NetApp's Cloud Strategy: The Tech Is There, Now To Put It All Together

Jay Kidd

NetApp on Tuesday took the first steps toward unveiling its cloud strategy, one that focuses on helping customers take advantage of its Data ONTAP storage operating system, and said new offerings to advance that strategy are on the horizon.

The unveiling of NetApp's cloud strategy, which entails making storage available and portable regardless of cloud platform, comes at a time when CIOs are looking at how to best implement a hybrid cloud strategy combining a variety of public and private cloud options, said NetApp CTO Jay Kidd.

"We believe there's a very strong need for as much commonality as possible in cloud operations," Kidd said. "We want ONTAP to be able to stitch together the various cloud options."

[Related: NetApp VP Set To Resign, Cloud Evangelist Jumps Ship To Pure Storage ]

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Kidd admitted that NetApp's cloud strategy is still a work in progress.

"This is a foundation of what we are doing over the next few weeks," he said.

NetApp's Data ONTAP storage operating system is already a common platform across the enterprise, which can be consumed as part of a hardware appliance, a virtual machine, a direct connection to Amazon Web Services, and as part of a virtualization appliance in front of third-party storage vendors, Kidd said.

"We're always evolving ONTAP for virtualized environments," he said. "But ONTAP remains the same at the core with data protection, snapshot, mirroring, dedupe, cloning, multitenancy and application integration. All of these are very relevant to deployments to public, private or hyperscale clouds."

NetApp's cloud focus has historically been to enable partners to build clouds with service provider partners or by themselves, said Dennis Mueller, vice president of innovation and emerging technologies at CMT, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider and NetApp partner.

"We're able to get the advantage of cloud computing with the security and features of NetApp," Mueller said.

Internally, NetApp has been talking about how to get more involved in the cloud, Mueller said. "But it's hard to see what more NetApp can do without more information on new products."

NEXT: NetApp Has The Tech, Needs The Cloud Packaging

NetApp already has much of the technology in place to make a big cloud push, Mueller said. For instance, the ONTAP Edge, a virtualized version of NetApp's FAS2220 entry-level storage appliance, lets customers do data snapshots to or from non-NetApp storage, even though the technology is not specifically targeting a cloud.

"NetApp has other technology that works in the cloud as well," he said. "But the company hasn't packaged it as cloud technology, or sold it specific to the cloud. I'm glad NetApp is talking about this."

Mueller said he is looking forward to NetApp getting more specific on its cloud strategy.

"For now, it's a little more of a packaging issue than a technology issue," he said. "For NetApp to compete with the startups, they need technology to work with public clouds and with third-party private clouds."

Another solution provider and NetApp partner, who requested to remain anonymous, said NetApp has to find ways to be relevant in the rapidly evolving cloud business.

For instance, the solution provider said, NetApp doesn't provide a lot of detail about its Amazon relationship, including how many people have taken advantage of it.

As a result, it is unclear that NetApp has really captured the attention of customers and potential customers, the solution provider said. However, it is important that the company does so quickly.

"It's the natural course of markets," the solution provider said. "Look at what Amazon and Microsoft did to VMware, and what did to Oracle. Who's eating whose lunch? Every proprietary storage technology is on the table."

Kidd said he was unable to provide specific information about future products related to NetApp's cloud strategy, other than to say such products will be almost entirely software capabilities.

However, he said, what NetApp does will be good for its channel partners.

"Traditionally, the focus in the channel has been on private or public clouds, and if a customer application goes to a public cloud, there is less control by the solution provider," he said. "Now they will be able to talk about how to play in hybrid clouds. It's a great opportunity for resellers."