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Dave's Blog

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Change is hard. NetApp’s Innovation Awards are about recognizing people with the courage to think differently about how IT can drive business. These role models show what is possible, and hopefully they will inspire others to follow.


This year, during the 8th annual awards program, we honored organizations from around the globe that are using IT in new and exciting ways no one ever dreamed possible. 


Congratulations and thank you to the 7 Innovation Awards winners this year:

Innovators of the YearIowa Workforce Development (USPS); Mercy Healthcare System (Americas); Oxigen Services India (APAC); T-Systems Austria (EMEA)

Efficiency InnovationING Direct

Flexibility InnovationVerizon Communications

Visionary Leadership: Teradata Labs



Where Is NetApp Going From Here?

Posted by hitz Jun 19, 2012

This post was originally published on NetApp 360


In the final installment of my reflections on NetApp's 20 years of innovation, I talk about how NetApp continues to evolve to meet the increasingly complex demands of customers. Customers today need an agile infrastructure to meet critical business requirements and huge data needs, and NetApp is prepared to deliver.


This post was originally published on NetApp 360


In this second installment of a three-part series spotlighting NetApp's 20 years of innovation, I reflect on the evolution of NetApp and unified storage. NetApp led the industry a decade ago in in coining the term "unified storage," but today unified alone is no longer sufficient – and NetApp is once again leading the way forward.


This post was originally published on NetApp 360


In the first installment of a three-part series, I reflect on NetApp's 20th anniversary and how data has changed over the past two decades. Stay tuned for the next two installments to hear my views on what's beyond Unified Storage and how data continues to evolve.


Sometimes a disaster can inspire things that people wouldn’t even consider in normal times. After the earthquake and tsunami last year in Japan, that’s what happened at Softbank, a large telco/Internet provider.


Like everyone in Japan, Softbank asked what they could do to help. Companies were shut down, and Softbank realized that virtual desktops could help people get back to work. Japan is not a work-at-home culture, but at this point, public transportation was severely disrupted, and there was no choice. Softbank was one year into a two year project to provide Desktop as a Service (DaaS), and they were far enough along to move fast. Focusing especially on non-profit organizations and the government, they began offering cloud desktops just three days after March 11, when the crisis began.


Softbank’s external offering was modeled on an internal DaaS project, and they accelerated that as well. Only one of three business units had converted, but the team reduced the time to create a thousand virtual desktops from a week to a day, and in short order they added 14,000 more. The government had asked all companies to reduce power consumption by 25%, because so many nuclear power plants were shut down, but Softbank managed to cut power at their headquarters by 39%.


I freely admit that cloud computing isn’t usually about helping a country get back on its feet after a nationwide disaster, but it is inspiring when it can be used that way, which is why we are highlighting Softbank and their work.


Here is a video about Softbank and what they’ve done. Here is a Q&A about Softbank with myself and Ty McConney, who runs our Japanese business. And here is a technical case study.


What does Data ONTAP stand for?

Posted by hitz Jan 23, 2012

An employee recently asked me, "Is Data ONTAP an acronym? What does it stand for?"


Data ONTAP is sort of an acronym. You know how some acronyms are just too cute? It's clear that the goal was to make a particular word, and words were chose -- sometimes almost at random -- in order to make the acronym work. Data ONTAP is like that.


The acronym itself made no sense, so I won't even share it, but the inspiration lives on. Data ONTAP was inspired by beer. The idea was that data should flow freely, just like beer flowing from a tapped keg. Except imagine a pervasive beer infrastructure that lets you get your favorite brew from any faucet at any sink.


The reason I love the name Data ONTAP is because it captures the way people think about data. You want it to be wherever you need it, whenever you need it. On tap.

NetApp was conceived twenty years ago, on December 2nd, 1991 at Hobee’s Restaurant in Mountain View.


It was Mike Malcolm who first thought of building a “storage appliance”, and he telephoned James Lau and me to see if we’d like to start a company with him. James was busy, so Mike and I had lunch without him. People always talk about scribbling on napkins in these sorts of discussions, but if you’ve ever used a ballpoint pen on flimsy napkin paper, you’d realize that placemats make much more sense. That’s what we wrote on. It was a long, long lunch. And afterwards, Mike and I spent another hour circling the parking lot and talking. I was pretty excited, so I called James right away, and I think he and Mike had their own lunch a day or two later.


I would say that NetApp’s birthday wasn’t until April, 1992 when we incorporated and got our first funding – fifty thousand each from three angel investors but I’ve always thought of December 2nd as our conception date.

EMC has been making a lot of noise about midsize business since they launched the VNXe. NetApp has been serving this market for years — in fact, we have over 10,000 midsize enterprise customers. For a while, EMC had the hot new box, because it was more recent. Now, with the FAS2240, we do. It's normal for technology competitors to go back and forth like that.


What's much more important than who refreshed their hardware more recently is that NetApp has a fundamentally different strategy than EMC, one that I believe serves customers better.



