NetApp Keystone – How Do you Want It?

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 21.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

NetApp recently presented at Storage Field Day 21. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here. This post is focussed on the Keystone presentation, but I recommend you check out the Oracle performance analysis session as well – I found it extremely informative.

 

Keystone? What Is It?

According to the website, “Keystone provides a portfolio of payment solutions and storage-as-a-service offerings for hybrid cloud environments to deliver greater agility, financial flexibility, and reduced financial risk that helps you meet your business outcomes”. In short, it gives you a flexible way to consume the broader portfolio of NetApp solutions as a service on-premises (and off-premises).

 

How Much XaaS Is Too Much?

According to NetApp’s research, no amount of XaaS is too much. The market is apparently hungry for everything as a service to be a thing. It seems we’re no longer just looking to do boring old Infrastructure or Software as a Service. We really seem to want everything as a Service.

[image courtesy of NetApp]

Why?

There are some compelling reasons to consume things as a service via operating expenditure rather than upfront capital expenditure. In the olden days, when I needed some storage for my company, I usually had a line item in the budget for some kind of storage array. What invariably happened was that the budget would only be made available once every 3 – 5 years. It doesn’t make any sense necessarily, but I’m sure there are accounting reasons behind it. So I would try to estimate how much storage the company would need for the next 5 years (and usually miss the estimate by a country mile). I’d then buy as much storage as I could and watch it fill up at an alarming rate.

The other problem with this approach was that we were paying for spindles that weren’t necessarily in use for the entirety of the asset’s lifecycle. There was also an issue that some storage vendors would offer special discounting to buy everything up front. When you went to add additional storage, however, you’d be slugged with pricing that was nowhere near as good as it was if you’d have bought everything up front. The appeal of solutions like storage as a service is that you can start with a smallish footprint and grow it as required, spending what you need, and going from there. It’s also nice for the vendors, as the sales engagement is a little more regular, and the opportunity to sell other services into the environment that may not have been identified previously becomes a reality.

No, But Really Why?

If you’ve watched the NetApp Keystone presentation, and maybe checked out the supporting documentation, you’re going to wonder why folks aren’t just moving everything to public cloud, and skipping the disk slinging middle man. As anyone who’s worked with or consulted for enterprise IT organisations will be able to tell you though, it’s rarely that simple. There may indeed be appetite to leverage public cloud storage services, for example, but there may also be a raft of reasons why this can’t be done, including latency requirements, legacy application support, data sovereignty concerns, and so forth.

[image courtesy of NetApp]

Sometimes the best thing that can happen is that there’s a compromise to be had between the desire for the business to move to a different operating model and the ability for the IT organisation to service that need.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The growth of XaaS over the last decade has been fascinating to see. There really is an expectation that you can do pretty much anything as a service, and folks are queuing up for the privilege. As I mentioned earlier, I think there are reasons why it’s popular on both sides, and I certainly don’t want to come across as some weird on-premises storage hugger who doesn’t believe the future of infrastructure is heavily entwined with as a service offerings. Heck, my day job is a a company that is entirely built on this model. What I do wonder at times is whether folks in organisations looking to transform their services are really ready to relinquish the control of the infrastructure part of the equation in exchange for a per-GB / per month option. Offerings like Keystone aren’t just fancy financial models to make getting kit on the floor easier, they’re changing the way that vendors and IT organisations interact at a fairly fundamental level. In much the same way that public cloud has changed the role of the IT bod in the organisation, so too does XaaS change that value proposition.

I think the folks at NetApp have done quite a good job with Keystone, particularly recognising that there is still a place for on-premises infrastructure, but acknowledging that the market wants both a “cloud-like” experience, and a new way of consuming these services. I’ll be interested to see how Keystone develops over the next 12 – 24 months now that it’s been released to the market at large. We all talk about as a service being the future, so I’m keen to see if folks are really buying it.

