NetApp recently made a couple of technology announcements, nothing new there, companies release new equipment and services all of the time. However, they did catch my attention and not necessarily for the reason you'd expect.
Firstly, Microsoft announced the general availability of the Azure NetApp Files service, a first party native file system in the Azure Cloud and a further extension of NetApp's rapidly growing and impressive cloud portfolio.
Secondly the new C190 All Flash Array an entry level platform designed to help more people make the move to flash by reducing costs and making it more accessible for those where it may have been previously out of reach. While these announcements were seemingly unrelated what caught my attention was what they had in common, the intention to make the consumption of new and potentially transformative technology easier.
While "digital transformation" is a bit of an overused buzzword the idea is certainly valid, the world of both enterprise technology and the enterprises that use it is changing rapidly, companies are using data as never before, delivering results, products and services more quickly while demanding ever increasing scale and rapid response to new demands. These demands are forcing us to rethink our technology approach but rethinking it, is not the same as deploying it, transformative technologies can be tricky, expensive and difficult to integrate into our existing environments.
Does this mean that transformation should only be the preserve of those with the biggest budgets or the most technical resources? That serves no one, it not only limits companies' ability to innovate and grow, it also affects us as customers, limiting the best innovations, services and experiences to only the biggest companies.
It is within this context that I found the NetApp announcements interesting, anything that can lower the barriers to adoption of transformative technologies is worthy of exploration. How are these announcements helping ?
Make it affordable
Simple. Smart. Secure. All-flash storage systems are no longer out of reach. The NetApp® AFF C190 offers an enterprise-class flash system for an affordable price.
Is NetApp's introduction to the C190, while it may not be as exciting to discuss price as it is innovation, value and transformation, in reality it remains a crucial part of the decision process, it doesn't matter how good it is if we can't afford it. Of course we can always buy a cheaper solution to a problem, but this often means compromise. NetApp have ensured that is not the case with the C190, which is a fully fledged member of the all flash family, providing the same innovations in performance, efficiency and cloud integrations that you get across their entire portfolio.
Flash makes sense on many levels providing greater reliability, performance and lower running costs. Making it more affordable to those with smaller environments and limited budgets is a good move and makes commercial sense for NetApp, providing a gateway into their data fabric ecosystem, which of course they will hope will encourage new customers to take more of their services.
Opening up the Cloud
The move to cloud continues to be significant part of transformation but for many smaller and mid-size organisations, this has not strayed far beyond software as a service. Going beyond this has proved difficult, adopting platform and infrastructure services can be tricky and these services often lack the enterprise features businesses are accustomed to and need a larger investment in time, resources and money to successfully adopt.
This is starting to change as vendors are trying to simplify cloud adoption by integrating services into more traditional technologies extracting much of the complexity and allowing smaller businesses to make a move to cloud by consuming these capabilities more tactically. NetApp has already been doing this well by integrating cloud services into many of their on-premises products, but they also, via their cloud business unit, delivering an increasingly wide range of powerful cloud native services, Azure NetApp Files is one such service.
Cloud storage can help to solve many problems with its scale and flexibility but its consumption can be complex for those unfamiliar with the details of building cloud infrastructure.
Azure NetApp Files aims to lower this adoption barrier by simplifying file services inside of Microsoft Azure. ANF is a first party native service available in the Azure market place, but is operated on NetApp hardware hosted in Azure datacentres (not close to, but inside them) this allows users to receive a more recognisable enterprise class service, maintaining many of the on-premises file capabilities for which NetApp is renowned, more predictable and better performance (Outperforming the native Azure files service), retaining many efficiency capabilities (helping to reduce cost) and a consistency of service, especially if you already operate NetApp services elsewhere in your organisation.
While Microsoft already provide native file services in Azure, NetApp's offering attempts to make the consumption of these services easier, allowing adoption to be quicker and integration into existing infrastructure more straightforward.
Ultimately these announcements are product announcements, something you will buy or you won't, but it's not whether NetApp sell lots of these products that I felt was interesting, it is more what these products represent, a lowering of the barrier to access of potentially transformative technology.
This is something NetApp should be congratulated for, businesses of all types want to be able to take advantage of technology trends and the opportunities they present, companies trying to make them more affordable or easier to adopt should be welcomed.While NetApp technology may not be for everyone, hopefully their moves will encourage competitors to take similar strides in opening up exciting technologies to more of us.
You can find out more about these NetApp technologies below;