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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

NetApp is not an analytics company, so we don't compete with Oracle, Teradata or SAP. All three are important partners for us. The NetApp advantage is we've got multi-protocol storage and we can build a big pool of storage, whether its file-oriented or database-oriented or block-oriented, and it's easy to extract that data and have access to your analytics tool.

NW: Are customers that are pursuing some kind of big data application relying on existing storage infrastructure or building anew to support that?

TG:  It varies. If their data is hard to get at -- in other words, it's in all different forms -- then they will tend to extract it from its current locations and create another data set to run the analytics against. But with NetApp you don't need to do that. You're got one set of access methods to get at our data and we have one set of tools to manage it.

We see a fair amount of proof-of-concepts being done with some of these newer technologies like Hadoop, and we also see proof-of-concepts being done in the cloud to avoid big upfront investments. And a lot of these activities are driven by lines of business. Marketing wants to understand customer behavior or operations wants to understand product yields, and some of this activity is being done outside of the CIO function.

But as these things become mature and they want to go to production, and if they're going to interact with the systems of record or in fact become systems of record, some tension arises between the lines of businesses and the core functionality of the company. Because if this is going to scale, if it's going to be reliable, if it's going to be secure, then perhaps some of this proof-of-concept work might not be on the infrastructure you want to use.

NW:  In closing, anything that surprises you in terms of how the industry is evolving?

TG: Customers have a lot on their mind and a lot to consider ... questions about cloud, economic concerns, security concerns, new technologies like flash, software-defined everything, etc. And that is clearly slowing down decision making. But you can't just stand pat and let your competitors trample all over you, and you can't be reckless. There are enormous opportunities for CIOs to navigate the landscape of all these new technologies, manage the risks, understand the risks, and ultimately deliver competitive advantage to their firm.

It was like 15 years ago when we were living with the question, "Does IT matter?" I think IT matters a lot and I think there's a much greater range of potential outcomes, both positive and negative, to organizations based on how IT performs and how they make choices around these available technologies. So I don't know if it's a surprise, it's just that there's a lot of things coming at us.


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