Storage Field Day 21 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 21.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Here are my notes on gifts, etc, that I received as a conference attendee at Storage Field Day 21. This is by no stretch an interesting post from a technical perspective, but it’s a way for me to track and publicly disclose what I get and how it looks when I write about various things. With all of … this stuff … happening, it’s not going to be as lengthy as normal, but I did receive a couple of boxes of stuff in the mail, so I wanted to disclose it.

The Tech Field Day team sent a keyboard cloth (a really useful thing to save the monitor on my laptop from being bashed against the keyboard), a commemorative TFD coin, and some TFD patches. The team also sent me a snack pack with a variety of treats in it, including Crunch ‘n Munch caramel popcorn with peanuts, fudge brownie M&M’s, Pop Rocks, Walker’s Monster Munch pickled onion flavour baked corn snacks, peanut butter Cookie Dough Bites, Airheads, Razzles, a giant gobstopper, Swedish Fish, a Butterfinger bar, some Laffy Taffy candy, Hershey’s Kisses, Chewy Lemonhead, Bottlecaps, Airheads, Candy Sours and Milk Duds. I don’t know what most of this stuff is but I guess I’ll find out. I can say the pickled onion flavour baked corn snacks were excellent.

Pliops came through with the goods and sent me a Lume Cube Broadcast Lighting Kit. Hammerspace sent a stainless steel water bottle and Hammerspace-branded Leeman notepad. Nasuni threw in a mug, notepad, and some pens, while NetApp gave me a travel mug and notepad. Tintri kindly included a Tintri trucker cap, Tintri-branded hard drive case and Tintri-branded OGIO backpack in the swag box.

My Secret Santa gift was the very excellent “Working for the clampdown: The Clash, the dawn of neoliberalism and the political promise of punk“, edited by Colin Coulter.

It wasn’t fancy food and limos this time around. But it was nonetheless an enjoyable event. Hopefully we can get back to in-person events some time this decade. Thanks again to Stephen and the team for having me back.

Random Short Take #46

Welcome to Random Short Take #46. Not a great many players have worn 46 in the NBA, but one player who has is one of my favourite Aussie players: Aron “Bangers” Baynes. So let’s get random.

  • Enrico recently attended Cloud Field Day 9, and had some thoughts on NetApp’s identity in the new cloud world. You can read his insights here.
  • This article from Chris Wahl on multi-cloud design patterns was fantastic, and well worth reading.
  • I really enjoyed this piece from Russ on technical debt, and some considerations when thinking about how we can “future-proof” our solutions.
  • The Raspberry Pi 400 was announced recently. My first computer was an Amstrad CPC 464, so I have a real soft spot for jamming computers inside keyboards.
  • I enjoyed this piece from Chris M. Evans on hybrid storage, and what it really means nowadays.
  • Working from home a bit this year? Me too. Tom wrote a great article on some of the security challenges associated with the new normal.
  • Everyone has a quadrant nowadays, and Zerto has found itself in another one recently. You can read more about that here.
  • Working with VMware Cloud Director and wanting to build a custom theme? Check out this article.

NetApp And The StorageGRID Evolution

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

NetApp recently presented at Storage Field Day 19. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

StorageGRID

If you haven’t heard of it before, StorageGRID is NetApp’s object storage platform. It offers a lot of the features you’d expect from an object storage platform. The latest version of the offering, 11.3, was released a little while ago, and includes a number of enhancements, as well as some new hardware models.

Workloads Are Changing

Object storage has been around a bit longer than you might think, and its capabilities and use cases have changed over that time. Some of the newer object workloads don’t just need a scale out bucket to store old archive data. Instead, they want more performance and flexibility.

Higher performance

  • Ingest / Retrieve
  • Delete

Flexibility

  • Support mixed workloads and multiple tenants
  • Granular data protection policies
    • Optimise data placement and retention
    • Adapt to new requirements and regulations

Agility / Simplicity

  • Leverage resources across multiple clouds – Move data to and from public cloud
  • Open standards for data portability
  • Low touch operations

 

New Hardware

SG1000

  • Load Balancer
  • Can run Admin node
Description Compute Appliance – Gateway Node
Performance High performance load balancer and optional Admin node function
Key Features 1U

Dual-socket Intel platform

768GB memory

Two dual-port 100GbE Mellanox NICs (10/25/40/100GbE)

Dual 1GBase-T ports for management

Redundant power and cooling

Two internal NVMe SSDs

Multi-shelf SG6060

[image courtesy of NetApp]

The SG6060 is mighty dense, offering 2PB in a single node.

