NetApp, Microsoft Partner To Extend Private Storage To Microsoft Azure Public Cloud

NetApp Tuesday unveiled a new solution for extending on-premise data directly to the Microsoft Azure public cloud as part of a seamless hybrid cloud environment, whether that data sits on stand-alone NetApp hardware or on the FlexPod NetApp-Cisco joint-venture reference architecture.

The solution is the second time NetApp has taken advantage of direct, secure connections to public cloud storage under its NetApp Private Storage for Cloud initiative first unveiled in late 2012 via a similar relationship with Amazon Web Services.

The NetApp Private Storage for Cloud initiative combines the best attributes of on-premise private storage and public cloud storage, said Tom Shields, NetApp senior manager of solution marketing.

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"It allows our customers to get the elasticity and cost savings of public clouds with the control and privacy of NetApp private storage," Shields told CRN.

The new NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure solution takes advantage of Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute technology. Azure ExpressRoute allows the creation of private connections between Azure data centers and customers' own IT infrastructure, either on premises or via a co-location provider.

In the case of NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure, the ExpressRoute connection is provided by co-location service provider Equinix, Shields said.

"NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure lets customers put their storage next to Azure to get high-performance links leveraging the Equinix co-location facilities," he said. "Equinix has the most ExpressRoute co-location facilities. That brings customers physically close to the Azure cloud."

That is similar to the NetApp Private Storage for AWS, which uses Amazon's AWS Direct Connect technology to let customers integrate their NetApp storage with the Amazon cloud, Shields said.

Similar arrangements with other cloud services providers are planned as they offer similar high-performance direct connection options to their clouds in the future, he said.

Tying NetApp storage directly to public-storage clouds is a great strategy for NetApp and its customers and partners, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"I like to see NetApp continue to build an ecosystem with cloud providers," Woodall told CRN. "It's a continuance of the 'NetApp Everywhere' strategy where small, medium or larger customers only need to learn NetApp technology once and then be able to work with it anywhere."

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Windows Azure has become a good platform for enterprise workloads, disaster recovery and compliance, Woodall said. "For NetApp and Microsoft centric customers looking to put data on Azure, this gives them the same capability they would have with AWS," he said. "It's good for NetApp and good for Microsoft."

NetApp Private Storage for Cloud is attractive for customers who have an imperative to go to the cloud, either to AWS or Microsoft, but who require enterprise-grade data management services, Woodall said. "Public cloud providers still struggle with providing those services," he said.

The Azure version should be an easier sale than the Amazon version, Woodall said. "A lot of customers are already heavy with Microsoft applications like SQL Server," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see NetApp get a closer fit with Azure than with AWS."

Gordon Martin, president of Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider Peak UpTime, a NetApp storage partner and Microsoft cloud services partner, said he is looking forward to jumping on the new NetApp Private Storage for Microsoft Azure program.

"This is a big opportunity for partners like us," Martin told CRN. "This is two strong brands coming to market together with strong capabilities."

While Peak UpTime also works with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft is a strategic partner, Martin said. "Azure is moving from early adopters to becoming generally accepted," he said. "Over the next 12 to 24 months, we'll be extremely active with it."

Equinix provides a big opportunity for NetApp to expand its NetApp Private Storage for Cloud solution to other cloud services providers going forward, Shields said.

"Equinix already has 450 cloud service providers," he said. "It will have the ability to connect to those providers easily in the future. The cloud service providers just need to provide the connections to their clouds. Amazon and Microsoft have already done so. We're putting storage in a position to tap into those clouds."

Shields said that connecting to public-cloud services like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure is leading to an increased demand for storage capacity on NetApp hardware.

"NetApp increases the security, compliance, availability and control of storage," he said. "Any time you can do that, it's good for the enterprise. We believe we're helping customers get to the cloud while addressing its limitations."