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Binero.jpgAccording to Gartner, 63% of IT budget is typically spent running current IT infrastructure, 21% on ‘Grow’ to meet the natural growth in application performance requirements and data, and only 16% on New Opportunities. I wrote previously about why that needs to change: The Evolution of IT - CIO's move from builder to broker. But imagine the impact on a business when 100% of IT budget and resources are focused on running current IT infrastructure, because it’s not working and customers are leaving….. 


A tale of 3 (very different) meetings

I first met Johan Kummeneje, CTO of Binero – one of the largest web hosting companies in Sweden – in May last year. And they were not in a good place (not Sweden, which is a very nice place, but the state of their business).  Having built the company from nothing in 2002 to an impressive 20% market share by 2012, they were suffering severe service outages every few weeks. As you can imagine, thousands of customers were affected (they handle 1.5 billion e-mails each year for example!) meaning stories of the business impact to their customers appeared regularly in the media. And for the first time in their history, they were losing customers. All due to underlying data storage platform problems. Nearly the whole of Johan’s team were dedicated to trying to keep it working. They had to take a different approach, to restore an increasingly damaged reputation.


The second time we met was in October last year.  A very memorable meeting – I think the first time in all my travels that I have been greeted at a customer by a small dog!  The other reason it was memorable was that Johan had decided to move to a NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP storage foundation a few months earlier. The system was now up, running and performing very well. The impact? Less bad press. Happier customers. And no longer 4 people dedicated to working on storage, but now only 1 part-time. Meaning the other 3 members of the team could start thinking about new services to drive business growth again.


The third time we met was a few weeks later, at VMworld Europe in Barcelona. The NetApp storage platform was by now fully in production and they could see the true value of Non-Disruptive Operations. Our conversation was almost entirely focused on what exciting New Opportunities lay ahead for the team at Binero.


I think this story is a good example of how important choosing the right data storage foundation is for a business. Especially as organisations look to spend less time operating IT, and more time using IT (and data) as a competitive weapon. It also is a good reminder that, while agility, performance and efficiency capabilities are typically what differentiates one storage platform from another, reliable data availability will always be the top priority. 



CBS photo 5.JPGNo doubt the IT industry is undergoing a significant transition. The sort that only comes along every 10-15 years or so. Broadly the idea is that companies will run less of their own IT over time, with specialist ‘Cloud’ service providers doing it for them instead. Not a new idea, but technology is finally making it possible. And innovative new services and applications are proving to be the catalyst.

Last week was a good one for me to assess where we on the journey towards Cloud Computing in Europe. I started the week with the annual NetApp Cloud Business Summit, a gathering in London of ~200 Service Providers from across EMEA plus several industry Analysts. On Wednesday I met with 5 CIO's on a panel for Meet the Boss TV. And finally I went to Cloud Expo Europe, along with 7000 other IT folk. No wonder I'm not getting any proper work done!


Where are we with the shift to Cloud?

Honest answer - most people don't really know. They know it's happening, and needs to happen, but are not sure how fast it will go. And those that tell you they do are almost certainly bluffing, or biased. Everything and every project now seems to be some sort of Cloud. And if you ask 10 people for a definition of what Cloud Computing really is, you get 11 answers.......


A more pragmatic view, what do we know?

Despite the confusion, Cloud is appealing to end users and IT providers alike. However IT services and applications delivered using shared Cloud services make up only a very small proportion of IT spend today – $10bn’s in a $3Trillion IT market. But consensus is that they are growing an order of magnitude or two faster than traditional IT, as users increasingly want to purchase services and infrastructure as they need it, rather than buying in big chunks of investment.


When it comes to Cloud, users want choice. The sensible ones see an infrastructure built up using many clouds - private, public and hyper-scale over time. What is becoming commonly known as a ‘hybrid’ model. Ideally connected together via a 'common data platform'. They don’t want to be locked-in to any one vendor. Nor do they want to be limited to any one location, although consistent data location is critical, especially in Europe. Trust and perception of risk are more important than technology when it comes to Cloud service adoption.


