NetApp’s Insight event last week felt very different to me from prior iterations. The degree of "credible spring in its corporate step" was noticeably improved. An outside -- and purely numbers-focused -- observer might find that somewhat counter-intuitive as NetApp's recent financial results have not been what the Sunnyvale outfit would have wanted. Meantime, I’ll also bet that some long-in-the-tooth customer attendees found the changes surprising and even a little jarring. After all, NetApp generally -- and Insight specifically -- has traditionally been a comfortable, technically astute organization. The Filer Cult. Even when it has been way more than that.
While the change has been coming for a while, the event felt like a coming-out party....almost the arrival of a new NetApp. While there were products aplenty, the centerpiece of everything was not a technology, but rather an approach to connecting with and serving customers -- NetApp's Keystone embraces flexible consumption approaches with sophisticated and straightforward customer care, guarantees, and advice. Here are my summary thoughts from the event - including a chat with Henri Richard who leads NetApp's global sales efforts -- and the meaning its contents have for NetApp's place in the world.
Of course NetApp hopes that its new Keystone approach –- which is not yet fully complete, not yet fully perfect, but is nonetheless a massive integrated commitment that's highly aligned with what users say they want -- will deliver it more business from both the "choir" attending Insight and from the massive untapped market potential that is laid open to it in a hybrid cloud world. In that respect, it is like so many other vendors; and a cynic could automatically leap to discussions of the danger of vendor lock-in that can all-too-easily be the hidden cost of leaning heavily into one approach over others. But this is where NetApp diverges from many of its competitors -- its focus on data and orchestration comes with a committed degree of open-ness and meritocratic flexibility that is truly impressive. So, for sure, NetApp would like to lock you in to its offerings, but it will also effectively give you a key...meaning that if you stay, it will be by choice. And that's new.