Software Defined – Been There, Done That. Part 4

By Zev Rubenstein, NetApp Data Protection Product Marketing Manager


Welcome Back for More SDS

In Part 1 of this series, I stated that NetApp’s storage has always been “software defined” and the simple proof is how much intelligence we have built into our OS, Data ONTAP, so that all features work seamlessly together.


In Part 2 of this series, I discussed how we extend “software-defined” with management and workflow automation by integrating with third party tools and storage. I also touched briefly on how clustered Data ONTAP takes our SDS roots to the next level by adding non-disruptive operations (NDO) and seamless scale-out.


In Part 3 of this series, I described how we implement our clustering by abstracting data access and data management, which enables the breadth of features we provide, including NDO. At the end I noted that “clustered Data ONTAP has NDO as an underlying design philosophy.” Today, I’d like to elaborate on that point, and illustrate how that aspect of NetApp storage brings innovation to IT.


Just as NetApp Integrated Data Protection works seamlessly with storage efficiency and FlexClones, my view on clustered Data ONTAP is that NDO is a characteristic that enhances and works seamlessly with the rest of the OS’ “goodness.”


NDO as an Underlying Philosophy

Load balancing by moving volumes within a cluster could have been implemented with some downtime (which is OK but not ideal) or at least a few moments (seconds, minutes) of data unavailability (pretty good, actually). By enabling seamless data movement with zero loss of access to the data, we have a much more agile infrastructure since we no longer have to plan for the downtime/inaccessibility.


As I noted in my second SDS post, the NDO characteristic for moving volumes in a data protection replication relationship (so they can both be moved during backup/replication) is an even more extreme (impressive? thoughtful?) example of this design mindset. Think of all the backup/disaster recovery (DR), reconfiguration and downtime planning eliminated by this capability. This magic is enabled by our abstraction of data access and services from the underlying pooled hardware resources.


Practical Application: Keeping the lights on vs. Innovation

In his video blog, The Evolution of IT, Matt Watts (Director, Technology and Strategy for NetApp in EMEA) sees IT activities split into three areas:


  • Commodity IT: Things that would not create more value for the business even if you spend more money on them. Essentially, “keeping the lights on.”
  • Business Value IT: Items core to the business that could add value if more resources were spent on it. Primarily, keeping up with growth.
  • New Opportunities: Investment in innovative, emerging technologies that have the potential to create the most significant value. Ideally, creating competitive differentiation.


According to Gartner, the typical IT department will spend 63% of their resources on Commodity IT, 22% on Business Value IT, and only 15% on New Opportunities. IT would ideally like to reverse that ratio – just getting the first two to total 50% would be Nirvana for most companies.


Commodity IT is an area IT wants to automate and simplify as much as possible to reduce resources spent on it. Every dollar and every minute saved here can be spent on activities that add business value. The same is true for activities in Business Value IT that are repetitive and merely growth-related.


Clustered Data ONTAP to the rescue

All of clustered Data ONTAP’s “goodness” that is NDO-enabled provides an infrastructure that is virtualized in software and is simpler to manage and automate, greatly reducing the Commodity IT load. NDO alone is a game changer: Keep in mind that planning for a downtime event (both the processes and the schedules) often is more time consuming than the actual event, and typically will impact stakeholders outside of IT as well. NDO therefore releases a lot of human resources from those activities, making them available to work on innovation.


More broadly, clustered Data ONTAP enables IT to create a flexible infrastructure with SDS-based capabilities that make a Service Level Objective-based infrastructure possible, supporting a broad range of workloads in a shared environment. IT resources can then focus on interfacing with the business units to understand their requirements, and devoting resources to activities that drive business growth and competitive differentiation.