NetApp hosted a customer forum and breakfast session with Mike Riley, NetApp’s Director of Strategy and Technology for Worldwide Sales, to speak about the company’s history, its roadmap for the future and address concerns or questions that their customers may have. Mike has been with NetApp for over 17 years, and he has certainly witnessed the ups and downs of the company.
The informal session, held at the St. Regis KL, began as Mike elaborated upon how NetApp first started out and the ways the company have adapted to the ever evolving nature of the IT industry over the years. In fact, 2017 marks the company’s 25th anniversary and NetApp is counting on their Data Fabric vision to help drive the company’s transition from a storage company to a data services company.
The aim of NetApp’s Data Fabric strategy is basically to deliver seamless data management across flash, disk and cloud resources. When asked whether customers comprehend the concept, Mike commented, “Data Fabric is about being able to provide data services for our customers so that they have the right data at the right place, at the right time. They get it because it makes sense, but it’s a new idea for the industry. Everyone else in the industry is out there selling systems.” NetApp will continue to sell systems. But the conversation will be geared more towards providing customers with the outcomes that they want, instead of focusing on the nitty gritty technical details, and how to best leverage their environment as well as to strike a balance between their performance requirements and budget. The platform also has to be flexible enough to allow customers to change their minds at any time and be able to make the changes seamlessly.
Mike also pointed out how the cloud has been a game changer in the industry. “If you want to see something that changed our thinking and changed our business, it wasn’t necessarily things like flash, fibre channel enhancements, or networking advancements. There was this mad dash to the cloud. The cloud market is growing extraordinarily well. In a few years, the growth rate will even out at about 40% year over year. That’s a huge growth rate for IT investments. For many companies, the question then becomes how do you monetize yourself in the face of cloud.” NetApp sees this as a great opportunity and has reached out to much bigger companies of cloud such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM in order to make their environment easier to be consumed by customers. NetApp’s current offerings include the virtual edition of OnTap that can run on most of the hyperscalers today as well as solutions like the NetApp Private Storage for organizations that require more control. “We have solutions that can be on-premises, in the cloud or next to the cloud.”, Mike added.
Just like their acquisition of SolidFire, a critical piece to their strategy which has helped boost the company’s flash storage business, NetApp is always searching for new pathways of growth. They’re now looking to venture into the hyper-competitive hyperconvergence market by the end of the year. “We currently have a converged infrastructure we call FlexPod that’s been very successful with our partners. What’s coming at the end of the year is conceptually an extension of that architecture. “
Although NetApp may see themselves as underdogs at the moment, there are signs that the tide may be changing. With their promising Data Fabric strategy, adaptability and customer-friendly approach to business they could well be on their way to become a major challenger and achieve their vision to "lead the next era of IT".