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Expanded NetApp hybrid cloud tools pique enterprise interest

The success of NetApp's hybrid cloud strategy will depend on how quickly enterprises abandon data center ownership in favor of more agile cloudlike data mobility.

LAS VEGAS -- NetApp customers this week got their first look at the Keystone, the NetApp hybrid cloud model that hinges on faster all-flash systems coupled with cloud-based data management.

NetApp launched its Keystone expanded cloud services, this week at its NetApp Insight user conference. The Keystone launch included consumption pricing and new midrange Fabric Attached Storage and All Flash FAS (AFF) arrays.

"Our customers want to get out of building data centers and start to build data fabrics," NetApp CEO George Kurian said during a keynote, echoing a common theme of the annual customer and partner event.

Centura Health, a healthcare provider in Englewood, Colo., used NetApp hybrid cloud technologies to transition more than 750 primary applications to the cloud within seven months. Scott Raymond, Centura associate CIO, said he fast-tracked the project to stay on budget.

"My goal is to get completely out of the data center business. We have two data centers now. We're moving our main data center to a colo. For our secondary data center, my plan is to move that workload [for] high availability and disaster recovery into the cloud," Raymond said during an on-stage presentation.

Payments processor PayPal recently completed a pilot of NetApp's new AFF A800 array and bought several. The AFF A800 arrays combine standard SAS SSDs and NVMe flash. High-performance flash is required to help the company keep pace with spiraling data growth, said Slade Weaver, a PayPal senior manager in charge of its Core Data Platform.

Weaver said PayPal may need to add more arrays soon. PayPal's online business grew roughly 20% year over year last quarter, fueled by a 37% jump in mobile payments. Weaver said his data science teams are demanding more agility in how they consume and provision storage for application development and databases.

"They want to be able to spin storage up and down at the drop of a hat," Weaver said.

Weaver said the new NetApp flash arrays enabled PayPal to winnow data center costs by 40% by retiring older filers from NetApp and competing vendors. In addition to NetApp, PayPal runs a Nutanix cluster for application testing and SolidFire all-flash arrays it installed prior to the 2015 NetApp-SolidFire acquisition.

PayPal runs its NetApp hybrid cloud AFF arrays for file storage, and Weaver said he is intrigued by NetApp Keystone as a way to license NetApp Ontap file storage in the public cloud. He said a consumption model would shift PayPal's "tech debt" to NetApp and potentially yield cost benefits.

"It's no fun to be [viewed as] a cost center and have to go the finance team to discuss explosive costs. Compliance is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for us, which translates to more logging and more backups," added Weaver, who said he expects PayPal object and file data to surge by 200% in the next two years.

NetApp's public cloud moves

Restaurant Magic became a NetApp hybrid cloud customer almost by accident. The 30-year-old company, based in Tampa, Fla., provides back-office software suites as a service to companies in the hospitality sector. Unlike the vast majority of NetApp customers, Restaurant Magic did not initially use its storage products on premises.

We went to the Microsoft engineering team and told them Azure needed to be faster. That's when they told us about Azure NetApp File service.
Mike CostanzaSenior director of DevOps, Restaurant Magic

NetApp has forged partnerships to run Ontap cloud file storage in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. Restaurant Magic managed its own data center until 2014, when it switched the bulk of its workloads to Microsoft Azure. Over last summer, Restaurant Magic implemented Azure NetApp Files to handle a massive data migration involving thousands of restaurant point-of-sale systems.

For larger jobs, Azure wasn't fast enough to avoid significant downtime, said Mike Costanza, senior director of DevOps.

"We went to the Microsoft engineering team and told them Azure needed to be faster. That's when they told us about Azure NetApp File service," Costanza said.

After meeting with NetApp engineers and several rounds of testing, he said running NetApp in Azure handled Restaurant Magic's most demanding jobs in less than one hour.

"It's rock solid. The term I use for it is enterprise data storage on demand. We spun it up in a few hours, used it for migration and then we turned it off. We had access to all of this impressive storage equipment when we needed it, and we only had to pay for what we needed, which is the promise of the cloud," Costanza said.

He added, Restaurant Magic wants to explore other ways to use NetApp cloud storage, including possibly setting up a NetApp SMB file data share to consolidate its Microsoft SQL Server storage. "If we can get better performance at a reasonable cost, that would be huge win," Costanza said.

Another NetApp customer, HomeAdvisor, runs Ontap locally and also in the cloud for select use cases. The company is an online marketplace that connects homeowners with residential contractors. Collin Mariner, HomeAdvisor's vice president of data center services, said NetApp's hybrid cloud provides diversity in how he can manage, place and retrieve data.

In addition to Ontap storage, HomeAdvisor runs NetApp hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) with SolidFire all-flash arrays to provide storage for sandbox development and data backups. NetApp HCI is cloud building block-based on NetApp SolidFire all-flash arrays and ElementOS operating system software.

Mariner said the SolidFire flash supplies a private cloud that gives scalable performance for spiky demand.

"Our business is very cyclical, but there's never a valley where there's no traffic. People come to us 24 hours a day. We need to always be available, whether it's moving data in our database, backups or making sure we upgrade our tables," Mariner said.

He added that NetApp's new Keystone licensing model holds some appeal for HomeAdvisor in areas of cost containment and back-end standardization across multiple cloud environments.

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