Tag Archives: Strategy

NetApp Data Fabric: A la Hybrid Cloud! – An update from NetApp Insight 2018


History

For those of you who have genuinely been following NetApp as a storage company over the years, you may already know that NetApp, contrary to the popular belief as a storage company, has always been a software company at their core. Unlike most of their competitors back in the day such as EMC or even HPe, who were focused primarily on raw hardware capabilities and purpose built storage offerings specific for each use case, NetApp always had a single storage solution (FAS platform) with fit for purpose hardware. However their real strength was in the piece of software they developed on top (Data OnTAP) which offered so many different data services that often would require 2 or 3 different solutions altogether to achieve when it comes to their competition. That software driven innovation kept them punching well beyond their weight to be in the same league as their much bigger competitors.

Over the last few years however, NetApp did expand out their storage offerings to include some additional purpose built storage solutions out of necessity to address many niche customer use cases. They built the E series for raw performance use cases with minimal data services, EF for extreme all flash performance and acquired SolidFire offering which was also a very software driven, scalable storage solution built on commodity HW. The key for most of these storage solution offerings was still the software defined storage & software defined data management capabilities of each platform and the integration of all them through the software technologies such as SnapMirror and SnapVault to move data seamlessly in between these various platform.

In an increasingly software defined world (Public & Private cloud all powered primarily through software), the model of leading with software defined data storage and data management services enables many additional possibilities to expand things out beyond just these Data Center solutions for NetApp, as it turned out.

NetApp Data Fabric

NetApp Data Fabric was an extension of that OnTAP & various other software centric storage capabilities beyond the customer data centers in to other compute platforms such as Public clouds and 3rd party CoLo facilities that NetApp set their vision a while ago.

The idea was that customers can seamlessly move data across all these infrastructure platforms as and when needed without having to modify (think “convert”) the data. NetApp’s Data Fabric at its core, aims to address the data mobility problem caused by platform locking of data, by providing a common layer of core NetApp technologies to host data across all those tiers in a similar manner. In addition, it also aims to provide common set of tools that can be used to manage those data, on any platform, during their lifetime, from the initial creation of data at the Edge location, to processing the data at the Core (DC) and / or on various cloud platforms to then long term storage & archival storage on the core and / or Public cloud platforms. In a way, this provide customers the choice of platform neutrality when it comes to their data which, lets admit it, that is the life blood of most digital (that means all) businesses of today.

New NetApp Data Fabric

Insight 2018 showcased how NetApp managed to extend the initial scope of their Data Fabric vision beyond Hybrid Cloud to new platforms such as Edge locations too, connecting customer’s data across Edge to Core (DC) to Cloud platforms providing data portability. In addition, NetApp also launched a number of new data services to help manage and monitor these data, as they move from one pillar to another across the data fabric. NetApp CEO George Kurian described this new Data Fabric as a way of “Simplifying and integrating orchestration of data services across the Hybrid Cloud providing data visibility, protection and control amongst other features”. In a way, its very similar to VMware’s “Any App, Any device, Any cloud” vision, but in the case of NetApp, the focus is all about the data & data services.

The new NetApp Data Fabric consist of the following key data storage components at each of its pillars.

