At an event dominated by NetApp’s Keystone model to extend their data fabric strategy, the company did make some important product announcements. But if you blinked, you may have missed them.
LAS VEGAS – NetApp’s Insight customer event this year did have some new product announcements. But with their new Keystone extension of their data fabric strategy very much the feature of the event, the product announcements were decidedly in the background, like the backing vocal singers in support of the Keystone feature artist.
There’s a not-so-subtle irony here. For many years, NetApp billed itself proudly as THE engineering company in the storage space. Feeds and speeds were front and centre. And reporters knew that NetApp briefings generally came with 37-page PowerPoints filled with product shots, diagrams and schemas, with nary a title card or two in the body of the presentation to lighten the pace.
That of course was the NetApp before George Kurian became CEO in June of 2015, and set about restructuring the company and its product-centric business strategy, which had become stale and led competitors to refer to them as ‘your uncle’s storage vendor.’ Data-driven became the new theme, with a data fabric based on a multi-cloud hybrid strategy becoming the new point of emphasis.
That point was driven home by the venue of Kurian’s keynote presentation this year. He spoke from a circular stage, a framework well designed for emphasizing a core message, but not very appropriate for big screen product images, or boxes hidden under tarps to be unveiled at key points of the presentation. The Keystone strategy was the star. The products were very much the supporting performers.
That’s a natural evolution of the industry, said Nancy Hart, Vice President, Private & Hybrid Cloud, DevOps and Cloud Infrastructure Marketing at NetApp
“For the data centre, any particular piece of product isn’t the biggest thing any more,” she said. “No one piece of iron will solve these largest business problems today. The focus has become on these financial/operational models like Keystone, and on the overall strategy around data sprawl.”
Keystone, by its very nature, dwarfs any and all of the product announcements, Hart emphasized.
“The unifying theme to all of the product announcements, is the data fabric strategy,” she said. “The key thing of Keystone is a deep understanding that hybrid multi-cloud is the de facto architecture standard going forward.”
Three new midrange arrays were announced at Insight, the AFF A400, FAS8300, FAS8700. Commensurate with the relative importance of the hardware at this Insight, they got a very brief shout-out from the stage.
“We are announcing new all-flash and hybrid flash systems,” Kurian said, before moving on.
In the old days, the AFF A400 would likely have been the belle of the ball here. Designed as a long -term replacement for the AFF A300, which will continue to be sold for now, the AFF A400 features end-to-end NVMe and what NetApp says is an ultra-low latency. The secret sauce in this product is identified in a blog posting by Mukesh Nigam, a Senior Product Manager in the ONTAP systems group at NetApp.
“The new AFF A400 offers the power of secure data acceleration in a AFF storage system for the first time,” Nigam wrote. “The AFF A400 data acceleration capability offloads storage efficiency processing, thus delivering significantly higher performance.” NetApp says it will deliver up to 50 per cent higher performance than its predecessor, which is likely the A300.
There two new hybrid flash FAS arrays, the FAS8300 and the FAS8700 replace the FAS8200 in NetApp’s lineup. They feature the same new midrange controller that is in the AFF A400.
Another new item that likely would have pride of place in the show in past years is a new NetApp AFF All SAN Array.
“For an even higher level of reliability, we are announcing this All SAN offering for organizations who require continuous data availability,” Kurian said. “It will enable you to have a single architecture everywhere in your data centre.”
Aimed at mission-critical applications, but priced for the mid-range. NetApp says this new All SAN Array will bring high-end resiliency to the mid-range.
“This All SAN configuration of All Flash with Active Active controllers will complement the leadership we have in end-to-end NVMe, and brings instantaneous continuous data availability in block storage,” Kurian added.
Like the other new arrays, this one will benefit from the new data management capabilities and instantaneous failover capabilities of ONTAP 9.7., which was also announced at the show. Kurian highlighted its ability to scale out NAS in his keynote.
NetApp also announced the addition of three new StorageGRID appliances to their Webscale object storage lineup. Kurian drew attention to the SGF6024.
“This is the first web scale object storage appliance in the industry,” he emphasized, indicating that it is targeted at modern object workloads in analytics and IoT, and that it is much faster than customers expect from object workloads.
The SG1000 is the first services appliance in the StorageGRID family, providing high-availability load balancing and improved grid administration, and making it possible to deploy an all-appliance grid for the first time. The other new offering is actually an expanded SG6060, which has been given the ability to scale a single namespace to over 400 PB with new multishelf deployment capability. NetApp also announced new StorageGRID 11.3 software, and that StorageGRID now supports Microsoft Azure Archive Blob Storage as a public cloud target.