This year's NetApp Insight® technical conference in Las Vegas was rich with information. With over 400 sessions, keynotes, and labs, no matter what area of interest you have in enterprise data management, there was ample opportunity to expand your knowledge base. Here are some highlights I took away from this year's conference:
1. Data is the currency of the digital economy.
In his keynote address, CEO George Kurian highlighted two necessities of today's businesses: the discipline to make mature parts of the business more efficient, and the flexibility to capitalize on emerging business segments. This will require, he explained, a digital transformation, in which IT streamlines existing operations, while creating a real-time operating environment where businesses can gain insight and quickly respond to customer requirements, thus creating a new digital economy. George highlighted three areas where NetApp is assisting customers in their digital transformation: the removal of inefficient data silos, modular storage that bridges the gap between on-premises and cloud storage, and replacing hard disk drives with high-performance solid-state storage.
2. NetApp is all in with all flash.
Over 50 breakout sessions were held at Insight on the topic of NetApp® flash storage. If there were ever any doubts about NetApp's commitment to this technology, they were erased during this event. As Technical Marketing Engineer Melissa Palmer explained, NetApp all-flash AFA A700 is first to market with 32Gb Fibre Channel and 40Gb Ethernet. With NetApp all-flash storage grouped with Cisco Nexus 9000s and UCS servers in a FlexPod® configuration, Melissa was clearly pumped: "We're just going to have FlexPods that are going to fly—they are going to be the fastest thing on the market!"
3. Hybrid clouds are becoming a prerequisite for business.
Included in Insight 2016 was the Cloud Strategy Forum, with over 10 hours of discerning discussion by NetApp executives, customers, and partners as they explored the state of hybrid cloud adoption in production workloads today. A key topic was how organizations are taking advantage of a hybrid cloud approach to managing applications and data by using a consistent and uniform process. As Jonathan Kissane, NetApp chief strategy officer, explained, "Hybrid cloud customers today want to have agility and innovation, but they want to be able to run their day-to-day operations cost-effectively and with a clear conscience that they are controlling and managing access to data in a way that's not jeopardizing the business."
4. The Data Fabric is no longer a concept.
Two years ago at Insight, NetApp announced its vision of a Data Fabric—a method of connecting disparate endpoints with a common storage platform. Last year's Insight brought this vision to reality with an early suite of products designed to quickly and easily move data from on-premises to the cloud, and from cloud to cloud. This year, the discussion has moved to implementing a Data Fabric, with an ever-expanding product lineup with increased Data Fabric functionality in NetApp ONTAP® 9, ONTAP Cloud, ONTAP Select, NetApp Private Storage, SolidFire®, AltaVault™, StorageGRID®, Cloud Sync service, and OnCommand®. As NetApp cofounder Dave Hitz commented, "When people experience Amazon, or Google, or Azure, they are changed . . . they like to rent it, not buy it . . . then they come back and they say how can I have that on-prem?" With a clear vision, and a growing portfolio, NetApp is poised to help you build the Data Fabric that is right for you.
5. The competitive landscape has changed.
EMC has been swallowed by Dell, with several years of restructuring ahead. HP, IBM, and Hitachi Data Systems continue down the road of siloed, monolithic storage with diminishing popularity. Startups such as Pure, Nimble, and Nutanix have lost their sparkle and settled into their respective niches. NetApp, the only remaining major independent data storage provider, has continued to forge a path of innovation with breakthrough technologies in the areas of clustered storage, software-defined storage, flash storage, and hybrid cloud integration—all leading to the Data Fabric. As things around us have changed, one thing has remained constant: that organizations worldwide can continue to count on NetApp for industry-leading software, systems, and services to manage and store their data, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
Many of the technical sessions from Las Vegas will be repeated at NetApp Insight Berlin on November 14–17, along with new keynote speakers and even more product announcements. If you are considering attending this conference but haven't registered yet, I'd encourage you to do it now!