In-Depth

NetApp Insight Keynote Stresses Move From Storage to Data

Data, not oil, is now the world's most valuable resource, claims journalist.

NetApp Insight is a technical conference that gives NetApp's customers, engineers, consultants, and partners a forum in which to learn from NetApp employees and other industry experts about NetApp's and their partners' products and services. More than 4,000 people attended the event this year, the first day of which was cancelled due to the horrific Las Vegas shooting.

Over the course of the conference, there were around 300 technical sessions, self-paced hands-on labs, and even the opportunity to earn NetApp certificates at no cost. I came to see NetApp and partner innovations, and meet with NetApp executives to discuss the NetApp product line and future of the company and products. I wasn't disappointed.

At the general session on the first day of the show, NetApp CEO George Kurian opened with a moment of silence to remember the victims of the tragedy. After the moment of silence, George shared a few words, and then CIO Bill Miller  joined Kurian and welcomed everyone to the event. The two briefly discussed data in the world before inviting up Kenneth Cukier, Senior Editor of The Economist, to discuss how data affects our daily lives. Lastly, they brought various NetApp customers to the stage to discuss how data is used by their companies.

Before bringing up the guest speakers, Kurian and Miller discussed how data is being used by institutions, such as State Bank of India and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), to accomplish things as varied as fraud detection and genome sequencing.

The Economist's Cukier gave an interesting talk on his article, "The world's most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data". I found his point compelling and entertaining. He covered a wide range of topics, from how much data is involved in self-driving cars to how machine learning is the only way to harness this data. He also made some interesting points on how machine learning is the only way to extract strong correlations that can come from weak data signals.

Kurian then brought up various people to discuss how data is used in their organizations. The takeaway was that NetApp is wisely transitioning from a storage-focused company to a data-focused company. They're also moving away from supporting storage silos (independent and isolated data containers) to a data fabric scheme where the data can be safely and securely shared and accessed as needed to extract the most value from it. Kurian said that by using NetApp Data Fabric, organizations can tie data across on-premises and cloud infrastructures, and release the full potential of an organization's data.

The journey to NetApp Data Fabric will be interesting as they (really, we) try and sort out what belongs in a public cloud, what belongs on-premises and how we can get the right data in the right place at the right time.

To close out the session, Kurian stressed NetApp accomplishments: the last four quarters it has been the fastest-growing of the top five storage vendors, the fastest-growing of the top five all-flash storage vendors, and the fastest-growing of the top five SAN vendors. NetApp is the number-one provider of storage operating systems, all-flash storage operating systems, storage and data management software, and storage for OpenStack.

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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