NetApp Hybrid Cloud Data Storage
  • Private data center
    • NetApp FAS / SolidFire / E / EF / StorageGRID series storage platforms & AltaVault backup appliance. Most of these components now directly integrates with public cloud platforms.
  • Public Cloud
    • NetApp Cloud Volumes        – SaaS solution that provides file services (NFS & SMB) on the cloud using a NetApp OnTAP.
    • Azure NetApp files        – PaaS solution running on physical NetApp FAS storage solutions on Azure DCs. Directly integrated in to Azure Resource Manager for native storage provisioning and management.
    • Cloud volumes ONTAP        – NetApp OnTAP virtual appliance that runs the same ONTAP code on the cloud. Can be used for production workloads, DR, File shares and DB storage, same as on-premises. Includes Cloud tiering and Trident container support as well as SnapLock for encryption.
  • Co-Lo (Adjacent to public clouds)NetApp private storage        – Dedicated, Physical NetApp FAS (ONTAP) or a FlexArray storage solution owned by the customer, that is physical adjacent to major cloud platform infrastructures. The storage unit is hosted in an Equinix data center with direct, low latency 10GBe link to Azure, AWS and GCP cloud back ends. Workloads such as VMs and applications deployed in the native cloud platform can consume data directly over this low latency link.
  • Edge locationsNetApp HCI            – Recently repositioned as a “Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure” rather than a “Hyper-Converged Infrastructure”, this solution provides a native NetApp compute + Storage solution that is tightly integrated with some of the key data services & Monitoring and management solutions from the Data Fabric (described below).

Data Fabric + NetApp Cloud Services

While the core storage infrastructure components of Data Fabric enables data mobility without the need to transform data across each hop, customers still need the tools to be able to provision, manage, monitor these data on each pillar of the data fabric. Furthermore, customers would also need to use these tools to manage the data across non NetApp platforms that are also linked to the Data Fabric storage pillars described above (such as native cloud platforms).

Insight 2018 (US) revealed the launch of some of these brand new data services & Tool from NetApp most of which are actually SaaS solutions hosted and managed by NetApp themselves on a cloud platform. While some of these services are fully live and GA, not all of these Cloud services are live just yet, but customers can trial them all free today.

Given below is a full list of the announced NetApp Cloud services that fall in to 2 categories. By design, these are tightly integrated with all the data storage pillars of the NetApp Data Fabric as well as other 3rd party storage and compute platforms such as AWS, Azure and 3rd party data center components.

NetApp Hybrid Cloud Data Services (New)

  • NetApp OnCommand Cloud Manager    – Deploy and manage Cloud Volumes ONTAP as well as discover and provision on-premises ONTAP clusters. Available as a SaaS or an on-premises SW.
  • NetApp Cloud Sync            – A NetApp SaaS offering that enables easier, automated data migration & synchronisation across NetApp and non NetApp storage platforms across the hybrid cloud. Currently supports Syncing data across AWS (S3, EFS), Azure (Blob), GCP (Storage bucket), IBM (Object storage) and NetApp StorageGRID.
  • NetApp Cloud Secure            – A NetApp SaaS security tool that aim to identify malicious data access across all Hybrid Cloud storage solutions. Connects to various storage back ends via a data collector and support NetApp Cloud Volumes, OnTAP, StorageGRID, Microsoft OneDrive, AWS, Google GSuite, HPe Command View. Dropbox, Box, Workplace and Office 365 as end points to be monitored. Not live yet and more details here.
  • NetApp Cloud Tiering            – Based on ONTAP Fabric Pools, enables direct tiering of infrequently used data from an ONTAP solution (on premises or on cloud) seamlessly to Azure blob, AWS S3 and IBM Cloud Object Storage. Not a live solution just yet but a technical preview is available.
  • NetApp SaaS Backup            – A NetApp SaaS backup solution for backing up Office 365 (Exchange online, SharePoint online, One drive for business, MS Teams and O365 Groups) as well as Salesforce data. Formerly known as NetApp Cloud Control. Can back up data to native storage or to Azure blob or AWS S3. Additional info here.
  • NetApp Cloud backup            – Another NetApp SaaS offering, purpose built for backing up NetApp Cloud Volumes (described above)
NetApp Cloud Management & Monitoring (New)
  • NetApp Kubernetes service        – New NetApp SaaS offering to provide enterprise Kubernetes as a service. Built around the NetApp acquisition of Stackpoint. Integrated with other NetApp Data Fabric components (NetApp’s own solutions) as well as public cloud platforms (Azure, AWS and GCP) to enable container orchestration across the board. Integrates with NetApp TRIDENT for persistent storage vlumes.
  • NetApp Cloud Insights            – Another NetApp SaaS offering built around ActiveIQ, that provides a single monitoring tool for visibility across the hybrid cloud and Data Fabric components. Uses AI & ML for predictive analytics, proactive failure prevention, dynamic topology mapping and can also be used for resource rightsizing and troubleshooting with infrastructure correlation capabilities.

