in front of our customers, and show them with candour and passion that EMC is the thought and market share leader in the world of open systems virtual tape--and by extension open systems backup--that is a good thing. If we further state that we are going to drive the products and services they need to reinvent backup and recovery, that is a great thing.