There’s no denying that NetApp had a slew of shiny new toys to unveil at this year’s NetApp Insight conference in Las Vegas. There were the new AFF platforms, all the new functionality and features included in ONTAP 9, and the list goes on. But for me, the coolest thing I saw at Insight was not necessarily demonstrated on stage (although there was a cool presentation on it, which I’ll get into later). For the first time ever at NetApp Insight, I felt what can only be described as a foundational cultural shift. It’s a way of thinking that is sweeping the industry and is changing the way companies like mine do business on a daily basis.
Did you guess? It’s DevOps. The fact that NetApp, a $6B industry leader, is making a big deal about it should make you sit up and take notice.
DevOps is a Reality at NetApp
DevOps (a combination of developer and operations), is an IT philosophy that is geared toward enabling engineers like me to be more productive and efficient. It’s a collaborative way of thinking (think “continuous integration workflow”) that puts developers and IT professionals together to increase automation and accelerate innovation across the board. And if you’re already scared off by the word “automation” and thinking, “Does this ‘DevOps’ thing automate me out of a job?” don’t worry, I’ll unpack that a little more later.
At Insight 2016 in Las Vegas, NetApp put a big focus on DevOps. The “Developer Cafe” was the hub of all the action, giving attendees the opportunity to get a glimpse into the cool things that NetApp is doing with DevOps. In addition to the NetApp DevOps leaders, the Developer Cafe was ground zero for several other key players including Docker, Ansible, Puppet, and Chef. The new “NetApp.io” hub page is another concrete step towards the open, collaborative framework that DevOps enables-they even gave it its own main stage demo! And of course, there were a smattering of awesome hands-on labs with SolidFire and the like that were really speaking my language as far as DevOps goes. It was a clear indication for me that NetApp is making that cultural shift towards DevOps in a clear, definitive way, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
When I first got into NetApp technology about five years ago, I remember somebody telling me that NetApp wasn’t even a hardware company. They told me that NetApp was a software company that “just happened to make hardware.” That idea stuck with me ever since, and really came to a head at this year’s conference. To see NetApp embrace this way of thinking and make a fundamental, cultural shift towards a developer-centric viewpoint was really impactful for me.
Part of this shift, I think, came from the acquisition of SolidFire about a year ago. As a more developer-focused company, I think SolidFire rubbed off on its new parent company, and the effects are apparent. We’re headed toward a future where I don’t have to think about my infrastructure and my storage-it “just works” when and where I need it to-and it’s clear that NetApp is leading the charge.
What This Means to You
With all this change happening in the industry, one thing has become apparent: within the next five to ten years, the role of the “administrator” as we know it will be gone. That goes for storage, servers, network, you name it. As hardware becomes a commodity, what differentiates the infrastructure is software.
How does this relate back to DevOps? Well, remember all those applications that I mentioned earlier? It’s applications like Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and SaltStack that give you a single “pane of glass” to manage your entire infrastructure. This also means that automation (there’s that scary word again) is on the rise, big time, so most of the tasks you used to do as a storage/server/network administrator are going to get automated by these applications.
Now I’ll address that scary question from earlier. Does this mean that you’re going to get automated out of a job? The answer is, “Not necessarily.” Someone still has to manage that automation, with all the design, the scripts, etc. The developers don’t have time to do it, so that’s where you come in. To make sure that your job doesn’t become obsolete, you need to get on board, fast. You, as the administrator, are going to move to an engineering-type position where you’ll be required to engineer these solutions and manage the underlying foundations.
DevOps is a push in that direction. Instead of separately managing your switches, servers, storage, etc., you can deploy everything within code, consistently and repetitively. And you can validate this entire code structure before it gets deployed. The fact that NetApp is making positive strides in the direction of DevOps should be a clear indication to you that your job is changing, and that that’s a good thing. You can free yourself from these mundane tasks and spend more time on adding value to the business.
Maybe this isn’t impacting you right now, but trust me, it will, and soon. NetApp is giving its customers a way to get started with DevOps, and they’re putting you in a good position moving forward as you develop a lifecycle and an integrated management plan for your infrastructure. It’s the Data Fabric vision, it’s DevOps, and it’s real, today.