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NetApp sets its sights on cloud data management: A Q&A with CEO Tom Georgens

John Dix | July 22, 2014
NetApp's CEO provides his take on the changes in the cloud computing world

NW: You mentioned islands of computing, yet in some of these modern data centers companies are building around pods. What is the difference between a pod and an island?

TG: With virtualized infrastructure, where people could be running a dozen applications per server and they could have hundreds of servers, the idea of building a storage pool behind it doesn't mean you end up with one gigantic box. In fact, that's not the practical way to build it.

We want you to basically build a cluster. NetApp's big innovation over the last few years is taking this operating system we have -- which is the number one storage operating system in the world because we're multi-protocol while our competitors have multiple point products and adding clustering so we can deliver effectively unlimited scale, unlimited performance and non-disruptive operation.

So while this infrastructure is a bunch of boxes, they're all networked together and pooled with transparent volume migration between them, all managed with one set of tools. From a manageability point of view and a provisioning point of view it's all one big pool, but the physical reality is it's a bunch of boxes that are interconnected with a high-speed network.

So coming back to your question about pods; this is a little bit different. NetApp has been collaborating with Cisco over the last couple of years on something we call FlexPod. FlexPod is a very tight integration between NetApp storage, Cisco server, Cisco networking and VMware. Basically we create a pre-integrated server/networking/storage stack.

The rationale is that IT spending is constrained and the customer's ability to invest in engineering is going down, so their ability to evaluate, certify, test and integrate products is limited. If likeminded players can come together like a Cisco and a NetApp and a VMware, we can integrate our solutions and then say to a client, "We have something that is every bit as integrated as anything you could buy from an HP or an IBM, but it's made of best-of-breed components and, since it is pre-integrated, we lower your risk."

Now that doesn't mean that the pods are isolated around individual apps. The customer could buy 50 of these pods and then integrate them with the clustering software and still have a big pool of storage, even though they're buying it as pre-integrated pods.

NW: Switching gears a bit, what do you make of the promise of big data?

TG: People are intrigued with the possibility of gleaning more intelligence from all this data. But the transition into production is complicated. For NetApp, we have our own big data project that has to do with how we monitor all of our equipment and analyze the data that gets reported back to us. And that's been very successful.


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