Evolving new storage propositions


Fadi Kanafani, Regional Director for Middle East and Africa at NetApp says NetApp’s Data Fabric solutions are designed to enable clients to manage data across on-premises and public cloud resources to architect the IT environment that best meets their needs.

How do you see the outlook for Enterprise storage in view of storage consolidation with cloud based options?

When we look at digital transformation that is unfolding now, enterprise storage is taking centre stage in that journey. It is believed that by 2020, data will reach 28 exabytes; driven by IoT, smart cities, M2M etc. A Lot of data is getting accumulated and today it is not just humans that are generating data but machines themselves are generating data through AI and which is consuming more space than ever before. Today all organizations have the need to adopt digital transformation initiatives and that isn’t possible in isolation of storage. With the data that is generated, customers will need analytics to make smarter decisions and to add flexibility to their business. In all of this enterprise storage plays a key part and we see ourselves as a significant player in the enterprise storage space.

What is your proposition for cloud?

We have a very strong value proposition- the Data fabric vision at NetApp. This brings together all the components we have to allow Businesses take control of their data, make it mobile, free them from being locked to one service providers, make use of power of cloud and yet retain data integrity and sovereignty and keep it on premise. NetApp’s Data Fabric solutions are designed to enable clients to manage data across on-premises and public cloud resources to architect the IT environment that best meets their needs. NetApp facilitates digital transformation by delivering unified data management across clouds. With NetApp’s data fabric, organizations can increase efficiency, improve IT responsiveness, and ultimately accelerate innovation.

NetApp is a very strong player with the services providers, providing cloud ONTAP that allows you to manage data on premise, in the public or hybrid cloud, move data from one cloud to another and bring it back as if it were on premises using ONTAP.  So this is something no other competitors can do; we do this with great flexibility and agility and at a minimal cost, if you compare with the rest because you don’t need to rewrite applications when you bring back data from the cloud.

We have strong relationships with AWS, Microsoft Azure etc. Customers can for instance click ONTAP when logged into AWS and within minutes have storage space provisioned. We are also working with local services providers and are looking to introduce service catalogues. We already have relationships with service providers in the region including STC in Saudi, Etisalat here, offering cloud based services like video surveillance as a service, Disaster Recovery as a service, backup as a service, managed services in general. Public cloud customers of STC use NetApp services.

How do you see the shift to the cloud accelerating?

We see faster adoption in current economic conditions. The Oil & Gas sector crisis has impacted other Businesses and that has made them look towards the OPEX model to be able to continue running their Business efficiently at a lesser cost, getting all services as if it were available on premise. So these reasons, good or bad, are encouraging a faster adoption of cloud.

Discuss changes on the partner landscape?

We have a strong partner landscape for traditional sell to customers that have been with us for a long time. However, when we started working with service providers on cloud services, they themselves became a channel for extending our services to their own constituency of customers. We have special programs for supporting that.

Is enterprise flash showing significant traction in various workload deployments?

Today, we at NetApp have been showing tremendous growth. It is in triple figures as adoption has been high. That is also because Flash provides you with higher capacities and efficiency guarantees, for sometimes half of the cost. So customers can do much more with less.

For requirements including DR and backup deployments, the customer will have options to choose what they want to deploy. I hardly see tapes and at times there could be traditional drives. Usually it now always Flash; our value proposition is always Flash.

What are the different Flash propositions?

In terms of Arrays, there are three types. There is Flash for running high IOPS requirements. For instance for Big Data analytics, EFF based on the E series platform. For the typical database requirements, we go with the FAS range of products.       The new NetApp All Flash FAS (AFF) A200, an entry-level all-flash array, delivers enterprise-grade flash performance at a very attractive price point. The new system makes it easy for midsize businesses to move to all flash, and it features a compact 2U chassis design with an internal solid-state drive (SSD) shelf.

When you go to service providers, we have a solutions from SolidFire, a company we acquired recently. The latest version of NetApp SolidFire Element OS storage software lets customers respond to business demands quickly with dynamic adjustments. This solution lets users accommodate mixed workloads on a single storage system, adding capacity and performance with seamless granularity. It is a platform that allows you to manage different workloads and scale very quickly. It also allows you to go out and sign predictable Service Level Agreements such as for instance Platinum level, Gold level, Silver level etc with customers and monetize your relationships with customers based on these predictable SLAs. Because each workload has a different dynamic, we have to go with what solution suits best for the specific workload, opting from the three different flavors of Flash that we offer.

Can ONTAP work with storage that a customer may already have installed from a diifferent vendors?

ONTAP can manage other storage; we typically run a Flex Array that virtualizes other storage available with customers and that allows ONTAP to manage the installed storage. ONTAP software and flash systems give customers a way to bridge existing and emerging IT architectures as they build and evolve their hybrid cloud

If Oil & Gas has been a key focus, did the decline in the segment impact NetApp? How did you look at offsetting this impact?

The Oil & Gas sector has always been close to NetApp’s strategic focus since our presence was established here from 2002 onwards. There has been an impact but we have worked around to augment the gap by looking at requirements of other Businesses and sometimes within the same entity. I do believe it is just a matter of time before the recovery happens and things stabilizes. We are also working a lot more with other segments as I mentioned in the case of the service provider sector and with other public sector entities, with Finance, Education etc. we have diversifies our focus and have been less reliant on the energy sector.