The NEW NetApp

 

If you’re an Enterprise IT or datacenter engineer, you’ve had it pretty good for the last decade.  Things with virtualization have been great, and many new doors have been opened for advanced learning in things like containers and application development.  It’s not unlikely that you’re able to focus on other more discrete tasks and upgrades as automation has taken hold, or maybe you’ve got a lot of free time to play Call of Duty over the corporate LAN!

But one day your boss walks in and says…

HUH?!

Most IT professionals associate NetApp with enterprise storage arrays, and ya know I don’t fault you for that. NetApp has led the industry in SAN, NAS, and object storage platforms for the biggest workloads for decades now.  Their hardware and software has enabled and simplified the running and protection of some of the most demanding enterprise applications and workloads. Before I ever joined the company in 2011, I was first a loyal and admittedly very demanding customer. Condolences to my account team (Hi Eric and David) and shout out to Wali from CDW for putting up with me.

Unfortunately, even 10 years later in 2021, people still think that’s all we do.  It’s not uncommon for me to have conversations with partners and customers on a daily basis educating them on this evolution of the company.  Don’t get me wrong, we can still provide you with the most robust storage platform on the market and tailor it to your needs … see my A250 video … but today I thought I would take a few minutes to bring to light some of the things NetApp has been working on over the last few years, specifically focusing on our Cloud portfolio of new products and services, and how we enable and empower you to run your workloads in the cloud with the same capabilities you’ve come to expect from us on-prem.

As early as 2012, we’ve been able to run our operating system, ONTAP, as a VM in the cloud, so we’re no strangers to the nuance of running highly-available and resilient workloads up there.  Back in 2016, we officially formed the Cloud business unit inside of NetApp, and set off on a grand adventure of R&D and acquisitions to expand and complement the NetApp portfolio.

FOUNDATIONS

We started off by laying the foundation of storage.  You can’t put walls and a roof on a house without a solid foundation, or it will crumble to the ground. We also realized that the expectations of the enterprise customer were not being fully met by native services from any of the cloud providers.  Anyone that has run datacenter ops knows that storage performance and availability is easily the #1 dependency on being able to successfully run applications at scale.  While we were establishing this foundation in its early stages, an unexpected thing happened; The cloud providers themselves approached us with a cry for help.

Google Cloud was great at NFS but really needed help running SMB and integrations with Active Directory.
Microsoft Azure was great at CIFS and SMB, but really needed help with NFS.

This led to the one big thing that we didn’t expect:  RELATIONSHIPS.

Establishing back-channel relationships with the three major cloud providers has been, in my opinion, THE thing that has enabled us to bring to market the portfolio of products and services that we have.  So let’s talk about those at a high-level.  Make sure you’re subscribed to the channel, as I’ll be putting up deeper-dive videos of each of these products with full demos throughout the year, so let’s keep these informational and conversational.

First-up:  Azure NetApp Files.

The relationship with Microsoft Azure has been one of the most rewarding, as they took our original concept and 1-up’ed it several times over by making it their own.  Unlike many other managed services that sit in partner datacenters like Equinix and require complex cross-connects and plumbing, Azure NetApp Files is a purely native PaaS offering from Microsoft where the NetApp all-flash arrays sit in the same racks adjacent to compute and are wired DIRECTLY to the same fabric interconnects inside the Azure Regional Datacenters.

What does this mean for you, the customer?  It’s HUGE!  This means that it’s natively available within the Azure portal, just like any other Azure service, is deeply integrated to everything else within Azure such as monitoring and cost analysis, but the big one is that your apps and workloads within your VNET’s have DIRECT UNLIMITED ACCESS to all the horsepower of an All-Flash FAS array from NetApp IN THE CLOUD with full NFS and SMB support.  I’m gonna pause for a second and let that sink in, and say it in a different way for those in the back that might not have heard me…

Hundreds of thousands of IOPS at sub-millisecond latency at your disposal without having to touch any of the storage knobs.

