George Kurian | NetApp InsightTonight represented a milestone of sorts in the 2016 US presidential election – the first face-to-face debate between the two major party nominees.  Similarly, there is a strong debate emerging from within the digital information community.  The topic of that debate is how to best manage and extract value from a king-sized (or queen-sized?) reserve of stored data during the era of the third platform of IT.


As an alternative to the recent political reporting of private email servers and infuriating campaign tweets, NetApp is this week hosting its annual technical conference in Las Vegas to help provide clarity on the topic of data management and engage customers and partners to participate in this debate. NetApp Insight 2016 is a forum where thousands of like-minded individuals will share their opinions as NetApp rolls out its latest data management tools for today’s enterprise users of social, mobile, cloud and analytics information.


Today’s Insight sessions focused on technical updates.  In one session, Joe CaraDonna, NetApp’s Senior Technical Director for Data Fabric, presented his “state-of-the-data-fabric” update to the NetApp Tech Senate.  For those that aren’t familiar, the Tech Senate can be thought of as NetApp’s voice of the customer, and is comprised of a few hundred of NetApp’s top System Engineers from around the world.  The main purpose of this group is to give feedback to our product developers when things go really well, or not so well.  During Joe’s talk, it was clear that the tech “senators” in the packed room were excited about the reception they were getting from customers about the Data Fabric, but they also voiced a strong need for more specific information about guidelines and best practices as our Data Fabric vision matures, which was acknowledged as an important action item.  For those interested, Joe’s newly updated Data Fabric architecture paper can be downloaded here.


Another example was Andy Robert’s SolidFire All-flash array deep dive technical presentation.  Andy is the principal architect for NetApp SolidFire and is certainly qualified as an expert orator on this topic. Since NetApp’s acquisition of SolidFire earlier this year, I’ll admit that my education of SolidFire technology has come from a variety of sources, both named and unnamed.  So, it was reassuring to hear Andy fact-check each aspect of SolidFire’s design, and to hear the comments from the audience.  SolidFire’s architecture was designed to simulate a cloud provisioning model.  By this, I mean that compute and storage resources are added on-the-fly, and as they are added, all existing resources are automatically rebalanced to take advantage of the newly-added resources, just like the cloud.  In addition, SolidFire controls of the maximum amount of I/O resources that each user can consume, thereby creating an equitable distribution of resources, just like the cloud.  So, whether you are currently a cloud service provider, or just want to operate your data center using a service provider model, SolidFire provides an interesting, advanced model for this purpose.  View these links for quick video demonstrations of the installation and setup of SolidFire All-flash arrays.


The day closed with a keynote addresses by NetApp CEO George Kurian, who described how data has become the new currency of the digital economy. George reminded us that data is accelerating in velocity, volume, and variety at a rate where traditional data management tools no longer apply.  Competitors that rely on forklift upgrades, he stated, will not be able to provide the industry-leading return on investment that NetApp offers.  George made a point to mention that his words were not mere rhetoric, but rather were facts that would be proven by customers again and again throughout the week during Insight, including from the 2016 NetApp Innovation Award winner, Mercy Technology Services, who he invited on stage for personal recognition.


All in all, Monday’s Insight sessions provided just what the name implies: Insight into the ways that the mountains of data accumulating in IT can become mountains of opportunity for businesses as data becomes the currency of the digital economy.  Or, as politicians are fond of saying: our best years are still to come! See below for the Tech ONTAP Day One recap podcast live from Insight!


Larry Freeman