Take Five With Tom Fenton

5 Things I Learned at the NetApp Insight Conference

HCI, new cloud offerings highlight the show.

NetApp has been off my radar for a few years, but this year I attended its Insight annual conference with some specific goals in mind. Being currently the world's second-largest storage company and having made some critical acquisitions over the last few years, I was curious as to how these acquisitions have shaped NetApp.

More specifically, I was interested to find out what innovative technology they have been working on and what direction they are headed in as a company. I was further intrigued given that NetApp CEO George Kurian, in his earnings call with investors in August, made a bold statement when he said that NetApp's next-generation HCI system, based on SolidFire storage software, "would leave Nutanix and VMware products in the dust."

With these questions and curiosities in mind, here are the five things I learned at this year's Insight.

  1. SolidFire/NetApp synergy. SolidFire has had a positive impact on NetApp, keeping up the development of its all-flash array and showing no signs of conceding its leadership in this category. From what I could observe, SolidFire management is infusing, igniting and breathing fresh innovation into NetApp.
  2. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) product development. NetApp (well, really, SolidFire) has developed and will shortly GA an HCI product. It will use vSphere as its hypervisor and SolidFire as its storage. I'm going to be digging into this story further to answer the hundred-dollar question: is this more than  a SolidFire array backed by compute nodes? Is it, in fact, the next evolution of HCI, and will it deliver on George Kurian's promise?
  3. A new cloud offering. I didn't see this coming, but NetApp has partnered with Microsoft Azure to deliver NFS via Microsoft Azure. This service will support both NFS V3 and V4 to the cloud and hybrid cloud. The product -- Microsoft Azure Enterprise NFS Service -- will integrate with other Azure services, including analytics, SQL Server, and SAP Hana for Azure. Users can access this NFS service directly through the Azure console. This is a very interesting play by both Microsoft and NetApp.
  4. ONTAP is alive and doing well. For many people, ONTAP, NetApp's proprietary operating system, is synonymous with NetApp. NetApp announced ONTAP 9.3, which pushes forward NetApp's Data Fabric story. ONTAP 9.3 promises to deliver more IOPS, lower latency, and will increase the capacity of their arrays by optimizing deduplication. More exciting to me is that ONTAP 9.3 can also manage and take advantage of NVMe over fabric.
  5. NetApp is a class organization. NetApp needed to deal with the horrific event that happened in Las Vegas the night before Insight was due to start, but they truly set the benchmark for how to deal with an event such as this; they made all the right calls and took all the right steps. Everyone -- the CEO, the executive council, the public relationship folks, and even the hundreds of staff members working the floor -- dealt with it exactly right. There was lots of potential for missteps, and no one would have blamed them if they made a few, but they didn't. Well done NetApp.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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