Agreement and Alignment in the Storage Community

By Vaughn Stewart, Director of Technical Marketing, NetApp


I am often lucky enough to be invited to speak at industry conferences and events, participating in and occasionally leading panel discussions on storage related issues that matter most in tech community. I consider it an honor, and a wonderful opportunity, to participate in these types of substantive conversations. I am, personally and professionally, passionate about the topic of storage. I am always impressed with the breadth of knowledge and depth of commitment we devote as an industry to the relentless improvement of the solutions we offer.


While of course there are differences of opinion about the best way to address specific or intensifying problems—often shaped by belief in a particular company’s products or platforms—I am often struck by how aligned we are as a community when we identify both the overarching challenges our customers face and the most effective solutions we can offer to mitigate them.


What comes through, loud and clear, time and again, is that the role of storage is increasing dramatically, and that its operability within the support and deliver of business services is becoming more apparent to larger numbers of administrators and architects. When we pull back to look at the current demands of the market, a beautiful simplicity emerges: cloud administrators want more control, greater agility and better performance from their storage architectures.


At NetApp, we consider it our mission, our responsibility and simply good business to address these needs holistically. Which, realistically, is the only way to provide effective solutions to real-world problems. Focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of the others may drive an interesting hypothetical conversation, but it is not going to drive significant improvements or business benefits for customers. In some ways, it may even exacerbate problems or weaknesses in a storage infrastructure.


The platform NetApp offers to meet these three primary, critical needs is clustered Data ONTAP.


For control, clustered Data ONTAP allows the storage admin to provision a virtualized storage controller that we call a storage virtual machine. This technology separates the delivery of storage services from the underlying hardware—allowing us to deliver protocol, performance, capacity and data protection enabled by a rich role-based access control and granular quality of service mechanism.


From an agility standpoint, through our open and programmable APIs, both infrastructure management teams and application owners can consume and manage storage resources within their native applications, including Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Cisco, Symantec, OpenStack and more. For emerging or homegrown apps, developers can write data management directly to our open, programmable API framework.


At the end of the day, we all know that performance is a cornerstone of any storage array. Flash technology has significantly advanced the scale of performance for all storage platforms. In fact, our first generation of flash enablement in Data ONTAP, flash cache, delivered over 1.5 million IOPs back in 2011. Since then, NetApp has advanced the flash portfolio to include Flash Pool with clustered Data ONTAP, and have extended out to hosts through Flash Accel and our partner flash portfolio. Both of these all of these uses of flash enhance the scalability of clustered Data ONTAP.


We are all abundantly aware of the fact that we live and work in a hyper-fast world that is only getting faster. Storage teams are going to be challenged with scaling the volumes of data and the number of services they have to offer. That is why clustered Data ONTAP provides an enterprise scale-out model that is storage efficient, and provides the control mechanisms that allow application and infrastructure teams to move with the speed and agility they need to meet increasing demands and intensifying business realities.


While disagreements among vendors about how to satisfy the needs of storage and application teams may garner inordinate attention, we can all take pride in the fact that there is a significantly greater amount of agreement and alignment within our industry.


At NetApp, we passionately believe in the solutions we offer. We are always excited and genuinely happy to engage and participate in heated, even contentious debate—so long as it is grounded in facts, proven by benchmarks and focused on real solutions. Anything less merely serves—perhaps by design—to confuse customers. More than ever before, though, the storage challenges customers face are serious. As leaders and members of the storage community, as well as trusted strategic partners to our customers, we owe it to them to ensure our conversations are as well.