Five Things I Learned at NetApp Insight 2015

Insight 2015 Entrance


By Larry Freeman, NetApp


I recently attended Insight 2015, NetApp’s annual technical conference in Las Vegas. Insight provides a forum for NetApp customers and integration partners to learn how to get the most out of their data storage systems and software, and it showcases how data management solutions are driving IT innovation. Here are my top five takeaways from this year’s conference:


The Digital Future Is Already Here

From all indications, data has moved to the center of our universe. Today’s digital society depends on data for its nourishment, and it has an insatiable appetite. The Internet of Things (IoT) , where billions of sensors generate an unimaginable amount of data, is helping to feed that appetite. These Internet ‘things’ include commercial drones, which are used for video mapping by farmers, realtors, and construction managers, as well as hordes of amateur drone enthusiasts. As Chris Anderson, CEO of drone-maker 3D Robotics, stated during his Insight keynote address “drones gather 1TB of data each hour, and we have millions of them out there.”



Hybrid Cloud is the New Normal

It’s not just the IoT that is consuming storage space in the cloud. Enterprise IT has now jumped straight into the cloud with both feet. No less than 126 cloud-related technical topics were presented at Insight 2015. Witnessing the attendance at these sessions, it became clear to me that the cloud, and hybrid cloud in particular, is finally being embraced by enterprise IT.


For example, one of the more popular sessions (delivered multiple times) was - “Connecting the Clouds–How to Use the NetApp Data Fabric”. This session covered the complete NetApp hybrid cloud portfolio , including NetApp Private Storage, AltaVault, Cloud ONTAP, OpenStack, OnCommand Insight, and StorageGRID Webscale. NetApp’s Data Fabric strategy was also highlighted, along with product enhancements that will bring its customers the benefits of a fully interconnected hybrid cloud.


Data Fabric Solves a Big Problem

Building Data Fabric Together, the central theme of Insight, brought to light a dirty little secret of public cloud storage providers—they haven’t learned to share very nicely. Lack of data interchange standards and the overall sluggish speed of TCP/IP bulk data transfers make multi-cloud data portability difficult at best; and unworkable at worst.


Public cloud providers make it easy to put data in, but it turns out getting it back is more complicated. Understanding the process of unwinding and re-platforming cloud-based data is something that should be thought of beforehand, not when there is a sudden crisis, such as an unexpected jump in costs, poor performance, or dissatisfaction with vendor service levels.


NetApp’s vision of a data fabric consists of a unified set of data services spanning multiple clouds, where it is no longer necessary to keep applications locked in silo’d cloud environments; rather, applications become portable as they (and their data) seamlessly move between on-premises and off-premises clouds as requirements change.


NetApp Showed Off Some Really Cool Technology

Demonstrating the data fabric vision on the Insight main stage, NetApp engineers showed what’s possible today, and what’s coming in the future:


    • First, a database stored in an on-prem NetApp FAS system was replicated to off-prem NetApp Private Storage (NPS) using SnapCenter, where it connected with Amazon Web Services (AWS) compute servers.
    • Next, a database running in NPS and connected to Microsoft Azure compute servers was shut down and automatically spun up on AWS compute servers in less than 5 seconds.
    • Finally, in a taste of things to come, a database running Cloud ONTAP inside of AWS was migrated to a beta version of Cloud ONTAP running inside Microsoft Azure. 



Goodbye EMC

Early in the morning (Las Vegas time) on the first day of NetApp Insight 2015, we all awoke to the news of an acquisition agreement reached by Dell and EMC. I was curious to see whether or not this announcement would be disruptive to NetApp’s marquis event.


What I learned was that the announcement was a non-issue (although NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz did mention that Carly Fiorina might make a good CEO of the combined company, and EMC You Later t-shirts were a hot item).


In several hallway conversions, I asked a few folks for their opinions of the announcement. Universally, the response was that this would be a protracted and complex endeavor with no clear outcome, and that NetApp would continue to succeed by focusing on solving customer problems and executing on its Data Fabric vision.


Data Fabric is NetApp’s vision for the future of data management. It gives you the freedom to seamlessly manage your data across the hybrid cloud. You can move data where you need it most, innovate faster, and always make the best decisions for you and your organization.


Data Fabric