You simply create a volume, give it a name, how big you want it to be, and what service-level you want it delivered at.  What if I told you this was fully-integrated into AzureAD, SAP HANA certified, and has also passed all of the security screening by FedRAMP and other rigorous regulatory agencies?  Oh, and it’s also a consumption model, so you only pay for what you use, and it just shows up as a line item on your monthly Azure bill.   Want it even sweeter?  Ok then.  It will also draw down negotiated Azure quota commonly found in Enterprise Agreements just like any other Azure service.  There is so much more to talk about when it comes to ANF that requires a deeper-dive, and I can’t wait to go over all of that in a future video.

Nick from the Futurehere’s the ANF video!

For Google Cloud, the service is similar.  Natively-integrated into “Partner Solutions” via the marketplace.  Simply search for NetApp Cloud Volumes, enable the service, attach your billing account and start creating volumes. Same access to All-flash arrays, same NFS and SMB support, same active directory integration, same natively integrated VPC experience.  The big value-add for Google Cloud is that your volumes can be mounted across VPC’s in different regions!  Last year I did a full demo series on Cloud Volumes in Google Cloud over on the NetApp YouTube channel, so if you’re interested in diving deeper, check out this playlist.

AWS likes to distribute everything through the marketplace, and restricts native integrations, but the same performance and access is available through NetApp Cloud Volumes Service via the AWS Marketplace, but requires some one-time-setup of BGP cross-connects to your VPC’s and IAM roles.  Once you’re past that initial setup, the experience is similar to that of Azure and Google Cloud above.

Now, if you’re an existing NetApp customer, you probably love all the Flex & Snap features native to ONTAP.  If you need more than just a volume in the sky, and you’re looking for that level of ONTAP-specific functionality to extend to the cloud, we can provide that as well with Cloud Volumes ONTAP and that can be simply orchestrated through Cloud Manager at cloud.netapp.com. Try it out!  I’ll have a guided-tour of Cloud Manager coming soon.

To sum it up, we’ve got high-performance, resilient, and secure storage available to you in the big three cloud providers.  Above and beyond what the cloud providers are able to provide natively with their own storage services.  Whether you need all the Flex and Snap words of ONTAP, or just need raw horsepower for your applications without any of the storage mgmt overhead, we’ve got you covered.  What I tend to find among our install base is a healthy mix of both.  This allows you to lay a solid reliable foundation of storage underneath any application or workload in the cloud and is PARAMOUNT to your ability to do so confidently.

DAY 2 OPS

Congratulations!  You’ve got a volume in the sky!  But… but now what?  Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you…

…you still have to do all the same data management stuff in the cloud that you’ve always done on-prem.  Sizing Matters.  You still need to move data efficiently, you still have to secure it, protect it, control access to it, tier it, control costs and utilization, and monitor it.

So getting back to our adventure, now that we had the foundations of storage laid in the cloud, we set off adding some of our auxiliary products that we’re known for to the cloud portfolio to integrate directly and allow you to monitor, tier, and secure your data in any of the public cloud providers.

Head over to cloud.netapp.com and check out Cloud Sync, Cloud Tiering, Global File Cache, and Cloud Backup Service.  In particular, I’d especially like you to take a deeper look at Cloud Compliance and Cloud Insights, as monitoring, ransomware protection, and regulatory compliance are some of the hottest topics right now in Enterprise IT.  And we make that easy to do on-prem AND in any of the cloud providers with our SaaS offerings.

COMPUTE & APPDEV

Finally, for the big close, we need to talk about the applications and workloads themselves.  We’ve spent a lot of time talking about storage and data mgmt, but more importantly is the change that I’ve seen happening across enterprise IT that I like to refer to as “Application-Driven” infrastructure. What that really means is instead of developers and app owners waiting in a queue for the datacenter admins to give them access to resources to power their apps, they now hold the power to drive the provisioning of infrastructure from the top down with code.

Technologies like ANSIBLE, Terraform, Helm charts, and others have taken orchestration and desired-state methodologies we’ve used in the past and baked them directly into the application spec.  On top of that, running compute operations in the cloud has proven to be a costly endeavor.  Thanks to some Gartner research, we know that upwards of 80% of organizations will overshoot their Infrastructure budget due to a lack of automated cloud cost optimization or misguided upfront cloud spend commitments.

The two big products to talk about here are NetApp Astra and the vast Spot portfolio.  One was built from scratch and one is the product of an acquisition last year. Both of them are comprehensive enough to warrant their own videos (they’re literally next in the queue so stay tuned) but let’s go over each of them and what they bring to the table.

