This article is part of our Conference Coverage: NetApp Insight 2021 conference news and coverage

NetApp Insight frames moves to public cloud and cloud native

Storage player highlights partnerships with cloud hyperscalers and development of Spot portfolio aimed at cloud-native applications, DevOps, FinOps and SecOps

NetApp’s annual Insight event – which was virtual for the second year running – saw little in the way of actual product launches, but was used as opportunity to frame the directions the erstwhile storage company is taking.

Namely, its evolution towards the cloud, with its partnerships with the big three public cloud providers – the so-called hyperscalers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud – and the focus on the container-centric direction of cloud operations, with its Spot portfolio acquisitions and evolution.

September saw NetApp make a big splash with its launch of Amazon FSx for Ontap, which sees the company’s flagship storage OS features delivered as a fully managed service on AWS cloud.

In publicity surrounding this week’s Insight event, NetApp was keen to rebalance perceptions by pointing to the availability of NetApp Files – now “ungated”, which means there is no waiting list and is generally available via the Microsoft Azure console – and NetApp Files Backup in Azure, as well as Cloud Volume Services in Google Cloud, to which more regions have apparently been added (such as Tokyo).

It has also made much of its Spot portfolio, with the recent CloudCheckr addition and the launch at Insight of Spot Security.

Spot by NetApp, which results from a 2020 acquisition, allows customers to optimise placement of compute and storage workloads via Kubernetes with cloud providers, with an eye on cost.

CloudCheckr works in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform to allow customers to track spend, future billing, plan resource usage and handle invoicing, as well as monitoring users’ cloud activity and implement identity and access management.

“Spot Security will target the biggest vulnerability in cloud security,” said executive vice-president and general manager for cloud at NetApp, Anthony Lye. “Namely misconfiguration, where configurations are set and then drift as cloud use changes.”

Lye said that NetApp is orienting towards new ways of working driven by the move to the cloud and developer-led approaches to applications deployment.

“We have announced a lot of new Spot products to help build cloud-native functionality. What we’re seeing is the emergence of CloudOps, public-cloud centred teams responsible for one application,” said Lye.

“That’s in contrast to traditional IT ops teams that were horizontal – networks, security, storage, and so on – that built functionality that application teams operated on.”

He added that alongside DevOps, CloudOps and so on, financial concerns have emerged as new ways of working have taken hold.

“FinOps has arisen as a way of ensuring cost scales properly with revenue,” said Lye. “People have often had cost overruns, and it’s something identified by analysts as the biggest inhibitor to cloud operations. It’s what Spot and CloudCheckr address. As in SecOps, the idea is to ‘shift left’ to build things like cost and security into the earliest part of development as possible.”

But containerisation is still a minority interest – at least for now – so, isn’t the move to hybrid cloud necessarily limited for the time being? If there is no ubiquitous method for portability of applications or storage, and so on, between the datacentre and the cloud, then surely hybrid cloud with seamless app and data movement is some way off.

Lye was keen to stress the ability of NetApp customers to work equally whether in the datacentre or the cloud, on the same compute and storage operating environments, but conceded that data was not likely to become very portable.

“We love containers and microservices and the ability to infinitely scale out and flex each service and mix and match, with full portability,” said Lye. “But still the big problem with any app is the gravity of data. You just can’t necessarily move it easily. If you’ve got a petabyte, then Fedex is still likely to be quicker than the internet.

“I think NetApp has proven symmetry, with Ontap that runs on-prem and runs SAP and then the same performance levels available in the public cloud. Now we have Ontap and VMware with the same symmetry.”

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