SGF6024

[image courtesy of NetApp]

The SGF6024 is an All-Flash Storage Node.

Description All-Flash 24 SSD Appliance
Performance High performance, low latency, small object workloads
Key Features ·       2U (3U with compute node)

·       40 2.4 GHz CPU cores (compute node)

·       192 GB memory (compute node)

·       4x10GbE/4x25GbENICs

·       24 SSD drives

Max capacity 367.2 TB RAW (15.3 TB SSDs)
SSD drive support NON-FDE: 800Gb, 3.8TB, 7.6TB, 15.3TB FIPS: 1.6TB; SED: 3.8TB

 

Architecture

Flexible Deployment Options

  • Appliance-based
  • VMware-based
  • Software only

Storage Nodes

Manages metadata

Manages storage

  • Disk
  • Cloud

Policy Engine

  • Applies policy at ingest
  • Continual data integrity checks
  • Applies new policy if applicable

Minimum 3 storage nodes required per site

Admin Nodes

Admin / Tenant portal

  • Create tenants
  • Define grid configuration
  • Create ILM policies

Audit

  • Granular audit log of tenant actions

Metrics

  • Collect and store metrics via Prometheus

Load balancer

  • Create HA groups for Storage Nodes and optionally Admin portal

Service Provider Model

Separation between GRID admin and Tenant admin

Grid administration

  • Manages infrastructure
  • Creates data management policies
  • Creates tenant accounts – No data access

Tenant administration

  • Storage User administration
  • Tenant data is isolated by default
  • Use standard S3 IAM and Bucket Policy
  • Leverage multi-cloud Platform Services (Cloud mirror, SNS, ElasticSearch)

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve been a fan of StorageGRID for some time, and not just because I work at a service provider that sells it as a consumable service. NetApp has a good grasp of what’s required to make an object storage platform do what it needs to do to satisfy most requirements, and it also understands what’s required to ensure that the platform delivers on its promise of reliability and durability. I’m a big fan of the flexible deployment models, and the focus on service providers and multi-tenancy is a big plus.

The new hardware introduced in this update helps remove the requirement for a hypervisor to run admin VMs to keep the whole shooting match going. This is particularly appealing if you really just want to run a storage as a service offering and don’t want to mess about with all that pesky compute. Or you might want to be wanting to use this as a backup repository for one of the many products that can use it.

NetApp has owned Bycast for around 10 years now, and continues to evolve the StorageGRID platform in terms of resiliency, performance, and capabilities. I’m really quite keen to see what the next 10 years have in store. You can read more about what’s new with StorageGRID 11.3 here.

NetApp Announces New AFF And FAS Models

NetApp recently announced some new storage platforms at INSIGHT 2019. I didn’t attend the conference, but I had the opportunity to be briefed on these announcements recently and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

All Flash FAS (AFF) A400

Overview

  • 4U enclosure
  • Replacement for AFF A300
  • Available in two possible configurations:
    • Ethernet: 4x 25Gb Ethernet (SFP28) ports
    • Fiber Channel: 4x 16Gb FC (SFP+) ports
  • Based on latest Intel Cascade Lake processors
  • 25GbE and 16Gb FC host support
  • 100GbE RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) connectivity to NVMe expansion storage shelves
  • Full 12Gb/sec SAS connectivity expansion storage shelves

It wouldn’t be a storage product announcement without a box shot.

