Cloud and the third wave of innovation

Cloud and the third wave of innovation
By James Kennedy-Moffat, Sales Representative, NetApp New Zealand

In the last 200 years there have been two major waves of innovation. The first wave was the Industrial Revolution, which brought us large-scale manufacturing, railways and electricity. Our world was never the same.

The second wave was the Internet revolution. This brought us computers and data networks and access to information and mass communications. Again, our world changed forever.

Now it feels like we are entering a third wave of innovation. This new wave combines things such as intelligent machines, advanced analytics and nanotechnology.

We are living in such an exciting time where there is an explosion of achievement and creativity, where the gap between what can be imagined and what can be achieved is becoming ever smaller. But with it comes a proliferation of information and data that is growing at an exponential rate.

Never before in society’s history has a company’s own data and information been so important. A company’s information is their lifeblood, and IP is king. Companies now prefer to define themselves by who they are and what they do, rather than what their outputs are.

But therein lies a paradox: more and more companies are trusting their information to someone else. Their data is king, yet they entrust it to someone else to manage and look after. That someone else is the cloud.

So why would a company entrust its information to someone else? The answer is complex, but in essence you can distil it down into two parts:

  • On-premise can’t easily scale without scaring people at the prospect of having to buy lots more infrastructure to keep pace with the accelerating data growth.
  • Cloud makes it cheap to fail – it might be expensive to succeed, but cheap to fail. Trying out a new project, or testing a new idea, no longer needs a big up-front commitment.

So when people talk about the ‘cloud’, what do they mean? Everyone has a different interpretation of cloud, so here’s five things I know about the cloud:

1. I know the cloud absolutely makes sense for selected workloads to be best delivered from. For example: proof of concepts, bursting workloads, initial stages of new projects, or temporary workloads. It is especially good for seldom-accessed archival data – this seems to be the most logical sweetspot where quick wins can be found.

2. I know that it is expensive for a company to run their intensive or large-bandwidth production applications in the cloud – as it stands today, the economics just don’t stack up. Just like the promise of the paperless office, a company’s core production applications will continue to be run on-premise.

3. I know that customers need guidance and leadership from visionary vendors with a proven track record of success in solving customer challenges. Customers can’t navigate the complexities of these complex changes without good and effective guidance.

4. I know that customers need cloud to be a seamless extension of their existing infrastructure, not a separate silo. The reason for this is because you can’t easily move workloads around if you have separate silos.

5. Most importantly, I know that moving data is hard. Compute is easy – spinning up more virtual machines in a cloud provider is simple – for example if you wanted to calculate value of Pi, or work out some megaprime numbers. Compute is easy. Network is also easy – once you have it in place and send a packet, it is gone. By contrast, data management is, by far, the hardest problem to solve.

Why is that you ask? First, applications need data. In other words - data has gravity – because they rely on each other, data pulls applications to it. If this isn’t carefully managed, latency becomes an issue.

Second, data also has mass - it observes the laws of physics. You can’t just suddenly decide you want your data somewhere else, and achieve that with a click of your fingers; it takes time and effort and planning. Therefore it is imperative that customers to manage their data properly. That is the real challenge of cloud.

The question we ask ourselves everyday is: “how is NetApp placed to help customers with these challenges?” The answer is better than anyone else out there. Why? Because we have one platform that defines who we are and what we do.

For customers, this means we have one platform, no matter the size of the box they buy. We have one platform, irrespective of whether the box runs block or file. One platform, regardless of whether it is a production box, an archival box, or an all-flash box. One platform means that any box can mirror to any other box regardless of workload.

NetApp makes it easy for a customer to move data within their own infrastructure, and also between their own infrastructure and the cloud. Move data to the cloud, move it back again, then move your data to a different provider in the cloud, still seamlessly using the same storage platform. This enables full control for the customer to move workloads as best suits their business at that time.

Analyst group IDC ranks NetApp as the number one provider of storage to the cloud. This is chiefly because of the ease with which we can mirror data from one system to another. In the NetApp world, if you can ping it, you can mirror to it.

Think about the benefits of being able to mirror seamlessly between any NetApp array, regardless of its size, type or location. That’s a real benefit in the world of hybrid cloud.

NetApp will turn this third wave of innovation to our advantage, and to the advantage of our customers.

After the bust, companies realised they needed to be smarter with their buying decisions, so NetApp grew into a multi-billion-dollar company. Then, a few years later, when server virtualization took off, smart companies realised the benefits of a unified pool of storage, and NetApp had its second period of hyper growth.

Now, NetApp is set to enter our third cycle of growth, where this third wave of cloud-centric innovation will fuel NetApp’s biggest growth yet.

Because our competitors of the future won’t be the traditional storage or servers vendors we know today. Nor will they be the start-up all-flash vendors who don’t have a business model beyond today’s immediate problems. Instead, NetApp’s competitors will be any company with deep pockets. Think Amazon. Think Microsoft. Think Google. We call them ‘hyperscalers’.

But here is the second paradox of the day – the very guys who some consider competitive – the hyperscalers with the armies of developers with PhD’s – they will be the very ones who drive adoption to the cloud, in turn making NetApp the preferred platform of choice.

The paradox is that because of this third wave of innovation, NetApp will grow into an even more successful company, as customers come to understand the benefits of accelerating their own business growth by utilising the power of the cloud.