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NetApp’s Keystone hybrid cloud storage ‘try-before-you-buy’ for on-prem

Keystone on-premise and cloud subscription model will cost more than buying hardware so will be best suited to customers that want to try NetApp on-site before committing to purchase

NetApp’s Keystone offering, announced at the end of October 2019, will effectively be a try-before-you-buy scheme for most customers that take advantage of it on-site, rather than as cloud storage.

That’s according to NetApp CEO George Kurian, who said Keystone’s subscription model would work out more expensive than a capital expenditure (capex) purchase, so would best suit customers that “want to try out NetApp before making a larger commitment”.

Keystone brings a service and management framework to NetApp’s existing Data Fabric hybrid cloud and multicloud storage schema. Data Fabric allows customers to use NetApp storage on-site and via the three main public clouds and to receive consistent data management services between the two.

Keystone adds the “supply, services and procurement angle” across on-premise and public cloud, said Kurian. “Customers have said, ‘We like the concept of Data Fabric, but we want the ability to operate a consumption model in our own datacentre’,” he added.

The scheme means customers can pay for NetApp hardware on their premises via a subscription model, paying only for the storage capacity they use. Kurian said customers that opted to do this would get hardware within a standard lead time of “a couple of weeks” and would have to commit to a one-year minimum commitment, upon which they would be billed quarterly or monthly.

The subscription rate for on-premise or in the cloud would be “roughly the same”, said Kurian, depending on tier of performance and capacity, although he also added that it would be cheaper to buy NetApp hardware as a capex purchase.

“Not every customer is going to go down a subscription path. It won’t be a massive percentage. It is cheaper to buy capex. The cloud isn’t cheap – it is expensive, but allows for rapid innovation,” said Kurian.

“What we would say to customers is that if you want to use NetApp on a short-term basis, it is available in the cloud. But those that want to try out NetApp on-premise before making a larger commitment can do so by paying on subscription,” he added.

“If an industry is not regulated then you can do things in the public cloud. If it is regulated you’ll need to run on-premise,” said Kurian.

Keystone is only available on NetApp’s recently launched arrays with its version 9.7 OnTap operating system, the block-only A400, and its new FAS 8300 and 8700, which are petabyte-scale unified storage products.

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In conversation with Computer Weekly, Kurian also set out likely target use cases for its all-flash object storage product, StorageGrid, also launched in October.

StorageGrid arrays bring all-flash storage (up to hundreds of terabytes in capacity) for object storage. Traditionally, object storage has been targeted at large amounts of unstructured data and has not particularly needed performance capabilities.

But that all changes with the internet of things (IoT), according to Kurian. “Object storage was about large, static objects, but now there are use cases where flash is relevant, where there are small objects and high concurrency, such as in IoT with lots of points of data creation,” he said. “Customers need an easy way to handle and manage that data, especially in situations where real-time access is needed.”

StorageGrid arrays come in four models with drive capacities up to 16TB available. Triple-level cell (TLC) flash – which offers greater capacity at the price of lower access performance – is used.

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