NetApp Talks a Big Game, Strategic Partnerships with Big Tech

NetApp Talks a Big Game, Strategic Partners & Big Tech

March 1, 2021

NetApp Asia Pacific CTO Cloud Architecture Matt Swinbourne gives us a fireside Q&A on the latest market sentiment in cloud, apps and where tech is brimming with opportunity across SEA.  

Could you unpack how NetApp’s partnership with big tech players like Amazon, Azure, Google etc benefits customers with their digital transformation needs? Feel free to include in detail some co-engineering solutions that has led to increase in complementary GTM products. 

At NetApp, our strategic partnerships with big tech players like Amazon, Azure and Google has allowed us to better help our customers migrate, protect, curate and power data platforms across all forms of cloud, enabling customers to ultimately achieve their digital dreams.

These partnerships have enabled NetApp to speed cloud migrations for our customers and help them migrate the “un-migratable” workloads previously excluded from Cloud. Working closely with these cloud providers, we can offer solutions like Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Azure NetApp Files and Cloud Volumes Services for both traditional workloads that are migrating to the cloud as well as modern cloud native workloads using microservices architectures or Kubernetes based applications.

These solutions can help customers achieve the data mobility and performance that they need, particularly as remote working becomes prevalent and customers want to introduce elasticity into their services more than ever.

NetApp’s latest solution, Project Astra, integrates the advantages of NetApp into cloud native Kubernetes platforms like Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). Astra delivers the power of ONTAP, our unique operating system, in a way that cloud administrators and applications developers can use it without the need for “storage admin” skills.

This is great news for our customers; some of which whom thought their accelerated plans to public cloud would not be achievable but can now employ their cloud infrastructure and financial agility almost instantly. In other cases, customers who have adapted quickly and shifted to public cloud platforms at the start of the pandemic are now looking at other ways to expand their options in anticipation of potential crisis events, while controlling their baseline and burst costs.

Regarding brand awareness, why do customers need to know that the public cloud is powered, built and run on NetApp technology? What sets NetApp apart?

NetApp has always held a fundamentally different viewpoint to many of our traditional competitors. We’ve lead with a mindset that embraced public cloud since day 1, providing solutions to empower our customers in achieving their objectives. This model partnership with our customers has helped to develop cloud native services and to build these as integrated public cloud services along with our public cloud partners.

We enable organizations to migrate a spectrum of workloads – from migrating large, performance hungry enterprise applications such as SAP HANA to cloud all the way to the other end of the spectrum by migrating cold data to the public cloud to drive out the cost of archive.

Migration of workloads like VDI, Linux Database, Oracle, SQL and other applications and stacks were previously viewed as impossible to migrate, often requiring “re-platforming” before cloud migration. With us, organizations can migrate with ease and also significantly lower the risk profile of the migration of these applications. All thanks to our tightly integrated cloud volumes services with the biggest public cloud players in the market, this is what sets us apart.

Market Trends: NetApp has experienced a 192% growth in cloud platforms software in the last reported quarter. You mentioned interesting market dynamics since the pandemic: How COVID accelerated remote digital workforce, and, what do you mean by the ‘lift and shift’ offering, how can large SMEs prepare for growth phase once market recovery returns?

COVID-19 has certainly accelerated digital transformation, with a shift to remote working – satisfying a bigger market appetite for both cloud infrastructure and agility. We observed organizations simply picking up their applications and migrating to the cloud. These early movers are now reaping the immediate benefits of elastic infrastructure that the public cloud delivers.

“Lift and Shift” is a migration strategy employed by many, especially during COVID-19 to introduce elastic cloud infrastructure to manage bursts in demand from lockdowns or other urgent events. Customers lift their data and application and shift it to the cloud, there is no transformation of the service itself, or the data or the data format, simply the application and data are physically moved to run on cloud infrastructure. Whilst this methodology yields excellent results, it is a step in the journey of digital transformation.

A more wholistic approach would be to analyze the application or service and survey the possible cloud native alternatives including the possibility of re-developing in-house to achieve a “cloud native” service that could make benefit of multi-cloud environments through the use of platforms like Kubernetes.

As APAC organizations start to plan their business strategy around the “new normal”, we are already seeing organizations look to understand their new public cloud spend and how to forecast costs as they look for stability in operating costs. As organizations move away from a traditional infrastructure purchase every three years to an elastic OPEX, planning and foresight are key to ensure the best possible outcome for every dollar.

Migration to cloud will help manage bursts in demand and take the pressure away from unexpected lockdowns, but unless significant effort is applied to cost forecasting and control the true bottom line benefits will not be realized. As applications become more complex and customers move to leverage more cloud services and cloud companies, we see continual cost optimization as a key requirement for any organization moving forward.

What are the benefits of financial agility data centres/ the shift to public cloud and the relationship to digital transformation?

Cloud migration and the financial agility associated are some of the building blocks of digital transformation. While these lay the foundation for digital transformation, the latter requires changing the way an organization conducts its business, and not only how it harnesses its technology.

