Many high-tech companies consider their own IT organization as the first and best customer for their products. IT can quickly deploy, test, and provide feedback on new products in real production environments before the products are in general release. This feedback is particularly critical in identifying and addressing issues and features that don’t rise to the surface in a test environment.
NetApp has taken the first adopter concept to the next level in two programs: Customer-0 and Customer-1. Both IT programs deploy NetApp products into their IT environments and provide feedback on product performance issues to help improve the quality of the NetApp products being rolled out to customers. Because each organization has different workloads and perspectives, each can provide a steady stream of feedback on how a NetApp product is performing under everyday IT workloads.
In the conversation that follows, Rich O’Connor, director of Customer-0, and Stan Cox, director of Customer-1, share what the programs are, how they complement each other, and their enthusiasm for talking with IT peers, NetApp customers, and partners about their IT journey.
What is Customer-0?
Rich O’Connor (RO): Customer-0 is within the Engineering IT organization, which provides IT services for NetApp’s internal product development and test operations team. Customer-0 is really an early-access program. We run typical Engineering workloads. We give NetApp engineers the opportunity to see their code running in a full production environment. Implementation begins as soon as the code is stable. We provide feedback to Engineering to help harden the code and identify bugs. We complement the test environment with the production perspective. Our program originally started with ONTAP, but we now provide feedback on AltaVault, StorageGRID, and other products.
What is Customer-1?
Stan Cox (SC): Customer-1 lies within Enterprise IT, which runs all enterprise business applications, such as office tools, sales, ERP, logistics, etc. Customer-1 adopts and deploys NetApp’s products within our data centers after they become release candidates (RC). Our product adoption is later in the development process to avoid any major impact on our application performance.
How are your programs the same? Different?
RO: Our workloads are based on an engineering environment. For example, we deploy ONTAP builds after there is some level of stability. We use a continuous deployment model in placing the software in first in lower risk environment, such as backups, because the impact is limited. As the code stabilizes, we expand to more complex, higher-risk clusters. But from day one, we are deploying the products in a production environment. Another difference is in provisioning. We overprovision so we can take more risks and share those risks with the engineers we serve.
SC: We both share the challenge of managing hundreds of apps within a 24×7 IT global infrastructure. However, enterprise workloads are different. Customer-1 manages sales, customer service, and office productivity applications where we have 24×7 service commitments. We deploy NetApp products when they are more stable, usually at the RC build. Unlike Customer-0 we don’t put them straight into production. We put them into a small scale, staged environment we call the early adopter environment (EAE), to make sure there are no major issues. Only when we are satisfied do we place it into the production release schedule for full deployment.
RO: We don’t have clear-cut boundaries. Both Customer-0 and Customer-1 may be running the same version of a NetApp product at the same time, sometimes all the way up to general availability. It really depends on product performance and stability. We are both committed to providing feedback on products before they are shipped to customers.
SC: Customer-1 may load some early builds of ONTAP into our EAE. Product operations benefits from feedback from two distinct IT environments running very different workloads. Our goal across both programs is to help NetApp deliver a more robust product. We’d rather the product issues emerge under our watch than at a customer site.
RO: We have similar philosophies when it comes to product adoption. Both programs only deploy the products that solve an issue for us. Neither of us deploy all NetApp’s products. Because our workloads are different, the products we deploy might be different.
What is NetApp on NetApp?
SC: The NetApp on NetApp program brings the expertise of the Engineering IT and Enterprise IT organizations to customers and partners that want to learn how NetApp deploys and uses its own products and IT best practices. Our subject matter experts contribute their perspectives of how NetApp products are deployed and managed on different types of workloads.
RO: We share common goals: to contribute to the development of the latest and greatest NetApp products and share those experiences. We both run the code and report bugs to Engineering to be fixed. We both share our best practices and experiences with NetApp customers and partners. What’s valuable is sharing our experience using NetApp technology; it’s a bonus that it’s pre-general availability.
Why is sharing your product experiences so important?
SC: We face the same issues as any IT shop: automation, service management, hybrid cloud adoption, data management, etc. In many cases, we find we are ahead of customers in their IT journey. As the first product adopters, we have had more time to learn how to use and apply the NetApp products to increase our efficiency. OnCommand Insight (OCI) and ONTAP are excellent examples. We are leveraging their features to manage data in innovative ways that improve our service delivery. We share our experiences in deploying and maintaining NetApp products for a wide variety of IT challenges.
RO: We enjoy being NetApp solution advocates. That means both customer programs share our stories on how we use the products to solve IT challenges in areas like the cloud and DevOps. We aren’t just accumulating ONTAP run time hours. We want to share our experiences with our peers across industries to help them find solutions for their operations.
What is on the horizon?
RO: We hope to jointly share our knowledge with a broader NetApp audience. Customer support and the knowledge base are two areas we hope to use to make our knowledge more accessible to customers. We have also formed a Technical Advisory Board so customers can comment on and help share our product roadmap.
SC: We have opportunities to tighten our collaboration. They are further ahead on DevOps; we have more knowledge on OCI. We’d also like to be involved earlier in the product roadmap. We know what features we would like to see to help us improve our efficiency.
Interested in finding out more? Visit www.netappit.com. Talk to your NetApp sales representative about setting up a peer to peer briefing or EBC with the NetApp on NetApp program.
The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.