NetApp CEO Kurian lays out vision at return of live NetApp INSIGHT event

George Kurian explained NetApp’s broad strategy through which their customers can turn disruption into opportunity, through consolidating data management, treating data like the key product it is, and developing a modern data architecture.

LAS VEGAS – Here on Monday, NetApp kicked off their first live NetApp INSIGHT event since 2019 in what the company is calling a data festival, celebrating their return to a physical gathering with customers. The event’s tagline is ‘The IT Factor,’ reflecting NetApp’s position that their technology stands apart in being able to make organizations become winners in today’s chaotic environment. NetApp CEO George Kurian, who kicked off the INSIGHT 2023 event in the opening keynote, detailed the company’s position on this.

“The topic of the conference is how to turn disruption into opportunity,” Kurian said. “This disruption can be geopolitical, or through macroeconomics, or supply chain, as the world transitions to a more multipolar, unstable political order. The scale and scope of these disruptions is intensifying.”

Kurian noted onstage that 30% of companies who are on the technological cutting edge are forecast to grow annual revenues more than 10% by the end of 2024, compared to 13% by IT laggards. Moreover, the growth of AI throughout many aspects of an organization’s business model will intensify this gap further.

“The benefits to being data driven are large and expanding,” he stated. “What we have seen is that organizations that are data driven are better able to cope with disruptions than those that are not. We focus on how to help our clients become data driven leaders.”

Kurian stressed that becoming a data-driven leading requires organizations to succeed in developing three distinct capabilities.

The first is the consolidation of the management of data.

“You need to integrate your organization so all of your data works together, even if they don’t report to the same leader,” Kurian emphasized.

In addition to this data strategy, Kurian declared that organizations need to treat data like a product operationally.

“Typically, customers have focused on the use of data within broader systems like CRM or Business Intelligence, he said.  “The challenge with this perspective is that to get to a fully coherent domain view, you have to look at 20 different underlying systems where all the data is stored. That becomes even harder where you bring in external sources with AI. To be successful, you need to treat data like a product, all consolidated and treated as a single source that services multiple applications and use cases.”

The third capability is developing a modern data architecture that enables you to have flexibility, and the ability to evolve integration and stability in other parts of the architecture.

“Modern data architecture lets you respond to business challenges, but telling you that you have to transform every layer of your stack – that’s silly,” Kurian said. “You need to have the right balance of agility and efficiency.”

It also requires an architecture where nothing is siloed. Kurian drew a parallel to the rise and decline of the open source Hadoop architecture for big data management and distributed storage over the last decade. The result was that customers invested heavily in it, then watched as technology innovations elsewhere turned Hadoop from a technology vanguard into a rearguard, leaving them stuck with a siloed, obsolete storage environment.

“We are building out an intelligent data infrastructure – silo free – with AI powered observability,” he said. “You do not need to transform every piece of your architecture. You need to have stability in some areas of the stack, and be flexible in others.”

Kurian said that the same philosophy needs to apply to security.

“With cybersecurity, we have historically tried to protect everything – hosts, users, OS – so there has been the inevitability of compromise,” he stated. “You need to focus on the greatest risk to you as a business and protect it the most critically. Bad actors aren’t after your computer or your network. They want your data.

“Modern data architecture built on intelligent infrastructure is critical,” Kurian concluded. “We are confident we can help every company make their data infrastructure intelligent. Customer needs for data management have expanded, and there is more desire for privacy and the need to support data-intensive applications like AI. With AI, there will be a bigger gap between winners  and losers. We are here to make you part of the winners.”