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NetApp Introduces Keystone: Simplifying Storage For Hybrid, Multi-Cloud World

'We make it easy to buy, easy to consume, and easy to operate data services on-premises and in the major clouds. And we give you the flexibility of the business model that you're looking for: metered utilities, subscriptions or capital purchases,’ says NetApp CEO George Kurian.


NetApp Tuesday introduced NetApp Keystone, which the company said simplifies the acquisition of data storage and management technology whether for on-premises data centers or in the cloud.

NetApp Keystone, unveiled on the opening day of this week's NetApp Insight 2019 conference, allows customers to purchase their on-premises and cloud-based storage capabilities without worrying about future requirements by allowing data to be migrated as needed across on-premises, private clouds or public clouds, and either purchased outright or on a consumption model, NetApp said.

NetApp CEO George Kurian, speaking at a Monday press conference, said the IT industry is looking for ways to simplify the business of data services.

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

"We are increasingly in a data-centric era where businesses succeed because they use data to make better decisions, to understand their customers, and to tailor both their offerings as well as their business models to the needs of their customers," he said.

The past year has seen speed displace size and scale as the foundation for success in a digital world, forcing businesses to leverage sources of innovation and experimentation wherever they exist, Kurian said.

"We had posited that hybrid multi-cloud would be the de facto ID architecture for businesses around the world," he said. "And that is playing out today. The majority of customers that we speak to are already hybrid cloud. And by the end of next year, almost three-quarters of them will be hybrid multi-cloud."

Furthermore, as data becomes the cornerstone of a digital business even as IT architectures move to hybrid multi-clouds, it is important to integrate data across these landscapes to make better decisions, to make faster decisions and to optimize businesses to serve customers best, Kurian said.

"And so you need to think about building data fabrics rather than data centers," he said.

NetApp five years ago unveiled its Data Fabric vision and has since made it a reality for customers, Kurian said. The biggest cloud providers already use NetApp's technology, and NetApp also provides full orchestration of data management services such as file, block and object storage with data control planes including a fabric orchestrator and the Kubernetes service, he said.

With NetApp Keystone, the company is taking Data Fabric to its next major evolution, Kurian said.

NetApp Keystone simplifies the business of data services to give customers a cloud experience whether their data is in a public cloud or a data center in three major ways, he said.

The first and perhaps the most important is to gain cloud-like agility and financial choice with a single, unified experience regardless of whether customers want their data in public clouds, private clouds or traditional data centers or whether they want to purchase hardware or manage data via a consumption model, Kurian said.

The second is a series of technology innovations to let businesses power enterprise and modern applications to meet the increasing demands of a data-centric universe, he said.

The third is to expand NetApp's security and governance portfolio to protect data across the hybrid cloud, he said.

Keystone enables businesses to transform IT and operate like a cloud everywhere with a simplified, integrated customer experience to complement the simplified, integrated operational experience of NetApp's Data Fabric, Kurian said.

"We make it easy to buy, easy to consume, and easy to operate data services on-premises and in the major clouds," he said. "And we give you the flexibility of the business model that you're looking for: metered utilities, subscriptions or capital purchases. And we believe that all of them will be required for different use cases in our customers."

Keystone provides cloud capabilities on-premises while providing customers with choice: Customers can choose a high-performance, standard or value tier of storage depending on the nature of their application, he said. They also can choose the data service, including file, blog or object. And customers can choose to manage it themselves or have that management handled by NetApp or a channel partner, he said.

"NetApp Keystone allows you to buy all of this on a subscription basis, a flexible subscription with the option to burst and a one-year commitment," he said. "We bring your cloud to your data center as easy as one two three. We share the risk with you, which is that we retain the title for the assets that you deploy in your data center. We allow you to burst and we give you the option to deploy in your data center co-location environments and managed environments."

Biren Fondekar, NetApp's chief transformation officer, told CRN that Keystone was designed to make it simple for businesses to purchase storage with a web-based portal that asks six simple questions to see what customers need.

"It then points to the part of our portfolio that makes most sense for customers," Fondekar said. "That then generates a lead for channel partners so the partner can follow up with the customer."

Customers will find the product portfolio to be simpler than it was previously, regardless of how much capacity will be local or in the cloud, Fondekar said.

"When buying a FAS system, we used to offer 18 hardware options and 23 software options," he said. "Now there are four hardware and three software options, and one choice of whether or not to purchase support. And we're now down to a one-page quote versus the 12 to 15 pages we generated in the past."

That simplicity also follows through to the renewals process with flat and predictable pricing and no surprises, he said.

For partners, that discovery portal provides a hot lead from NetApp, Fondekar said. "It points to what customers are trying to do to help cut sales cycles and cut the need for certain levels of experience," he said.

The entire Keystone discovery process through the handover of the lead to the partner has been digitized, Fondekar said.

"Customers answer a few questions," he said. "This generates a lead, which goes to the partner. It's all digital. It speeds up the conversations."

Keystone is also integrated with NetApp's Active IQ web-based analytics software that provides predictive analytics for technical support based on information from the nearly 200 billion data points collected from the field each day, Fondekar said.

NetApp is also rolling out AI Ops, a new application that uses artificial intelligence for operational automation in the data center to give customers real-time, one-click resolution of issues, he said.

NetApp Keystone also applies NetApp Kubernetes Service, or NKS, to provide true application portability across customers' hybrid environments, and to several new storage arrays the vendor introduced Tuesday, he said.

NetApp Keystone is a very impressive program, said Brent Collins, global practice manager for data center infrastructures at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider that has been working with NetApp on the technology.

NetApp has always had the technology with its Data Fabric to move data between multiple clouds and equipment, but with Keystone now has a program that activates the technology, Collins told CRN.

"Customers will say they don't know much data they will have in their data center, how much will be in the cloud, and how much will be adjacent to the cloud in a place like Equinix," he said. "Now they have an answer with Keystone. It's a program that takes advantage of all the technical capabilities of NetApp."

Collins said, as an example, that a customer may guess that 60 percent of its data will eventually be in the cloud, or 40 percent, or maybe one-third in the data center, the cloud and Equinix.

"With Keystone, it doesn't matter," he said. "It may be all in the cloud or on a private infrastructure. Keystone gives them a predictable pricing model. Customers are often paralyzed because they don't know where their data will be in three to five years."

Customers can move their data from a FAS array to NetApp's HCI hyper-converged infrastructure offering to Cloud Volume Services, Collins said. And with Keystone, they can get it all at a similar and predictable cost. And where the data’s run is pretty arbitrary. It’s pretty cool.”

John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and NetApp channel partner, told CRN that, as a partner, he talks about four key priorities with customers: modernizing their data centers, managing cloud migration, taking advantage of data analytics, and providing services to do all that.

NetApp has proven it has the capability to do all that in a way that no other storage vendor can do, Woodall said.

And NetApp is doing this shortly after Microsoft introduced Azure Stack, Google introduced Anthos, and Amazon Web Services introduced AWS Outposts, he said.

"These are all on-prem plays for the big cloud providers," he said. "This validates NetApp's position in the cloud. The general concept of a hybrid cloud world is where things are going."

NetApp Keystone is the move one would expect in a hybrid multi-cloud world, Woodall said. "Hyper-scalers are coming on-prem," he said. "It's important for NetApp to go to the cloud."

NetApp is the best-kept secret in Silicon Valley that's hiding in plain sight, Woodall said.

"People are not realizing the shift going on now with NetApp," he said. "I would love for people to understand what NetApp is doing for the future while at the same time not marginalizing its past."

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