Of the hyper-scale players, AWS (Amazon Web Services) is the elephant in the room. Estimates are they account for $4bn per annum of Cloud service business today, admittedly with estimated costs of $6bn per annum! Google, Microsoft are the closest challengers with VMware the new kid on the block with their vCHS service – launched in Europe last week. These companies are also pitched against the OpenStack community, which seems to be gathering significant momentum.


Developers are becoming way more important, and their access to Cloud services is accelerating innovation. Hot topic last week - the ‘value’ created by WhatsApp, bought for $19bn recently by Facebook. 1 App, 55 people, 35 developers. $19 billion ! Allegedly all developed on the IBM Softlayer Cloud.


Finally, there is much debate on whether Private Cloud is really Cloud at all. I think they should be included, as long as they offer users self-service access to a catalogue of automated on-demand services. Not just a planned IT project re-named as a Cloud project to keep your bosses happy. Assuming you include it in the market sizing numbers, no doubt Private Clouds account for the vast majority of projects today. Although getting an accurate figure is near impossible given the vast number of definitions out there.


In summary, as you build your cloud approach, make sure you’re not falling for the hype - either way - no Cloud or a single Cloud for everything is definitely not a sensible, pragmatic or sustainable strategy for any IT department, or business.


Also see: 9 questions you should ask before putting your data in any Cloud

This week at the HiMSS14 event in Orlando our partner BridgeHead is announcing a new healthcare data management solution based on the FlexPod Select architecture.


Healthcare illustration 1.jpgAs I’ve written about before, I often get asked by non-IT folk (also known as ‘normal people’) what work I do? I usually respond by telling them I work in IT, for a great company called NetApp. We do storage systems and data management. And if that doesn’t work (it usually doesn’t), then I move on to explain that the computer systems we sell are the sort that companies rely on to store their and your most valuable information. I find the two best examples are your banking details, and perhaps even more importantly, your medical record.


Did you know that 30% of the world’s stored data is now devoted to healthcare? Largely as a result of the high growth of electronic patient data, multi-ology images, human genetics, clinical trial data, population information, increased regulation and many new technologies. Healthcare organisations need a more efficient and more integrated solution to deal with all this critical data and information. HealthStore for FlexPod can help. The solution combines the best in storage, network and healthcare-integrated software to create a pre-validated foundation for data management in hospitals. It has been developed to help hospitals manage all of the clinical and administrative data across the hospital enterprise – from mission critical applications such as Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems through to Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS).


BridgeHead HDM.png

HealthStore integrates BridgeHead’s Healthcare Data Management (HDM) Solution with FlexPod Select, the latest addition to the FlexPod family for big data environments. The fully validated and tested solution combines NetApp E-Series storage, Cisco Unified Computing System servers and Nexus fabric switches into a single, flexible architecture. The solution also includes BridgeHead’s HDM software, meaning hospitals can place their (or should that be ‘your’) data into a central repository, which is then fully indexed for easy search, and protected in the event of corruption, accidental deletion, system outage or disaster, and is available when it’s needed most from multiple locations.


Today, more than 3,500 healthcare organisations worldwide use innovative clinical data and IT storage solutions from NetApp to share patient data across the continuum of care. 


For those who are attending HiMSS14 – please stop by our exhibition stands – NetApp (Stand 2773) or BridgeHead (Stand 3283) to find out more.

For more information about HealthStore for FlexPod, please visit www.BridgeHeadSoftware.com


And if you’re not in IT, rest assured that very soon your medical record could be that bit better protected, and available that bit quicker if you should ever need it.

Cloud Jan 14.JPGI don’t get every decision right. Nobody does. The beard I grew at University would be a good example of many I have got very wrong. Thankfully in the days before camera phones & Facebook. In IT, the traditional decision making process usually starts with a business problem, an Application is chosen to best solve that problem, then a software and hardware stack is chosen to run that application. Lots of big, expensive decisions. After the project is in production changing the hardware you chose becomes near impossible. Or somebody else’s problem when you’re in a new job 3 years later. Especially with Storage systems, when you potentially have lots of very valuable data to migrate. And different types of SAN’s (Storage Area Networks) have never been very compatible with each other. Very reliable. Not very efficient. Not very flexible. Hard to change.


