I’m Sorry, But Nice Guys Do Finish First

Guest post by Alex McDonald


This year’s Wimbledon Men’s Singles tennis final was an epic struggle of one man, driven by a British nation’s support, to achieve the ultimate tennis prize against the world’s number one tennis player.


And Murray did it; he beat Djokovic, world ranked #1, in straight sets.


At which point, I digress (only ever so slightly) to a recent blog by storage analyst Mark Peters of ESG. It’s entitled “NetApp's Dual Nationality”. Please go read it; Mark is without doubt one of the most perceptive analysts out there. Entertaining too.


Mark’s focus is on plans, competition, our portfolio, best of breed, ONTAP 8.2 as the leading software for storage management. It talks about NetApp’s approach to business and our attitudes.


“Once Tom Georgens had given the mandatory comments about the recent earnings calls, he and the other presenters were able to move to a more upbeat and aggressive mantra. Let's start with the huge sales success of FlexPod...or the [admittedly somewhat lucky accident of the] EF540, NetApp's all-flash array that's built on its long-standing E Series software, is seemingly "vanilla" in nature and is yet able to have beaten the purpose-built offerings of both start-ups and veterans in head-to-head bake-offs....and of course there's the big daddy of them all: ONTAP 8.2, which is certainly a (maybe the?) leading storage software data management package, sporting everything from edge, VSA type solutions to cloud, mobility and flexible backup integration...the list goes on and shows NetApp in a strong position to both have—and to improve—on an integrated overall data management fabric. It's really pretty impressive...and NetApp should be noisy-est.”


For all I like his blog, and the way he brings out important facets of NetApp’s approach to business without resort to the usual backwards looking numbers game, he’s wrong on one specific charge.


Mark thinks we’re too polite when competing against other storage vendors. He suggests that we’re being too “British” about what we have;


“[NetApp’s] courtesy […] carries over into its external competitive culture—sure it wants to win, but it often seems to want to do so in a gentlemanly way (no offence to womanly-kind…but this seems to be the common phrasing). […] A sense of fair play - and at times even self-deprecation—that can, to us outsiders and watchers, seem just a tinsy winsy bit at odds with the tough old world we inhabit.

[…] The reserve has to go. After all, and as I've at times found to my cost, this is not a country where diffidence is often seen as an aspirational quality. The US is the land of the "-est"—biggest, finest, fastest etc. […] It's like the annoying British habit I have of saying "sorry" all the time: it's fine in the UK because everyone does it and everyone knows it's not meant most of the time! But I try to control it in different "markets." Indeed, I like to think that as a dual national myself I've learned which of my cultural biases should take prominence at any given time. Now is the time for NetApp to give a full-bore dose of US “-est.”


Not enough whooping and hollering is my take on that. What I do know is that shouting out between games didn’t win Murray the match at Wimbledon; Murray being the best tennis player on the court did that. A courteous and diffident Brit won Wimbledon.


Look at what NetApp has in its favour; a solid yet innovative portfolio of storage solutions, huge successes in winning (and retaining) business, and a courteous, gentlemanly and polite culture to boot. Whooping and hollering won’t win this storage match either; but being the very best we can will do so now and in the future. Let others shout from their seats in the gallery, while we play and win the game.


I’m definitely not sorry for one thing; we’re the best.