NetApp Expands Multi-Cloud Strategy With Google Cloud Relationship, Unveils First End-To-End NVMe Arrays


NetApp Tuesday said it has entered into a strategic partnership with Google, making that company the third strategic cloud partner as part of its push to manage its storage services and capabilities seamlessly from on-premises to hybrid and public clouds.

NetApp also introduced a new version of its all-flash storage array with the highest-density high-performance NVMe flash drives, as well as a new version of its OnTap storage operating system that gives previously installed all-flash arrays a huge performance boost.

The innovations being introduced this week are all about expanding NetApp's Data Fabric, which is the company's software approach for data movement and management with consistent capabilities and services across on-premises, virtualized, hybrid cloud and public cloud environments, said Brett Roscoe, vice president of product marketing for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage vendor.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: NetApp CEO George Kurian On Flash Storage Momentum, Software-Defined Storage Moves, And The Growing Cisco Partnership]

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This is especially true for modern workloads like those requiring artificial intelligence, Roscoe told CRN.

"What we're doing with Data Fabric to leverage public cloud resources and make shifting data consistent is important," he said. "A lot of customers running AI workloads want to leverage legacy infrastructures and Amazon and Google clouds."

The news further cements NetApp as the storage vendor that best understands the cloud, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"NetApp is not an infrastructure company," Woodall told CRN. "It's something people don't get. Instead, NetApp is delivering value in ways no one else is delivering. NetApp will leave this year with an opportunity to redefine itself. It is ultimately in the best position of any company out there to help customers take advantage of the changes going on in the cloud. And it's not just hype. It's a deliverable."

NetApp Tuesday unveiled NetApp Cloud Volumes for Google Cloud Platform, a fully managed, cloud-native service that allows quick access to data in the Google Cloud.

With the new offering comes a new strategic relationship with Google Cloud Platform similar in form to NetApp's relationships with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, Roscoe said.

This is a huge step forward for customers, Woodall said. Cloud Volumes allows customers to take advantage of enterprise file services natively on public clouds like the OnTap operating system does, but does not require customers to use OnTap.

Cloud Volumes now works with AWS and will work with Azure soon, with Google Cloud Platform coming after, Woodall said.

"Cloud Volumes is a multi-cloud play," he said. "It doesn't care about OnTap. It cares about NFS or SMB file services. It allows storage that is really good be deployed natively in the cloud, giving the user the ability to deploy in the cloud with enterprise services and functionality, but without the OnTap part. You just say, 'I need X TBs,' then click and it's done."

This multi-cloud capability is important when one remembers that customers use AWS, Azure and Google for different reasons, Woodall said. "Customers like Google Cloud Platform for its Kubernetes containers and its big data analysis," he said. "Customers use Azure because they have a lot of Microsoft credits they can use. And they use Amazon to build Infrastructure as a Service."

To put storage on these three clouds today requires three different services, Woodall said.

"Now it's all unified under NetApp," he said. "You can add any NetApp tools on top. This lets architects and customers to pull tools that no one else offers for performance and reliability."

Meanwhile, on the flash storage side NetApp unveiled two significant technology upgrades.

The first is the company's new all-flash storage array, the AFF A800, which Roscoe called the world's first NVMe end-to-end offering.

The AFF A800, which is available immediately, features a latency of under 200 microseconds, with data transfer of up to 300 GBps and performance of up to 11.4 million IOPS in a 24-node cluster.

The AFF A800 comes ready to attach to high-speed 16-Gbps and 32-Gbps Fibre Channel networks, and is ready for 100-Gbps Ethernet when networks based on that protocol are available, Roscoe said.

The AFF A800 has an enhanced version of NetApp's Active IQ web-based analytics software that provides predictive analytics for technical support based on information from the 3.5 billion data points collected from the field each day.

Roscoe said the new version of Active IQ adds predictive analysis of what performance can be expected in the future, automatically detects unprotected data volumes, and makes recommendations about what workloads would benefit from an all-flash storage infrastructure.

The Active IQ enhancements are available immediately for all NetApp storage offerings running the OnTap operating system, and eventually will be made part of NetApp's HCI hyper-converged appliance and its StorageGrid object storage offerings.

A new version of OnTap, OnTap 9.4, was also unveiled. Roscoe said it includes new security and compliance capabilities including built-in cryptographic erasure that meets FIPS 140-2 Level 1 requirements.

OnTap 9.4 also includes built-in NVMe enablement, Roscoe said.

That NVMe enablement is a big move for NetApp, as it allows previously installed NetApp arrays to immediately benefit from the performance provided by NVMe flash storage, Woodall said.

"If an A700 has the right components, including the controller, just upgrading the operating system to OnTap 9.4 gives a 60 percent performance boost and a 50 percent drop in latency," he said. "That's huge investment protection for existing customers. The A700 is not a slow box."

The expansion of OnTap cements it as the premier storage operating system, Woodall said.

OnTap is already the No. 1 storage operating system in terms of deployments, he said. "There's no more broadly deployed operating system," he said. "Other vendors may sell more storage. But they have multiple operating systems. NetApp only has one, OnTap. So that gives NetApp a consistent platform no one else has."

NetApp Tuesday also released a new version of its StorageGrid object storage technology that is available as a hardware appliance, a cloud appliance or a virtual appliance.

New to StorageGrid is automated tamper-proof retention to meet corporate requirements, Roscoe said. Other additions include compliance with such requirements as SEC Rule 17a-4, FINRA, and more, he said.

Jeff McCullough, vice president of NetApp's Americas partner sales, told CRN that partner enablement on the new technology is a constant priority.

McCullough also said NetApp plans to unveil new enhancements to its channel program in August.

One key upcoming change to the program is increased emphasis on the cloud, including increased abilities to navigate the cloud to develop new recurring revenue approaches, McCullough said.

NetApp this summer will also make it easier for partners to attach cloud capabilities to any NetApp product and provide consulting around that, McCullough said. "Our partners know OnTap, and can integrate it seamlessly on-premises and in multiple clouds," he said.

To help partners better work with clouds, NetApp this year will introduce new certifications and aims to get partners to enroll in its CloudFirst program, which allows them to better attach services and consulting to their cloud business, he said.

"NetApp has a really strong base of customers that are evaluating their strategies around the cloud," he said. "Partners are looking to integrate best practices in the cloud. OnTap and Cloud Volumes allow partners to build on decades of NetApp leadership in the cloud world."