NetApp CEO: Data Management is the Future

In Q&A, NetApp CEO looks ahead

Rob Preston of InformationWeek interviewed NetApp CEO Tom Georgens recently, eliciting a wide range of insights into how Georgens sees the storage industry changing — and where NetApp will find competitive advantage.

In the preface to his interview Preston observes how it is both the best of times and the worst of times for the storage industry: data volumes are soaring and storage budgets are growing as well, but the aggregrate growth rate of storage vendors is weak to negative due to the emergence of cheaper technology alternatives and the reluctance of many cash-strapped potential customers to invest while the landscape is in such flux.

Here are some of Georgens’ thoughts, as related by Preston:

“There’s a transition of IT professionals from being effectively owner-operators to figuring out the role of external services, whether it’s software-as-a-service, traditional enterprise services, or hyper-scale services … [and becoming] integrators/brokers.”

“Our view in the end is that NetApp is an integrator of technologies that deliver customer solutions. I view flash, the cloud, disk drives, DRAMs, processor technology, as just things that integrate into a data management scheme… The more things that are managed by Data ONTAP is money in the bank for us …”

“Over time, the primary differentiator will be integrated systems. I think we need to take a step back on software-defined. Ultimately, what software-defined is is a set of common data services that can manage all the storage in my enterprise. From NetApp’s point of view with ONTAP, we’ve been on that kick all along, long before we called it software-defined. We didn’t build five different products. We built one product. Whether it’s SAN or NAS or backup or archiving or whatever, it’s all managed by Data ONTAP. So the fundamental premise that customers want a single set of data management throughout all different data types — I truly buy that.”

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NetApp Launches New ‘Scale-out Innovations’

But some wonder, where’s FlashRay?

NetApp announced on Feb. 19 the launch of “new unified, scale-out innovations” that let customers manage their data through a single storage and data management platform. These innovations include the FAS8000 enterprise storage array series, which can be deployed in traditional data centers as well as across newer hybrid cloud platforms, and FlexArray, the company’s new virtualization software that enables NetApp’s enterprise to virtualize and manage third-party arrays.

The new products reflect NetApp’s ongoing evolution from “storage company” to “data management” vendor. The FAS8000 range of enterprise arrays support Network Attached Storage, Storage Area Network, Fiber Channel, and Ethernet all on the same platform for versatile access. And FlexArray enables users to virtualize other storage systems such as EMC, Hitachi, or NetApp’s E-series on the FAS8000 arrays. “An integration of this sort is likely to push sales of the company’s product among first-time buyers as well as among clients looking to upgrade their existing sytems,” suggests an article on

But Dave Raffo, in an article on, notes the conspicuous absence of an all-flash storage array — something NetApp’s chief competitors already have on the market and are pushing hard. FlashRay, NetApp’s long-awaited all-flash storage array, is scheduled to be released later this year, though a more specific date has not been announced by NetApp.

According to Raffo, “FlashRay is the last to market because NetApp designed it from the ground up instead of buying a flash startup (as EMC and IBM did) or put flash into an existing platform (the approach taken by Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Dell). NetApp’s goal is to come up with a different operating system than Data OnTap that is used for FAS storage, while keeping all the storage and data management capabilities on OnTap.”

While NetApp’s strategy might be making some impatient, others believe the company’s approach will pay off in the long run.

NetApp press release:

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Verizon Deal to Extend Reach of Data ONTAP

NetApp’s presence in the cloud will increase, thanks to a recently announced partnership with Verizon. In an article on, writer Joseph F. Kovar says that NetApp customers will be able to access NetApp Data ONTAP as a virtual storage appliance on the Verizon cloud, giving them the same management capabilities and features they currently have with their on-premise NetApp hardware.

Because the Data ONTAP-based virtual appliance uses the same ONTAP found in NetApp’s physical appliances, says John Considine, CTO for Verizon Terremark, Verizon clients “can connect their cloud storage to their physical storage. They can do snapshots, replication, archiving, anything they do in their data centers, all managed with the same pane of glass.”

Industry experts commended the partnership. John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a long-time NetApp partner, drew an analogy between NetApp’s increasing pervasiveness and the “Intel Inside” campaign: “This is becoming ‘NetApp Everywhere,’” he said. “NetApp ONTAP is the most common storage operating system in the world. The partnership with Verizon Cloud is another way to leverage that technology to extend data center management services from the data center to the cloud.”

Currently in beta, the Verizon Cloud is scheduled to go into production sometime in 2014. The NetApp Data ONTAP virtual storage appliance is expected to go live at the same time, according to Verizon Terremark’s Considine.

New Cloud-Based Data Protection for NetApp Storage

In other industry news, Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider Artisan Infrastructure and Arrow Electronics recently unveiled a cloud-based data protection service for NetApp customers. John Austin of Arrow Electronics, in an article on, says the service primarily targets hardware-focused solution providers “who are struggling … to figure out how to get into the cloud and subscription business.”

