If I had to name one major storage company that I have seldom written about, it has to be NetApp. Not that their solutions wouldn’t be appealing, but we’ve just been estranged work-wise. Rather, it’s been like these kind of platonic relationships where you never meet at the right moment and at some point you decide that it’s not worth thinking about it anymore.
Thankfully, our relationships with vendors as technologists and industry analysts aren’t exactly like sentimental relationships, and I don’t feel any guilt (thankfully!) to head over for a reunion moment with NetApp, thanks to the awesome friends at Tech Field Day.
Past experiences with NetApp
As I wrote, it’s been almost a decade of missed reunions. When I had been pushing to get FAS 2240’s to refresh our old CLARiiON CX4-120 a few years ago, the refresh got approved a year or two after I left the company. During my tenure as a pre-sales consultant, my preference was for FlexPod. I was working for a Cisco Gold Partner at the time, and somehow, an absurd decision from our mothership – specifically from our EMEA DC Business Director – pushed us towards selling only VSPEX. This said, I wonder who among my readers still remember about VSPEX. Of course, no matter how hard we tried, we sold zero VSPEX. Nada. Nothing. It was a bittersweet moment when our EMEA leadership finally admitted (after months) that it was a lost cause.
And NetApp? After that VSPEX parenthesis, we were no longer blamed for working with NetApp. I remember fondly of working on a design which involved a stretched metro cluster, a revolutionary concept at the time. Ultimately, the solution proved too expensive for that customer, but it gave us a solid overview of what can be done with NetApp. One of the most confusing things at the time though (for us and our customers) was the transition period between ONTAP 7-Mode and Cluster Mode.
And then? And then it’s been mostly a plunge into other things. I was at NetApp (former SolidFire I guess) offices in Boulder, Colorado in 2017 with the Storage Field Day crew (SFD13, in June 2017) but didn’t get out of the presentations with any inspiring thoughts to share. One of the most interesting presentations then was about the death of the storage administrator, but I had covered a similar topic a year earlier in a June 2016 post.
NetApp at the edge of 2019 – A Transformed Company?
That is pretty much what I’m looking for and hoping with NetApp. I did loosely follow the introduction of NetApp’s HCI solution some time ago. Is it truly HCI? is it Open Converged? Disaggregated? Who cares! If it works, is reliable and delivers value and business outcomes, it’s something great achieved. And if it catches customer’s attention and delivers profit to NetApp, nobody is going to complain about it.
Another thing that I’ve somehow picked up over the past 18 months is what could look like a pivot from a storage-only company into a company highly focused on next-gen workloads. Talking about the cloud is nothing new, but there seems to be a focus on DevOps that was already present during our discussions in 2017 at SFD13. Another mantra that seems to be prevalent in recent NetApp communication is the focus on data, whether it is data management or data services.
Finally, NetApp also announced a partnership with Nvidia, and wherever there’s Nvidia you can smell the scent of AI and High Performance Computing in the morning. I look forward to hear more about this partnership and understand NetApp’s positioning in those very lucrative and growing segments.
It’s hard to have any opinion on a company that I haven’t followed much in the past 3 to 5 years. But all of the indicators I’ve been loosely looking at across the interwebs seem to indicate that NetApp managed to reinvent itself. Or perhaps, it has just remained true to its vision and whoever was at the helm firmly held to the navigation plan despite some occasional storms.
I will spare you banalities of the “data is the new oil” type. It’s clear that focusing the messaging and products on data as the matter of value speaks more to organizations and C-Level executives than focusing on just being a storage provider among others.
With that said, I hope to be enlightened at NetApp Insight. Without pun, I hope to find some truly interesting insights about where NetApp is headed at and how they have transformed themselves. But my deepest hope is to understand not only NetApp’s vision of where the industry is headed at, but how NetApp will help shape this vision and make it become a reality.
This post is a part of my Tech Field Day related post series. I am invited to the event by Gestalt IT. Gestalt IT will cover expenses related to the events travel, accommodation and food during the event duration. I will not receive any compensation for participation in this event, and I am also not obliged to blog or produce any kind of content. Any tweets, blog articles or any other form of content I may produce are the exclusive product of my interest in technology and my will to share information with my peers. I will commit to share only my own point of view and analysis of the products and technologies I will be seeing/listening about during this event.