[image courtesy of NetApp]

More Numbers

Each AFF A400 packs some grunt in terms of performance and capacity:

  • 40 CPU cores
  • 256GB RAM
  • Max drives: 480

Aggregates and Volumes

Maximum number of volumes 2500
Maximum aggregate size 800 TiB
Maximum volume size 100 TiB
Minimum root aggregate size 185 GiB
Minimum root volume size 150 GiB

Other Notes

NetApp is looking to position the A400 as a replacement for the A300 and A320. That said, they will continue to offer the A300. Note that it supports NVMe, but also SAS SSDs – and you can mix them in the same HA pair, same aggregate, and even the same RAID group (if you were so inclined). For those of you looking for MetroCluster support, FC MCC support is targeted for February, with MetroCluster over IP being targeted for the ONTAP 9.8 release.

 

FAS8300 And FAS8700

Overview

  • 4U enclosure
  • Two models available
    • FAS8300
    • FAS8700
  • Available in two possible configurations
    • Ethernet: 4x 25Gb Ethernet (SFP28) ports
    • Unified: 4x 16Gb FC (SFP+) ports

[image courtesy of NetApp]

  • Based on latest Intel Cascade Lake processors
  • Uses NVMe M.2 connection for onboard Flash Cache™
  • 25GbE and 16Gb FC host support
  • Full 12Gbps SAS connectivity expansion storage shelves

Aggregates and Volumes

Maximum number of volumes 2500
Maximum aggregate size 400 TiB
Maximum volume size 100 TiB
Minimum root aggregate size 185 GiB
Minimum root volume size 150 GiB

Other Notes

The 8300 can do everything the 8200 can do, and more! And it also supports more drives (720 vs 480). The 8700 supports a maximum of 1440 drives.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

Speeds and feeds announcement posts aren’t always the most interesting things to read. It demonstrates that NetApp is continuing to evolve both its AFF and FAS lines, and coupled with improvements in ONTAP 9.7, there’s a lot to like about these new iterations. It looks like there’s enough here to entice customers looking to scale up their array performance. Whilst it adds to the existing portfolio, NetApp is mindful of this, and working on streamlining the portfolio. Shipments are expected to start mid-December.

Midrange storage isn’t always the sexiest thing to read about. But the fact that “midrange” storage now offers up this kind of potential performance is pretty cool. Think back to 5 – 10 years ago, and your bang for buck wasn’t anywhere near like it is now. This is to be expected, given the improvements we’ve seen in processor performance over the last little while, but it’s also important to note that improvements in the software platform are also helping to drive performance improvements across the board.

There have also been some cool enhancements announced with StorageGRID, and NetApp has also announced an “All-SAN” AFF model, with none of the traditional NAS features available. The All-SAN idea had a few pundits scratching their heads, but it makes sense in a way. The market for block-only storage arrays is still in the many billions of dollars worldwide, and NetApp doesn’t yet have a big part of that pie. This is a good way to get into opportunities that it may have been excluded from previously. I don’t think there’s been any suggestion that file or hybrid isn’t the way for them to go, but it is interesting to see this being offered up as a direct competitor to some of the block-only players out there.

I’ve written a bit about NetApp’s cloud vision in the past, as that’s seen quite a bit of evolution in recent times. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a good hardware story to tell, and I think it’s reflected in these new product announcements. NetApp has been doing some cool stuff lately. I may have mentioned it before, but NetApp’s been named a leader in the Gartner 2019 Magic Quadrant for Primary Storage. You can read a comprehensive roundup of INSIGHT news over here at Blocks & Files.

Random Short Take #22

Oh look, another semi-regular listicle of random news items that might be of some interest.

  • I was at Pure Storage’s //Accelerate conference last week, and heard a lot of interesting news. This piece from Chris M. Evans on FlashArray//C was particularly insightful.
  • Storage Field Day 18 was a little while ago, but that doesn’t mean that the things that were presented there are no longer of interest. Stephen Foskett wrote a great piece on IBM’s approach to data protection with Spectrum Protect Plus that’s worth read.
  • Speaking of data protection, it’s not just for big computers. Preston wrote a great article on the iOS recovery process that you can read here. As someone who had to recently recover my phone, I agree entirely with the idea that re-downloading apps from the app store is not a recovery process.
  • NetApp were recently named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Primary Storage. Say what you will about the MQ, a lot of folks are still reading this report and using it to help drive their decision-making activities. You can grab a copy of the report from NetApp here. Speaking of NetApp, I’m happy to announce that I’m now a member of the NetApp A-Team. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more with NetApp in terms of both my day job and the blog.
  • Tom has been on a roll lately, and this article on IT hero culture, and this one on celebrity keynote speakers, both made for great reading.
  • VMworld US was a little while ago, but Anthony‘s wrap-up post had some great content, particularly if you’re working a lot with Veeam.
  • WekaIO have just announced some work their doing Aiden Lab at the Baylor College of Medicine that looks pretty cool.
  • Speaking of analyst firms, this article from Justin over at Forbes brought up some good points about these reports and how some of them are delivered.

