Keeping on top of ONTAP

The last year has been a big one for NetApp, the turnaround in the company’s fortunes continues, fantastic growth in the all flash array market, the introduction of cloud native solutions with tools and of course not to forget Solidfire and the newly announced HCI platform. All have created lots of interest in this “new” NetApp.

If you have read any of my content previously, you’ll know I’m a fan of how NetApp operate and their data fabric strategy continues to make them the very best strategic data partner to meet the needs of many of the people I work with day-to-day.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, like with all technology companies, it’s easy to get wrapped up in exciting new tech and sometimes forget the basics of why you work with them and what their core solutions still deliver.

For all the NetApp innovations of the last couple of years, one part of their business continues to be strong and even at 25 years old remains as relevant to customer needs as ever and that is the ONTAP operating system.

ONTAP, in its latest incarnation, version 9 (9.2 to be exact), maybe more than anything shows how NetApp continue to meet the ever-changing needs of the modern data market, because it would be easy, regardless of its strength, to write off an operating system that is 25 years old, but NetApp have not, they have developed it into something markedly different from the versions I first worked with 10 years ago.

These changes reflect the changes we, as users in more data focussed businesses, demand from our storage, it’s not even really storage we demand, it’s an ability to make our data a core part of our activities, to quote a friend “Storing is boring” and although storing is crucial, if all we are doing is worrying about storing it, then we are missing the point and if the focus for ONTAP was only that, then it would become very quickly irrelevant to a modern business.

How are NetApp ensuring that ONTAP 9 remains relevant and continues to be at the heart of data strategies big and small?

Staying efficient

Although storing may be boring, in a world where IT budgets continue to be squeezed and datacentre power and space are at a costly premium, squeezing more and more into less and less continues to be a core requirement.

Data Compaction, inline deduplication, and the newly introduced aggregate wide deduplication all provide fantastic efficiency gains. If you align this with integration of increasing media sizes (10TB SATA, 15TB Flash, something not always easy for NetApp’s competition), you can see how ONTAP continues to let you squeeze more and more of your data into smaller footprints (60Tb on one SSD drive anyone?), something that remains critical in any data strategy.

Let it grow

As efficient as ONTAP can be, nothing is efficient enough to keep up with our desire to store more data and different types of data. However, ONTAP is doing a pretty good job of keeping up. Not only adding additional scalability to ONTAP clusters (Supporting up to 24 nodes) NetApp have also taken on a different scaling challenge with the addition of FlexGroups.

FlexGroups allow you to aggregate together up to 200 volumes into one large, high performance single storage container, perfect for those who need a single point of storage for very large datasets. This is something I’ve already seen embraced in areas like analytics where high performance access to potentially billions of files is a must.

Keep it simple

A goal for any IT team should be the simplification of its environment.

NetApp have continued developing ONTAP’s ability to automate more tasks and by using intelligent analysis of system data they are helping you to take the guess-work out of workload placements and their impacts, allowing you to get it right, first time, every time.

The continued development of quick deployment templates has also greatly simplified provisioning of application storage environments from out of the box to serving data, taking just minutes not days.

In a world where an ability to respond quickly to business needs is crucial, then the value of developments like this cannot be underestimated.

Keep it secure

Maybe the most crucial part of our data strategy is security and in the last 12 months NetApp have greatly enhanced the capability and flexibility of this in ONTAP.

SnapLock functionality was added 12 months ago, allowing you to lock your data into data archives that can meet the most stringent regulatory and compliance needs.

However, the biggest bonus is the implementation of onboard, volume level encryption, previous to ONTAP9, the only way to encrypt data on a NetApp array, was like most storage vendors, with the use of self-encrypting drives.

This was a bit of an all or nothing approach, it meant buying different and normally more expensive drives and encrypting all data regardless of its sensitivity.

9.1 introduced the ability to deliver encryption on a more granular level, allowing you to encrypt single volumes, without the need for encrypting drives, meaning no need for additional hardware and importantly the ability to only encrypt what is necessary.

In modern IT, this kind of capability is critical both in terms of data security and compliance.

Integrate the future!

I started this piece by asking how you keep a 25-year-old operating system relevant, in my opinion the only way to do that is to ensure it seamlessly integrates with modern technologies.

