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Interview: NetApp’s Lawrence James on BYOD, data management at enterprise level and why the channel still matters

ITProPortal asked Lawrence James, Marketing Manager (UK Products, Alliances and Solutions) at storage and network specialist NetApp to give us a brief overview of how networking in the enterprise is expected to evolve over the next 12 months especially in the light of the vertiginous growth of BYOD and the issues that it generates.

What are the key areas of NetApp’s work with business and enterprise?

Since 1992 we have been delivering IT storage systems and software that help customers around the world store, manage and protect their data. Since the beginning, NetApp has endeavoured to push the limits and bring innovations to our customers that ensure that they never have to choose between saving money and having the IT capabilities they need for success. NetApp provides numerous solutions including products across data storage systems, cloud, virtualisation, mobile information management, and big data. We work with customers of all sizes from SME to large enterprise, and across numerous sectors including education, healthcare, government and media & entertainment.

Recently NetApp announced its latest offering for mobile remote working, NetApp Connect, can you elaborate on this new solution?

NetApp Connect is based on technology that the company gained through its acquisition of ionGrid. The product provides secure, instant and easy mobile access to corporate data stored on NetApp storage. It integrates easily into an existing NetApp environment, and doesn’t require any complex VPN setup or authentication. All the data stays behind the company firewall, so there is no uploading sensitive company information to the cloud. Mobile users can stream, view, download, edit, and pass on corporate information securely from their iOS devices, whether it’s on file shares, Microsoft SharePoint, or an Intranet web application. The solution uses a “containerised” approach, actually separating applications accessed by NetApp Connect from other personal data on the employees’ devices, enhancing the security features even more. Additionally, with NetApp Connect, the file integrity is preserved, so all documents appear with pixel-perfect rendering.

What are the main issues NetApp tried to address?

With the increase of BYOD, we found that CIOs and corporate IT organisations had growing concerns that sensitive data was being uploaded to non-secure consumer grade cloud services. While mobile working benefitted the individual employees and enhanced productivity, the solutions that were available required a trade-off between ease of use and data security. We understand that ensuring data security on mobile devices is of great importance for businesses, while controlling data leakage and meeting compliance and data protection legislation is a constant headache for corporate IT teams. On top of this, the cost associated with mobile device usage is not seen as a good use of resources. Ultimately the security risks and cost of adapting and separating corporate storage infrastructure were outweighing the potential benefits of mobile working.

What are the key business benefits to deploying such a solution?

We were able to deliver a mobile solution to benefit business productivity and growth by giving employees the ability to work flexibly, promoting a healthy work-life balance. Incorporating NetApp Connect into a corporate infrastructure has numerous benefits for both the employees and the business. NetApp Connect uses NetApp DATA ONTAP as the foundation for non-disruptive access to data. This allows easy mobile access combined with a high-level of enterprise control, ensuring the level of security required for storing data is met. The result - the company no longer has to weigh up the benefits of BYOD against the risks of data leakage and compliance violations. The solution is efficient and easy to manage, meaning corporate IT stays in control of enterprise data at all time. The “containerised” approach eliminates many of the common device-management concerns associated with BYOD and corporate data compliance rules, and with a setup that is easily integrated into existing NetApp storage there is no need for costly infrastructure changes. For employees, NetApp Connect offers more efficient, on-the-go access to the data they need. This helps employees maximise their productivity and promotes flexible working.

NetApp Connect is currently available on iOS platforms, are there plans to expand it to Android devices?

As part of our aim to help promote more secure mobile working and greater work flexibility for employees we are currently looking to develop NetApp Connect for other operating systems.

As NetApp has previously focused on storage infrastructure does NetApp Connect represent a new departure for NetApp into the mobile data arena?

NetApp has a long history providing storage for many of the world’s leading companies. We understand the business need to connect people, devices and data, with a strategic focus on meeting the business requirements of mobile, connected enterprises. With the rise of remote working we understand that there is a need to ensure we can also offer remote working solutions that integrate easily into existing NetApp infrastructure and maintain the performance, scalability and efficiency our customers are used to. With the introduction of NetApp Connect, we are evolving our portfolio to ensure we are equipped to offer our customers solutions to their critical business IT needs.

Citrix ShareFile Enterprise and VMware Horizon are two existing mobility alliance partner solutions, how does NetApp Connect fit into this portfolio?

NetApp Connect complements our growing base of partner-delivered mobility solutions, and helps to ensure that we can offer our customers a more complete range of capabilities. Citrix ShareFile is designed to maximise the collaboration and synchronisation of data across different mobile devices, while VMware Horizon is focused on the virtualisation of applications and data. NetApp Connect is focused on high performance for enterprise requirements, improving the user experience for file access, rendering and productivity, whilst maintaining enterprise level security functionality.

NetApp has a strong history of partner/Channel relations, how does NetApp Connect benefit this relationship?

Our channel partner relationships are very important to us, and they are licensed to sell NetApp Connect with its associated NetApp ONTAP storage. Our channel partners have a wealth of expertise when it comes to advising customers on implementing data security and mobility strategies. Now our channel partners can offer a mobile data access solution for their NetApp storage systems. We are very supportive of our channel partners and are committed to providing them with products and solutions that their customers are asking for.

With this new avenue into remote working, is NetApp’s strategy changing?

Our overall strategy remains the same: to deliver innovative products and solutions that enable customers to grow their IT in-line with the business needs. With NetApp Connect, we have extended our storage portfolio and added mobile device support that incorporates a high quality user experience with a simple operational model.

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.