Tech OnTap Articles

Embracing the Data Fabric to Bring the Promise of the Cloud Down to Earth


September 2015

Kevin D. Hill
Cloud Solutions Architect, NetApp

By now, we all know that the public cloud is inevitable. Maybe you are just beginning your cloud journey. Perhaps you have some experience and are ready to rev up to the next level of cloud resources. Whatever your stage of cloud adoption, at some point you'll need to know exactly how to transition your data center or day-to-day tasks to take advantage of the public cloud—in other words, how to move application workloads and your data to the cloud.


Wouldn't it be nice if you could just unplug from your data center and plug into the public cloud? Well, I've got good news: You can. NetApp's vision for a Data Fabric offers a clear path to seamlessly mobilize your data. Your data is where you want it to be, available to the cloud resources that best fit your needs. The Data Fabric is made real through products such as NetApp® Cloud ONTAP™ software and OnCommand® Cloud Manager. If you come to the NetApp Insight™ conference in Las Vegas this October, you can see these and other NetApp Cloud products in action.

It's Not Always Obvious How to Reap Cloud Benefits

The potential of the cloud seems clear: It provides IT elasticity that lets you 1) spin up resources quickly and, perhaps more important, spin them down just as quickly; and 2) avoid purchasing resources that aren't fully utilized, which helps keep capex in check. At the other extreme, the cloud can help you avoid underpurchasing, being left unable to meet demand. At its loftiest, the cloud supports innovation and opens new opportunities for your business in ways never before possible.


But the real-world advantages of the cloud can remain obscure. You get lulled into how easy it is to use the cloud to pull in data and resources. Then you get the bill from your cloud service provider and realize that your opex charges are significantly more than what you expected.


This realization points to the practical challenges of taking advantage of the public cloud. The Data Fabric, as envisioned by NetApp, is a way to enable data mobility and freedom based on where you need your data to be rather than where it happens to reside. A data fabric provides a framework for moving data, applications, and resources between your on-premises data center and the public cloud or between different cloud service providers. It gives you the freedom of choice to use whatever cloud service best meets your needs.


As Jay Kidd said in a March 2015 Tech OnTap article: "A data fabric accelerates development, lowers the cost of new applications, and lets you try more things. When you try more you succeed more, and when you fail you fail at lower cost." The ability to fail fast and with minimal consequences is considered a secret weapon of many innovative organizations.

Bridging the Gap Between Cloud and On-Premises Control

Still, the idea of a data fabric can feel too theoretical, too ephemeral, too distant. And that's a shame, because I see it in action every day. One accessible way to experience the Data Fabric is through NetApp Cloud ONTAP and its associated OnCommand Cloud Manager software.


Cloud ONTAP software is a virtualized version of Data ONTAP®, the #1 storage operating system in the world,1 running on the public cloud—currently, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Cloud ONTAP software provides a bridge between your data center and the public cloud, allowing you to use the same processes, procedures, and tools for the cloud as you do for your on-premises data management. There's no need to change anything. Simply bring your applications to the public cloud.


Cloud ONTAP software can be a great enabler for innovation. It lets you get at your resources, wherever they are located, from anywhere and at any time. Turn on your cloud storage systems when you need to update your data archive in the cloud. When the data replication is done, turn it off to mitigate AWS hourly charges.


By facilitating so many of your hybrid cloud data management needs, Cloud ONTAP helps you do as Jay Kidd suggested: try more things more freely, so you can fail faster and with less risk, which ultimately helps you succeed more.


OnCommand Cloud Manager is what you'll use to deploy your Cloud ONTAP instances. This intuitive interface makes it easy to launch new Cloud ONTAP systems, as well as to discover your physical systems such as NetApp Private Storage or physical NetApp storage in your data center. Cloud Manager provides a single user interface to see and manage everything at once, including system deployment, resource management, provisioning, and mirroring of data. Use it for dynamic movement of data and applications, for integrating and consuming cloud resources, and for automating everything into a hybrid cloud data fabric.



