NetApp on NetApp – Drinking our Own Champagne

You’ve heard about the company-on-product programs where high tech companies leverage their IT departments as a reference for using their own products, solutions and services.   The typical term to describe this is ‘eating your own dog food’.  At NetApp, we like to think of our products and solutions in a different category, so the comparison we prefer is ‘drinking our own champagne’.


Have you ever stopped to think how NetApp uses our own products in this program?  To give a sense of what we do in our NetApp-on-NetApp program, just take a look at our program vision statement, “To be the first, best customer of NetApp products, solutions, and services”.   


The most visible and rewarding outcome of the program is the direct customer interaction which includes presenting at executive briefings, engaging in IT to IT peer discussions, and attending conferences to share our insights.  The ability to share those successes starts with playing the role of Customer One and leveraging NetApp products as aggressively as possible.   As Customer One for NetApp solutions, we are able to provide feedback to the product development teams and help improve the product early in the release cycle, providing our customers with a better overall experience.


In the last quarter we were the first production customer to test a complex field replacement process.  We accomplished this by leveraging our production email environment without service impact.  In parallel to this effort, we also we rolled out 8.1.1 7-mode Release Candidate (RC) code to 30% of our NetApp storage base prior to the General Availability (GA) release, helping fix issues and preventing NetApp customers from experiencing them.  Both of these examples, and many others, are all done while maintaining the primary goal of any IT shop - do no harm to critical IT services.


The future is even more exciting for the NetApp-on-NetApp program.  In the upcoming quarter, we are delivering the Agile Data Infrastructure into our data center environment, leveraging many products and solutions - FlexPOD, ClusterMode, OnCommand, Virtual Storage Tiers, etc. - in our 3 US based data centers - Hillsboro, OR, Research Triangle Park, NC, and Sunnyvale, CA.   At the same time we are delivering ClusterMode for regional use into 4 locations outside the United States - Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Bangalore, and Sydney.   By the end of the next quarter, NetApp IT will be globally standardized on the Agile Data Infrastructure.


As a fringe benefit of the NetApp-on-NetApp program we also have the opportunity to partner with many internal and external partners.  This helps us continue to improve the NetApp-on-NetApp program.  Internally, we have strong relationships with product development, product support, professional services, work place resources, sales and marketing teams ensuring the NetApp on NetApp program objectives are aligned and mutually beneficial.  Externally, we have partnered with Cisco on FlexPOD and Digital Realty Trust to implement our data center strategy, just to name two.


Our NetApp-on-NetApp program continues to evolve. In the upcoming quarter we will be introducing the concept of an IT NetApp Solutions Advocate, where interested NetApp IT employees will sign up to take on an the key role of “NetApp Solution Advocate” and become the primary liaison between NetApp IT and the product teams to further strengthen our relationship and feedback loop.  We believe this next step will put the NetApp-on-NetApp program in a class with the best of the company-on-product programs in the high tech industry and benefitting all NetApp customers in the end.


Maybe the comparable term for NetApp should be "Drinking our own Beer" or "Drinking our own Brew" since Champagne is not ONTAP.