NetApp Expands Hybrid Cloud Tech With Consumption-Based IT, New HCI Cloud Ties
Joseph F. Kovar
NetApp is providing new cloud data services for its HCI hyper-converged infrastructure offering and adding consumption-based pricing in a move to make it easier to use as a jumping-off point for bringing hybrid cloud to customers' on-premises data centers.
NetApp on Tuesday made a big play for the hybrid cloud market with new consumption-based pricing for its technology combined with new cloud ties to its hyper-converged infrastructure technology and expansion of its Google Cloud Platform relationship.
NetApp's new technology introductions demonstrate just how far the company's Data Fabric platform, which is designed to facilitate the seamless migration and management of data across on-premises, private cloud and public cloud systems, has matured, said Joel Reich, executive vice president and general manager for NetApp's storage systems and software business unit.
The result is a new portfolio of products aimed at helping clients and their channel partners easily build hybrid cloud infrastructures, Reich told CRN.
"We've put in place a bunch of products and solutions that bring the Data Fabric to life," he said. "We've built connectors to the Google, Azure, and Amazon public clouds and on-premises. We introduced Data Fabric five years ago as a vision. Now we're filling in the gaps."
Reich said NetApp's Tuesday technology rollout consists of three parts: major enhancements to NetApp's private cloud capabilities via its HCI hyper-converged infrastructure technology, expanded ties to public clouds, and new orchestration and consumption-based pricing for its storage technology in public and private clouds.
NetApp appears to be taking the moves by public cloud vendors to tie their infrastructures to on-premises IT to a new level, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and long-term NetApp channel partner.
"Here's the fun thing about the news," Woodall told CRN. "If you look at on-prem competition of NetApp, last year you saw Microsoft Azure introduce Azure Stack and AWS introduce Outposts, and recently saw Google introduce Anthos. These are all aimed at running cloud infrastructures on-prem. The on-prem model seems to be the right way to build clouds. And now we're starting to see NetApp lead in this area."
NetApp is now letting customers run new cloud data services on its HCI hyper-converged infrastructure technology, Reich said. Unlike other vendors' hyper-converged infrastructure appliances, which closely tie compute, storage, and networking in fixed configurations in a single box, NetApp HCI tightly orchestrates compute and storage in more of a cloud-like fashion.
New is NetApp Kubernetes Service on HCI, which Reich said allows customers to use NetApp HCI as a deployable region for containerized applications. "It looks the same as a public cloud, but on a customer's premises," he said.
Also new is support for NetApp Cloud Volumes on HCI. NetApp HCI, when first introduced, allowed customers to deploy the company's Ontap-based storage to work with file-based storage protocols, but it wasn't easy, Reich said.
"Now customers will get the same operational experience as NetApp Azure Files by running Cloud Volumes on-prem with HCI," he said.
These new additions address a need to build applications which offer transportability between public and private clouds, Reich said.
"Now customers can start NetApp Kubernetes Service on-prem and move to off-prem and the other way around," he said. "We believe containers will be a big part of development both in public and private clouds. And NetApp Kubernetes Service allows orchestration between multiple clouds in three clicks."
NetApp's new cloud services for its HCI platform really highlight how that platform differs from that of its competitors, Woodall said.
"Generation-1 hyper-converged infrastructure was good at the edge, or for department-level workloads," he said. "But we are finding our NetApp HCI business growing. It's a hot segment. Kudos to NetApp."
When customers consider hyper-converged infrastructure for mixed and cloud workloads, NetApp HCI has the edge because of its architecture, he said. "We're seeing new compute options, allowing customers to run applications with fewer cores and cut the cost of VMware licenses. So it's cost-competitive."
NetApp has done more than any vendor to reduce vendor lock-in with the cloud, with its HCI system ideal for running Kubernetes or other open platforms such as OpenShift, Woodall said.