“We are working with Arrow to help VARs stay viable as customers move to cloud services,” said Brian Hierholzer, CEO of Artisan. Solution providers partnering with NetApp and Arrow can now leverage Artisan’s cloud storage to offer customers data protection via the same NetApp tools they already use, Hierholzer said.

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Buy or Build – or Look to the Cloud?

Once upon a time, solving a technology challenge began by first answering one basic question: Build or buy? But as NetApp CIO Cynthia Stoddard explains on, a third option is now changing how IT teams approach their challenges.

Hybrid cloud computing, Stoddard says, is changing the essential dynamic that drives decision making. “It isn’t necessarily what technology we’re using that’s important,” she says, “but instead, on whom we are relying to deliver the solution.”

New cloud services, such as Software as as Service (SaaS) and its analogs, Platform and Infrastructure as a Service (PaaS and IaaS), have reduced the risk of getting stuck on a “technology cul de sac.” The new environment has also improved organizational agility and the ability of technical teams to focus on and react quickly to business issues.

Stoddard’s advice for those responsible for technology leadership? Get on board — or be left behind. She identifies six important aspects of NetApp’s movement to a hybrid cloud environment, including:

• Providing advice and guidance on appropriate cloud solutions (the Broker Role)
• Gathering a solid understanding of cloud-provider road maps
• Adapting to evolve with the changing IT landscape

As CIO, Stoddard says, her job is to “pull the correct lever” to meet her company’s business requirements. Cloud-based solutions have presented her with many new levers to choose from.

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NetApp, Cisco, and the Future of Data

Earlier this month, Cisco launched its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which aims to optimize the data center infrastructure so that mobile-cloud applications can run unfettered by physical or virtual environment limitations. By delivering applications to end-users where, when, and on the device they want, AIC promises to “speed the rate of business.”

As Richi Jennings notes in an article on, a grand vision like ACI requires great partners, and Cisco has that in NetApp. The two already work together on the FlexPod converged infrastructure and share, in the words of NetApp CEO Tom Georgens. “a very, very tight integration of vision” for ACI.

In a blog post on, NetApp Chief Technology Officer Jay Kidd was enthusiastic about Cisco’s ACI, describing it as a “compelling vision to simplify and automate the provisioning, monitoring, and management of the entire infrastructure stack according to application profiles.” He notes the kindred nature of NetApp Data ONTAP, which is built on the belief that “data is not bound to any single storage controller and is free to move around without disruption to the data access.”

He adds, “The IT world only becomes truly software-defined when applications are not dependent on any single instance of a piece of hardware for their continuous operations.”

Does pairing ACI and Data ONTAP represent a watershed moment in IT operational efficiency? Kidd thinks so. “There hasn’t been this much significant change in the IT stack since the 80s and it is great fun to be a part of it.”

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Big and Fast: Data a Key Player in NFL

Speed, efficiency, and reliable execution are the keys to success in today’s National Football League. And we’re not talking about quarterbacks. We’re talking IT.

As Richard Bliss describes in, teams like the Denver Broncos may be mid-size businesses, but they have enterprise-level IT needs. Before the players ever take the field, the organization’s IT staff will have collected, stored, assimilated, managed, protected, and delivered terabytes of data to the players, staff, and fans.

The film room was once the inner sanctum of team preparation, where players and coaches would gather to review analog film in a darkened room. Today, teams like the Broncos distribute videos to players digitally on iPads. The playbook, once dependent on an industrial-strength photocopier to keep up with continual changes, is now likewise delivered and maintained digitally. Downtime or data loss are not options for successful organizations.

The demands for data crunching and delivery are just as critical to serving the thousands who attend the events and the millions watching from afar. “Video, still photography, statistics and other information must be provided in real-time — both to the in-stadium scoreboard and to fans via the Broncos’ mobile app,” writes Bliss.

And there’s no rest during the off-season. IT departments must process and deliver backlogs of old video to fans, media, and team personnel; and support the management team during trade negotiations and the draft process with up-to-the-minute data. A smoothly functioning IT dept. can spell the difference between getting or missing out on the right players.

So the next time you sit back and marvel at the abilities of the players in the limelight, tip your cap to the technical staff behind the scenes that make the performance possible.

Read how the Denver Broncos rely on a NetApp environment:

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What are the Top Hacker Movies of All Time?

It’s a question that generates as much heat as Mary Ann or Ginger? Tastes Great or Less Filling? Ranking the best hacker movies of all time is both highly subjective and, to judge by the number of curated lists that come up in a Google search, an extremely popular exercise.