For example, a mining company may “lift and shift” all their applications to public cloud, but the mine would fundamentally continue to operate in the same way it has operated for years. Digitally transforming the operation might involve collecting real time telemetry from trucks and combining this data with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to gain ML driven insights into the road surface and its effect on tyre wear on the trucks to better plan maintenance windows. The organization would yield material savings in both tyre purchasing, road management, maintenance outages on the trucks, more predictable production results and so on.

Migrating to cloud, or in other words only changing the infrastructure layer delivers both technical capacity elasticity and financial agility. It is a foundational (and necessary) step towards true digital transformation.

What is the general market sentiment for 2021? Are there any APAC projections for return to growth next Q3?

It goes without saying that this year, the pandemic has caused massive upheaval in the global economy. While APAC was the first part of the world that was affected by the crisis, it has remained strong in its resilience to disruption, as shown by the response to the outbreak.

There will be a return to GDP growth in APAC – as pent-up economic growth picks up, prospects for the region are brighter in 2021. The pandemic has certainly accelerated the path to digital transformation in ways that were unthinkable in the past.

As remote working becomes “the norm”, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) will continue to expand as organizations seek to adapt to a flexible model that will overcome traditional physical location boundaries, unlocking new pools of talent. This also means that cloud will continue to be a major focus for customers as they look to accelerate their journey of getting out of managing their own infrastructure or consuming it in a more efficient way.

Market growth is expected to follow closely behind, with other market projections including the accelerated rate of cloud adoption, with some predicting that the public cloud infrastructure could grow 35% to $120 billion. Gartner also reports that worldwide public cloud end-user spending will grow by 18% in 2021, as the ability to provide cost efficient savings and business continuity plans will carry on into 2021.

You mentioned Australia and parts of NZ, Korea and Hong Kong as well as Japan. Why are the countries listed moving the fastest in terms of digital transformation?

As businesses in APAC continue to see digital transformation as their top priority, we see an appetite for foundational technologies for digital transformation such as cloud and infrastructure transformation with customers in countries such as ANZ, Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. The key industries leading the digital transformation in these countries are the manufacturing sector in Korea, and Japan, the autonomous mining industry for Australia and the financial sector for Hong Kong.

Overall, digital transformation in the APAC region was spurred on by the success of established digital organizations reaping the benefits of elastic operational costs and functional capacity. On the other side of the coin several governments around the region were forced to re-examine the way they interact with their citizens during the pandemic, looking to digitize contact tracing efforts for example. We expect this to continue in 2021 with spending on health in particular and vaccine rollout projects to accelerate as a priority objective.

Why is the Indonesia market a potential top driver of cloud consumption (Jakarta and the oil and gas industry)?

In recent years, Indonesia has become a hot spot for global technology companies such as Google and Alibaba – with Alibaba announcing plans to launch its third data centre in Indonesia in the first half of 2021, Google Cloud opening its first cloud region in Jakarta in 2020 and AWS following suit in 2022.

Indonesia’s digital transformation is accelerating, and the country is reported to be one of the fastest growing markets for public cloud in APAC. Growth has mainly being driven by the resources industry which generates an enormous amount of data for subsurface exploration and well planning, making Indonesia a potential top driver of cloud consumption, with specific demands on sovereignty of data balancing the agility cloud delivers with compliance and security.

NetApp, working with its partners like Google, Equinix and Rackspace, have satisfied sovereign data requirements by providing both “cloud-native” and “cloud-adjacent” data solutions. This also provides organizations the capability to free up on-premises infrastructure for other pressing demands as well as offer the flexibility of moving highly compute intensive workloads to the cloud so they only pay for what they need when they need it.

What is Google’s strategy in the APAC region and what it means for both competitors and customers alike?

NetApp and Google Cloud partner to develop deep integrations between Google Cloud Platform and the NetApp portfolio of cloud data services. Google Cloud recognizes NetApp as a unique partner that enables our customers to migrate to the cloud. Together, we offer the seamless performance that customers require to deploy, move, and manage business-critical data and applications in the cloud with minimal changes, fewer resources, and lower risk. One example would be our support for the Google Cloud VMware Engine with and NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP and NetApp’s Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud.

This offering allows customers running on-premises VMware workloads to seamlessly migrate to Google Cloud without having to re-architect or refactor their applications, allowing them to leverage the value of their existing VMware investments while maintaining operational continuity and avoiding complex data management, hardware refreshes, and procurement cycles.

Recently, we announced the availability of Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud in Asia Pacific, in countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. This solution would allow businesses in Asia Pacific to accelerate their digital transformation with NetApp and Google Cloud on a global scale, allowing more access to security, data protection and flexibility.

What are the trends around app development in Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan?

As more organizations invest in digital transformation, their application stacks from traditional to micro-services. The ability to leverage outsourced talent grows because applications are segmented into smaller independent parts rather than developed as an entire stack in one fixed location. Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan are key markets for application development talent.

(Ed. Featured image by Photographer Roman Odintsov.)

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