Insights from the storage industry?

Last week I was away in Berlin at NetApp’s Insight conference (See what IFD572BD3-226B-428F-B6F4-849481A8B842.jpg did with the title there!) always an enjoyable event with good information, company, food and the occasional large German beer. That aside, I do try to attend a handful of these types of events a year as a part of my job.

How does it benefit my job?

A big part of my role is to identify key industry trends and challenges and to see whether our technology partners are developing solutions to take these on and help our customers to adapt and modernise their IT and maintain competitive edge in a fast changing business world. Whether that’s Microsoft, one of our  data management and security providers, or, as in this case a storage provider like NetApp. We need to know our partners are still delivering relevant solutions.

So how did NetApp measure up ?

Our answer to this is usually found in the keynote sessions, that’s the home of strategic presentations and product announcements, Insight was no exception.

Understanding the problems?

Did the NetApp leadership address the fundamental challenges that we are seeing?

Three messages really stood out for me at the event, each hit key concerns I see in my daily dealings with senior IT people.

Data is critical

Data was at different times the new gold, new oil and the new digital currency, but ultimately it was THE most important thing, it was the key focus of pretty much everything covered across the four days and that’s how it should be, it’s our businesses most critical asset, it’s the thing that has the opportunity to separate us from our competition by extracting true value, whether that’s better reporting, better analytics or more flexibility in movement from on-prem to cloud and back. Getting the best from it is a major goal for us all.WP_20161114_15_51_23_Rich_LI.jpg

This focus was refreshing it also included coining the phrase;

NetApp not the last independent storage vendor but the first data management company

That works for me, my conversations these days are never speeds and feeds based, much more around outcomes and aims, tick in the box then.

DevOps it

You just can’t have an IT discussion these days without throwing around the phrase DevOps – I’d be disappointed to be honest if it wasn’t brought up – I’m not even going to attempt to try to do justice to the breadth of the topic here, there’s lots of great DevOps content out there (For an excellent DevOps intro have a listen to the Tech ONTAP Podcast episode with Gene Kim here ) .

I think often we assume this kind of stuff is just about software development, but in my mind it’s much more about the way we are looking to consume technology in our businesses, IT cannot be an impediment to us doing business, the modern business needs to be able to respond quickly to new challenges and we need to have an IT infrastructure that can not only change but one we are not afraid to change when we need to.

There was a great session with a day in the life of DevOps, that although played for laughs, brought home the importance of automation, the ability to fail fast and how to manage modern development processes, of course with a healthy bit of how things like NetApp’s integration with Docker, access to API’s with both ONTAP and Solidfire can all help build a modern agile data infrastructure.

Integrating the cloud

NetApp has talked extensively about their data fabric message for the last couple of years, many of you know I’m a fan (for example Data Fabric – what is it good for). The driver behind the fabric is the reality, that for most of us and our IT infrastructure, the future is going to be hybrid, some stuff on prem, some stuff in the cloud. But this kind of hybrid environment comes with challenges, no challenge bigger than how we move data between our on-prem and cloud environments, and not just how we move the datasets around, but how we ensure that it remains under our control, secure and protected and does not end up living in a cloud storage silo.

Insight this year showed the maturity of what NetApp have been doing in this space, not only with the additional capabilities they added to the NetApp portfolio, closer integration of ONTAP and Alta Vault, the announcement of SnapMirror to Solidfire, the enhancements to ONTAP cloud with additional capabilities in AWS as well as support for Azure, but also the introduction of a couple of really interesting solutions that don’t need any “traditional” NetApp solutions at all.

Cloud Sync allows for the movement and conversion of data between an on-prem NFS datastore up into AWS’s analytics tools, designed  to greatly simplify the usage of services such as EMR. Alongside this is Cloud Control a solution to help protect the contents of your Office 365 services, email, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, giving you the ability to back data from these services into anything from your NetApp based on-prem storage to storage blobs in Azure and AWS. Impressively both of these are just services that you can sign up to, point at the relevant cloud services and away you go, no requirement for any other NetApp tech if you don’t want it.

What I like about this is it shows their commitment to data, it’s no longer about selling you ONTAP or FAS hardware (even though they remain great platforms) but about helping us to enable our data to be used in this quickly changing technology and business world.

Did NetApp deliver what I was looking for?

Certainly for me they did, as I said right at the start, when I get time with key technology partners I’m looking to see if they are addressing the primary issues we and our customers are seeing and are they understanding the key technology trends, personally I think at Insight NetApp nailed it and will continue to be very relevant in the modern data management world.

So good job NetApp.

I hope you enjoyed the post, if you want some further info from Insight, here’s some resources you may find useful.

While I was out there I got to do a couple of interviews with key NetApp staff that were recorded for their YouTube channel.

I chatted here with Elliot Howard about the wider challenges that customers see and how NetApp and it’s partners can help;

On this video I spoke with Grant Caley NetApp UK’s chief technologist and asked about industry trends and how they are going to effect out storage usage in the future;

Finally I also spoke with some of the attendees at the event to see what they thought of Insight and tech conferences in general. You can find that here on TechStringy Interviews – or go get the podcast from iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

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