NetApp’s Vice President of Flash, Ty McConney, Discusses Flash Deployments and Hybrid Flash as the 'New Normal'

Recently we sat down with Ty McConney, Vice President of Flash Products at NetApp, to talk about how flash continues to change IT and enable customers to achieve business outcomes previously not possible.

How does flash improve business – why does it continue to drive industry buzz?

Flash is all about improving performance and efficiency. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to flash, organizations today can use flash technology in various ways to help improve IT operations and accelerate business-critical application performance to reduce both OPEX and CAPEX. This is extremely timely given the need for IT to align with the business today like never before. As customers are in transition, as business needs change and data growth continues, flash has become a central point of discussion.

Essentially time is money, which is where Flash provides the biggest impact. For example, in financial services, the more transactions completed in record time, the more money coming in. With analytics, faster and better decision making has greater impact to a business’ bottom line. We are also seeing similar examples throughout additional sectors such as oil and gas and even healthcare. Imagine the impact of flash on patient care where the speed and performance benefits of flash can have potentially greater importance because it could mean the difference between life and death.

What are the trends you’ve recently seen with customers deploying flash? 

All-flash arrays are very popular at the moment. This type of flash delivers extreme responsiveness for performance-hungry applications and is ideal for companies in which information or data-access delays or consumption can constrain business dramatically, affecting competitive advantage.

However, an all-flash array is not always necessary as customer requirements can sometimes be met with a hybrid solution at a much lower price point. The ability to choose and avoid “one size fits all” helps customers achieve seamless and non-disruptive mobility of their data to economical hybrid or HDD arrays. It’s not surprising that today, we are seeing primary use of flash storage in the form of hybrid arrays, a practical best-of-both-worlds approach that uses a mix of flash and traditional hard-disk drives. Hybrid is in fact becoming the “new normal” in flash today.

What are the benefits NetApp customers are gaining from Flash? 

Take NVIDIA, a well know global brand, which is using flash to accelerate release cycles and deliver significant business value to customers, making them a strategic business partner and enabling their customers to release groundbreaking products based on NVIDIA technology. With flash and other storage efficiencies, NVIDIA achieved their goal of transforming R&D computing and creating a compute factory that allows innovation to flourish.

Whether it is an all-flash or hybrid approach, NetApp customers, in general, have achieved the following by implementing flash technologies:

•    Improved application response times by up to 90%.

•    Increased I/O throughput up to 80%.

•    Improved $/TB up to 46% with broad enablement of SATA technology.

•    Up to 60% savings in space and power.

Can you give insight to the type of workloads NetApp’s All-Flash offerings are most appropriate for?

For customers requiring the high performance and low latency of flash along with the enterprise reliability and extensive data management capabilities of NetApp’s Data ONTAP software, we recently made available all-flash configurations of the FAS8000. For example, all-flash configurations of the FAS8080 EX and FAS8060 provide an ideal solution for VDI deployments with high IOPS and low latency requirements. However, what’s most unique, is our All-flash FAS’ ability to provide high availability and reliability required to support those business critical application database workloads. Customers decide for themselves which of their applications they deem business-critical or so essential for their operations that they have low tolerance for unpredictable performance or downtime. Not only does NetApp FAS storage already support customers with this need, but also our EF series products. For example, in the technical computing markets like EDA/CAE as well as  video rendering (WETA Digital, etc.) where heavy NFS shops look for high performance NAS, we find these customers moving away from fiber channel and moving towards Ethernet based storage solutions for which our All-flash FAS and all-flash array products are well positioned.

Has Flash changed the long-time awaited economics of storage?

IT organizations are under unprecedented stress right now to impact business and manage through transition. If we take the NVIDIA example mentioned above and think about what they were able to achieve for their business, it becomes clear the impact flash has. By deploying flash, NVIDIA brought tremendous performance, flexibility, and cost savings to IT.

Furthermore, the total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits associated with flash storage compared to those of traditional hard disk storage environments are detailed in a recent whitepaper from NetApp and IDC. Customers leveraging NetApp flash storage solutions demonstrated how deployment of flash storage can translate into a lower TCO than that provided by traditional hard disks.

Where do you see flash headed in 2014 and beyond?

Looking ahead, we will see increased adoption rates of flash in the enterprise as more companies begin to deploy it at every layer in the stack to solve a wide variety of IT challenges. International markets will also soon be led by the mainstream legacy players who have the ability to deliver and support products globally. Additionally, the battle between mainstream players and startups with all-flash offerings will continue to be won by those that enable customers to deploy the right level of performance, reliability and scalability for their specific needs and workloads. Many new players primarily emphasize speed when, really, the conversation needs to focus on the needs of the customer. Flash conversations must begin and end with what is actually appropriate for the customer’s business.

How is NetApp continuing to evolve its flash story for customers?

As George and Jay both mentioned, flash remains a key priority for NetApp and is central to our product innovation strategy.

NetApp has led in flash innovation since our first introduction of Flash Cache in 2009. Over the past year NetApp’s EF-Series, Flash Cache, Flash Pool, etc. have had all new features and functionality. Most recently, we announced our All-Flash FAS. By offering a broad portfolio including both hybrid and all-flash storage offerings, NetApp is enabling IT organizations to optimize the level of performance, efficiency, and scalability to meet their specific needs. We will continue the tradition with the upcoming 2014 debut of our FlashRay, which is currently in external and internal proof of concept stages.

With over 18 petabytes of flash sold in Q4 FY14 alone, 93PB of flash storage shipped to date and over 200 flash technology patents, NetApp is the innovation leader in the flash market today with the best positioned portfolio both in terms of what is available today and what is coming.

As our CEO, Tom Georgens, stated in our last earnings call, "I would not trade a flash portfolio of NetApp for the flash portfolio of any other company whether starting from scratch or otherwise."

The Flash Memory Summit is happening August 5-7 in Santa Clara, CA! Follow NetApp on Twitter, including conversations at the show and highlights of NetApp executive presentations including Ty’s keynote ‘Making Flash Work for the Enterprise Customer.'


Hi NetApp Gurus,

Which all flash arry from NetApp to compete with XtreamIO/EMC & Pure Storage for VDI?