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NetApp Cloud Volumes gives new wrinkle to OnTap file storage

NetApp appends services to Data Fabric that aim to help enterprises flexibly manage their data between local storage and public clouds, including AWS, Azure and Google.

NetApp is giving enterprises new ways to extend OnTap file storage to the cloud.

At NetApp Insight last week, the vendor introduced NetApp Cloud Volumes OnTap, allowing NetApp and non-NetApp shops to run its flagship operating system on physical clusters in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure. Cloud Volumes is a rebranded version of software-only NetApp Cloud OnTap.

For developers, NetApp Cloud Volumes Service is a NetApp-managed offering aimed at application teams, allowing NFS or SMB file storage to be provisioned via a native API.

NetApp also formalized cloud NAS partnerships announced earlier this year with Microsoft and Google. The two public cloud providers will sell and support NetApp file storage as consumable services under a white-label.

Anthony Lye, a senior vice president of cloud data services at NetApp, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., told attendees last week at NetApp Insight it was important to "lean in" and develop cloud infrastructure that eases deployment headaches.

"The public cloud has created a service-based model that allows an organization to focus on applications and the data. What we've been architecting at NetApp is a set of services you can select to run independently ... or [to] orchestrate and move data," Lye said

"What grounds us in the cloud is storage. On top of that storage, we want to help you secure, protect, sync and move your data," Lye added.

NetApp developed new code for OnCommand Insight to extend the storage analytics to midsize enterprises. Lye said companies can use NetApp Cloud Insights to monitor storage costs and detect stranded capacity across NetApp arrays and other leading storage systems.

NetApp also demonstrated its newly launched Kubernetes as a service and updates to its open souce Trident driver for containers. Trident provides high-performance storage for stateful containers running in Cloud Volumes.

NetApp: People thought we were 'crazy' to emphasize cloud

NetApp's cloud pivot started with the Data Fabric launches in 2015. At the time, NetApp lagged the market in homegrown all-flash and hyper-converged arrays.

Joel Reich, NetApp's executive vice president of product operations, acknowledged the hardware vendor's cloud transition initially confused people.

"They saw us embracing the cloud and thought we were crazy," he said. "We were a hardware company, and people thought we were embracing the very thing that would kill us. But you have to be able to disrupt yourself. If you have a lot of smart customers asking you to do something uncomfortable, there is probably something  to it. You can't take a 25-year-old company and give it a rebirth unless you're willing to take some risk that matches the direction of the market."

The "crazy strategy" is working, Reich said, noting NetApp has posted year-over-year revenue growth for nine consecuitive quarters and moved to No. 1 in all-flash, according to IDC.

NetApp is trying to answer a growing need of many cloud customers, said Henry Baltazar, a research vice president for storage at analyst firm 451 Research.

"Cloud storage today is mostly object and block, but the big trend we see is expansion for file services and NAS. Even though NAS has been important infrastructure for 30 years, it hasn't gotten [moved] to the cloud. But the public cloud providers realize there's a lot of legacy data that people want access to, and they don't want to rewrite those older applications to block and object storage," Baltazar said.

NetApp invested In Data Fabric tools while managing to grow external storage business, said Randy Kerns, a senior strategist and storage analyst at Evaluator Group, based in Boulder, Colo.

"Meanwhile, they've got a tremendous revenue stream going from All Flash FAS sales in traditional environments. They've diversified the product portfolio within the vision of wanting to be a data company, not just an infrastructure device company," Kerns said.

Azure NetApp file storage in preview

Azure NetApp Files was previewed at Insight 2017. Microsoft embeds OnTap in the Azure software stack and sells it as a service. The vendors split the revenue. Azure NetApp Files moved to public preview in June.

Microsoft and NetApp engineers needed to ensure Azure-based OnTap delivers what on-premises users expect, said Tad Brockway, a Microsoft general manager of Azure storage.

"We've worked together on a deep networking integration to enable a fast, low-latency connection from Azure virtual machines and services, directly into NetApp gear," Brockway said.

Early Azure-NetApp cloud customer McKesson Corp. has been able to move workloads to the cloud much quicker than anticipated, said Brad Clark, a storage administrator for the San Francisco-based pharmaceutical distributor.

"One of our business units came to us several months ago to move [Oracle] Hyperion workloads to the cloud. We were doing an engineering exercise on how to do that when Azure NetApp Files popped on the scene. That will be our first use case," Clark said.

McKesson next plans to to test SAP HANA in NetApp cloud storage to "shorten our time frame for deploying into the cloud by months, if not years," Clark said.

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