ONTAP has a pretty good record of that, be it by luck or design, it’s port into the world of all flash, was smooth, no need for major rewrites, the ONTAP method of working was geared to work with flash before anyone had thought of flash!

The ability for ONTAP to see media as another layer of storage regardless of type was key in supporting 15TB SSD’s before any other major storage vendor and it is this flexibility of ONTAP to integrate new storage media which has led to one of my favourite features of the last 12 months, FabricPools.

This technology allows you to seamlessly integrate S3 storage directly into your production data, be that an on-prem object store, or a public cloud S3 bucket from a provider like AWS.

In the V1.0 release in ONTAP 9.2, FabricPools tier cold blocks from flash disk to your S3 complaint storage, wherever that is, bringing you the ability to lower your total cost of ownership for storage by moving data not actively in use to free up space for other workloads. All done automatically via policy, seamlessly providing an extension to your production storage capacity by integrating modern storage technology.

ONTAP everywhere

As ONTAP continues to develop, the ways you can consume it also continue to develop to meet our changing strategic needs.

Fundamentally ONTAP is a piece of software and like any piece of software it can run anywhere that meets the requirements to run it. ONTAP variants Select and Cloud, provide software defined versions of ONTAP that can be run on white box hardware or delivered straight from the cloud marketplaces of AWS and Azure.

The benefit of this stretches far beyond just been able to run ONTAP in more places, it means that management, security policies and data efficiencies are all equally transferable. It’s one way to manage, one set of policies to implement, meaning that where your data resides at a given moment becomes less important, as long as it is in the right place at the right time for the right people.

In my opinion, this flexibility is critical for a modern data strategy.

Keep it coming

Maybe what really keeps ONTAP relevant is the fact that these new capabilities are all delivered in software, none of the features have required new hardware or for you to purchase an add-on, they are all delivered as part of the ONTAP development cycle.

And the modern NetApp has fully embraced a more agile way of delivering ONTAP, with a 6-month release cadence, meaning they can quickly absorb feature requests and get them delivered to platforms that desire them quickly, allowing them and us to respond to changing business needs.

So, while NetApp have had a fascinating year, delivering great enhancements to their portfolio, ONTAP still retains a very strong place at the heart of their data fabric strategy and still, in my opinion, is the most complete data management platform, continuing to meet the needs presented by modern data challenges.

Find out more

If you want to know more about ONTAP and its development then try these resources.

NetApp’s Website

Justin Parisi’s BLOG – providing links to more detailed information on all of the technologies discussed and much more!

TechONTAP Podcast – NetApp’s excellent TechONTAP podcast has detailed information of all of the information shared here, it’s all in their back catalogue.

And of course you can leave a comment here or contact me on twitter @techstringy

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Tech me for the weekend – 21st July

Those weekends just keep on rolling around don’t they! It’s been a hectic old week at work, but I’ve still managed to catch up on some really good tech content that I thought I’d share.

If you are after some interesting reads and listens to satisfy your insatiable desire for all things tech this weekend, then give these a go..

Articles

CIO.COM – Is your data ready to help you make game changing decisions?

I presented at an event recently on this very topic and thought this was an interesting article discussing the same issues.

Many of us see the value of data and see how getting a better understanding of it can help us make better decisions in our business, but how many of us have thought about how to package up our data so we can actually take advantage of analytics tools so we can become a more data driven businesses? Some areas to consider in this article;

http://www.cio.com/article/3192349/analytics/is-your-data-ready-to-help-you-make-game-changing-decisions.html

Tech Crunch – Five building block of a data-driven culture

While on the data theme, also found this from Tech Crunch further exploring the idea of making our businesses more data centric, while the CIO article looked at how to prepare our data to be more useful to us, Tech Crunch look at the wider picture of what a business needs to become more data centric.

They explore the importance of an authoritative data set, but also the importance of having the right skills in your business, it’s no good doing all of this work with your data, if no one has the slightest idea how to use it!

https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/23/five-building-blocks-of-a-data-driven-culture/

Windows IT Pro – Microsoft Inspire: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

A big supporter of this message in all areas of IT, as we become ever more reliant on our technology and it becomes ever more complex, what is crucial is we take that complexity away from our end users, they need to be able to focus on making the most of their technology so they can meet their desired outcomes, not wasting time worrying about making stuff work.

