NetApp Insight: Fabrics, Volumes, Insights & more

NetApp Insight 2018

I had the opportunity to attend NetApp Insight 2018 this year held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Convention Center.  The theme of the event was #DataDriven, at least that’s what I took away from it.  George Kurian talked about the number of Market Leaders that are #DataDriven from 2006 to 2017.

He talked about the biggest buzzword in our industry, Digital Transformation, but he added, Data-Driven to the beginning.  In order for organizations to experience real transformation, they must be focused on using data, making that data available, and using it in a number of ways to make smart decisions for the business.


NetApp showed us research that stated customers on a Data-Driven journey of Digital Transformation have seen a 3x increased profitability and new customer acquisition, and a 6x improvement of operational efficiencies.  If those numbers don’t turn your head, I’m not sure what will.  That’s impressive but it does take a concerted effort and strategy to deliver and execute over a period of time.  George lays out five points for what it takes.

  1. Digital Transformation begins with IT Transformation

This may seem logical, but it is much more difficult than it seems.  This is the cornerstone on which The CTE Group was founded, helping IT become more business-centric, focusing on the challenges, desired business outcomes and delivering technology solutions to help achieve these goals.  While I didn’t hear George say this specifically, he touched on it by talking about the leaders he has seen delivering Digital Transformation through new services by using Cloud as the new benchmark

  1. Speed is the new scale

If you don’t move quickly in a digital business you can get disrupted quickly.  He points out the mobile game, Fortnight, who reached 125M users in less than a year since it was created. The Boston Consulting Group coined the phrase, “Speed is the new Scale” and in order to achieve these new levels, you must leverage a hybrid multi-cloud approach to enable your digital transformation.  Simplification and focus is the way to get to speed.  This brings us to George’s third point

  1. Hybrid, Multi-cloud is the new de-factor architecture

This enables simplification by focusing your IT department on what it does best and leverages innovation on all the public clouds. Industry-standard containers and micro-services technology to enable the architecture.  Leveraging Kubernetes with Istio as the cloud-native multi-cloud control plane.

  1. Build a Data Strategy

Data has been fragmented across systems and business functions.  Data remains in silos, even if it happens to live in the “data lake” or a Hadoop cluster.  George says it is time to look at data fabrics and not data lakes, to move from data centers to data fabrics.  Letting the data live wherever the business application or need exists, irrespective of the underlying technology.

We heard from Dreamworks SVP, Technology Communications, and Strategic Alliances, Kate Swanborg who talked about their own digital transformation and how they are using the NetApp technology portfolio to increase business performance, creating the next generation of their digital transformation, a cloud-enabled production pipeline of the future to put technology in their artists’ hands to create films audiences have yet to see.

Not your grandfather’s NetApp

I must admit, I was a bit skeptical of what I was going to hear at this event.  I figured it would be the same old messaging with the same vision slides and the same technology, but was I surprised.  George talked about acquisitions that they have done so successfully that they saw the integration of one company in weeks post-acquisition.  If you have followed NetApp in the past, they were not known for their successful acquisitions, as a matter of fact, I believe EMC used that in a Wall Street Journal ad about EMC’s strengths versus NetApp’s.  Well, this NetApp has proven itself to be quite the opposite of the old NetApp.

George also talked about how the company has become much more agile with software releases coming in 2 weeks versus 20 months, giving them the ability to respond to customers’ needs in a much more timely manner than ever before.

The other thing that I noticed is this distinctive move away from being just an infrastructure company to more of a solutions-oriented company really focused on the customer’s digital transformation journey.  This was a refreshing message.

Fabric, Volumes, and Insight

Three key things I took way, Data Fabric, Cloud Volumes, and Cloud Insights.  For me, all three of these set up the story that NetApp first began talking about years ago, it was their vision in marketing form, but this is more than “just marketing”, these things, this vision, it is a reality.

First, let’s talk about Data Fabric.

Data Fabric

NetApp wants to help customers intelligently and effortlessly move their data to whatever location it should be based on their business requirements and their desired business outcomes.  They are proposing the way to do that is by using Data Fabric as the mechanism.  What was so compelling about this message as it was in line with long term vision NetApp started to share several years ago, but now it has come to fruition and their customers are responding in kind.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud Volumes allows a customer to choose from two different models, Cloud Volumes Service and Cloud Volumes ONTAP.  Cloud Volumes Service is a SaaS offering and is primarily designed for those interested in speed and performance of a multi-protocol stack.  This is available to customers through AWS, Azure, and GCP.

For customers who want more control over their data, Cloud Volumes ONTAP is the way to go.  It gives customers full control, and the good news is, if you’re just looking to move some workloads from your datacenter to the cloud, you can do that with the same or similar skillset you already have.  You get the same enterprise-grade data management you’re familiar with in your own data center, but in a software form for use with AWS storage and Azure storage.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP is available with NetApp’s storage efficiency features, replication technology, and hybrid multi-cloud platforms control, leveraging the Cloud Manager frontend capabilities.

At NetApp Insight last week, they also formally introduced NetApp Cloud Volumes OnTap, allowing NetApp and non-NetApp shops to run its flagship operating system on physical clusters in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure. Cloud Volumes is a rebranded version of software-only NetApp Cloud OnTap.

Cloud Insights

Let’s face it, if you’re moving to the cloud, you want to manage your assets in the cloud and Cloud Insights gives you the control in an easy-to-use monitoring tool to help reduce troubleshooting, control costs, and use some predictive analysis to see potential problems in performance before it happens.  NetApp says that it may help improve customer satisfaction, “by preventing up to 80% of cloud infrastructure issues before they impact end-users.” They also say that it can proactively prevent failures and reduce mean time to resolution by up to 90%.  That’s a big promise, but with what I saw, it sure does appear they are on target to live up to those promises.  Allowing customers to be more proactive is a big plus, especially when your operational assets may be spread across multiple clouds.

Remember, Cloud is just someone else’s datacenter, but it is your data, and it may be your physical asset, or it may be your virtual asset.  Whatever it is, you want to be able to manage it and do it in a powerful and compelling way to serve your customers.

The CTE Summation

All in all, I was impressed with what I heard, what I saw, and who I talked to while in Las Vegas at NetApp Insight 2018.  I think the challenge NetApp has is to continue to dig deep into their customer portfolio and create peer-level material that will show prospects and/or existing customers on the fence what real business challenge these NetApp customers were facing and how NetApp was able to, first of all, understand that challenge at a business level, propose a technology solution to help the customer achieve the desired goals and outcomes, and then clearly and succinctly illustrate the outcomes this peer customer experienced.

This is where the rubber meets the road, it isn’t enough to just say we are focused on customer outcomes, it means a whole lot more when you can actually show this repeatedly and do so from a peer perspective.

I think NetApp is on to something big, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the market responds to these major announcements from NetApp Insight 2018 from Las Vegas.

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