NetApp CEO Kurian Opens Insight Conference With Moment Of Silence For Las Vegas Shooting Victims, Intros Data Vision
Joseph F. Kovar
NetApp CEO George Kurian opened his company's annual NetApp Insight conference with a brief moment of silence to remember the victims of Sunday night's Las Vegas massacre before discussing how changes in data consumption are driving the business world's digital transformation.
The Monday activities of the NetApp Insight 2017 conference, being held this week in Las Vegas, were cancelled after 59 people were killed and over 500 injured by a single gunman who Sunday night fired an automatic weapon from his room at the Mandalay Bay at concert goers across the street.
The Mandalay Bay is the site of the Insight conference and most of the conference attendees are staying there.
Kurian opened his remarks with a call for a moment of silence, and then followed it by noting the "extraordinary circumstances" overhanging the conference, with the death of 59 people "who will never know another Sunday evening."
He said the NetApp executive team met on Monday with local authorities and hotel executives to discuss its options, which included canceling the event altogether. But in the end they decided that continuing the conference was the right choice.
"There are no easy right or wrong ways. … There is so much good that can come from this event that we decided to go forward," he said. "And God knows we can use all the good we can get. We are not going to let one senseless act impact us."
Kurian said changing the world of data is the theme of NetApp Insight 2017, which reflects how major economic and demographic shifts are impacting how customers collect and use data.
"It's a big, audacious theme," he said. "But we believe that's where our customers are heading."
To help make his point, Kurian turned the stage over to Kenneth Cukier, data editor for The Economist magazine, who said that data has gone from being important to becoming the world's most valuable resource.
The value of that data increases as its volume increases because it provides a wider base on which to gain insights, Cukier said.
Cukier cited as an example of that increasing value the ability for search engines to help diagnose a disease, even if a user cannot completely describe that disease but provides enough information to compare against similar searches.
"The point is, we are able to do something with [the data] because the scale is so large," he said.
While analog-based data is still growing, digital data is growing exponentially, Cukier said. "The quantitative shift leads to a qualitative shift," he said.
The value of data used to be derived from the collection of it, Cukier said. Today, however, the value stems from all the secondary uses of that data, including the use of things like machine learning and predictive analytics. He cited as an example Walmart which found that approaching bad weather led to an increase in sales of Pop Tarts, and in response increases the stock of the comfort food accordingly.
"Data is now one of the most valuable corporate assets because we are now able to do more with the data than ever," he said.
Kurian returned to the stage to offer NetApp's vision of the digital world and its place in that world.
Digital transformation is helping move companies from a business process-centric way of thinking to the data-centric world, Kurian said. "And data is increasingly the lifeblood of an organization," he said.
Most IT infrastructure, however, was designed for the business process world, when what businesses really need is a fabric for data that is not kept in silos, Kurian said. And that, he said, is the NetApp Data Fabric which can tie data across on-premise and cloud infrastructures.
"The Data Fabric releases the full potential of data in an organization," he said.
NetApp's own digital transformation, and its ability to use its experience to help its customers with their digital transformation, has led the company in the last four quarters to be the fastest-growing of the top five storage vendors, the fastest-growing of the top five all-flash storage vendors, the fastest-growing of the top five SAN vendors, and the fastest-growing provider of certified reference architecture technology with partner Cisco, he said.
Kurian said NetApp is also the number-one provider of storage operating systems, all-flash storage operating systems, storage and data management software, and storage for OpenStack.
"We have never had a time when we have held virtually every world record in storage. … And we're not done yet," he said.
Kurian also touched on the highlights of new offerings presented Tuesday, including the decision by Microsoft to adopt NetApp's NFS technology for the Microsoft Azure cloud as a way to deliver enterprise data services to the cloud for both NetApp and non-NetApp customers.