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NetApp has made a huge strategy shift a few years ago and has been transitioning from being a traditional storage company to a hybrid cloud data management vendor since then. The vision behind this evolutionary journey is Data Fabric. Now Fabric Orchestrator has the potential to enable seamless application and data mobility across on-premises and public cloud infrastructure, and this is exactly how a true hybrid cloud should work.
What is Data Fabric?
From NetApp’s website: “Data Fabric is an architecture and set of data services that provide consistent capabilities across a choice of endpoints spanning on-premises and multiple cloud environments. Data Fabric simplifies and integrates across cloud and on-premises to accelerate digital transformation. It delivers consistent and integrated hybrid cloud data services for data visibility and insights, data access and control and data protection and security.”
Many people still remember NetApp for its FAS storage and ONTAP, but the product line is much more diverse and structured now. The ONTAP-everywhere mantra has disappeared and now we have several product lines ranging from all-flash scale-out storage arrays to object storage and cloud-only products. The beauty of this is that no matter the OS and the functionalities of these systems, they share protocols and interfaces to move data easily. Even more so, especially on the cloud side, NetApp is now able to provide similar services on all major cloud providers that are compatible with the same storage systems installed in your data center.
This translates to freedom of choice for the end-user, and it is also interesting to note that some NetApp customers are cloud-only, meaning that they really didn’t know about NetApp before adopting one of their cloud solutions — quite an achievement for a storage vendor.
Data Fabric is cool, but there was still a missing piece: automation. In fact, all these integrations and data movements across different platforms were not organized and orchestrated, making everything more complicated and somehow risky at times.
Welcome Fabric Orchestrator
NetApp Fabric Orchestrator has the potential to glue together all the pieces and provide seamless data and application movements across clouds, seamlessly.
I used the word “potential” because we are not actually there yet, but it is not difficult to imagine where this product is going … especially after seeing the demo NetApp presented at Tech Field Day 20.
Another aspect to consider regarding application and data mobility is that it won’t be a good fit for everyone. Kubernetes is instrumental to application mobility, this is due to the advantages of containers and their level of abstraction from the underlying infrastructure. This means that for the foreseeable future only modern applications will have this possibility.
Part of the beauty of NetApp Fabric Orchestrator is its holistic approach to manage data and applications no matter where they are. It dramatically simplifies the creation of Kubernetes clusters, both on-prem and the public cloud, and really simplifies its management. Again, the potential for this tool to become pivotal in the execution of a broad hybrid cloud strategy is very high.
This is not the first time that I praise NetApp for its Data Fabric vision, and I’m pleased to see them executing well on it. With NetApp Fabric Orchestrator they are demonstrating once again that they are pushing in the right direction, and this can become a huge differentiator when competing with other storage vendors.
The entire primary storage industry is struggling because of cloud, features commoditization, hyperconvergence, price wars, and more. Traditional data storage is no longer relevant in modern infrastructures, some vendors decided to set themselves apart from all of this and evolve into something new, more sophisticated, and data-driven. NetApp is not the only one shifting from being a data storage vendor to a data-driven infrastructure provider for the hybrid cloud, but it is one of the few leading the change at the moment.
In this regard, I’m pretty sure that in the next 12 to 18 months we will see more and more vendors embrace a similar strategy, while others will definitely become less relevant. Therefore, we will see a market consolidation, with fewer vendors competing in primary storage.