Start by asking the right question

Over the last year or so, when I meet NetApp customers for the first time I have started asking a simple question about their decision to use our products - “What is the most important thing you buy from NetApp?” Most answer a FAS2000, FAS3000 or 6000. Or some combination of these and the other storage systems we sell. And I like to point out they are wrong (politely of course, I’m British). They are in fact buying into our Data ONTAP software platform, integrated within a FAS hardware appliance. May seem a subtle difference, but ONTAP also can run in the Cloud as a VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance) or on non-NetApp ‘white box’ hardware as ONTAP Edge or to virtualise other storage arrays. Traditional SAN’s don’t let you do this. They do what they do well, but not much else. Great if you find you made the right decision. Not easy if you didn’t or requirements have changed. In other words, the data management software decision you make is way more important than the hardware you choose to run it on. Some call this a Software-defined approach. Getting this decision right means you should have a far more flexible infrastructure. You might even find it more reliable as I wrote about here.


The News: A much more Flexible storage approach.

Today we are launching FlexArray storage virtualisation software. A new capability in our Data ONTAP OS and available on the shiny new FAS8000 series – also available from today (with 2x faster performance & 3x more Flash!). It means you can fully virtualise traditional SAN’s and add a layer of Data ONTAP intelligence to EMC and HDS arrays, directly from the FAS8000 system. Once virtualised with ONTAP, you’ll find your storage infrastructure becomes way more flexible – Unified SAN/NAS workloads, scale-out for greater performance and scale, unified management, multi-vendor back-up/recovery, much faster data protection with Snapshot copies, thin-provisioning, cloning, deduplication, compression, integrated Flash acceleration, virtual storage tiering, pro-active automated support, access to integrations across the vast NetApp partner ecosystem. And perhaps the two most important things you’ll gain – 1) typically 35% storage space efficiency savings, meaning you need to buy 35% less SAN today, and 2) the potential to connect into more than 300 private, public and hybrid Cloud services based on Data ONTAP.


In summary, FlexArray gives you 35% efficiency savings to justify your decision today. And the flexibility of direct access to a world of new Cloud possibilities if you find your traditional SAN is not the right decision for you tomorrow.

Getting in vShape.JPGAt the end of last week I got the chance to join a briefing by the joint NetApp / Fujitsu team working on vShape. Launched in 2013, vShape is a reference architecture for converged virtualised infrastructure combining the best bits of Fujitsu (Primergy servers), VMware (vSphere software), Brocade (ICX switches) and NetApp (FAS storage running Data ONTAP software). Combined with the global scale, support and professional service expertise of Fujitsu to deliver the full, integrated solution anywhere you need it and way faster than you could ever build it yourself.


The traditional approach would be for a customer to spend much time designing, integrating and testing before moving an IT solution into production. Sometimes a project lasting many months, or even years. Only to find the solution they chose is not quite right, technologies and needs have changed, so the project cycle starts all over again. With a solution like Fujitsu vShape, they (with support of an ecosystem of partners like ourselves at NetApp) do most of that sizing and integration work before it is shipped, leaving the customer to concentrate on getting to production faster and fine tuning to support the specific needs of their business. With the knowledge the solution is designed to scale from less than 25 virtual machines, to as large as you could ever need with vShape Enterprise.


As the IT industry spends a lot of time working out what Cloud Computing is really for, it’s worth remembering that there is a huge amount of non-virtualised IT infrastructure out there – in fact most estimates are that this is still the majority of IT in use today. Even if it feels like Virtualisation is standard (and all ‘a bit 2009’) to many of us working in and around the data centre, lots of remote offices and smaller sites especially have yet to be virtualised fully. There is no reason they can’t be. If you’re reading this and are the lucky owner of some of this type of ‘2009 IT’ still today, take a look at vShape, you might find it’s faster, cheaper and easier than you think to get to a fully virtualised architecture (server, network and storage). And you might find the next logical architecture steps – automating, then moving to a hybrid cloud at some point – might be possible a bit sooner than you thought.