Part One of Two


In my role here at NetApp, our team, the Global pathways team, is dedicated to enabling Digital Transformation through our eco-system of alliances and partners and developing industry-specific solutions. Our approach is from business value and business workflow perspectives first, rather than a core technology approach. In other words, we are completely focussed on solving our customers’ business problems, and thenwe look at what technology we need to make it happen.


Although the cloud journey is well underway, this is still a space that is continuing to mature, which means that hyperscale cloud solutions such as Azure have not always been able to play a complete role. This is especially true for enterprise and mission-critical workloads. These workloads have often remained on-premises because a lot of the infrastructure elements they need to perform well have yet to be present in the cloud.


But there has been a great deal of interest in following the cloud evolution as providers mature in their capabilities – in particular because of the agility and flexibility they can provide. Ultimately, this is great for business. Today for example, if I have a customer looking at the cost of building out a brand new data center versus spinning up services in the cloud, they’ll run that fiscal analysis and, in many cases, often decide to go to the cloud. That is, if the workloads under consideration are supported in the cloud.

DevOps and Azure Cloud

When a client has a large dev environment and they need to do quite a bit of testing across a number of scenarios to see which ones are going to pan out for a larger scale deployment, leveraging public cloud resources like Azure is often very cost effective. If they’re going to run twenty development projects and only two of them become real, you would not want to spin up the infrastructure to run all twenty just to support the two that come out at the end as winners. Spinning up on-premises infrastructure just to do development and testing is cumbersome and expensive.

Azure NetApp Files – Consuming Disruptive Technology in a Non-Disruptive Way

For customers who might be looking at spending hundreds of hours or more with a specialist to get their cloud environment ready for a specific DevOps workflow, we’ve just eliminated that with Azure NetApp Files. Where Azure NetApp Files makes Azure much more relevant is that it literally provides a simple, easy-to-provision and deploy, enterprise, tier-one, bare metal file share service in just a few minutes. And we guarantee performance. It’s like getting a multi-million-dollar storage platform for your cloud-based workloads. That is what is so exciting about Azure NetApp Files.


It also opens the door for other enterprise workloads to be considered. Again, we always look at it from a business perspective first, but Azure NetApp Files provides more viable options for the enterprise, and that is great for customers.


For a true hybrid cloud solution, you need a few things. You need a consistent data format, a consistent set of processes and procedures, a consistent set of APIs, and a consistent set of transports for data. One of the things that ONTAP (NetApp’s leading data management operating system and a critical element of Azure NetApp Files) does is provide that foundation for meeting those criteria.


If you’re using Azure NetApp Files behind the scenes, you are working with consistent technology that can deliver the quality of service and the performance you’re looking for. So those NFS and CIFS/SMB shares are going to function in a way that is consistent with how you are used to doing them on-premises. There is not a lot of re-training there.


We always look at how much change a customer is going to have to undergo to adapt their business and processes to deal with consuming something in a different way. If a customer can consume disruptive technology in a non-disruptive fashion, what does that mean for their business?

The Role of Hybrid Cloud

All of these advancements in technology simply give our customers more choice, but I don’t believe we will see any single environment be the only environment. I believe we will live in a hybrid world for at least another decade or two.


I remember when everyone said that the mainframe was going away. While it stopped growing, it has never really gone away. We are still interfacing with those core systems. Over time, we will see a greater percentage of information moving toward the public cloud, but what is really needed by our customers is for us to help them in their hybrid cloud journey. To say everything will be going all one way or another is doing a disservice to our customers. Our customers have to live in the current state, where almost everything is on-premises, and then consider which applications and what data is most suited for the current and future state of the public cloud.


While we will see more and more application migration to the cloud, there will always be external and internal factors such as regulatory, compliance, and privacy, which will also impact where applications and data live. I honestly see that having the right data management solution is key to enabling a better hybrid cloud approach.

The Data is More Important than the Technology

My message to customers is that it is always critical to look at the vendors you’re working with and determine which one can truly be a partner rather than a vendor. Because to undergo digital transformation and leverage hybrid cloud, you need to look at those companies that are headed in that direction, and have not only the right technologies but the right mindset for data management going forward.


The data is far more important than the technology.


The technology is going to adapt and change, so you need to look for those partners that are truly making those investments, and that are building the right eco-system of partnerships to ensure you’re able to do that.


Everybody’s marketing literature says they are doing something with the cloud, but who is actually behind the scenes building the right partnerships, creating the right connective tissue, ensuring that the big bets you are making in these areas are actually going to deliver the results you need?

NetApp and Microsoft

When I look at NetApp and our partnership with Microsoft, I can honestly say we’re moving forward toward the future together rather than blocking and tackling. Our mindset is identical. We both approach our joint solutions from a perspective of “How can we make this better for our customers and for our partners?”


At NetApp, the various acquisitions we’ve been making are all along those lines. Everything is customer-centric and customer-focussed as opposed to technology-focussed. Even though there’s great tech under the covers, we are building technology solutions that drive business forward.


Azure NetApp Files is a perfect example of what our two companies can build together to deliver solutions that help our customers today, while being able to take them where they want to go in the future.


If you want to know more, register today for the Azure NetApp Files preview – we’ll let you know as soon as GA is available.

Steve Collins

Steve is a self-confessed technology geek who loves the impact that technology has on driving business forward. When he is not saving the world with data management strategies, he loves to have fun racing his 700-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee or spending time enjoying life with his kids and his family.