For my thoughts, watch the video. For details, visit nt-ap.com/midsizebus.


NetApp was recently named the #3 best place to work worldwide! Here are my thoughts on what that means and why it matters. If you have any stories to share, I'd love to hear them, either in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.



I’m pleased to share with you a special story about NetApp customer Be The Match, whose mission is to quickly match those in need of marrow with a donor. It’s a great example of an organization using technology to help save lives.  After you watch this video, we ask you to share it with your own online networks and go to http://marrow.org/Home.aspx to learn more. Thank you.

I’ll be at Oracle Open World in San Francisco tomorrow, and I get to do two fun things. If you are at Oracle Open World, you are invited to both.


First, I’ll talk with Eric Grancher from CERN. He runs one of the world’s largest Oracle databases – it has 3.1 trillion rows. (That’s trillion, with a T -- a lot of rows.) And that’s just the database part; they also collect 25 petabytes a year in files. Given that we are speaking together, you won't be surprised that he uses NetApp. You may be surprised to hear that he uses NFS over Ethernet and that he uses SATA disks with flash acceleration.  (Many people think you shouldn't use SATA, NFS, or Ethernet for heavy duty production data.) Aside from his love of NFS and SATA, Eric’s key message is that Oracle features like RMAN, Real Application Testing, and Oracle VM are improved by NetApp features like clones and snapshot restore. (This talk is at 10:15 at the Novellus Theater, right next to Moscone North.)


Second, I get to do a public Q&A with Billie Beane, who applied data analytics to winning baseball. He is the general manager of the Oakland A’s, and his approach is described in Moneyball, which is both a book and a movie. I read the book before I had heard of “big data”, but Beane’s approach is similar. He uses fancy analytics on the entire pool of baseball statistics to select the best baseball players he can get for the money. (He’ll be in the NetApp booth, #1501, from 2 to 4 for a Q&A and to sign books.)

This is my advice for customers who want to get started with storage efficiency:


  • Consider SATA drives instead of Fiber Channel
  • Enable Dedupe
  • (Use Flash Cache as insurance against bad performance)


NetApp has other efficiency features too (thin provisioning, cloning, compression, and so on), but I’ve found that customers often start with SATA and dedupe. SATA because it saves so much money, and dedupe because it’s so easy to turn on and comes free with ONTAP.


When I talk with customers who are using SATA and dedupe, they are usually happy with NetApp, and pleased with their storage costs. When customers are haggling over price but haven’t at least considered these features, I wonder what they are thinking.


SATA with Flash Cache doesn’t always match the performance of Fiber Channel, but when it does, it can cut your costs in half. It’s definitely worth considering! We have many happy customers using it for production data. Home directories are a good place to start. Email, especially with the most recent versions of Exchange. Some customers use it for database, depending on the workload.


The nice thing about dedupe is that it’s so easy to turn on and off. It’s best to turn it on when you first create a new volume, because then data gets deduped as it arrives. It might seem like a good idea to wait until the volume is full, and you need the extra space, but that doesn’t work as well. First of all, it takes CPU and disk bandwidth to dedupe all that data at once. And second, what is in snapshots is read-only and can’t be deduped, so you have to wait for old snapshots to age out. Better to turn it on from the start. But if you didn’t do it then, do it now. (Depending on workload, dedupe can impact performance. If it does, turn it off. That’s easy!)


The usage of dedupe varies widely in different parts of the world. For instance, in Denmark, over 50% of all disks that we have installed have dedupe enabled. (This is based on autosupport data.) Wisconsin and Missouri are both at 45%. Is there something special about Danish data that makes it more dedupable? I don’t think so. Rather, I think people in some areas have just gotten in the habit of turning it on. And it works well, so they tell their friends also to turn it on. (When I look only at systems installed in the past 12 months, Denmark is over 65%.)


Friends don’t let friends drive NetApp without dedupe.

I remember the first time I met Rick King, Thomson Reuters Professional Division CTO. He and his team were visiting NetApp to talk about server virtualization. He had given the team a goal of deploying 1000 VMs, and we were discussing the best strategy. Should they virtualize new servers, virtualize existing servers, or some combination? We argued about the pros and cons of various approaches.


Mostly Rick just watched, but at one point he felt we were getting off-track, and he explained, "Let me make sure you understand the big picture here. You know that new data center we are scheduled to start building? I don't want to build it. Never mind a thousand VMs: no new data center is the real goal."


There are lots of different ways to save money with virtualization, but it is hard to top eliminating a data center. Rick estimates the savings at $65 million. But more important, even with this constraint, his team retooled their Westlaw product to make it much more powerful.


Let me share an email interview with Rick. And if you want to learn more about what the Thomson Reuters team accomplished and how they did it, check this out.




Q. How much data are you managing on NetApp?

A. Thomson Reuters has around 16 petabytes of information stored worldwide (think billions of file cabinets filled of documents). For example, we’ve got between 25,000 and 30,000 x86 servers in our data centers, most with 2- or 4-CPU configurations and backed by NetApp® storage.