Figure 1) OnCommand Cloud Manager offers options to create new Cloud ONTAP and NetApp Private Storage systems, and enables the discovery of existing Cloud ONTAP and physical systems.




Source: NetApp, 2015



With Cloud ONTAP, you can start moving workloads quickly and easily to the cloud. As an example, if you already have OnCommand Cloud Manager stood up (set up), you can initiate the launch of a Cloud ONTAP system in under a minute. Cloud Manager will deploy that new Cloud ONTAP system—fully configured and ready to serve storage to your systems—in approximately 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes! Compare that to the time it takes to deploy a physical system, which is at least two to three weeks. That's a best-case scenario; it often takes much longer. With Cloud ONTAP you'll have a fully configured clustered Data ONTAP system ready to serve date in less than half an hour.


If that sounds too good to believe, come to one of my NetApp Insight sessions live demos and see for yourself.

Cloud ONTAP Improvements

I presented Cloud ONTAP and OnCommand Cloud Manager demo sessions at last year's NetApp Insight conference, and I'm doing it again this year. But don't be fooled into thinking I'll be repeating the same thing as before. These software products have continued to evolve and improve. Here are a few highlights of what's new:

  • Click-and-drag replication. Instead of five or more steps to set up and initiate NetApp SnapMirror® replication, you can now click and drag your cloud resources—and SnapMirror replication just happens.
  • Increased capacities for Cloud ONTAP instances. Last year, the largest Cloud ONTAP disk available on AWS topped out a 1 terabyte (TB) of storage per disk, for a maximum capacity of 50TB. Now, NetApp can address 8TB, for a total capacity of up to 368TB. In addition to increased capacity, you can now also deploy additional instance types that are available in AWS.
  • Encryption. Use Data ONTAP encryption for your Cloud ONTAP systems via OnCommand Cloud Manager.
  • Greater orchestration and automation of cloud resources. Use the OnCommand Cloud Manager APIs to enable orchestration with other OnCommand software products.

In addition, NetApp now offers more choices in how you consume Cloud ONTAP resources, with new pay-as-you-go versions; free trials2 extended from 14 to 30 days; and lower-cost magnetic disk options.



Figure 2) NetApp expands the capacity and licensing options for Cloud ONTAP configurations for AWS.




Source: NetApp, 2015



If you're looking for even more hybrid cloud offerings from NetApp, we still have you covered. Take your data fabric further with the horsepower of NetApp Private Storage (NPS), a physical NetApp storage system that is next to the public cloud but not in it. NPS helps manage your regulatory, data compliance, and data sovereignty issues. Use our AltaVault® (formerly SteelStore) cloud-integrated storage not only to refresh your current backup and archival strategy, but also to do so with greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Both these offerings round out our Data Fabric vision and enable you to make your hybrid cloud a reality today.

Making the Data Fabric Real

When it comes to the Data Fabric, we definitely don't have our heads in the clouds. The promise of a data fabric—the freedom of choice to move data effortlessly where and when you need it, across both physical and cloud resources—is alive and well at NetApp. We're making it real, and we're making it easy to understand and use.


Learn more about how to take advantage of NetApp cloud storage solutions. And, join me at NetApp Insight in Las Vegas for the latest on making the Data Fabric real in your environment, as well as previews of what's on the horizon with our Cloud ONTAP and OnCommand Cloud Manager products.


1Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker 2015 Q1, June 2015 (Open Networked Disk Storage Systems revenue.)

2Note: The 30-day free trial means no NetApp charges, but AWS resource charges still apply during the trial period.



As a key member of the Cloud Solution Group, Kevin D. Hill is focused on NetApp's hybrid cloud solutions and evangelizing the benefits they bring to NetApp customers. He has 25-plus years of experience in the IT industry, focusing on instilling resiliency through standardization and automation, with more than 11 of those years at NetApp.



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