NetApp & Cisco: A Winning Combination

In January 2013, NetApp and Cisco announced an expansion of our FlexPod partnership to focus on solutions for Service Providers.


Those who know me also know that I'm a big believer in trying to translate the benefit of NetApp into something tangible ("Why should you care?" vs. "What it is…" or "What it is for…").  Think of this as the "So What" test…


So, for our Service Provider partners, the question is 'How does the Cisco & NetApp partnership pass the "So What?" test…'


To answer that question I'll cover three areas.  I'm privileged to spend my working days talking to thought leaders across the SP industry.  Based on those discussions, I've found that I need to be able to discuss benefits in one of three simple ways:


  1. Revenue Growth
  2. Differentiated Value
  3. Customer Experience


So, taking each of these in turn, I'll summarize how NetApp and Cisco work together to provide a 'Winning Combination'.


First, it's not a huge leap to say that a major definition of SP success is the ability to quickly and sustainably Grow Revenue.  NetApp and Cisco have complementary partner-based strategies (vs. being a Service Provider ourselves).  The programs are designed to help our partners integrate and develop new offerings that can be jointly promoted in the marketplace. This week we announced expanded IaaS reference architectures to make it faster and easier to deliver a highly scalable cloud platform. Cisco VMDC (Virtualized Multiservice Data Center) provides a blueprint for a highly secure and resilient multi-tenant Cloud Data Center. Through our integration of clustered Data ONTAP into VMDC we can provide our partners with an architecture that scales further, delivers improved SLA's and most importantly, can improve time-to-revenue for new offerings in the market. 


To be a successful Service Provider, it's important to provide clearly differentiated 'Value' to the end-customer.  I've heard many times when discussing the value of 'FlexPod' that "we can already do that.”  The key with FlexPod is that between the two companies, NetApp and Cisco have invested 100's of thousands of development hours to prove, test, integrate and size the infrastructure of app/hypervisor/compute/network/storage at Cloud-scale. To those service providers who say "we can already do that" I typically counter with the question "maybe, but should you?.” 


Ideally, think of FlexPod as the innovation platform for Service Providers to build upon. Successful service providers focus their development time and energy on solving the customer-facing problems - user UI, new service offerings, SLA and others.  NetApp and Cisco have invested in the infrastructure integration so that Service Providers can instead focus on the areas that position them to win. 


As part of our announcements this week, we're providing our first Tech Report for 'Best Practices using Openstack with FlexPod.' Whilst it may seem surprising to some (Openstack is often synonymous with white-box infrastructure) we are regularly seeing requests from SP's to combine the scale and performance characteristics of a FlexPod with the flexible development environment of Openstack as a Cloud OS.  In addition to building the infrastructure platform, however, it's also necessary to be able to control and manage costs of operations.  The combination of Non-disruptive Operations (clustered Data ONTAP) combined with advanced infrastructure automation through UCS director and our tools such as WFA & OnCommand allows our SP partners to optimize and control their product delivery costs.  This, in turn, provides the benefit of either improved margins or market-competitiveness.


Lastly, with the competition in the marketplace, our SP partners need to attract and retain customers. "Exceeding customer expectations" is essential for success. With all the talk of "software-defined" in the marketplace today, it's important to remember that regardless of the technology used, SP's must have partners they can rely on when delivering high value enterprise class SLA's to customers.  The infrastructure needs to be predictable, stable and perform under load.  The FlexPod multi-vendor cloud support program has been enhanced and expanded to now include Citrix as well as NetApp, Cisco and VMware.  In a multi-product, multi-vendor cloud ecosystem, it's critical to have the fastest time to diagnose and resolve any issues - providing the cloud customers with that 'outstanding experience' is the foundation for being able to maintain customer satisfaction and drive increases in MRR (monthly recurring revenue).


Over the coming months there'll be more announcements from NetApp and Cisco in the Service Provider space. We started the journey early in 2013 and our engineering teams went to work on building a roadmap.  As the roadmap comes to fruition we'll accelerate the opportunities for our SP partners to innovate and grow in the Cloud market.