3 reasons data storage platforms are more relevant than ever

3 reasons data storage platforms are more relevant than ever
By Matt Swinbourne, systems engineering manager, NetApp

With the Cloud already beginning to change everything, many businesses are asking why they should invest in data storage platforms. My response is that in today’s IT environment, storage vendors are more relevant than ever. Why? Because the Cloud reinforces the fact that data is king.

Businesses are built on data. They always have been, and without it, business stops. With so many new storage startups in the market today, as well as countless Cloud service providers in the mix, customers can be forgiven for having ‘analysis paralysis’ when looking for their new data platform. So, how and why are data storage solutions still relevant?

#3 – Hybrid Flash has created a new wave of innovation in storage performance and economics
The term “Hybrid Flash” is bandied about the marketplace as if it’s a completely new innovation. Hybrid Flash is undoubtedly a disruptive technology, but it’s important to remember that Flash is just a storage medium. The important question is how it can be leveraged to add business value and integrate with future innovations in storage that are yet to come to market. Phase Change Memory, anyone?

In fact, Hybrid Flash is not a new innovation. NetApp had Hybrid Flash solutions back in 2008, when we brought our Flash Cache to market. We continue this innovation today, with technologies like Flash Pool, the EF and FAS All Flash Array solutions, and we will soon bring to market our new FlashRay product. Our recently announced, entry level FAS 2500 solutions, has up to 550TB of storage per array and up to 4TB of Hybrid Flash, while our brand new FAS 8000 solutions can manage up to 4.8PB of storage per array, and up to 18TB of Hybrid Flash.

When you cluster these solutions together, you can host up to 57PB of data and up to 216TB of hybrid flash, and can also build any of these cluster nodes as All-Flash solutions for those “problem apps” mentioned in last month’s Full Throttle.

#2 – Software is changing the storage game for the better
Building bigger, better, harder, faster platforms on Flash (or whatever medium you choose) is fine, and at NetApp, we’ll continue to create new technologies that help businesses go further, faster. There’s no doubt innovation in hardware ads value to organisations (not the least because the helpdesk will receive fewer calls about that “problem app”). However, there are more aspects of data management that not only add value to day-to-day operations, but also produce meaningful bottom line savings.

Enter the latest buzzword to hit the market; “Software-Defined.”  Why is “software-defined” so important?  Simply put, innovation is much easier to deliver on Software-Defined platforms, and services are many, many times more portable when software-defined. Innovations in hardware make services run faster and allow us to store more data in smaller footprints, however if the solution isn’t defined in software, replacing old hardware can become an expensive and disruptive process, and if you’re thinking about integrating cloud services into your infrastructure, hardware bound solutions are not your friend.

Imagine a data platform that never requires outages, fibre channel zoning changes or firewall changes. Consider the cost savings, improved service performance and enhanced perception of IT that this would bring for your business. Imagine if you could also manage your own private Cloud and external Clouds together, moving your data and services between on-premise Clouds and external Clouds at the click of a mouse.

We all know the technology industry loves buzzwords and TLAs (three letter acronyms for the uninitiated), and in true form, the number of vendors now reinventing themselves as providers of “Software-Defined X” is astounding. Comparatively, NetApp has been dedicated to software innovation since 2002, when we combined SAN and NAS onto the same platform and introduced the concept of Virtual Filers, or virtual tenancies in our software.

Software-Defined might be a new buzzword, however it is nevertheless a significant shift in thinking, focused on allowing businesses to have as little dependency on hardware as possible. NetApp’s scale-out operating system (Clustered Data ONTAP) achieves just that, enabling businesses to replace and upgrade hardware and move workloads completely non-disruptively.

#1 – Cloud-neutral universal data platforms are the only remedy for potentially fatal ‘Cloud fatigue’
All that we’ve heard and read about the impending Cloud revolution is leading to a large-scale case of “Cloud Fatigue”.  You know you’re a sufferer of Cloud fatigue when you actively avoid reading anything that has “Cloud” in the title, and every time you hear a vendor mention that they are “Cloud-ready”, you roll your eyes and groan.

Cloud Fatigue is a clear and present danger for many organisations, however, many of them are yet to experience it’s long term effects. The “Cloud Fatigue” of the future, will be a condition whose symptoms include:

  • Inescapable lock-in to a Cloud provider,
  • Lack of negotiability for the rate and SLAs from Cloud provider,
  • Frustration with lack of innovation from Cloud provider, and
  • High risk, with all services covered under one provider.

In it’s final stages, Cloud fatigue may lead to job loss, and despair for many, due to the lack of vision in the very early stages of Cloud service adoption.

NetApp wants to help businesses avoid this gloomy future, and has built into our software the capability to easily move data and services between Hypervisors, Cloud service providers (including your own Cloud), protect data between service providers, and build new Clouds. We aren’t building our own Cloud and forcing our customers to use it, nor are we locking our customers into a preferred hypervisor. Instead, we have invested in building dynamic solutions that help businesses retain negotiation power, dynamically shift workloads as prices or service levels dictate, and most importantly, retain economically sustainable control of their data

It’s important to realise the inherent value in business data, and leverage the right tools and services to help you get the most out of it, both now and in the future. This means doing everything possible to avoid being tied down; you should be able to retain control of your data, decide where it lives and determine how it’s protected.

NetApp UnBound Cloud – The new vision of cloud data management
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