Leveling the playing field.......mid-sized businesses and technology advances

In my mind there is little doubt that 2012 is a great time to be a mid-sized business (MSB). There are more and more examples appearing where a MSB can gain access to the same technological advantages as enterprises many times larger than themselves. Some of these advantages have been delivered through virtualization. Running a couple of dozen virtual machines on a single server can be a very big deal to very small companies by virtue of the efficiencies and cost savings that can result. Add to this some high quality affordable networking infrastructure and throw in access to software provided via the Cloud and the possibilities are endless………….or at least that is the theory. The reality can sometimes be very different and that is where the role of the trusted technology partner is critical to ensuring high-tech doesn’t become high-cost due to complex setup and operating issues. In geek speak these trusted advisers are often referred to as Value Added Resellers (VAR). They sell technology components to MSBs and then make sure it works, initially and ongoing. In many cases they become the “IT department” for a MSB and offers benefits that were once only available to large enterprises.

Here at NetApp we have a clear goal in relation to delivering large enterprise innovation (value) to the MSB market. This goal is articulated in the following theme: start right, keep it simple, grow smart. Today we launch our latest storage product aimed specifically at delivering functionality previously seen in large enterprises at a price point that is affordable to MSBs (starts at under $8,000). I could spend a lot of time talking about how excited I am about this development……….the Flash Pool technology, the scalability, the same Data ONTAP operating system as storage products used in the largest of enterprises……..but I won’t do that here. If you are interested you can learn all about the FAS2220 at http://www.netapp.com/us/midsize

I believe the quantum leap being made, as part of this product announcement, is that for the first time in NetApp’s twenty-year history a product launch has a Cloud element incorporated into the value proposition.

It is becoming increasingly easier to create data and the data is also becoming increasingly valuable. Data mining and analytics are not applicable only to “Big Data” situations. Increasingly MSBs are looking to gain insights into how they can improve and grow their businesses by making smarter decisions based on real data that they own. So let me summarize the situation MSBs are in as of today. They can get lots of cost-effective computing through the use of virtualization. They can get access to high-speed networks (both internal and external) without huge capital outlays. They can get access to the same software as huge enterprises on a pay-as-you-use model. They have access to a variety of mobile devices to serve as business tools. And now they can obtain leading-edge storage technology for entry-level prices. So what else is there to discuss?

Of course the answer is Cloud (isn’t it always?)

The one area where MSBs have been challenged for many years is how to protect their data. It is very, very easy to create a lot of data. NetApp have now made it very easy to store and manage that data cost-effectively. But what about protecting that data? What about knowing that you can get quick access to old data if you need to? What about recovering from an unforeseen event? For too long data protection has been the afterthought of a technology decision. How often have we seen the “IT guy” load up a box with tapes, CDs or DVDs, put them in his car and take them home where they are relegated to a dusty shelf in a damp basement storage cupboard? Don’t laugh. You know it happens. You might have even participated in it yourself. I know I have.

I am here to tell you that those days are G O N E thanks to the Cloud and a combination of very clever Service Providers and very far-sighted VARS who, together, provide an ecosystem of Cloud-based data protection services. Just like the largest enterprises can, this will enable MSB customers to utilize the latest Cloud services integrated seamlessly with their new data management environment.

If you think that this all means NetApp is now getting into the Cloud business then you are mistaken. Working with Service Providers to build Cloud service offerings has always been our focus. Working with our VAR community has enabled us to match VARs with Service Providers as a way to provide the MSB customers with access to Cloud services. In some cases our VARs have opted to build their own Cloud service offerings to meet the needs of their specific market segment. We have also helped them achieve this. The key message is to understand the critical role that a VAR can have acting as a trusted advisor when it comes to integrating a complete data management and data protection solution. Want proof? Go to http://www.netapp.com/us/solutions/midsize/midsize-cloud-services.html

And this is just one more way NetApp is adding value to the MSBs that we serve.