While the definition of a “hacker” movie is fairly elastic, the operative concept is the brilliant (usually illicit) use of technology to pursue or combat a dangerous (usually pathological) agenda. What could be more entertaining, when it’s done right?

So which movies, by popular acclaim, get it right? One of the movies that shows up high on most lists is Tron, in which a hacker is transported into the digital universe of “The Grid” and must survive combat as a cyber gladiator in order to stop the villainous Master Control.

WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick, is regarded by most as a seminal if somewhat implausible hacker movie in which a young computer whiz kid accidentally hacks into a top secret super-computer with complete control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal and inadvertently begins the countdown to World War 3.

Takedown is viewed as an essential part of the hacker canon because it tells the true story of Kevin David Mitnick, a legendary hacker who eventually became a computer security consultant (natch).

Goldeneye, featuring Pierce Brosnan as 007, is a 1995 film that overlays the usual Bond candy — beautiful women, improbable stunts — onto a plot that centers on a malicious hacker program and weaponized satellites.

Other favorited hacker movies include Swordfish; Office Space; Hackers; Sneakers; Live Free or Die Hard; and The Matrix movies.

In truth, the number of films that can feasibly be filed in the hacker category is growing exponentially as advanced technology becomes an unavoidable feature of daily life.

Nonetheless, if you want to see what the genre has to offer, here are a few lists to get you started:

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Government and the Cloud: Must-See TV

It might not have had the mass appeal of Mad Men or Dancing with the Stars, but a television program cosponsored by NetApp U.S. Public Sector called “Gov Innovate: Cloud Computing” delivered a compelling message to its target audience of federal agencies.

“Federal agencies are facing obstacles in moving to the cloud, such as budget pressure, agility, and security,” said Mark Weber, President, NetApp U.S. Public Sector. The program sought to “empower government executives to feel confident in their move to the cloud by providing successful case studies on how to overcome transformation obstacles and implement cloud technologies,” Weber said.

The program, cosponsored by NetApp, DLT Solutions, World Wide Technology, and Blue River Information Technology , aired on NBC Channel 4 in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Aug. 24, and Sunday, Aug. 25. (see link below to view it online). It consisted of two federal panels and a state and local panel hosted by Dave McClure, Associate Administrator, Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies, GSA. Each panel discussed its efforts to adopt cloud technology in the face of dwindling budgets.

Program topics included, “Understanding the Cloud”; “Dwindling Budgets and the Cloud”; “NASA: Pioneers in the Cloud”; and, “How Local Governments Can Benefit from the Cloud.” It included case studies featuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, and the General Services Administration.


View the program online:

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NetApp Recognizes Customer Innovation

NetApp honored 14 customers at its ninth annual Innovation Awards for their use of the NetApp Data ONTAP architecture to “unleash the power of IT to accelerate business and operations.” Winners and finalists for the NetApp Innovation Award were honored at a ceremony at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, on June 12.

The winners included:

Sauber Motorsport AG, which built a FlexPod solution on NetApp in order to collect and analyze data from sensors on its racecars in realtime and make adjustments to the car on the fly;

The Chiesi Group, an international pharmaceutical company that used NetApp to develop a virtualized private cloud to optimize its drug testing and approval process;

SoftBank Telecom Corp., which credits its revamped IT infrastructure, built on NetApp, for enabling it quickly deliver several of its cloud services to businesses, public agencies, and relief organizations in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Japan;

Turner Studios, which uses a NetApp storage foundation to handle a massive volume of digital content generated from broadcasting over 40 different individual sports and 6,000 individual events during the year that create more than 27,000 hours of live footage.

Read more about the Innovation Award winners

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‘Softwarization’ Trend Transforming Business

“Software-defined” or “softwarization” is changing the way business evolves. But what is it? In an article on NetAppVoice on, Mike Elgan explores the essence of softwarization and how it is revolutionizing technologies both old and new.

As Elgan sees it, the two fundamental building blocks of IT are hardware and software. As commoditization and cloud computing drive down the value of hardware, competitive advantage can be found in software.

Software is fluid, flexible, and scalable. Softwarization brings those advantages to formerly machine-governed processes, such as telephone service, where digital switching and VoIP phones enable feature upgrades to happen through code rather than physical wires and components. Automobiles are increasingly controlled and improved through software — anti-lock brakes, fuel delivery, diagnostics, etc.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of how softwarization is exploding assumptions about business processes, says Elgan, is 3D printing. The technology prints thin layers of a material like plastic that can be assembled into objects as complex as a working model airplane. Through widely distributed printers, 3D printing could effectively eliminate shipping or inventory issues. Constant improvements to objects can be made inside the software.

“Remember this time in tech history,” said Dave Vellante, chief research analyst for SiliconANGLE. “It’s a time where ‘software-defined (fill in the blank)’ became the new mega tech trend.” NetAppVoice

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