NetApp expands Spot serverless solution for containers to storageless

Together with NetApp Cloud Manager, and NetApp Virtual Desktop Management services, which are also being announced at NetApp Insight, NetApp is unveiling a differentiated suite of applications for both traditional and cloud partners to sell.

Chris Lamborn, NetApp’s Head of Worldwide Partner Go-To-Market Strategy and Programs

NetApp has made some highly unconventional software acquisitions in 2020 with Talon, Cloudjumper, and most recently Spot, with their technology for serverless containers. Today, as NetApp Insight kicks off virtually, they are announcing three related solutions that stem from their software strategy. Spot by NetApp adds a storageless capability for containers to its original serverless containers functionality. NetApp Cloud Manager is a new autonomous hybrid cloud volume platform. Finally, NetApp Virtual Desktop Management Service [VDMS] and a new validated hybrid cloud VDI design leverage the Cloudjumper technology.

“NetApp has been acquiring software companies like Talon and CloudJumper and some people said why? Is Anthony [Lye, Senior Vice President & GM Public Cloud at NetApp] crazy?” said Chris Lamborn, NetApp’s Head of Worldwide Partner Go-To-Market Strategy and Programs.

“Everybody wants automation, but the biggest cost in managed services is people to manage the services,” Lamborn indicated. “You have to be able to move a service in the cloud and out of the cloud from on-prem. That’s expensive. So what we are doing here is using our acquisitions and native engagements we have with the public cloud providers to drive native automation.

“We tried to find some niche players to optimize the usage of data,” Lamborn added. “We have optimized data on premises forever, with ONTAP. Now we can optimize in the cloud and on premises, and with Cloud Manager, the next phase being announced, you can control automation everywhere. To do that you have to manage it in all these places.”

In June, NetApp announced their intention to acquire Spot, and its innovative way of letting companies consume cloud infrastructure services by using analytics and automation to deliver an optimally cost-efficient infrastructure for every workload on every cloud.

“What Spot did was create a compute optimization environment which optimized compute in the public cloud,” Lamborn said. “Developers who deploy applications don’t care about compute, servers or storage. They just want their app to be in optimized space. We need to drive that optimization not just of the compute, but the storage as well. This solves that automation in the storage layer. It’s the automation of storage administration for best performance at optimal cost across the environment.”

The big news with this announcement is the new storageless capability.

“At the time we acquired them, Spot did the serverless piece,” Lamborn said. “That was it. Now we have expanded the optimization to be storageless as well as serverless. Think of it as adminstrationless storage.” It lets customers cost-effectively build, deploy, and run microservice-based applications on Kubernetes without having to administer storage and data services.

The pricing model for this is fairly novel in the storage space, although it will be recognizable to service providers and some MSPs.

“How we price and build for Spot is unique,” Lamborn indicated. “We charge the customer based on a percentage of savings we are able to demonstrate. That’s  very different from our traditional environment, so we are being very careful as we integrate it into our unified program, so that we make sure it’s relevant. It’s  a very different model for tiering and efficiency saving. It’s more common for usage-based markets, and is similar to some of the newer managed services partners around how they run their SLAs  away from uptime and downtime to business impact.”

At this point in time, the market for this is still fairly developer-centric.

“Spot was very good at driving training for the partners that they had, and enabling developers to deploy how they needed to,” Lamborn said. “The partners they had were very developer oriented.”

Unsurprisingly, NetApp partners interested in Spot tend to be ones who cater to that market as well.

“Adoption isn’t across the board,” Lamborn said. “It is the ones who address the developer and automation space.”

Southern California solution provider Red8 had not worked with Spot before NetApp’s acquisition, but says it has become a good fit with customers.

“I think the overall idea of cloud optimization is a mainstream idea,” said Rob Cotter, Red8’s CTO. “This is a great tool to allow them to achieve lower costs. One customer with Spot was able to start moving more workloads into AWS. We have had other successes with customers whose CIOs had been told to find a way to reduce costs on cloud platforms. We have one where we have just got the next step of approval to do a POC.”

The new NetApp Cloud Manager offering is an expansion and consolidation of solutions NetApp had been running on individual hyperscale clouds. It provides full visibility and control across on-prem storage as well as the Azure, AWS and GCP storage and delivers an easy, native cloud experience for advanced data services.

“We’ve been operating these as smaller scale solutions in the individual clouds, and with NetApp Cloud Manager we have expanded it into a single way of managing a hybrid data service through a single environment, with full visibility and control across all of them,” Lamborn said. “It’s not just cloud, but on-premises as well. It lets you manage anywhere, with a huge amount of automation built into it.”

Cloud Manager also allows for the full leveraging of Spot.

“Cloud Manager is the overarching management tool across the ecosystem, that connects the benefits that Spot brings you,” Lamborn said.

The third part of the announcement is the new fully managed, cloud-based NetApp Virtual Desktop Management Service and the new validated hybrid cloud VDI design.

“This comes from Cloudjumper, to optimize virtual cloud management for desktops and virtual services,” Lamborn noted. “Spot, Cloud Manager, and VDMS all enable traditional and cloud partners to build up a suite of applications.”

“With the move to Work From Home and with people trying to save money in the cloud, we have seen a huge increase in our business around end user computing,” said Red8’s Cotter. We see a lot of promise with the VDMS, and are looking to integrate that into our solutions. The managed service around it fits with our device as-a-service offering.”

In addition to traditional NetApp partners, these interrelated capabilities are expected to appear to partners who come from the cloud side.

“We have a large number of partners from the three cloud vendors who are looking for a service to wrap around their offerings,” Lamborn said. “Those partners make money by being stickier and deeper around the customer ecosystem, to bolt on more applications.

“We are also talking with service providers, many of whom drive with Microsoft around Microsoft solutions,” Lamborn added. “They can deploy VDMS as-a-service and build their business with that.”

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