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NetApp CEO: Journey To Cloud Complete, Focus On Evolved Cloud

Joseph F. Kovar

‘The evolved cloud is secure and optimized continuously to deliver on the outcomes you need in dynamic business environments. The evolved cloud lets your public cloud environments interoperate effortlessly with private clouds in your data centers. An evolved cloud ensures application and data consistency across clouds so that you can keep your business logic moving forward and not be locked into a proprietary cloud application framework,’ says NetApp CEO George Kurian.

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Businesses’ journeys to the cloud are complete, but the multiple challenges to receiving the full benefits of that journey will require businesses to adopt the “evolved cloud.”

That’s the word from George Kurian, CEO of NetApp, a developer of storage and cloud optimization technology, which has probably done more than just about any legacy on-premises hardware vendor to push customers to adopt to the cloud.

Kurian, speaking Tuesday at the online-only NetApp Insight 2022 conference, said it remains the case that most people know NetApp from its enterprise storage offerings, some for its cloud storage offerings in Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, and others from its cloud ops capabilities via Spot, CloudCheckr, and Instaclustr.

[Related: NetApp CEO George Kurian: Dell, HPE Are ‘Doing What We Did In 2014’]

“No matter when you joined the NetApp family, I’m proud to say this: [As of] this year, we’ve spent three decades navigating and transforming in the IT industry,” he said. “You heard that right. We’re celebrating 30 years of innovation at NetApp.”

NetApp’s commitment to innovation despite on-going disruptions in the IT industry hasn’t changed, Kurian said.

“Consider what we shared with you last year at our Insight event,” he said. “We shared our belief that the world is hybrid, how speed and agility continues to be critical to the success of your digital business, and most importantly how cloud was an imperative that couldn’t be ignored.”

The need for innovation hasn’t changed given that the IT industry is changing faster than ever, Kurian said.

“And while we see the cloud as the key to unlocking endless possibilities, I’m also here to tell you today your initial journey to the cloud is over. You’re thinking to yourself, ‘What? That can’t be true.’ But it is.”

The IT industry has for years talked about the journey to the cloud and digital transformation, and customers initially were in a state of denial, Kurian said. That was followed by experiments aimed at putting cloud in a box or silo that many users hoped would just go away, he said. But the public cloud continued to grow with a broad range of services attractive to businesses.

“And when coupled with a growing deficit of skilled IT talent and sudden shocks like COVID driving digital customer interaction and work from home, cloud suddenly moved from an experiment to a business necessity,” he said.

However customers went about their adoption of the cloud, the end result was typically uncontrolled cloud sprawl, which significantly increased the complexity of managing applications, data, and infrastructure, Kurian said. This led to new data silos in the cloud, lack of application portability, increased security risks, cost containment issues, and new challenges around asset visibility, governance, control, and compliance, he said.

“All of these challenges exist today, whether you have a single cloud or a hybrid cloud,” he said. “But they’re even harder to tackle across multiple clouds, which is most businesses are today, or will end up soon.

As a result, customers are telling NetApp that the cloud has not lived up to its full promise, Kurian said. That issue is magnified by many of NetApp’s traditional competitors who not only missed the first phase of cloud but are also likely to miss the next phase, he said.

“So back to my first point: Your initial journey to cloud is over,” he said. “And that’s because we’ve reached the next phase of cloud. Cloud is now the de facto platform for your business, and poised to deliver on its full promise for everyone, not just the early adopters, and not just the startups, but enterprises across every industry as well.”

Enter The “Evolved Cloud”

NetApp calls this new phase the “evolved cloud” where the cloud is fully integrated into every aspect of a company’s architecture and operations, Kurian said.

“The evolved cloud is secure and optimized continuously to deliver on the outcomes you need in dynamic business environments,” he said. “The evolved cloud lets your public cloud environments interoperate effortlessly with private clouds in your data centers. An evolved cloud ensures application and data consistency across clouds so that you can keep your business logic moving forward and not be locked into a proprietary cloud application framework.”

A true evolved cloud has common data management capabilities at the storage infrastructure layer, common infrastructure management capabilities, common APIs, and open source databases, data pipelines, and workflows for stateful applications, Kurian said. It also includes optimization and automation for stateful and stateless applications for all the well-known Kubernetes distributions.