My thoughts

In the world of Hybrid Cloud, customer data, from VMs to file data can now be stored in various different ways across various data centers, various different Edge locations and various different Public cloud platforms, all underpinned by different set of technologies. This presents an inevitable problem for customers where their data requires transformation each time it gets moved or copied across from one pillar to another (known as platform locking of data). This also means that it is difficult to seamlessly move that data across those platforms during its life time should you want to benefit from every pillar of the Hybrid cloud and different benefits inherent to each. NetApp’s new strategy, powered by providing a common software layer to store, move and manage customer data, seamlessly across all these platforms can resonate well with customers. By continuing to focus on the customer’s data, NetApp are focusing on the most important asset organisations of today, and most definitely the organisations of tomorrow, have. So enabling their customers to avoid un-necessary hurdles to move this asset from one platform to another is only going to go down well with enterprise customers.

This strategy is very similar to that of VMware’s for example (Any App, Any Device, Any Cloud) that aim to also address the same problem, albeit with a more application centric perspective. To their credit, NetApp is the only “Legacy Storage vendor” that has this all-encompassing strategy of having a common data storage layer across the full hybrid cloud spectrum where as most of their competition are either still focused on their data centre solutions with limited or minor integration to cloud through extending backup and DR capabilities at best.

Only time will tell how successful this strategy would be for NetApp, and I suspect most of that success or the failure will rely on the continued execution of this strategy successfully through building additional data and data management services and their positioning to address various Hybrid cloud use cases. But the initial feedback from the customers appears to be positive which is good to see. Being focused on the software innovation has always provided NetApp with an edge over their competitors and continuing on that strategy, especially in an increasingly software defined world is only bound to bring good things in my view.

Slide credit to NetApp & Tech Field Day!

VMworld 2017 US – VMware Strategy & My Thoughts

This is a quick post to summerise all the key announcements from VMworld 2017 US event and share my thoughts and insights of the strategy and the direction of VMware, the way I see it.

Key Announcements

A number of announcements were made during the week on products and solutions and below is a high level list of those to recap.

  • Announced the launch of the VMware Cloud Services which consists of 2 main components
    • VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC)
      • Consist of VMware vSphere + vSAN + NSX
      • Running on AWS data centers (bare metal)
      • A complete Public Cloud platform consisting of VMware Software Defined Data Center components
      • Available as a
    • A complete Hybrid-Cloud infrastructure security, management & monitoring & Automation solution made available through a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform
      • Work natively with VMware Cloud on AWS
      • Also work with legacy, on-premises VMware data center
      • Also work with native AWS, Azure and Google public cloud platforms
  • Next generation of network virtualisation solution based NSX-T (aka NSX Multi hypervisor)
    • Version 2.0 announced
    • Supports vSphere & KVM
    • Likely going to be strategically more important to VMware than the NSX-v (vSphere specific NSX that is commongly used today by vSphere customers). Think What ESXi was for VMware when ESX was still around, during early days!

 

 

  • Next version of vRealize Network Insight (version 3.5) released
    • Various cloud platform integrations
    • Additional on-premises 3rd party integrations (Check Point FW, HP OneView, Brocade MLX)
    • Support for additional NSX component integration (IPFIX, Edge dashboard, NSX-v DFW PCI dashboard)

 

  • VMware AppDefense
    • A brand new application security solution that is available via VMware Cloud Services subscription

 

  • VMware Pivotal Container Services (PKS) as a joint collaboration between VMware, Pivotal & Google (Kubernetes)
    • Kubernetes support across the full VMware stack including NSX & vSAN
    • Support for Sever-Less solution capabilities using Functions as a Service (Similar to AWS Lambda or Azure Functions)
    • Enabling persistent storage for stateful applications via the vSphere Cloud Provider, which provides access to vSphere storage powered by vSAN or traditional SAN and NAS storage,
    • Automation and governance via vRealize Automation and provisioning of service provider clouds with vCloud Director,
    • Monitoring and troubleshooting of virtual infrastructure via VMware vRealize Operations
    • Metrics monitoring of containerized applications via Wavefront.

