How NetApp Is Winning the Hearts of Cloud Customers
- By Paul Mah
- January 03, 2024
As generative AI causes businesses to take a renewed interest in AI and data science, enterprises are quickly reassessing their data infrastructure. After all, the foundation for any AI initiative is data, the binary bits that reside within the storage systems of organizations everywhere.
So how is NetApp meeting the needs of these customers, beyond selling AI-centric systems such as the NetApp ONTAP AI, a converged infrastructure solution that incorporates Nvidia’s powerful DGX A100 solution?
One operating platform
According to Harvinder Bhela, executive vice president and chief product officer at NetApp, the data infrastructure firm has a simple three-pronged strategy to win customers over.
This starts with a comprehensive range of storage systems that cater to a wide range of use cases, from departmental-level workloads to enterprise databases or AI. The idea is simple: An easy-to-deploy and easy-to-manage solution that allows authorized users to seamlessly access the data they need, whether the office administrator or data scientist.
“Even though we have these systems that are built with certain characteristics, performance, or cost or capacity and so on, under the covers is the same operating system, ONTAP, across all of these systems,” said Bhela.
“That's important because we're not building separate silos for each of these products in the family. You have one underlying operating system, one underlying solution that is easy to manage, easy to deploy; one way to do automation across all of them in a consistent way.”
But apart from its rich portfolio of hardware, NetApp also worked closely with public cloud giants to address the evolving needs of its enterprise customers. The result is native integration with the top public cloud players, namely, Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud.
"We want to have the best enterprise storage, the best on-premises storage for customers. That's number one. The second part of our strategy is to build storage [in the cloud], as a first-party, native storage with all the big public clouds,” explained Bhela.
Superior cloud performance
So how is this different from the plethora of storage offerings available on the various online marketplaces of the respective cloud giants?
“A part of my team that essentially thinks of themselves as part of the Azure team. They work together with them, and they co-design how storage should be in Azure, they co-implement and co-engineered the product. And this product, which is called ANF (Azure NetApp Files), is part of that core platform,” said Bhela, using Azure as an example.
“It's not a marketplace product. It's not something on the side, it's not something built on top. It's built as part of the Azure platform and the cloud platform provider – Microsoft in this case, they sell it, they support it.”
Modern enterprises will invariably store their data in the cloud, so it is important that they have a “simple, consistent solution” across both their on-premises NetApp systems and in the cloud, says Bhela.
“From a customer's point of view, they now get ONTAP on-premises in their own private cloud. But they also get ONTAP on GCP, AWS, or Azure as well. The same consistency of management, deployment, automation, and APIs are available to them across all those different places.”
Crucially, the latency and performance of ONTAP Cloud volumes is what allows it to run demanding enterprise applications such as SAP.
Ransomware protection included
The final component of NetApp’s data strategy is ransomware protection. Bhela noted that ransomware is a “pain in the neck” and a board-level problem for enterprises around the globe. It is hence something that NetApp must do something about: “We have to be a good last line of defense against ransomware attacks.”
NetApp customers will be glad to know that ransomware protection is now baked natively into ONTAP; the system can be configured to make periodic snapshots the moment it detects ransomware at work.
The ransomware protection feature isn’t a marketing bullet point, but uses AI to evaluate data entropy and detect uncharacteristic data reads – the latter could indicate data exfiltration as part of a ransomware operation. “We baseline how our customers access their data and their workloads. And when we find anomalies from that, that signals potentially an attack.”
“I think together [we offer] a storage system that we believe is unique. And my goal, eventually, is building what I believe is an awesome first-class storage system for all the places where our customers have data,” Bhela summed up.
Image credit: NetApp