This article from Windows IT Pro comes from the recent Microsoft Inspire conference, as they take a look at Microsoft’s plans for simplifying technology delivery be that cloud offerings, building hybrid solutions with Azure Stack, or using Microsoft cognitive services, the focus is on simplification.

http://windowsitpro.com/cloud-data-center/microsoft-inspire-simplify-simplify-simplify-or-least-shove-complexity-out-view

Podcasts

After all that reading, you may want to kick back for some tech listening, so here’s a coupe of shows to enjoy!

Tech ONTAP – Death of the specialised admin

I know the NetApp podcast team keep getting a mention, but they are knocking out some great episodes at the minute and episodes that are for a much wider IT listenership than just NetApp customers.

This episode is one of those as Andy Bantha and Josh Atwell join the team to talk about next generation infrastructure, but not a debate about technology, one about skill sets, what types of skills do we need as IT Pro’s and what kind of skills do we need as a business as you look to build your next generation technology platforms.

Well worth a listen.

 

 

Virtually Speaking Podcast – vSAN Off-Road

Another old favourite this one. I enjoy the VMware podcast, as a great way to keep up with what VMware are doing.

This episode, although vSAN focussed, does however touch on an interesting idea, that of building customised infrastructures, not necessarily ones that sit in any good practice guide or a reference architecture, however ones that are supported, even if their use cases are quite unique.

The team bring up some interesting points and areas to consider, worth a listen if you are indeed taking your own IT a little “off-road”.

In Tech We Trust – Luck and Innovation

Enjoying the new format of this show and an interesting topic this time out as Yadin discusses with a range of guests the part that luck plays in innovation, does it play a part and if so how big?

Interesting listen and some good sharing of experiences.

Give it a try, I’m pretty sure it will give you some things to think about!

https://intechwetrustpodcast.com/e/125-luck-and-innovation/

Tech Interviews – Living on the data edge

Talking of Yadin (smooth transition if ever there was one) he is my guest on my Tech Interviews show this week, as I discuss Yadin’s day job at Druva, as we tackle the tricky and often ignored problem of edge data.

We discuss the data that sits out on our mobile devices, laptops, tablets, phones, USB sticks and the unique set of problems that this presents to our enterprise in terms of data management.

Yadin shares some great ideas and insights on how we can begin to tackle the challenge.

Plus it’s the last show for a few weeks as Tech Interviews takes a summer holiday – so heah, why not give it a try.

Hopefully that gives you plenty to enjoy over the weekend.

Happy teching.. watch out for some more tech content to enjoy soon…

 

 

Living on the data edge – Yadin Porter De Leon – Ep36

There has no doubt been a change in the way we all look at protecting and securing our key data, with robust data protection, enhanced data security plans and increased governance to ensure compliance with ever-increasing regulatory requirements.

However, much of this is concentrated in our datacentre and our central data sets, which although critical, is not all of our data. One of the biggest changes we have seen in recent years in the world of “corporate IT” is the increasingly mobile nature of our daily operations, starting out from getting email to a Blackberry, to today been able to access all of our key business data and applications from pretty much anywhere at any time on a wide range of devices.

This shift of course has a huge impact on where our data lives, it’s no longer just in our datacentre, behind corporate firewalls and security, it lives out on those range of mobile devices, laptops, tablets and smartphones, which brings a set of quite unique challenges.

These challenges are not necessarily easy to fix, how do you ensure you are protecting that data on a wide range of different devices, how do you know where it is and what it contains?

That is the focus of this weeks podcast, as I’m joined by Yadin Porter De Leon of Druva to discuss the challenge of data that lives right on the edge of our network.

We look at the complexity of the problem and why it has too be much more than “backup” and why it’s critical we have full visibility of our data, regardless of where it sits in our business, be that in our datacentre or on a mobile device 1000’s of miles away.

We define what we mean by edge data, look at how it needs to be just as available and accessible as that in our datacentre.