 

  • Workspace One enhancements and updates
    • Single UEM platform for Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS, IOS and Android
    • Integration with unique 3rd party endpoint platform API’s
    • Offer cloud based peer-to-peer SW distribution to deploy large apps at scale
    • Support for managing Chrome devices
    • Provides customers the ability to enforce & manage O365 security policies and DLP alongside all of their applications and devices
    • Workspace One intelligence to provide Insights and automation to enhance user experience (GA Q4 FY18)
  • VMware Integrated OpenStack 4.0 announced
    • OpenStack Ocata integration
    • Additional features include
      • Containerized apps alongside traditional apps in production on OpenStack
      • vRealize Automation integration to enable OpenStack users to use vRealize Automation-based policies and to consume OpenStack components within vRealize Automation blueprints
      • Increased scale and isolation for OpenStack clouds enabled through new multi-VMware vCenter support
    • New pricing & Packaging tier (not free anymore)
  • VMware Skyline
    • A new proactive support offering aligned to global support services
    • Available to Premier support customers (North America initially)
    • Requires an appliance deployment on premise
    • Quicker time to incident resolution

Cross Cloud Architecture Strategy & My Thoughts

VMware announced the Cross Cloud Architecture (CCA) back in VMworld 2016 where they set the vision for VMware to provide the capability to customers to run & manage any application, on any cloud using any device. This was ambitious and was seen as the first step towards VMware recognising that running vSphere on premise should no longer be VMware’s main focus and they want to provide customers with choice.

This choice of platform options were to be,

  • Continue to run vSphere on premise if that is what you want to do
  • OR, let customers run the same vSphere based SDDC stack on the cloud which can be spun up in minutes in a fully automated way (IaaS)
  • OR, run the same workload that used to run on a VMware SDDC platform on a native public cloud platform such as AWS or Azure or Google cloud or IBM Cloud

During that VMworld, VMware also demoed the capability of NSX to bridge all these various private and public cloud platforms through the clever use of NSX to extend networks across all of those platforms. Well, VMworld 2017 has shown additional steps VMware have taken to make this cross cloud architecture even more of a reality. VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC) now lets you spin up a complete VMware based Software Defined Data Center running vSphere on vSAN connected by NSX through a simple web page, much similar to how Azure and AWS native infrastructure platforms allows you to provision VM based infrastructure on demand. Based on some initial articles, this could even be cheaper than running vSphere on-premise which is great news for customers. In addition to this price advantage, when you factor in the rest of Total Cost of Ownership factors such as maintaining on premise skill to set up and manage the infrastructure platforms that are no longer needed, the VMC platform is likely going to be extremely interesting to most customers. And most importantly, most customers will NOT need to go through costly re-architecting of their monolithic application estate to fit a native cloud IaaS platform which simplifies cloud migration of their monolithic application stack. And if that is not enough, you also can carry on managing & securing that workload using the same VMware management and security toolset, even on the cloud too.

When you then consider the announcement of VMware Cloud Services (VCS) offering as a SaaS solution, it now enables integrating a complete VMware hybrid cloud management toolset in to various platforms and workloads, irrespective of where they reside. VCS enables the discovery, monitoring, management and securing of those workloads across different platforms, all through a single pane of glass which is a pretty powerful message that no other public cloud provider can claim to provide in such a heterogeneous manner. This holistic management and security platform allows customers to provision, manage and secure any workload (Monolithic or Microservices based) on any platform (vSphere on premise, VMC on AWS, native AWS, native Azure, Native Google cloud) to be accessed on any device (workstation, laptop, Pad or a mobile). That to me is a true Cross Cloud vision becoming a reality and my guess is once the platform matures and capabilities increase, this is going to be very popular amongst almost all customers.

