ESG's Mark Peters catches up with John Rollason, Senior Director and Head of Marketing of NetApp EMEA. This is Part 2 of a 2-part interview.
Read the related ESG Blog: NetApp's Change: In Conversation with John Rollason
Watch part one: Interview With NetApp's John Rollason - Part 1
John: We absolutely believe in a hybrid cloud world, and so we've partnered with the world's biggest hyperscalers, you know. The level of innovation that they can bring to an organization or one of our customers is fantastic to see.
Mark: With all those partnerships that you mentioned, whether with the hyperscalers or other partners around the industry, what's more important, selling the next filer or providing something that's heterogeneous? In other words, if you are the data fabric and the data authority but you provide the data fabric, does it matter that you sell everything underneath?
I mean, clearly, you'd like to, but I presume you accept that you might not.
John: Yeah, well, I think, for us, the most important thing is the customer. So it's, you know, what does the customer want. But in terms of the choice that they need, so I think there's an awful lot of investment in infrastructure for enterprise applications that really just needs modernizing and bringing away from some of those very old frame arrays and those sorts of things. There's a huge opportunity to help people there.
But I think there's also an opportunity for people looking at building your newer styles of infrastructure, whether that'd be in the cloud itself or on cloud-like infrastructure on premises. I think being able to bring those together in a fabric to allow people to really concentrate on the value of their data is a really good place to be in the industry.
You know, you've probably heard NetApp talk about, maybe four or five years ago, I think we got a lot of sort of semi-negative reaction, at the time, that it was too vague and, you know, people didn't quite understand it. I think, for me, now, at this point, you know, it's been proven to be a very, very clever strategy, because people really want the ability to move their data to the right place at the right time, in whatever style of infrastructure that they need to take advantage of.
Mark: Which leads me to the final thing. It is genuinely conceivable that both from a client perspective, customer perspective, and from you as a vendor perspective that the opportunity from a genuine data fabric offering and being a data-centric company is greater than it ever was for the most successful storage-centric company, which you used to be.
John: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think you can think of the 2 waves of innovation I've certainly been part of in my career over the last 20 years. I think we have the first sort of wave around the dot-com boom and the internet that drove those early storage companies, one of them being NetApp, EMC, and various others.
Really exciting times and that really laid the foundation of where we are today. I think the second wave we saw was, you know, sort of 10 years or so ago, driven by VMware and the whole virtualized infrastructure, but very much sort of an infrastructure-driven wave, or opportunity, if you want. I think the difference now is that, really, the whole economy is moving to a data-driven economy, if you could argue that, you know, digital transformation and all of the buzzwords that are out there.
But I think we're now seeing really becoming true statements in a way that perhaps we talked about 20 years ago but really are now seeing as reality. Looking at valuations of companies, you look at the way people are really transforming their businesses. And I think you bring together a data-centric approach, a software-centric approach, and a cloud-centric approach, and all of those coming together to serve real, true transformation in business that maybe is a once in maybe 20-or-more-year transformation.
For me, it's really, really exciting.
Mark: It's interesting. I would try just a little bit and say, of course, if you can be all centric in all of those things, are you centric in any of them? But I do understand that it's the data fabric, the centricity, if you like, that brings all that together, the focus on things underneath and obviously...
John: Yeah, the focus on data of all things...
Mark: And perhaps that's the thing.
John: That's the transformation in NetApp. So we used to be a...
Mark: It sounds so small, doesn't it, the moving from storage to data? But it's everything, it's enormous.
John: Yeah, it's absolutely everything, absolutely.
Mark: Yeah. And I do think it's interesting, as like, you know, turn to some commentary here, is that when you were...however successful a storage company were, you know, you're going to get a piece of the pie, maybe bigger one year, smaller the next, depending. But if you can be over the top of all that, which is now not storage but is data, and you are helping to orchestrate that, to stitch it together, to use the fabric terminology, then your stickiness, your value, your longevity is dramatically improved.
John: I would agree with that.