Q. While that's an impressive amount of data, what's really interesting is understanding what you do with all that data – can you talk about the "knowledge effect"?

A. Sure – in our industry, understanding that the right information in the right hands leads to amazing things is key. We deliver critical information to more than 20 million professionals around the world who rely on what we provide to help spark ideas, ignite action and fuel lasting change. That is the knowledge effect.


Take our newest legal research product, WestlawNext, for example. Five minutes after a court decision is filed – anywhere in the U.S. –our attorney editors are already starting to review, edit, annotate and load the case onto WestlawNext – allowing the opinion to be available to our customers almost immediately. Five minutes!


Q. As CTO, what business issues are most critical to your success? Put it another way, when thinking about innovation, what keeps you up at night?


A. Aside from my barking dogs (chuckle)? Look, our world is technology driven and having immediate access to huge amounts information, research databases, breaking financial news, etc, isn’t a nice to have; it’s a need to have. Delivering what our customers rely upon is of the utmost importance – if you don’t serve your customers, what are you doing in business?


When we’re dealing with that much information, security becomes top of mind. Data security is an important concern for Thomson Reuters and has definitely kept me awake at night a time or two. But we’ve been proactive and we’re prepared.


Q. In working with NetApp, what kind of business change did we deliver?

A. Much like other companies we need to enhance and improve our products to stay competitive. The case was clear with our legal research product Westlaw. We needed a big change. Our customers are some of the most brilliant minds in the world and Westlaw is important to their success. But their time is important and we needed to provide them better information faster. And from that we developed WestlawNext.


Building a technology foundation that could support WestlawNext yet remain economically feasible was key – and many thought it was impossible. They were wrong.


NetApp technology could do what we needed it to, cost effectively. It changed the game, and we’ve been able to save roughly $65 million by eliminating the need to build another data center.


The efficiency, flexibility and scalability of the company's NetApp shared IT infrastructure was critical to transforming the vision into reality and the outcome has been nothing less than a game-changer in the industry



Q. What's next? When you look to the future, how will WestlawNext evolve and how will NetApp help drive that innovation?

A. Great question. Evolution is constant, right? We’re always looking for ways to deliver more and we do this by looking at our customers’ needs and using that information as the driving force behind our product development and enhancements.


Just based on the success of WestlawNext and the great innovations we’ve been able to create with partners like NetApp, I feel safe in saying that for us, the sky’s the limit.

Today Forbes published a list of The World’s Most Innovative Companies, and NetApp ranked 34th.

At first I thought that was a bit low. (Perhaps we’ve gotten spoiled being so consistently near the top of Fortune’s list of the Best Companies to Work For.)

But then I started reading through the list and noticed that none of the other major storage vendors – EMC, HP, IBM and Dell – even made the list. That made me feel much better. We are in fun company: folks like Starbucks, Apple, Activision, and Google.

Here is a video interview that I did with Forbes on the topic of innovation and how to foster an innovative culture.

Today we completed our deal to buy Engenio, which was LSI’s external storage systems business. The E-Series is our name for the new platforms resulting from the acquisition.


In my earlier blog on Engenio, I mentioned some of the potential markets we saw, but now we can give more details about specific solutions. Val Bercovici has a blog describing the E-Series with Hadoop for big data/big analytics, and I’ve invited Mark Weber, who runs our U.S. Public Sector business, to share some thoughts about Full Motion Video, which is of particular interest for defense and intelligence customers.



Engenio and NetApp Deliver Full Motion Video…Today

By Mark Weber, president NetApp U.S. Public Sector


Thanks, Dave. As Tom recently said, we’re seeing huge customer demand for  very high bandwidth applications and full motion video (FMV) is a classic example of this. FMV is all about keeping eyes (via unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites) on as many targets as possible and is a concept that has been particularly hot with our federal customers in the defense and intelligence fields. FMV generates massive amounts of mission critical data and the demand for this data is growing fast. 


Managing these huge data sets requires a highly scalable, very high performance and ultra-dense storage solution. What’s more, our federal customers are on the front-lines and require a storage environment that will allow them to access the mission critical information and data they need, when they need it. As part of today’s announcement, we’ve introduced a new Full Motion Video Storage Solution built on the E-Series Platform.


The new Full Motion Video Solution will allow our federal customers to worry less about how full motion video data is stored and accessed and more about their work in the field. The bottom line is the faster data can be accessed, evaluated, and disseminated the better the decision-making will be in an environment where every second counts. Our new Full Motion Video Solution is purpose built and uses an ultra-dense form factor that enables data to be stored for longer periods of time, providing a more thorough examination of data that enables our federal customers to make better and more informed decisions. 


We’ve gained a talented group of people and fantastic technology that will allow us to build solutions on our E-Series Platform for customers using big bandwidth applications and full motion video is only the start. We are very excited about the future of this team and technology.

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