“And finally, you need all your hybrid multi-cloud to be delivered efficiently and cost-effectively with billing and cost explanations that don’t require a Ph.D. in public cloud,” he said.

Kurian said businesses are still facing the challenge of data management and security. Ideally, applications can pull data from any cloud, and data can move freely between clouds and availability zones, he said.

“Guess what,” he said. “This is our wheelhouse. As AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud built their clouds, one thing became abundantly clear: data management isn’t easy. For 30 years, we’ve been building and evolving OnTap. Today, it’s the gold standard for data management and data protection. OnTap keeps business-critical applications performing, and important data always available and always secure.”

NetApp today is the only enterprise-grade storage offering embedded natively in AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, Kurian said.

“Moving data, migrating, and deploying applications becomes remarkably easy when your storage foundation is the same on-prem and across every cloud,” he said.

The evolved cloud seems very much like the next phase of NetApp’s Data Fabric, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering and NetApp enablement at General Datatech, a Dallas-based solution provider and long-time NetApp channel partner.

“Data Fabric is a set of services with common APIs that work across any on-prem and cloud or co-lo,” Woodall told CRN. Customers need the freedom to work from anywhere.”

VMware and others recently talked about the “Supercloud” at the VMware Explore conference which aims to make sure any and all clouds work with on-premises infrastructure, Woodall said.

“NetApp is already there,” he said. “NetApp gives the ability to explore data and secure it without regard to where the data is located with consistent APIs, better price-performance, and the ability to see and coordinate events.”

NetApp is spot-on with its concept of the evolved cloud and its ability to meet the requirements for such an architecture, Woodall said.

“NetApp is unique in its ability to span clouds, local infrastructure with partners like Nvidia, and technologies like VMware’s cloud storage with the goal of leveraging workloads wherever placed.”

NetApp is going beyond well beyond Data Fabric with its embrace of the evolved cloud, Woodall said.

“Forward-looking organizations are looking to optimize for costs, taking advantage of common APIs for automation, and using common skills across all the clouds, and enabling hybrid multi-cloud with on-premises, cloud, and Kubernetes with automation,” he said. “That’s the evolved cloud. And that’s where NetApp is. This gives NetApp and its partners a differentiated story to tell businesses from the C-level and down.”

Accelerating Innovation With The Cloud

NetApp also has a focus on helping businesses accelerate their innovation process with its evolved cloud by letting developers choose which development platform to use and where to deploy their applications, Kurian said.

“With AI, for example, we see our customers developing applications in the cloud and pulling them back on-premises to get the performance and availability they need,” he said.

As cloud and data estates grow, so does the need to balance speed and flexibility with the need to be well-engineered for consistent SLAs and cost management, Kurian said. These are typically managed separately, he said. For that reason, he said, NetApp pioneered the concept of continuous optimization as a key part of multi-cloud management.

For instance, Spot by NetApp is the leading platform for CloudOps and FinOps, letting customers integrate their applications with a powerful range of open source technologies in the cloud, Kurian said.

NetApp is also committed to sustainability and ESG (environment, social, and governance) concerns, Kurian said. But rather than talking about merely offsetting carbon use, NetApp is offering real-world solutions, especially when it comes to storing the right data in the cloud which is much more energy efficient than storing it on-premises, he said.

NetApp also reports actual energy use for all of a customer’s on-premises On-Tap all-flash storage systems, Kurian said. For that reason, NetApp Tuesday introduced a four-to-one storage efficiency guarantee for SAN workloads on all of the company’s OnTap all-flash storage systems, he said.

“With our four-to-one efficiency guarantee and our cloud tiering, which typically sees 60 percent or more of data being tiered to the public cloud, it means you could use up to 80 percent less on-premises storage with NetApp than you would with a typical storage array,” he said. “And how significant is this? If you were to replace 80 percent of the on-premises storage shipped by a competitor this year with NetApp using our four-to-one efficiency guarantee and cloud tiering to a net-zero cloud provider, it would save over 5.5 million kilograms of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of over 6 million pounds of coal burned.”

Joseph F. Kovar

Joseph F. Kovar is a senior editor and reporter for the storage and the non-tech-focused channel beats for CRN. He keeps readers abreast of the latest issues related to such areas as data life-cycle, business continuity and disaster recovery, and data centers, along with related services and software, while highlighting some of the key trends that impact the IT channel overall. He can be reached at jkovar@thechannelcompany.com.

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