NetApp Insight 2015 Day One: Listening to Our Customers

NetApp Insight 2015 General Session


By Larry Freeman, NetApp


Imagine a setting where thousands of like-minded individuals gather in one place for a week of technical discussions, education, and insights from industry visionaries—with a little fun mixed in. A TED conference? Nope, I am referring to the NetApp Insight 2015 technical conference being held this week at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center in Las Vegas.  This year, over 5,000 NetApp employees, value-added partners, and enterprise customers have converged to find out what’s happening in the ever-evolving storage industry.


The theme of this year’s conference is “Building Data Fabric Together” and it embodies NetApp’s vision of an interconnected hybrid cloud where data can move seamlessly across multiple end points. If you’ve read any of my recent blogs, you’ll know that I’m passionate about the technology required to build a data fabric, and it’s exciting to see how the vision is becoming mainstream at this year’s conference.


My main focus for this year’s conference is listening to our customers and learning how the data fabric has brought new capabilities to their organizations—you’ll be hearing more about that theme throughout the week.


One of the customer sessions I attended today was presented by the IT organization for King County, the largest county in the state of Washington (population of 2 million.)  Responsible for backing up 1,500 county agency environments, King County IT has a 20-year legacy of tape backups and is responsible for roughly 20TB of nightly backups. According to senior technology manager Bob Micielli, this tape environment once consisted of over 12,000 vaulted tapes and required the purchase of 2,000 new LTO-5 tape cartridges annually. It also resulted in an average of 72 backup failures per day and the near-daily repair of physical tape drives and robotics. Clearly, a change was needed.


The change that resulted was a migration away from tape backups in favor of backups to the cloud based on NetApp AltaVault storage systems and software. For King County, the change was stunning—tapes are no longer part of their environment. Instead, over 1.8 PB of backup data is stored in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud by way of AltaVault cloud-integrated appliances. More importantly, the 1.8PB of raw storage requires little more than 100TB of physical space in the AWS cloud after deduplication and compression.


Because of their switch to AltaVault, King County has reduced their number of daily backup failures by 80% and shaved $1Million of projected data backup costs this year alone. What does this have to do with the data fabric, you ask?  Bob said that he has been asked several times what he would do if King County ever decided to switch cloud providers and use someone other than AWS.  His response was twofold.  First, he quipped “well, Amazon has changed their cloud pricing something like 40 times over the past 5 years, and each time it has gone lower.  It’s very unlikely they will ever raise pricing.”  Then, after pausing for reflection, he added “and even if they did, NetApp has us covered, they can automatically migrate to a new cloud whenever we want to.”


For me, his answer perfectly encapsulated the power of the data fabric: Control, Choice, and Freedom. 


For more information on everything NetApp Insight, tune into the Tech ONTAP Podcast for daily recaps.