Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

In tough economic times, it’s not unusual for vendors to
reevaluate their product lines and eliminate those that aren’t performing well.
But Network Appliance’s decision to kill off its StoreVault product, targeted
to the SME market, is raising eyebrows across the industry, and opening up
opportunities for the storage giant’s competition.

The StoreVault product line was launched in 2006 as a
channel-only, small and medium enterprise-focused line. The S550 product was
launched in April 2008, and in September 2008, NetApp changed the name to the S
Family, and made the line more widely available to mainstream storage

However, rumors began swirling when NetApp did not upgrade
the products’ functionality to include, for example, support for Windows Server

Paul Clifford, President and Founder of the Davenport Group,
says he was surprised to learn the S Family products would be discontinued, but
that in hindsight, he saw hints that the move was coming.

“There were indicators in the past, most obviously with
upgrades that needed to happen with the product that they kept pushing off,”
Clifford says. He adds that despite these indicators, he’s not entirely sure
why the decision was made, considering the popularity of the product among
solution providers.

“I just don’t know what brought this about. The StoreVault
was targeted to a broad-based customer segment and it was very successful for
them,” he says. Clifford adds that one possible reason for announcing
end-of-life for the S family was the lack of a clear upgrade path from the S
Family to higher-end NetApp storage products.

“There wasn’t a clear upgrade to a lot of their other
products, which was clearly a problem for end-customers and solution
providers,” Clifford says. “There wasn’t a seamless migration path, which meant
some customers got stuck.”

Bruce Kornfeld, vice president of marketing for storage
vendor Compellent, says many companies that sell to the midmarket use a
go-to-market strategy that involves a mix of direct and indirect sales.

The StoreVault/S Family line was an attempt by NetApp to
compete more aggressively through the channel, but that having to maintain
technical support, bug fixes and ensure interoperability quickly became

“It’s expensive to maintain a product line, and it seemed
like solution providers were annoyed that it wasn’t meeting customers needs –
especially when the upgrade path was stalled,” says Kornfeld.