A few years ago, NetApp made a strategically significant decision to follow their users to the public cloud. At this point in time, their big storage competitors were trying to preserve their on-premises storage domains by questioning a CIO’s rational for moving to the cloud. But rather than challenge their cloud-bound decisions, NetApp built options that gave its users NetApp storage in the cloud. The cloud investments they made back then are now paying dividends with multiple Petabytes of NetApp-managed data in AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. They are also attracting cloud customers that never used NetApp storage before with Azure NetApp Files, and Cloud Volumes Service for AWS and Google Cloud.
At NetApp Insight 2019, initiatives were showcased that focused on expanding NetApp’s customer/prospect reach beyond enterprise IT operations. For example, NetApp Kubernetes Services, a “cloud native” platform for Kubernetes container management targets developers, data architects and cloud management groups. And to give users a more public cloud-like buying experience, it announced Keystone—a set of consumption-oriented acquisition alternatives that streamline the buying process and are in step with users who are shifting IT-related financial resources to OPEX budgets.
Keystone is both a marketing/sales strategy and a set of consumption-based services that have a cloud-like look and feel. On the marketing/sales side, NetApp Keystone features easier ordering and procurement options to streamline a customer’s ability to acquire NetApp gear. On the services side, NetApp introduced new, OPEX-oriented, product consumption models as follows:
Cloud Service – NetApp storage and compute that runs in the cloud and is paid for as a cloud-based service
On-Prem Cloud Consumption, Customer Managed – NetApp infrastructure paid for monthly based on resource consumption, managed by the customer
On-Prem Cloud Consumption, NetApp Managed – NetApp infrastructure paid for monthly based on resource consumption, managed remotely by NetApp.
Keystone applies to NetApp block, file and object storage platforms. Customers can choose from differing performance tiers and add-on data services such as SnapMirror and SnapVault. For the on-prem options, usage is metered by NetApp and billed monthly, quarterly or yearly. Customers pay for committed capacity at the same rate throughout the contract term which can be as short as 12 months. Customers also pay for a “burst capacity” which is consumed above the committed capacity.
NetApp in the Cloud
NetApp storage services are now available from three major CSPs – AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. At NetApp Insight 2019, we took particular note of Azure NetApp Files (ANF) which is built on the ONTAP storage OS. It supports multiple access protocols as well as Linux and Windows applications running natively within Azure. But the real attraction for ANF is that anyone with ONTAP management experience will be offered the same ONTAP data management feature set that they would experience on-premises. This underlines NetApp’s commitment to support their customers no matter where they want to run their applications – on-premises on in the cloud.
StorageGRID is an object storage platform that is available now as an all HDD array or a hybrid HDD/SSD array. NetApp plans to make available an all-Flash version available either late this year or early next year and positions it for AI applications such as Splunk.
NetApp released an ONTAP software feature called All-SAN storage which allows AFF systems to be configured for block storage support only while file-based access is disabled. As a result, failover in an HA pair is much faster.
All-SAN represents a significant departure for NetApp who has for decades claimed that their unified block and file systems were competitive with any dual controller systems and provided the advantage of supporting block and file at the same time. All-SAN supports a more directly competitive stance vs. dual controller storage systems that support only block.
We believe that NetApp, so far, has demonstrated an ability to execute its transition to hybrid/multi-cloud computing. However, challenges remain. NetApp was early to market with a vision of interconnecting all enterprise data holdings into what it called a Data Fabric. However, the market messaging has shifted focus from projecting Data Fabric as something that seemed like a product to something a customer would build using the NetApp product portfolio and, more particularly, its data copy, containerization and management software. As a result, NetApp has fallen behind competitors with Multi Cloud Data Management (MCDM) strategies.
During his opening keynote, CEO George Kurian stated that, at its heart, NetApp was a software company. However, the Keystone announcements made at this year’s Insight show a NetApp moving in a services direction as well.
In closing, we see NetApp walking a fine line between its traditional data center customers and new cloud-centered customers with a very different go to market approach and different marketing messages for this group. How effective this will be without confusing either side is yet to be determined, but it is clear that they want appeal to both simultaneously with investments in current and new products that appeal to their current base as well as new offerings for the cloud world.