NetApp sees mainstream channel play in 10.4 release of StorageGRID Webscale object storage

While the channel’s role in NetApp object storage has largely been limited to specific verticals, the company believes object storage’s market has finally grown to the point where broader market opportunities are a reality.

Today at the OpenStack Summit in Boston, NetApp is announcing the 10.4 release of its StorageGRID Webscale object storage. It has several new features, including support for Docker container deployment on bare-metal servers, enhancing multi-tenant capabilities, and simplifying OpenStack storage deployments. Just as important, however, is NetApp’s messaging to its broad channel. The channel role with this offering to date has largely been limited to specific verticals, principally media and entertainment. The company now says that the object storage market has finally become a serious proposition in mainstream backup and archiving, and that it’s something that partners need to look at adding to their portfolio.

NetApp’s object storage offering originally came to the company with its 2010 acquisition of Vancouver-based Bycast.

“The product is extremely scalable, and allows you to distribute a global namespace across the world,” said Duncan Moore, Director of the StorageGRID Software Group at NetApp. “It also has a NAS capability through NAS Bridge. It is unique in cloud gateways because it preserves the identity of a file to an individual object. When an object comes in, we can look at the metadata coming in with the object and compare it to the database of policies set up to decide what you will do with it. If an object comes in with a tagged service level, we can make decisions about where it will be put, and how it will be protected. It stores the metadata separate from the object itself, so the policy can be changed and metadata can be re-evaluated, and objects will move in accordance with new policy. That’s unique to StorageGrid. It was a feature the Bycast product had when it was acquired, and was likely the most important reason why it was acquired.”

At that time, however, the object storage market was still in its infancy and NetApp treated it as very much a niche play.

“The market then was fairly nascent, so in the first few years of having the product, we kept it as it was acquired and sold it into the health care vertical,” Moore said. “Three years ago, we started seeing increased adoption of true object storage, with S3 API workloads, pushed by the Amazon ecosystem, and increased our focus on it. We upped our R&D, launched the first version of StorageGRID WebScale environments, and have been doing full feature releases every 6 months.”

Moore indicated that the market for this over the last three years has remained very vertical specific, but has expanded beyond health care.

“In these key verticals, ISV stacks have started to take advantage of object APIs, which has begun to accelerate adoption,” he said. “It’s been in areas like media which have had massive unstructured files, and the offering is doing very well there. Only now, however, is object storage really starting to boom.”

StorageGRID WebScale software has been deployable in virtual, VMware, and OpenStack environments, as well at NetApp’s purpose built appliances based on their E series. Version 10.4 adds support for Docker containers on bare metal.

“The motivation here is to provide one more option for consumption,” Moore said. “There are verticals in large enterprises with large infrastructure where its difficult to have hypervisors. We will also be adding support for other Docker capable-operating systems.:

While StorageGrid WebScale has always been multi-tenanted, since they have many service provider customers, NetApp has added new multi tenancy capabilities

“We have added even more granularity to IAM access policies,” Moore said. “This includes a new tenant-level administrator capability, which was just at the grid level before. IAM can now be delegated to the tenant administrator, with a tenant-level dashboard they can view.” This now provides the ability to monitor and control user capacity quotas.

The simpler OpenStack deployments include Keystone integration, Swift ACL support and heat-less deployment, Support has also been added for the Veritas Enterprise Vault platform.

All this should broaden channel opportunities for StorageGRID WebScale, Moore stated.

“Channel execution in object storage has been increasing steadily over the last couple of years, among partners who specialize in the verticals where object has become critical,” he said. “Still, in horizontal workloads for object, particularly backup and archive, traditional channel partners have likely not been involved. The Docker container support in particular lowers barriers to entry and complexity. It’s one more way to make it easy.

“I would urge the channel, that if they haven’t been exploring where object can fit, they need to be looking,” Moore continued. “There are opportunities among large enterprises building internal backup and archive cloud right now. If they haven’t developed an object storage competency, this is the time to do so.”