So, it is hard not to have fun with word repetition at times - so here are a few insightful insights from Insight, NetApp's annual customer and partner conference that was held last week. My actual theme for this commentary is about NetApp's surprises - simultaneously both the existence and lack thereof! But before digging into that a little more, take a look at this ESG On Location video that Steve Duplessie and I recorded at the event.
Now back to the whole "surprise" commentary.....
- I guess it was no great surprise that George Kurian led into NetApp's strategic and corporate update with talk of "secular stagflation" and the challenges that it has wrought for IT specifically and the company he leads specifically. We know we are in a period of "Data Transformation" (every vendor tells us!) and it's no surprise therefore that a storage and data management company, such as NetApp, sees data as the currency of the burgeoning digital economy! Given its limitations in some areas, of course NetApp is keen to paint "one stop shops for IT" as sub-optimal and to talk about outcomes as much as, if not more than, methods. And, finally for now, on less esoteric matters it was no surprise that SolidFire was front and center for current expanded sales focus, while marketing - now with a new permanent leader appointed - has the task of getting the new corporate story perfected and promoted at the top of its "to do list."
- So, what about the actual surprises? As you may have gathered from Steve's and my comments in the video, I think the big overall surprise can be summarized thus: despite all the obvious market headwinds and continuing internal challenges of change for NetApp, there's almost an embarrassment of riches - not just ideas but actual manifestations - that the company has to work with. Just for a couple of examples - there's the level of new-ness and resource efficiency in ONTAP 9, massively improved development speeds, and - who knew!? - the fact that OnCommand Insight (think of it as cross-multi-cloud and on-prem SRM) is deployed by 70 of the Fortune 100. That last one matters particularly because it can be a foundational element to the emerging Data Fabric that is NetApp's strategic play and endeavor.
The number of existing Data Fabric "threads" was therefore the major takeaway - even if in total it sometimes seemed a surprise to our hosts as much as to us! Now of course the whole Data Fabric idea is attacked by some: although usually for its complexity rather than its clear potential value. Perhaps also it's because many prior attempts at overall data integration efforts have either truly been focused on easing upgrade and migration woes, and/or have been akin to storage vendor Trojan Horses, aimed at getting them "in" so as to more easily then remove the incumbent vendor(s). Today's IT world is very different of course and - another non-surprise! - NetApp is not the only vendor to see the value of a genuine data fabric: it really makes sense if data is indeed the currency of the new digital economy......after all, you wouldn't want multiple non-exchangeable-currencies in multiple different piggy banks!
Insight reminded me that NetApp might have the means to completing its reinvention in sight.