NetApp makes its cloud, 'data authority' pivot

NetApp outlined a series of products and an architecture designed to manage data as much as store it. NetApp's ace: Integration partnerships with the three big cloud providers.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

NetApp, best known as a storage system provider, is pivoting to be cloud first with a series of product launches aimed at managing data across the data center and cloud.

Indeed, NetApp is the only storage vendor with integration across the three big public cloud providers. Historically, NetApp has provided storage and data management tools across on-premise environments, but in recent years the company has forged integrations with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

The NetApp positioning is similar to what Pure Storage is doing. Yes, storage is a key market, but the management of data and architectures that support artificial intelligence are the long term play. Nutanix also recently shifted to a software-only model. Storage is basically cloud native software now.

David Hitz, NetApp's founder and executive vice president, outlined the company's approach at an analyst event this week.

If our customers are telling us we want to be cloud first -- and certainly not 100% of them, but it's a common theme, I think the best response for NetApp is to lead with the cloud. That's what our customers are interested in, and so that's what we should lead within our conversation with them.

Hitz added that a cloud-first approach resonates with new customers even if NetApp made its name selling on-premises gear. "We've come a long way from three to four years ago," said Hitz.

BTIG analyst Edward Parker put NetApp's strategy simply as "cloud or bust." Parker said:

NetApp's cloud or bust strategy embraces the change in customer focus away from infrastructure and storage arrays toward services that enable applications, and stands in contrast to its competition. NetApp's positioning of itself as a data management company rather than a storage company stands to its benefit. This strategy beats back some of the secular headwinds facing on-prem infrastructure and plays to areas of growth particularly in solving the hybrid challenge.


The company's pivot to the cloud from storage was highlighted this week at its Insight conference. NetApp launched the following:

  • NetApp Cloud Insights, a software as a service tool to monitor and optimize hybrid cloud infrastructure. Cloud Insights is designed to monitor microservices as well as Kubernetes containers. The goal is to optimize infrastructure costs, resolve problems faster and prevent issues.
  • Azure NetApp Files, an Azure service powered by NetApp's ONTAP platform. The system manages file to move and deploy in Microsoft Azure. Azure NetApp Files manages data within Azure and integrate data sets.
  • NetApp Cloud Volumes, ONTAP. The systems optimizes the location of data on Azure as well as AWS.
  • NetApp HCI with Solidfire Element. The system integrates private and public clouds and integrates its SolidFire acquisition to play in the hyperconverged infrastructure space. Lenovo, NetApp forge data center partnership, joint venture in China
  • NetApp ONTAP 9.5 software, which integrates cloud environments, modernizes data services and offers all-flash performance. The software unifies data management across storage environments including the cloud, automates tiering of data sets and bolsters efficiency.
  • NetApp StorageGRID SG6060, a data management architecture for the Internet of things, AI and machine learning.
  • Updates to Trident, an automated provisioning tool, to support Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform on NetApp HCI as well as Cloud Volumes for Google Cloud Platform and AWS. The move is powered by the recent acquisition of StackPointCloud.

Add it up and it appears that NetApp is backing up its master plan to be a "data authority" for the hybrid cloud and less of a commodity storage player.


CEO George Kurian said storage is just a part of a bigger imperative to harness enterprise data.

We see the next era as a data-driven digital era. The reason for it is that customers continued to look to their providers for digital experiences. They started with those digital experiences in their consumer world, but increasingly, want to see that in their business-to-business experiences. And so the challenge that companies that are not born digital is that they've got to transform themselves to becoming digital companies. And to do that, the one key asset that a traditional company has is data. It's data about their customer relationships. It's data about their supply chain. It's data about all of the different geographies they do business in. And that harnessing that data is a key source of competitive advantage for all companies, particularly the traditional incumbents who are trying to digitize.


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