NetApp Wants You To See The Whole Picture

Disclaimer: I recently attended Tech Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

NetApp recently presented at Tech Field Day 19. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Management or Monitoring?

James Holden (Director, Cloud Analytics) delivered what I think was a great presentation on NetApp Cloud Insights. Early on he made the comment that “[w]e’re as read-only as we possibly can be. Being actionable puts you in a conversation where you’re doing something with the infrastructure that may not be appropriate.” It’s a comment that resonated with me, particularly as I’ve been on both sides of the infrastructure management and monitoring fence (yes, I know, it sounds like a weird fence – just go with it). I remember vividly providing feedback to vendors that I wanted their fancy single pane of glass monitoring solution to give me more management capabilities as well. And while they were at it, it would be great if they could develop software that would automagically fix issues in my environment as they arose.

But do you want your cloud monitoring tools to really have that much control over your environment? Sure, there’s a lot of benefit to be had deploying solutions that can reduce the stick time required to keep things running smoothly, but I also like the idea that the software won’t just dive in a fix what it perceives as errors in an environment based on a bunch of pre-canned constraints that have been developed by people that may or may not always have a good grip on what’s really happening in these types of environments.

Keep Your Cloud Happy

So what can you do with Cloud Insights? As it turns out, all kinds of stuff, including cost optimisation. It doesn’t always sound that cool, but customers are frequently concerned with the cost of their cloud investment. What they get with Cloud Insights is:

Understanding

  • What’s my last few months cost?
  • What’s my current month running cost
  • Cost broken down by AWS service, account, region?
  • Does it meet the budget?

Analysis

  • Real time cost analysis to alert on sudden rise in cost
  • Project cost over period of time

Optimisation

  • Save costs by using “reserved instances”
  • Right sizing compute resources
  • Remove waste: idle EC2 instances, unattached EBS volumes, unused reserved instances
  • Spot instance use

There are a heap of other features, including:

  • Alerting and impact analysis; and
  • Forensic analysis.

It’s all wrapped up in an alarmingly simple SaaS solution meaning quick deployment and faster time to value.

The Full Picture

One of my favourite bits of the solution though is that NetApp are striving to give you access to the full picture:

  • There are application services running in the environment; and
  • There are operating systems and hardware underneath.

“The world is not just VMs on compute with backend storage”, and NetApp have worked hard to ensure that the likes of micro services are also supported.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

One of the recurring themes of Tech Field Day 19 was that of management and monitoring. When you really dig into the subject, every vendor has a different take on what can be achieved through software. And it’s clear that every customer also has an opinion on what they want to achieve with their monitoring and management solutions. Some folks are quite keen for their monitoring solutions to take action as events arise to resolve infrastructure issues. Some people just want to be alerted about the problem and have a human intervene. And some enterprises just want an easy way to report to their C-level what they’re spending their money on. With all of these competing requirements, it’s easy to see how I’ve ended up working in enterprises running 10 different solutions to monitor infrastructure. They also had little idea what the money was being spent on, and had a large team of operations staff dealing with issues that weren’t always reported by the tools, or they got buried in someone’s inbox.