Yadin shares with us how easy it is to suffer from a data breach with edge data, how the loss of a single device can lead to significant breach and all the impact that brings, especially if we don’t know what data may or may not have been on that device!

This leads on to investigating the subject of information management, which is the true goal for many of us, knowing where our data is, what it contains, who has and is accessing it, while ensuring we have it protected and can always find it, regardless of whether our end device is accessible or not.

We wrap up our edge data discussion by providing a little bit of listener homework, as we point you in the direction of the kind of questions you should be asking yourself as an organisation, so you can build a data protection policy for all of your data, not just that which is stored in your datacentre.

Yadin gives some great insight to something, which in my opinion, is a challenge that is often not giving the focus that it requires.

To find out more about the work Druva do to help with this difficult challenge then visit the solution section of druva.com, you can also follow them @druvainc on twitter.

You can follow Yadin @porterdeleon on twitter.

Finally, I strongly recommend checking out the excellent In Tech We Trust podcast, where Yadin and the team explore a wide range of IT industry and business topics you can follow them on twitter @InTech_WeTrust or the website at intechwetrustpodcsat.com

Tech Interviews is packing its swimming trunks and heading off on its podcast summer holidays for a few weeks, but worry not, you can find all of our previous episodes here on the techstringy.com website as well as at podcast.techstringy.com and to make sure you don’t miss out on the new shows when we’re back, then why not subscribe in all the usual podcast places.

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Have a great summer and thanks for listening.

 

were-all-going-on-a-summer-holiday

What is a next generation data centre? – Martin Cooper – Ep35

There is no doubt that our organisations are becoming ever more data centric, wanting to know how we can gain insight into our day to day operations and continue to be competitive and relevant to our customers, while delivering a wide range of new experiences for them.

This move to a more data driven environment is also altering the way we engage and even purchase technology in our businesses, with technology decisions now no longer the preserve of IT people.

These changes do mean we need to reconsider how we design and deliver technology. Which has led to the idea of “The Next Generation Datacenter”, but what does that mean? What is a Next Generation Datacentre?

That is the subject of this week’s podcast, as I’m joined by Martin Cooper, Senior Director of the Next Generation Datacentre Group (NGDC), at NetApp.

With over 25 years in the technology industry, Martin is well placed to understand the changes that are needed to meet our increasingly digitally driven technology requirements.

In this episode, we look at a wide range of topics, starting with trying to define what we mean by Next Generation Datacentre. The good news is that NGDC is not necessarily about buying a range of new technologies, but about optimising the processes and technology that we already have.

We touch on how a modern business needs flexibility in its operations and how decisions made in different parts of the business, who focus on applications and data, not infrastructure, require IT teams to respond in an application and data focused way.

Martin also discusses the types of organisations that can benefit from this NGDC way of thinking, and how in fact, it’s not about entire organisations, but about understanding where the opportunities for transformation exist, and delivering change there, be that an entire business, a single department or even a single application.

We also provide a word of caution and how it’s important to understand that not all our current applications and infrastructure are going to migrate to this brave new world of Next Generation Datacentres.

Next Generation Datacentre is not about a technology purchase, but is about understanding how to optimise the things we do, to meet our changing business needs and Martin provides some excellent insight into how we do that and the kind of areas we need to consider.

To find out more from Martin and from NetApp you can follow them in all the usual ways.

Their website Netapp.com

On twitter @NetApp @NetAppEMEA

You can also follow Martin @mr_coops

Martin also mentioned a selection of podcasts that often discuss next generation datacentre, you can find more details on those shows by clicking the links below.

SpeakingINTech

The Cloudcast

NetApp’s own TechONTAP podcast.

I hope you enjoyed the show, if you did and want to catch all future Tech Interviews episodes, then please subscribe and leave us a review in all of the normal places.

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Tech me for the weekend – 7th July

First up an apology, a podcast only list this weekend, it’s all been a bit hectic this week so not had a lot of reading time…

A bit of a theme this week with a focus on security. Data security is constant hot topic from Ransomware to governance and all that’s in between, so if you are fighting the good data security fight, you may find these shows provide some interesting insight.

All of the links below take you to the podcast show notes pages, each of those pages have the episodes embedded, or you can of course look for them in your favourite podcatchers.