In addition to this CCA capabilities, VMware obviously appear to be shifting their focus from the infrastructure layer (read “virtual machine”) to the actual application layer, focusing more on enabling application transformation and application security which is great to see. As many have already, VMware too are embracing the concept of containers, not only as a better application architecture but also as the best way to decouple the application from the underlying infrastructure and using containers as a shipping mechanism to enable moving applications across to public cloud (& back). The announcement of various integrations within their infrastructure stack to Docker ecosystem such as Kubernetes testifies to this and would likely be welcomed by customers. I’d expect such integration to continue to improve across all of VMware’s SDDC infrastructure stack. With VMware solutions, you can now deploy container based applications on on-premise vSphere using VIC or Photon or even VMC or a native public cloud platform, store them on vSAN with volume plugins on premise or on cloud, extend the network to the container instance via NSX (on premise or on cloud), extend visibility in to container instance via vRNI and vROPS (on premise or cloud) and also automate provisioning or most importantly, migration of these container apps across on-premise or public cloud platforms as you see fit.

NSX cloud for example will let you extend all the unique capabilities of software defined networking such as micro-segmentation, security groups and overlay network extensions to not just within private data centers but also to native public cloud platforms such as AWS & Azure (roadmap) which enriches the capabilities of a public cloud platform and increases the security available within the network.

My Thoughts

All in all, it was a great VMworld where VMware have genuinely showcased their Hybrid Cloud and Cross Cloud Architecture strategy. As a technologist that have been working with VMware for a while, it was pretty obvious that a software centric organisation like VMware, similar to the likes of Microsoft was always gonna embrace changes, especially changes driven by software such as the public cloud. However most people, especially sales people in the industry I work in as well as some of the customers were starting to worry about the future of VMware and their relevance in the increasingly Cloudy world ahead. This VMworld has showcased to all of those how VMware has got a very good working strategy to embrace that software defined cloud adoption and empower customers by giving them the choice to do the same, without any tie in to a specific cloud platform. The soaring, all time high VMware share price is a testament that analysts and industry experts agree with this too.

If I was a customer, I would want nothing more!

Keen to get your thoughts, please submit via comments below

Other Minor VMworld 2017 (Vegas) Announcements

  • New VMware & HPe partnership for DaaS
    • Include Workspace ONE to HPe DaaS
    • Include Unified Endpoint Management through Airwatch
  • Dell EMC to offer data protection to VMC (VMware Cloud on AWS)
    • Include Data Domain & Data protection app suite
    • Self-service capability
  • VCF related announcements
    • CenturyLink, Fujitsu & Rackspace to offer VCF + Services
    • New HCI and CI platforms (VxRack SDDC, HDS UCP-RS, Fujitsu PRIMEFLEX, QCT QxStack
    • New VCF HW partners
      • Cisco
      • HDS
      • Fujitsu
      • Lenovo
  • vCloud Director v9 announced
    • GA Q3 FY18
  • New vSphere scale-out edition
    • Aimed at Big data and HPC workloads
    • Attractive price point
    • Big data specific features and resource optimisation within vSphere
    • Includes vDS
  • VMware Validated Design (VVD) 4.1 released
    • Include a new optional consolidated DC architecture for small deployments
  • New VMware and Fujitsu partnerships
    • Fujitsu Cloud Services to delivery VMware Cloud Services
  • DXC Technology partnership
    • Managed Cloud service with VMC
    • Workload portability between VMC, DXC DCs and customer’s own DCs
  • Re-announced VMware Pulse IoT Center  with further integration to VMware solutions stack to manage IoT components

 

Cheers

Chan