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NetApp Eyes Consumption-Based Storage, Intros Cloud-Focused Ontap 9.6

‘People want on-premises, cloudlike offerings,’ says NetApp’s Joel Reich. ‘They don't want a rebranding of a private cloud. As hybrid cloud becomes the model people are moving toward, they will be looking at how to balance their spending while having new flexibility.’

Data management technology vendor NetApp, which has been leading the charge toward a cloud-first approach to storage, is mulling the introduction of consumption-based data management.

NetApp also got a little closer to the cloud Wednesday with the introduction of version 9.6 of its Ontap data management software.

The company also moved to bring high-performance NVMe capabilities to midrange customers with the introduction of a new all-flash storage array and a matching all-NVMe expansion drawer.  

[Related: NetApp Ties MAX Data To Intel Optane SD, Makes Server Memory Part Of Cloud Infrastructure]

Joel Reich, executive vice president and general manager for NetApp's storage systems and software business unit, offered a teaser for some upcoming technology releases that will have a consumption model component.  

For the rest of 2019, Reich said, NetApp will continue its cadence of offering a new version of Ontap every six months or so.

In June, NetApp is planning to introduce changes around the consumption model, he said.  

"People want on-premises, cloudlike offerings," he said. "They don't want a rebranding of a private cloud. As hybrid cloud becomes the model people are moving toward, they will be looking at how to balance their spending while having new flexibility."

With the introduction of Ontap 9.6, NetApp is extending its capabilities in hybrid cloud infrastructures, Reich said.

Ontap 9.6, which runs across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures, is a key part of NetApp's Data Fabric architecture for seamlessly managing and migrating data between on-premises, hybrid cloud, public cloud and edge infrastructures, Reich told CRN.

"Data Fabric has been around for about five years now," he said. "As hybrid clouds have been more and more deployed, customers see new areas where we can add value. We are bringing new capabilities to deliver this value."  

New with Ontap 9.6 is encryption of data over the wire for disaster recovery and caching purposes, Reich said.

"We already did a good job with compression of the data," he said. "Now we're adding encryption."

Because Ontap works the same across physical, virtual and cloud environments, data anywhere in the NetApp environment can be sent in encrypted form to anywhere else, he said.

NetApp is also adding support for Google Cloud Platform and Alibaba to its Fabric Pools, which is technology that allows the company's on-premises arrays to use public clouds as an additional storage tier. Fabric Pools previously supported Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, Reich said.

For customers using NVMe over Fibre Channel, NetApp has expanded its ability to work with the protocol in VMware ESX, Microsoft Windows and Oracle Linux hosts. Previously, that capability was limited to Red Hat and SUSE Linux.

Finally, Ontap 9.6 now supports business continuity via NetApp's MetroCluster over IP networks for entry-level NetApp AFF and FAS arrays, Reich said.

The Ontap 9.6 expansion is a pretty big deal for cloud environments, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

Ontap 9.6 now supports the top four hyper-scale cloud providers, which is an important, although not unexpected, enhancement, Woodall told CRN.

"Cloud Volumes Ontap runs the same on any cloud," he said. "So this is not as revolutionary as when Ontap first supported AWS when it was really new. But this shows the maturation of NetApp's footprint and opens the market for new customers. This is especially true as machine learning and artificial intelligence become increasingly common. Customers see Google as the machine-learning and AI platform of choice."

With the new in-transit data encryption capability, customers using NetApp's SnapMirror and FlexCache technologies will see their data protected in layers, Woodall said.  

"Data will be protected at the source, in flight, and at the destination," he said. "NetApp has been focused on security, and this expands their security posture."

Woodall also likes to see NetApp's MetroCluster support for IP in addition to its previous support for Fibre Channel. "Entry-level arrays all support the IP protocol," he said. "Now customers can start small. Just because your data is not large doesn't mean it's not important."  

NetApp Wednesday also introduced the latest in its all-flash storage systems, the AFF A320, which Reich said is the first midrange storage array to offer end-to-end NVMe performance.

The A320 is a 2U array with 100-Gbit Ethernet ports and support for NVMe SSDs, he said. It is supported by a new expansion shelf also supporting NVMe.  

The introduction of the AFF A320 follows the introduction one year ago of the AFF A800, which NetApp called the world's first end-to-end NVMe storage array. Both the AFF A320 and the AFF A800 support NVMe-over-Fibre Channel.

NetApp's support for end-to-end NVMe-over-Fibre Channel for the midrange market is important, Woodall said.  

"NVMe is one of those natural progressions in the industry to increase performance," he said.

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