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Exclusive: NetApp's Kiwi boss details data transport play

By Heather Wright
Thu 30 Jun 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Hyperscale environments, such as AWS, are helping fueling growth for NetApp, with the company’s new Kiwi boss urging resellers look beyond simply selling storage and address the issues associated with the move to cloud – and moving data around.

James Kennedy-Moffat, NetApp New Zealand country manager, admits growth courtesy of the ‘hyperscale phenomenon’ is somewhat paradoxical, with many analysts seeing the likes of AWS as increased competition for NetApp, with some high-profile hyperscale providers not buying storage from traditional OEMs.

However, in his first interview since his appointment to the role earlier this month, Kennedy-Moffat says the lifeblood of NetApp will be in the growth that comes out of an environment now ‘hyperscaler dominant, especially out of the United States’.

“That’s the message we are taking [to resellers], to say there is one data platform by which you can now move data around and you don’t have to go in there and just sell infrastructure to be relevant,’ Kennedy-Moffat says.

“There are two key challenges facing our customers’ businesses: the need for business agility and the influence of cloud,” he says.

Kennedy-Moffat says moving workloads to the cloud solves some problems – but creates new ones, particularly around keeping data consistent and moving between on-premise, cloud and hosted environments.

“Only NetApp’s data fabric approach enables them to move data easily between locations – cloud or on-site – and give flexibility, speed and cost certainty,” Kennedy-Moffat says.

He says that opens up new opportunities for resellers.

“Once upon a time they would have made margin just on selling boxes and maybe a little bit of professional services, but now there is a whole play they can wrap around that.”

Kennedy-Moffat says New Zealand is ‘a little unique’ when it comes to the hyperscale environment, with the US-centric offerings which dominate the storage industry’s conversations internationally raising issues including latency and data sovereignty – and confusion for Kiwi customers.

“In New Zealand, people get confused as to what is the cloud. Ultimately, the cloud to me is more compute than it is storage. People get those two things fused together, which I’m not sure is particularly accurate,” he says.

“There are lots of thoughts going on that get compounded being in New Zealand because we’ve got costs: ingress costs, egress costs, the WAN link costs to Australia.

“What NetApp is doing and what I’m doing in New Zealand is saying let’s use the data transport layer at NetApp itself.

“We are very clever at moving data around. We call it a data fabric, but essentially it is a platform by which people can move their data at that level.”

Kennedy-Moffat says customers can use NetApp to move data around, be it on-prem, in the cloud or with local hosting providers.

“That’s the kind of challenge we’re trying to fix for customers and that’s so much better than going in and talking about storage.”

He says the offering provides a way for resellers to monetise the move to cloud.

“It’s about not throwing up your hands and saying these guys are going to AWS or Azure and walking away, but asking how you remain relevant, how you add value to the customer and stay in the game.

“The [resellers] who can crack that are going to do really well.”

Kennedy-Moffat says NetApp ‘created, redefined, grew and owned’ the network attached storage market.

“What I see us doing now is almost that, replicated in an application-centric age where the application is going to be the most important thing, rather than the underlying structure.

“We’re defining how you move data around, because moving data around is the hard part.

“It has gravity which means it pulls the application to it because you can’t have your data residing somewhere and your application that uses that data sitting somewhere else. It just doesn’t work because the latency will kill it. And you can’t change that.

“Applications just aren’t built to withstand that kind of latency and physics gets in the way and we can’t change the speed of light,” he says.

Kennedy-Moffat says ultimately what NetApp does is transport data across multiple platforms and locations.

“That’s the key that we have and that distinguishes us from anyone else who goes in and sells a storage product: ours is a platform on which people can build their services on.”

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