NetApp aims to cure customer back-up headaches with dose of cloud

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NetApp is on a mission to help customers “embrace the cloud on their own terms”, according to Martin Warren, the company’s cloud solutions marketing manager in EMEA. For many IT decision-makers, he adds, cloud services now provide an effective remedy for their back-up headaches, not least the time and costs that the task typically takes up.

But offering customer choice in this area means offering them close integration between the public, private and hybrid clouds, he says. In other words, many companies find that a combination of cloud technologies and on-premise storage strikes the right balance between the speed of recovery that local access offers and the cost efficiencies that low-cost, off-site storage provides.

With that in mind, NetApp has made several announcements in the recent months that aim to deliver back-up that can work across a range of cloud environments. In late September, the company announced the acquisition of Riverbed’s SteelStore product for $80 million. Originally named Whitewater, SteelStore is a cloud storage back-up appliances that includes deduplication, compression and encryption technologies and will offer customers a way to back up data to both private and public cloud environments, Warren explains.

“The SteelStore acquisition has been really brilliant for us, because it adds an important part of the picture that we didn’t have before. Like most vendors, we’re moving towards the goal of supporting hybrid cloud environments, because that’s where we believe many of our customers will end up.”

“But unlike some other IT companies, we’re not a cloud provider - we don’t provide cloud services ourselves. What we provide is the data storage and data management that cloud providers and their customers need in order to bridge the gap between public and private cloud environments so that customers can choose an approach that suits them best - and SteelStore does a very effective job of helping us to do that.”

The next cloud-y announcement from NetApp came at its Insight conference in Las Vegas in October, with the launch of a cloud-based version of the Ontap storage operating system, Cloud Ontap. Again, this sees NetApp position itself more as an agnostic provider of software, providing the capabilities needed for portability of data between enterprise data centres and public cloud services. According to NetApp’s executive vice president of product operations, George Kurian, interoperability between previously siloed data stores is becoming essential: the amount of data in the hybrid cloud, he predicted at the event, is set to double in the next 18 months.

As a result, cost-effective back-up is likely to become a big concern for IT decision-makers over that period - but it’s not just a cost issue, either, says Warren.

“Cloud is making back-up cheaper, yes, but it’s making it easier too. Cloud makes back-up easier because, basically, your IT team doesn’t have to run all the storage that sits behind a good back-up process,” he says.

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