NetApp Insight: Going Big On Multi-Cloud Storage, Compute, VDI

‘NetApp is working hard in a really competitive environment to be not just a partner of cloud provider, but to be integrated in Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud,’ says John Woodall, vice president of engineering west at General Datatech, a longtime NetApp partner.


NetApp is continuing its drive to be a key part of the cloud ecosystem with the introduction of several new applications aimed at simplifying and automating the movement and management of data across a wide range of customers’ environments, including virtual desktops.

NetApp Monday used the opening day of its virtual NetApp Insight 2020 conference to automate the dynamic tiering of storage across public clouds, introduce a new platform to define storage across multiple public clouds, and reveal technology for optimizing storage specifically for virtual desktop infrastructure.

Because of its own organic development and a couple of recent key acquisitions, NetApp is in a unique space with cloud storage, said Ronen Schwartz, senior vice president and general manager of cloud volumes at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage vendor.

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

These include NetApp’s 2020 acquisitions of 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.

“We allow users to optimize storage and compute resources with Spot and virtual desktop resources in an easy, efficient way, all available via public clouds and NetApp partners,” Schwartz told CRN.

NetApp is continually disrupting itself, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering west at General Datatech, a Dallas-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

“NetApp has been investing for years in the ability to put data where it best fits customers’ businesses,” Woodall told CRN. “Two things are inevitable: continued growth and adoption of the cloud, and continued growth and adoption of containers. NetApp is putting themselves smack dab in the middle, providing the enterprise services and protection needed when it’s needed. And NetApp is working hard in a really competitive environment to be not just a partner of cloud providers, but to be integrated in Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.”

NetApp’s ability to disrupt itself is accelerating, said Brent Collins, global practice manager for data center infrastructures at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis, Mo.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

“I like how aggressive they are in disrupting themselves and moving fast to help customers wherever they are with their cloud strategy,” Collins told CRN. “They are doing the right things to be very relevant today and in the future.”

At the NetApp Insight 2020 conference, NetApp introduced storageless technology to go with its Spot serverless technology as a way to not only optimize compute but now also storage to dynamically move to where it best fits customers’ needs, Schwartz said.

The idea of “storageless” is similar to the idea of “serverless,” Schwartz said.

“Users shouldn’t care about what storage is used for their workloads,” he said. “We optimize it all behind the scenes.”

Included in the newly introduced Spot by NetApp storageless platform are a number of applications, Schwartz said.

Two of them are focused on FinOps, or financial operations, to lower costs. They include Cloud Analyzer for Azure, which provides cost and usage analysis of all cloud deployments to help find issues and remediation, and Spot Eco for Azure, which analyzes cloud compute usage on Microsoft Azure.

The platform also includes Spot Storage, which provides for cloud-native persistent storage for Kubernetes container data anywhere in a cluster, and Ocean for Azure, which adds Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) as the preferred managed Kubernetes Solution for Azure, much the same as it previously did for EKS (Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service) and GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine).

NetApp is also integrating Spot and Cloud Manager so that businesses can easily on-board Spot into their Cloud Manager environments, Schwartz said.

NetApp’s storageless technology is similar to the serverless technology it provides via Spot, Woodall said.

“The cloud has been talking serverless compute for some time,” he said. “What does that mean? You know ultimately that at the end of the network connection there’s a server hiding. It’s the same with storage and storageless. With serverless operation, data automatically grows and moves. Storageless is the same. Capacity, tiering and growth is all dynamic. Customers can add policy-based classes. You just don’t need to worry about the underlying infrastructure.”

NetApp Monday also said it is expanding its Cloud Manager centralized platform for viewing and managing on-premises and cloud storage to build an autonomous Cloud Volume platform. This will result in a single platform to define storage in Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and on-premises infrastructures, Schwartz said.

“This will let customers define things like backups, tiering, caching and so on across clouds,” he said. “It will provide a single API to let users initiate storage services in a very simple, consistent way in AWS, Azure and GCP.”

Finally, NetApp is also introducing Virtual Desktop Management Service, or VDMS, which is a fully managed offering to optimize resources for virtual desktop infrastructure services, Schwartz said.

“This will allow automatic provisioning of tens of thousands of virtual desktops, with the necessary storage optimized in minutes,” he said. “NetApp provides the efficiency to handle simplicity and cost.”

An increasingly autonomous Cloud Manager, in conjunction with Spot and VDMS, means that NetApp is building a complete cloud platform that optimizes compute, storage and desktop services, Woodall said.

“It’s a big step forward in a unified control plane to unify cloud and on-premises,” he said. “It’s becoming a centralized SaaS base to all of this. It’s something I’ve personally been waiting for for a long time.”

Overall, NetApp is unveiling some very cool technologies, Collins said.

“Multi-cloud is the absolutely the right approach for any new technology coming to the market,” he said. “Both Cloud Manager and Spot’s new storageless offerings for Kubernetes give customers more flexibility and enable them to deliver services and applications across multiple clouds, which is all goodness.”