.future from Microsoft – Securing a digital battlefield

This is a new podcast from Microsoft and episode 1 was an interesting start, looking at the growing impact of the modern cyber threat and how in many quarters it is seen as the next potential “war zone” a good insight and don’t worry, not as scary as it sounds!

.future podcast

Inside Out Security – what does GDPR mean for countries outside of the EU

The EU General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, is going to be a massive change on how we handle personal data, this episode takes a look at one of the common questions associated with the regulation, “how does it impact me if I’m outside of the EU?” the reality is, it probably will.

A good debate about how and why it will impact you, regardless of location.

Inside Out Security

NetApp TechONTAP – Security update

The ONTAP boys are back in the list again this week, but to be honest, that’s because I’m biased as I’m on this show!

Don’t worry it’s not just me, I join the regular team as well as some of NetApp’s very own data security gurus as we talk about the latest threats, the importance of understanding your data and how none of this works if you don’t build an in-depth data security strategy.

Lots of good tips and advice.

Tech ONTAP

Tech Interviews

If the Tech ONTAP podcast isn’t enough of me for you, then there is of course this weeks Tech Interviews.

A personal favourite this show and a little bit of a digression from normal, as rather than talking with someone from the tech industry, I catch up with an actual technology user!

I chat with Lee Clark of Givepenny UK about how he has integrated data and cloud technology to deliver innovation to the fundraising sector, allowing charities to find new ways of engaging with a whole new generation of fundraisers.

A fantastic example of how technology can really make a big difference – I hope you enjoy it.

How a 100-mile bike ride inspired a new way of fundraising – Lee Clark – Ep34

Hopefully that should quench your tech thirst this weekend, enjoy the shows and have a great weekend.

 

 

How a 100-mile bike ride inspired a new way of fundraising – Lee Clark – Ep34

Normally when I do this podcast I chat with people from the technology community, normally those involved on the supply side, to discuss how the market is changing and how technology can help us deliver innovation and change into our organisations.

This week I wanted to do something a little different as the third and final part of our brief series on using the cloud, by looking at a real use case, someone who has embraced cloud technology to bring innovation to an industry.

I always admire those people who can spot a gap in a market, they see new and inventive ways of delivering products and services or ways of working with their customers, but sometimes bringing those ideas to fruition can be difficult and expensive. One of the most powerful things of the modern cloud driven era is how cloud providers have made technology much more accessible to those with great new business ideas, making it easier than ever for them to quickly, efficiently and importantly, for relatively low investment, exploit often very advanced technologies to help bring an idea to fruition.

This week I’m joined by someone who has done just that, Lee Clark of Givepenny UK.

Lee describes how a 100-mile charity bike ride, that he never got to do, made him think about a whole new way of fundraising. He realised that although he couldn’t do the actual 100-mile event, he had tracked many 100’s of miles of training with his smartphone app and realised how we all track and store masses of data about our everyday activities and how this data could be utilised to raise much needed money for charities in the UK.

We discuss a whole range of issues which comes with innovation, issues that are not unique to trying to launch something new, but are equally experienced by those trying to bring change into any organisation.

We look at how organisations are often crippled by their own behaviour, restricting their ability to embrace innovation, and how to overcome it.

Lee shares some of the ideas behind the Givepenny platform and how, by looking for new ways to engage potential fundraisers, has created a whole range of new opportunities for charities of all types.

We also discuss how cloud has made traditionally complex technology so much more accessible and how this accessibility allowed Givepenny to deliver a platform quickly, effectively and at a low cost, especially when compared to how the charity sector first engaged with technology as part of fundraising some 15 years ago.

And finally, we look at the importance of understanding the way technology is changing so many aspects of both our personal and business lives and why understanding this change is not just for those looking to deploy new innovations, but crucially those who make decisions about the future of an organisation, decisions that will have a significant impact on future success.

Lee shares with real enthusiasm about Givepenny’s journey and how they are looking to bring innovation to the charity sector, allowing them to create a whole new range of ways to engage with a very generous population who’d love to help, if they could.

You can find out more about Givepenny on their website givepenny.com and you can follow them on twitter @givepennyuk.

You can also follow Lee @jannerinbrum

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