Major new Azure integration highlights NetApp cloud announcements

NetApp is touting the new Azure NetApp Files as a huge extension of their Microsoft relationship, which gives them a level of integration with their Azure cloud that Microsoft has not done before with anyone. Other announcements include the General Availability of NetApp Cloud Insights, NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, and new ONTAP support for NetApp HCI.

Anthony Lye, SVP and GM of the NetApp Cloud Data Services Business Unit

LAS VEGAS – Today, on the second day of the NetApp Insight event, and the first day that the new product announcements begin to roll out, the focus was on NetApp’s cloud strategy and cloud portfolio. The company made multiple announcements. The most significant, however, is Azure NetApp Files. It’s a new Azure file service powered by NetApp’s ONTAP technology that enables file-based enterprise workloads to be moved and deployed in Microsoft Azure.

“This will probably be ranked as one of the top one or two announcements that the company has ever made,” said Anthony Lye, SVP and GM, cloud data services at NetApp. “There isn’t a service like this anywhere in the world. This is deeper than anything that Microsoft has ever done with any one before. It’s something I never thought we would get. They have a similar sort of integration with Databricks, but it is much smaller than this. Getting a public cloud to endorse us at such a deep level, to embed us to a degree they’ve never done before, is massively significant. It is leading us to jointly develop networking and solutions that no one has ever done in a public cloud. The development relationship from this is extremely important.”

NetApp has been long-time partners with Microsoft around Azure, but Lye stressed that this takes the relationship to a different level.

“We have had ONTAP in the Azure cloud for years but it has been Do-it-Yourself storage,” Lye stressed. In contrast, Azure NetApp Files provides automated resource deployment through REST APIs and CLI access, as well as an intuitive native Azure experience. The enterprise-grade file service can be up and running in minutes.

“Azure NetApp Files is huge,” said John Woodall, VP of Engineering, at Palo Alto-based long-time NetApp partner Integrated Archive Systems. “It means that Microsoft is buying more NetApp to support this. That’s a win. It’s a native service. That’s another win. Existing Azure customers get to use their credits on this. Microsoft resellers will be happy about this.”

In a world in which many partners have struggled to effectively monetize the public clouds, Woodall said that this changes the game for integrators like themselves.

“We can make money doing this,” he said. “This feels like more of a regular transaction.”

Azure NetApp Files is now available in limited preview, and is expanding to the US East and US West 2 Azure data centre regions, allowing more customers to participate in the limited preview.

Lye also emphasized the importance of NetApp Cloud Insights, a SaaS-based tool that provides monitoring and cost optimization for hybrid-cloud-based infrastructures, particularly modern cloud architectures like Kubernetes and micro-services. NetApp is announcing at Insight that it is now in General Availability.

“NetApp acquired a company, Onaro, in 2008, whose technology became OnCommand Insight [OCI],” he said. “It has been a very successful product for us. It understands many companies’ infrastructure, models their environments, and does cool things around chargeback and machine learning. It is very much enterprise software, which does well in big banks and telcos and service providers. But it is a beast, and you need a team of people who can deploy, manage and upgrade it.”

Lye said that NetApp Cloud Insights leverages the capability of the cloud to democratize things, to make this capability much more broadly available to many more customers, on a consumption basis, on-demand.

“What it does it take the best bits of OCI and rewrite them so they run as a cloud service,” he stated. “Now, what was formerly available only to the top 10 per cent is now available to everybody. It has analytics, machine learning and chargebacks that a department of a big business could buy, or even a small business could buy. OCI is an expensive product. This one, you can consume on a single VM. You can spin Cloud Insights up in two minutes, while OCI could take two YEARS to deploy. At our booth at Microsoft Ignite, we onboarded over 200 customers in two minutes each. This really is a democratized version of OCI for everyone.”

Also announced was NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, an updating and rebranding of ONTAP Cloud.

“The company thinks that it makes sense to brand Cloud Volumes, because while ONTAP Cloud was aimed at IT buyers, Cloud Volumes is aimed at a much broader market of buyers, many of whom don’t want to talk to IT at all,” Lye said.

The new features in NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP include SnapLock Enterprise support, to protect data against malicious attacks like ransomware or cryptoviral extortion, as well as new High Availability for Azure.

Trident, NetApp’s automated open source storage provisioner for Docker, Kubernetes, and Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform has had its functionality expanded.

“We are adding new Trident container support for NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, which is a big thing, because it supports Kubernetes-based clusters,” Lye indicated.”The data fabric will monitor, manage and upgrade those clusters for me.

“We are also announcing that a new cloud tiering service is going into preview,” Lye said. “It leverages Fabric Pools, which were architected for on prem, as a cloud service. It provides software in the public cloud that does the same things that a customer gets on-prem, and does all the intelligent tiering so the customer doesn’t have to.”

In addition, NetApp announced SolidFire Element  support for SnapMirror to  Cloud  Volumes  ONTAP.

“What this does is make our HCI box look like Google or AWS or Azure,” Lye said. “NetApp HCI is now effectively our fourth hyperscale cloud. As public clouds increasingly define IT, and IT increasingly becomes an extension of the public cloud, with the control planes of Kubernetes and Istio. This gives us a NetApp private cloud configuration. It’s a better way to administer IT.”

NetApp also announced that service providers can now offer NetApp SaaS Backup for Office 365 hosted in their own data centres.

“This service is about a year old, and has been sold effectively to some very large customers, sometimes being positioned as a regulatory feature,” Lye said. “It’s a very nice ancillary service to Microsoft. We have enhanced it by giving the service providers the ability to pull out the APIs into an archive that they control.” Lye noted that similar data protection for Salesforce is coming soon, as it is in the final preview stage.

Two new certifications for the hybrid cloud were also announced, the NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Administrator (NSO-300) and the more advanced NetApp Hybrid Cloud Architect (NSO-600). The latter requires the NSO-300 certification, plus one of the AWS Certified  Solutions  Architect  Associate, the Google  Cloud  Certified  Professional  Cloud  Architect, or the Architecting  MS  Azure  Solution.

“We found that while ONTAP is now in Azure and Google and available on the AWS Marketplace, we would send ONTAP certified people out who wouldn’t understand the cloud,” Lye said. “Microsoft wanted a hybrid ONTAP certification available, and we worked on it together with them. It’s a good thing for techs, who can enhance their ONTAP skills.”

The cloud was a top priortity for NetApp this year, with the clear messaging to partners at the company’s sales kickoff in June being to lead with the cloud. Lye said that the frenetic pace of cloud innovation will continue to drive the whole of the NetApp business.

“ONTAP gets released on our engineered systems every six to twelve months with scheduled upgrades,” he said. “I get a copy of ONTAP and deploy it to the public cloud every month. This lets us release new ONTAP features into the cloud and test them, and if they don’t work optimally, either make real-time enhancements or shut them down. It means that any ONTAP you buy in a box has been fully tested in the public cloud.”

“For years, NetApp would have a new ONTAP announcement and maybe some hardware around it,” said Integrated Archive Systems’ Woodall. “Now new things come all the time in the cloud, and that wave of innovation drives out to the rest of the family.”