NetApp Astra brings traditional application lifecycle mgmt methodologies to modern applications running on Kubernetes.  Backup, cloning, and migration orchestration for containerized workloads is not a new concept, but the ability to do so seamlessly leveraging NetApp Snapshot technologies is what is key to understand here.  Customers have enjoyed protecting, cloning, and migrating traditional multi-tier applications for decades using the power of ONTAP, and now that we have ONTAP as managed PaaS offerings in the cloud, we can continue to extend that functionality to applications running in kubernetes services using our Trident plugin for managing persistent storage in k8s.

As of the filming of this video, Astra has support for workloads running in Google Cloud’s GKE as well as AKS in Microsoft Azure leveraging the power of Cloud Volumes and Azure NetApp Files for stateful applications with persistent storage.

Astra creates Protection Policies to apply snapshots and backups to entire app stacks, and then you can leverage those backups to facilitate devtest clones, full restores, and even complete migrations from one kubernetes cluster running in one cloud to another kubernetes cluster running in a different cloud.  It sounds and feels like sorcery that shouldn’t be doable, but I promise you it is very real and very mindblowing to see in action.  It is an absolute game-changer for those running stateful apps in Kubernetes, and later this year will bring support for AWS EKS as well as k8s clusters running on-prem.

Spot was attractive for many reasons, but to me it is all really born in its origin story that resonates with early cloud adopters in today’s enterprise.  Spot creator and founder Amiram tells an amazing tale about being at university and having a professor cut off his cloud spend because it was getting out of control.  It was then that he discovered the cost-saving power of reserved and spot instances in the cloud providers.  But harnessing the power of them manually proved extremely difficult, so he built a platform to automate and orchestrate the reservation, purchase, migration, and evacuation of apps and workloads running on reserved instances and leveraged short-term “spot” instances to compensate for burst in an on-demand fashion.  When the demand goes down, the instances are released.  All predictable, all automated, and all seamless to the end user.

Spot works either as a central console to handle all provisioning of cloud compute resources, or it can act as an API shim that goes in-between your internal systems and the cloud providers.  Whether your apps are stateful or stateless, or simply functions that need execution, they need compute to process.  Spot’s portfolio has an answer for just about every type of app out there, and we’re bringing to market the first “storageless” offering with Spot leveraging our Cloud Volumes platform we talked about earlier, but letting Spot manage the capacities and performance level demanded by your apps.

The beauty of Spot is in the simplicity it provides.  It gives you the ability to “not have to care” about sizing of cloud resources.  Simply deploy your app and let the demand drive the provisioning for you.  Also, did I mention there’s no charge for it until you realize savings?  I’m not kidding! You can run the Cloud Analyzer dashboard completely free of charge.  Create your account, add your cloud subscription accounts and let it run and show you where you could save.  Once you’re ready to let it take the wheel, NetApp only takes a percentage of what you save.  So, if you don’t save money, you’ll see no invoice from us.  But I promise you, you will see a difference.  Most customers see upwards of 80% in savings moving from on-demand instances to Spot leveraging reserved and spot instances.

Just like Astra, it feels like sorcery, but it is very real and extremely powerful, and can be the make-or-break in your cloud journey.  If you haven’t started your cloud journey yet, you don’t have any “big monthly bill” PTSD experience to contend with, and you should start with Spot immediately.  For those struggling with cost control in the cloud, Spot is the cure you’ve been searching for.  Give it a shot.  You will not be disappointed.  If it’s any final consolation, NetApp IT ourselves, in our own internal hybrid cloud labs, [insert Spot-sample-savings.png] realized 83% savings simply by allowing Spot to control our compute provisioning.

WRAPUP

This really doesn’t do justice to the effort that NetApp has brought to the cloud in the last 3-5 years.  The portfolio is so vast now, and I hope this gave you an idea of just how vast.  You can find demos, risk-free trials, and complete feature breakdowns of every product and service over at cloud.netapp.com and if you have any questions, feel free to drop them down in the comments below. Make sure you’re subscribed to the YouTube channel for further updates and deeper dives coming soon.

 

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