IT operations has been a hard nut to crack for a long time, and it’s not always the fault of the software vendors that it isn’t improving. It’s not just about generating tonnes of messages that no-one will read. It’s about doing something with the data that people can derive value from. That said, I think NetApp’s solution is a solid attempt at providing a useful platform to deliver on some pretty important requirements for the modern enterprise. I really like the holistic view they’ve taken when it comes to monitoring all aspects of the infrastructure, and the insights they can deliver should prove invaluable to organisations struggling with the myriad of moving parts that make up their (private and public) cloud footprint. If you’d like to know more, you can access the data sheet here, and the documentation is hosted here.

NetApp And The Space In Between

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 18.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

NetApp recently presented at Storage Field Day 18. You can see their videos from Storage Field Day 18 here, and download a PDF copy of my rough notes from here.

 

Bye, Dave

We were lucky enough to have Dave Hitz (now “Founder Emeritus” at NetApp) spend time with us on his last day in the office. I’ve only met him a few times but I’ve always enjoyed listening to his perspectives on what’s happening in the industry.

Cloud First?

In a previous life I worked in a government department architecting storage and virtualisation solutions for a variety of infrastructure scenarios. The idea, generally speaking, was that those solutions would solve particular business problems, or at least help to improve the processes to resolve those problems. At some point, probably late 2008 or early 2009, we started to talk about developing a “Cloud First” architecture policy, with the idea being that we would resolve to adopt cloud technologies where we could, and reduce our reliance on on-premises solutions as time passed. The beauty of working in enterprise environments is that things can take an awfully long time to happen, so that policy didn’t really come into effect until some years later.

So what does cloud first really mean? It’s possibly not as straightforward as having a “virtualisation first” policy. With the virtualisation first approach, there was a simple qualification process we undertook to determine whether a particular workload was suited to run on our virtualisation platform. This involved all the standard stuff, like funding requirements, security constraints, anticipated performance needs, and licensing concerns. We then pushed the workload one of two ways. With cloud though, there are a few more ways you can skin the cat, and it’s becoming more obvious to me that cloud means different things to different people. Some people want to push workloads to the cloud because they have a requirement to reduce their capital expenditure. Some people have to move to cloud because the CIO has determined that there needs to be a reduction in the workforce managing infrastructure activities. Some people go to cloud because they saw a cool demo at a technology conference. Some people go to cloud because their peers in another government department told them it would be easy to do. The common thread is that “people’s paths to the cloud can be so different”.

Can your workload even run in the cloud? Hitz gave us a great example of some stuff that just can’t (a printing press). The printing press needs to pump out jobs at a certain time of the day every day. It’s not going to necessarily benefit from elastic scalability for its compute workload. The workloads driving the presses would likely run a static workload.

Should it run in the cloud?

It’s a good question to ask. Most of the time, I’d say the answer is yes. This isn’t just because I work for a telco selling cloud products. There are a tonne of benefits to be had in running various, generic workloads in the cloud. Hitz suggests though, that the should it question is a corporate strategy question, and I think he’s spot on. When you embed “cloud first” in your infrastructure architecture, you’re potentially impacting a bunch of stuff outside of infrastructure architecture, including financial models, workforce management, and corporate security postures. It diens’t have to be a big deal, but it’s something that people sometimes don’t think about. And just because you start with that as your mantra, doesn’t mean you need to end up in cloud.

Does It Feel Cloudy?

Cloudy? It’s my opinion that NetApp’s cloud story is underrated. But, as Hitz noted, they’ve had the occasional misstep. When they first introduced Cloud ONTAP, Anthony Lye said it “didn’t smell like cloud”. Instead, Hitz told us he said it “feels like a product for storage administrators”. Cloudy people don’t want that, and they don’t want to talk to storage administrators. Some cloudy people were formerly storage folks, and some have never had the misfortune of managing over-provisioned midrange arrays at scale. Cloud comes in all different flavours, but it’s clear that just shoving a traditional on-premises product on a public cloud provider’s infrastructure isn’t really as cloudy as we’d like to think.

