NetApp CEO George Kurian: The Digital Economy ‘Rewrites The Rules’

‘Businesses have changed, and entire industries are being decomposed and recomposed digitally in real time. This is classic disruption. Except this time, it’s happening at global scale with unprecedented speed,’ says NetApp CEO George Kurian in his NetApp Insight keynote.


The world is changing in a rush to digital transformation that is accelerating because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, forcing businesses to be able to work seamlessly with one or more clouds of their own choice, NetApp CEO George Kurian said during his opening keynote at this week’s NetApp Insight 2020 Digital Event.

“For many years, we’ve been saying that the world’s changing,” Kurian told the audience of enterprise customers and solution providers. “But no one could have predicted the amount of change we’ve seen in 2020. Despite all the challenges over the past few months, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and each other.”

2020 has been a tremendously difficult time for almost everyone, Kurian said. However, he said, he hopes business leaders feel hopeful about the future.

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[Related: 10 Key Takeaways From NetApp CEO George Kurian: Cloud, Coronavirus And Growth]

“I am,” he said. “For while change can be difficult, if we treat it as a familiar constant in life, we can spot open windows of opportunity where we might have seen closed doors of despair.“

The world is changing fundamentally and quickly, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people and businesses to replace physical interaction with remote digital interactions and changing how businesses engage with customers and employees, Kurian said.

“Businesses have changed, and entire industries are being decomposed and recomposed digitally in real time,” he said. “This is classic disruption. Except this time, it’s happening at global scale with unprecedented speed. Speed and agility [are what help] a business succeed in its response to the pandemic.”

The past few months have shown the importance of the cloud as the digital platform on which to run business and engage with customers and employees, Kurian said.

“And data is the currency of a digital business,” he said. “It is the digital business’ understanding of its customers, employees and suppliers.”

In response to the move by businesses to transform digitally, the leading cloud providers are building massive global digital business platforms with powerful ecosystems, Kurian said. And it is up to specialists to leverage the massive scale of those platforms to reach customers worldwide, he said.

“Whereas in the traditional world these specialists were challenged by generalists who had the benefit of scale but were encumbered by mediocrity, a digital economy rewrites those rules,” he said. “Specialists with deep expertise and business speed can leverage and contribute to these large digital platforms and ecosystems to rise above the legacy generalists.”

NetApp understands the power of being a specialist, Kurian said. “Being the very best in the world at what we do ... is at the core of who we are and how we respond to industry disruption.”

NetApp’s own digital transformation started long before the pandemic as it considered how digital transformation would impact the cloud, customers, the industry and the company itself, Kurian said.

“While our competition stuck to their plans to build their own competitive clouds and failed, we prioritized customer needs and chose to partner with the leading cloud providers,” he said.

As part of its digital transformation, he said, NetApp first realized that customers really need to address the enduring problems of managing data in hybrid and multi-cloud environments with a Data Fabric to deliver the right data to the right place at the right time.

Second, NetApp doubled down on what has made it a specialist with 28 years of experience: building a portfolio of cloud data services, software and systems to help customers lead with data, he said.

Third, NetApp is exploiting what it is good at, which Kurian said includes boosting the performance, scalability and availability of enterprise applications on leading public clouds and bringing the simplicity of the public cloud to the enterprise.

Fourth, NetApp is partnering with industry leaders and the leading clouds to build the biggest and most complete innovation ecosystem, Kurian said.

“We’e here at NetApp building an open architecture unlike the walled gardens you see from other enterprise cloud vendors,” he said. “And this gives you choice and investment protection moving forward.”

Finally, NetApp is building on the above points with additional capabilities, talent and evolution, Kurian said.

“We at NetApp are the specialists who are helping you unlock the best of cloud across public, hybrid and on-premises,” he said. “We’re helping you demand more from your cloud. For example, we help you build, deploy and optimize new applications much more quickly on public, hybrid and multi-cloud.”

NetApp also lets businesses embrace the best of both public and private clouds so they can deploy and scale their business initiatives with the industry’s best hybrid cloud architecture, Kurian said.

“Finally, we help you consolidate, modernize, simplify and automate your data center infrastructure with an easy path to cloud to enable you to make data-as-a-service available to your stakeholders,” he said. “And our Data Fabric strategy continues to make progress.”

Kurian also pointed to the importance of three NetApp acquisitions in 2020 that greatly increased the company’s ability to help businesses with their cloud journeys. These include Spot, which dynamically assigns compute resources from a public cloud to a workload based on the lowest-cost compute instances available; CloudJumper, which dynamically assigns storage resources to virtual desktops; and Talon, which centralizes data from multiple offices to the cloud.

With these acquisitions, along with the enhancements of its cloud storage capabilities, NetApp has established a platform for highly optimized application-driven infrastructures, Kurian said.

“It complements and extends the Data Fabric, saving customers up to 90 percent of their cloud costs,” he said.