"One of NetApp's key tenants is customer choice and flexibility," he said. "This isn't something cobbled together with an HCI wrapper. This is a NetApp endpoint that allows customers to consume services on-prem and in the cloud in the same way."
NetApp is also expanding its ability to work with public clouds with the general availability of NetApp Cloud Volume Ontap on Google Cloud Platform, as well as the beta of Cloud Volume Services on GCP, Reich said.
This makes Cloud Volume Ontap, which provides a license to customers to run NetApp storage technology on third-party infrastructures, already available on AWS, Azure and GCP, he said. It is already a feature of NetApp HCI, he said.
Cloud Volume Services, a service run by NetApp and delivered via the major cloud hyperscalers, is already available on AWS and Azure, and will soon be available on Google Cloud Platform, he said.
NetApp is also taking a major step in opening up its storage technology to be available with consumption-based pricing, Reich said.
"We're trying to build out the Data Fabric for a multi-cloud world," he said.
NetApp is doing this by letting clients pay for storage assets as a service in the same way they pay for cloud services on a per-gigabyte basis and based on the desired class of service, Reich said. "Now they can consume storage on the cloud or on-prem in the same way," he said.
To make its consumption-based storage pricing model work, NetApp introduced its new NetApp Fabric Orchestration Toolset, which lets customers see everything in the Data Fabric, including where the data resides, and apply policies, access controls based on policies, specify where data should reside based on those policies, and enforce data deletion policies, Reich said.
NetApp's consumption model for its HCI offering lets customers work on a pay-as-you-go model based on a monthly flat fee, he said. Customers can also take advantage of Cloud Volume Services on-premises by purchasing NetApp hardware and software and pay for it as if it were a service.
"The equipment and control sits inside the customer's firewall with management handled by NetApp," he said. "This includes monthly billing, and requires at least a one-year contract."
NetApp is also expanding NetApp Cloud Insights, a SaaS-based service for correlating on-premises compute, networking and storage stacks to those in the cloud, with new real-time dashboards and the ability to monitor NetApp HCI and NetApp Kubernetes Services, Reich said.
Tying this all together are new professional services aimed at helping build complete hybrid cloud infrastructures, Reich said.
"We think this is a big opportunity for partners to monetize the biggest trend today: hybrid cloud and multi-cloud capabilities," he said.
NetApp is doing with cloud-based data services what it has done for years with on-premises data, and is in many ways ahead of where customers are in their cloud journeys, Woodall said.
For instance, he said, NetApp's adoption of consumption-based storage is very important given how quickly the cloud is being adopted by customers.
"People are hyper-focused on capex vs. opex," he said. "With the cloud, people pay for what they use, not more, not less. People don't care about the underlying infrastructure. They want it as a service."
That plays well with NetApp HCI, Woodall said.
"The key persona for HCI is devops," he said. "You don't want developers tinkering with infrastructure. You want them developing applications. NetApp gives customers a choice of where to consume services, and to run it in a way that makes it operationally dead-simple. I appreciate how NetApp is open to its partner community to offering managed services. We partners love talking infrastructure, but customers sometimes don't."
NetApp is leading the way in connecting on-premises infrastructures to the cloud, said Glenn Dekhayser, field chief technology officer at Red8, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time NetApp channel partner, which is already providing NetApp Kubernetes Service to clients under its own name.
"NetApp is making it real," Dekhayser told CRN. "Who else is doing this? No one. NetApp is providing a seamless environment to develop on. I guarantee other vendors will trip over themselves to do this as well. But they'll always be playing catchup to NetApp."
NetApp's move to add consumption-based pricing to its HCI platform is a big deal given that customers are looking at cloud-like models for consuming IT and ways to "homogenize" cloud services across all platforms, Dekhayser said.
"NetApp has figured out how to differentiate their HCI technology," he said. "I keep coming back to homogenized cloud services. No one else is doing something like this. NetApp innovates better than anyone else in the market. And they've done so from the beginning."