 

Bridging The Gap

NetApp are focused now on “finding the space between the old and the new, and understanding that you’ll have both for a long time”. And that’s what NetApp’s focusing on moving forward. They’re not just working on cloud-only solutions, and they have no plans to ditch their on-premises. Indeed, as Hitz noted in his presentation, “having good cloudy solutions will help them gain share in on-premises footprint”. It’s a good strategy, as the on-premises market will be around for some time to come (do you like how vague that is?). It’s been my belief for some time that companies, like NetApp, that can participate in both the on-premises and cloud market effectively will be successful.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

So why did I clumsily paraphrase a How To Destroy Angels song title and ramble on about the good old days of my career in this article instead of waxing lyrical about Charlotte Brooks’s presentation on NetApp Data Availability Services? I’m not exactly sure. I do recommend checking out Charlotte’s demo and presentation, because she’s really quite good at getting the message across, and NDAS looks pretty interesting.

Perhaps I spent the time focusing on the “cloud first” conversation because it was Dave Hitz, and it’s likely the last time I’ll see him presenting in this kind of forum. But whether it was Dave or not, conversations like this one are important, in my opinion. It often feels like we’re putting the technology ahead of the why. I’m a big fan of cloud first, but I’m an even bigger fan of people understanding the impact that their technology decisions can have on the business they’re working for. It’s nice to see a vendor who can comfortably operate on both sides of the equation having this kind of conversation, and I think it’s one that more businesses need to be having with their vendors and their internal staff.

Random Short Take #8

Here are a few links to some news items and other content that might be useful. Maybe.

NetApp Announces NetApp ONTAP AI

As a member of NetApp United, I had the opportunity to sit in on a briefing from Mike McNamara about NetApp‘s recently announced AI offering, the snappily named “NetApp ONTAP AI”. I thought I’d provide a brief overview here and share some thoughts.

 

The Announcement

So what is NetApp ONTAP AI? It’s a “proven” architecture delivered via NetApp’s channel partners. It’s comprised of compute, storage and networking. Storage is delivered over NFS. The idea is that you can start small and scale out as required.

Hardware

Software

  • NVIDIA GPU Cloud Deep Learning Stack
  • NetApp ONTAP 9
  • Trident, dynamic storage provisioner

Support

  • Single point of contact support
  • Proven support model

 

[image courtesy of NetApp]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve written about NetApp’s Edge to Core to Cloud story before, and this offering certainly builds on the work they’ve done with big data and machine learning solutions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions are like big data from five years ago, or public cloud. You can’t go to any industry event, or take a briefing from an infrastructure vendor, without hearing all about how they’re delivering solutions focused on AI. What you do with the gear once you’ve bought one of these spectacularly ugly boxes is up to you, obviously, and I don’t want to get in to whether some of these solutions are really “AI” or not (hint: they’re usually not). While the vendors are gushing breathlessly about how AI will conquer the world, if you tone down the hyperbole a bit, there’re still some fascinating problems being solved with these kinds of solutions.

I don’t think that every business, right now, will benefit from an AI strategy. As much as the vendors would like to have you buy one of everything, these kinds of solutions are very good at doing particular tasks, most of which are probably not in your core remit. That’s not to say that you won’t benefit in the very near future from some of the research and development being done in this area. And it’s for this reason that I think architectures like this one, and those from NetApp’s competitors, are contributing something significant to the ongoing advancement of these fields.

I also like that this is delivered via channel partners. It indicates, at least at first glance, that AI-focused solutions aren’t simply something you can slap a SKU on and sells 100s of. Partners generally have a better breadth of experience across the various hardware, software and services elements and their respective constraints, and will often be in a better position to spend time understanding the problem at hand rather than treating everything as the same problem with one solution. There’s also less chance that the partner’s sales people will have performance accelerators tied to selling one particular line of products. This can be useful when trying to solve problems that are spread across multiple disciplines and business units.

The folks at NVIDIA have made a lot of noise in the AI / ML marketplace lately, and with good reason. They know how to put together blazingly fast systems. I’ll be interested to see how this architecture goes in the marketplace, and whether customers are primarily from the NetApp side of the fence, from the NVIDIA side, or perhaps both. You can grab a copy of the solution brief here, and there’s an AI white paper you can download from here. The real meat and potatoes though, is the reference architecture document itself, which you can find here.