Analyst Opinion: Analyzing the Niche section of the Gartner Magic Quadrant

In my last three columns I have analyzed the Leader, Visionary, and Challenger sections of the Gartner Magic Quadrant. In this column we will take a look at the most confusing part of the Gartner chart, the Niche section.

Section of Change and Confusion

While this section of the chart saw the most changes from year to year it’s not clear what makes a vendor “Niche” or not. It could be a lack of a complete storage strategy. As examples Promise Technology, Infortrend, AMI (StorTends) and Dot Hill are each more known for their hardware than their storage software. It is important to note that each of these companies have built out their software offering, in some cases significantly in the last year, but still only saw minor movement within the quadrant. Also, aren’t we in the era of software defined storage (SDS)? If so, don’t we need at least a few vendors creating a hardware-only solution?

Who Lost My Nexsan?

Gone from this section are Huawei, SGI and Nexsan (Imation). Huawei, as we commented on our column about the Challengers, was promoted there from the Niche section. Nexsan (Imation) is just gone and I actually can’t disagree with that move. Nexsan seemed to be developing a message and with it some momentum in primary storage, prior to Imation buying them a year and a half ago. But since then Nexsan, and Imation for that matter, have both disappeared from our radar screens. Not sure why Imation would spend $120 Million and then not keep us updated, but that is what it seems like from here. It appears Gartner feels the same way.

SGI, the other company missing in action, seems to be focused solely on the archive space now. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as a result they seem to have been dropped from the chart. Again, we can’t disagree with that decision.

What’s with Japanese Storage Companies?

Then there are NEC and Fujitsu. With the exception of HDS, what is the deal with Japanese storage vendors? They seem to all have great hardware, the right compliment of software but can’t market their way out of a paper bag! We have Fujitsu treading water in the Challenger space and now NEC in the Niche space. They actually dropped a few spots, relatively speaking. I’m not sure what the difference between Fujitsu and NEC is when it comes to primary storage, so I don’t get why one is in the Challenger space and the other is the Niche space – if anything these two should probably trade places. Especially if Gartner is factoring in NEC’s secondary storage offering, Hydrastor, which seems to be doing well in the market and certainly is a differentiated offering.

There was a marketing person at Fujitsu that once told Storage Switzerland at briefings during two successive Storage Networking Worlds (SNW) events that they were the best-kept secret in storage. Think about that, a marketing person bragging that they were the best-kept secret. It perfectly explains why Fujitsu in particular is where they are. Great hardware, better than average software, and no message equals struggling for relevance instead of leading the market. Both of these companies need to go down to HDS HQ and see how it is done.

Conclusion – Confusion

I leave this section confused. There are companies in this space that clearly have the software chops to play their way at least into the Visionary space, if not the Challenger space. I can agree that all of them need help on execution and messaging. That wraps our review of the quadrant, but we have one more column left. Who’s missing from the Gartner quadrant and why do we think they should be there?

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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