NetApp Insight 2016 Day Two – Why Do Customers Choose NetApp Over EMC and Dell Technologies?

NetApp InsightBy Larry Freeman, Senior Technologist, NetApp


A few weeks ago I posted a blog that discussed some of the differences between NetApp, the new EMC, and Dell.  Although that blog was solely my opinion, it was based on nearly 40 years of storage industry experience and 10 years of listening to customers while I’ve been at NetApp.  But, still, it was just one man’s opinion.


Today, I focused on NetApp Insight 2016 sessions that featured customers telling their stories of how the NetApp solution somehow improved their organization. As I sat through these sessions, not only was I was interested in the technical details of the story, but also in hearing what the customers had to say about the reasons they chose NetApp over other solutions. Here’s a summary of two of those sessions.


Apache Corporation

Apache is an oil and gas exploration and production company.  Brad Lauritsen, Apache’s IT Director, explained how the downturn in oil prices has put a significant strain on his IT budget, to the tune of a 75% overall reduction.  Because of this, and because a scheduled tech refresh was on the horizon, Brad decided in 2014 to transition from a NetApp 7-mode storage environment to a NetApp clustered ONTAP storage environment in order to capitalize on the efficiency of a shared storage pool vs a series of storage siloes spread across Apache’s 11 data centers – storing, among other things, multiple petabytes of seismic data.


As Brad discussed his migration to clustered storage, he said that he faced many challenges, things like the need for large amounts of swing gear, scheduling downtime, and dealing with unbalanced performance levels. Brad eventually did accomplish his goal of creating a robust, 30+ PB agile storage environment that is today managed by just one full-time admin and 2 part-time resources, but he obviously had many bumps along the road.  So, when it came time for Q&A, I asked Brad “what made you stick with NetApp throughout this process? You could have easily thrown up your hands and gone in a different direction.”  He paused for a second and gave me the response I’ve paraphrased below:


Migrating from 7-mode to clustered ONTAP took the same amount of effort that it would have taken to switch to another vendor, like EMC.  Believe me, I challenged our NetApp team to prove to me the value of doing this work.  Ultimately, it was SnapMirror and SnapVault that kept me with NetApp.  In our environment, there is no better solution for data protection.  If we had gone with EMC, we would have had to integrate Data Domain and Avamar – products that originated from two different vendors, are not unified, and would have required admin resources I just didn’t have.



Andrew Eva, Product Manager of Storage Services at Verizon, gave a walkthrough of the cloud-to-cloud disaster recovery service available for the Verizon Cloud.  Using native NetApp tools: OnCommand Unified Manager (OCUM), OnCommand Performance Manager (OCPM), and OnCommand Workflow Automation (WFA), Verizon was able to build an automated DR service offering.


In a nutshell, here is how Andrew described the service: When a Verizon Cloud customer requests the DR service, a level 1 support tech creates a ticket containing the customer’s info and primary storage volume name.  Submitting the ticket triggers a WFA process which queries OCUM and OCPM to determine which storage volumes have the required capacity, and which have the available bandwidth for DR replication.  From the available volumes, WFA selects one and sends API commands to the primary and secondary storage systems to create a SnapMirror relationship between them, with the appropriate replication schedule.


According to Andrew, provisioning Verizon Cloud DR used to take 2 weeks, but now takes 15 minutes.  If an error happens to occur during the build process, trouble analysis used to take 24-48 hours, but now takes 20 minutes since WFA pinpoints the exact step where the configuration problem occurred.


In my quest to find out the reason customers chose NetApp, I asked Andrew this question during Q&A: “Does the Verizon Cloud use any non-NetApp storage arrays, and if so, how do you provide a similar process for those systems?” His response, again, paraphrased below was:


Yes, we do have one data center with non-NetApp storage arrays, but in this data center we do not offer the cloud DR service. We are in the process of converting that data center to NetApp storage.


So, in these cases, unique technologies motivated these companies to become NetApp customers. And even when things didn’t go exactly as planned, they remained committed and worked together with us to achieve ultimate success.  I’d venture to say that these stories are similar to many others that could be told by our customers.  As I mentioned in my “differences” blog, as an independent data storage vendor, NetApp is 100% devoted one thing - ensuring that organizations worldwide can continue to count on us for industry-leading software, systems, and services to manage and store their data, whether on-premises or in the cloud.


For more NetApp Insight news, listen to the Tech ONTAP recap podcast below: