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NetApp Gets Insightful on Generative AI, Cyber Recovery

NetApp Gets Insightful on Generative AI, Cyber Recovery

The News: NetApp launched new block storage systems, ransomware protection, and enhancements to its Keystone storage as a service (STaaS) program at its Insight user conference to bolster its generative AI and cybersecurity capabilities. You can read the press release on NetApp’s website.

NetApp Gets Insightful on Generative AI, Cyber Recovery

Analyst Take: As anyone who follows IT knows, NetApp is far from alone among vendors targeting AI and ransomware protection, as these are leading IT priorities. The challenge for NetApp and other vendors is convincing buyers that they have the best products and services to support AI and cybersecurity. So it is no surprise that NetApp used its Las Vegas conference, Insight, to present its case.

NetApp is counting on its proven storage, first-party relationships with public cloud vendors and data services to win over customers who want to tackle AI and ransomware. Its product launches at Insight are extensions in areas where it already has a presence.

NetApp Builds Generative AI Pipeline

“We have the best data pipeline for AI.” NetApp CEO George Kurian boasted at Insight.

NetApp has been working toward that goal for years. It has high-performance flash storage that integrates with NVIDIA graphics processing unit (GPU), migration tools, and ties into analytics engines to help customers generate value from data. NetApp’s ONTAP storage operating system supports structured and unstructured data. NetApp is the only storage vendor to have native first-party storage products in all three major public clouds, as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google Cloud all sell versions of NetApp’s flagship ONTAP. NetApp customers get the same capabilities running on-premises or in public clouds. That can appeal to data scientists who might pay little attention to underlying infrastructure.

Until now, generative AI buyers have largely been data scientists, data owners, and business leaders. But IT teams will become more involved as generative AI matures and becomes a core business process in their companies. Generative AI will then have the same IT requirements of other core business processes. IT teams will worry about uptime, failover, reliability, backup and recovery, and other things that data owners and data scientists might not think about. NetApp can help do all those things but must prove it can do them better than other mainstream infrastructure vendors.

No vendor will own the entire AI stack, and all require strong partners. AI partnerships often start with NVIDIA, and NetApp is no exception. It became the latest IT vendor to bring out an NVIDIA exec during its conference keynote, when Charlie Boyle, VP/GM of DGX Systems at NVIDIA, joined NetApp chief product officer Harv Bhela on stage. But NetApp’s AI focus includes other partners, such as MLOps platforms Domina Data Lab and Rain AI; storage partners Cisco, Fujitsu, and Lenovo that all use NVIDIA GPUs with NetApp software; and the three major hyperscalers.

NetApp products specifically designed for AI include:

  • NetApp ONTAP AI verified for AFF C-Series systems. AFF C-Series now supports ONTAP AI with a competitive price-to-performance ratio.
  • NVIDIA DGX BasePOD, lowering the overall cost of entry to scalable AI without sacrificing outstanding performance. This collaboration with NVIDIA uses the latest in capacity flash to promote improvements in cost, density, and sustainability for every enterprise.
  • Generative AI for Vertex AI on Google Cloud NetApp Volumes. For customers who are investing in generative AI data pipelines, NetApp data connects directly to Google Cloud Vertex AI on Google Cloud NetApp Volumes, with no additional engineering.
  • Cross-protocol AI data pipelines on Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP. FSx for ONTAP now supports SageMaker Studio notebooks, as well as Kafka and Spark, by using either NFS or S3 protocols.

We believe NetApp has the hardware, data services, security, and partnerships to win in generative AI, but the market is still in an early stage and a lot more work is required from all IT vendors.

Data Services Lead NetApp’s Cyber-Resiliency Charge

With NetApp’s overarching strategy to deliver a portfolio of unified data storage, data services are being integrated as a built-in component of these storage offerings to provide data security, recovery from cyberattacks, and policy-driven data governance across multi-hybrid cloud environments. This intrinsic, built-in approach facilitates consistent protection both on- and off-premises and across cloud environments, and is helping to facilitate feature adoption, especially with NetApp’s simplified ONTAP One licensing. Gagan Gulati, VP of NetApp Data Services, noted that the company’s Autonomous Ransomware Protection (ARP) feature is the fastest-adopted ONTAP feature in NetApp’s history. That is not surprising given that ransomware protection and cyber-resiliency are board-level priorities.

At Insight, NetApp:

  • Extended its Ransomware Recovery Guarantee for all on-premises ONTAP-based storage systems, including NetApp AFF, ASA, and FAS. NetApp offers compensation if its snapshot data copies cannot be recovered following a ransomware attack. NetApp also has a Ransomware Assurance service that uses a dedicated NetApp professional services team to evaluate customers’ configurations for snapshot security and for the ability to recover.
  • Announced disaster recovery solution for VMware through the NetApp BlueXP unified control plane is in public preview.

The new BlueXP-based disaster recovery (DR) fails over VMware workloads to AWS FSx for ONTAP. The customer is responsible for creating the replication plan, but BlueXP does the heavy lifting when the failover is executed, for example creating the storage volume, powering on the virtual machine (VM) with the settings that were predefined by the customer, and mapping resources from the source to the destination. The objective is to reduce cost and complexity and make it easier for customers to nondisruptively test their DR processes. The announcement follows a trend of customers turning to the public cloud to streamline DR operations; more than 40% of respondents in The Futurum Group’s Trends in Enterprise Protection 2023 study indicated that they are using the public cloud as a DR site.

The new service adds active-active, synchronous replication to NetApp’s DR capabilities. That feature drew applause from the audience at Insight. NetApp now covers the range of asynchronous and synchronous, active-active and active-passive use cases for DR. While the new service is focused on the solutions recovery, currently supporting workload-level DR for VMware workloads, The Futurum Group acknowledges that this serves the vast majority of current environments and that opportunity exists to expand support moving forward.

NetApp also demonstrated on the keynote mainstage its ARP feature, which detects cyberattacks as they are occurring by using machine learning (ML) and AI to identify anomalies with a high degree of accuracy. BlueXP builds a baseline of normal behavioral trends and can then identify attacks based on deviations in these trends – in addition to identification of suspected malicious file types, which it can automatically block. Once a potential attack is identified, BlueXP automatically takes an immutable snapshot that even administrators cannot delete. Customers can then use end-to-end workflows to quickly recover from these snapshots, either in-place or to an alternate location. The capability can address attacks from not only external actors but also malicious insiders. If data cannot be recovered from the most immediate snapshot, customers will have to recover from earlier snapshots.

NetApp’s Ransomware Recovery Guarantee and Ransomware Assurance Service are welcome additions, as The Futurum Group’s research and conversations with IT practitioners indicates an appetite for managed services for DR and cyber-resiliency planning and recovery. These services can help keep pace with the volume of new technologies for cyber-resiliency entering the market and the pace at which attacks are evolving. Along a similar vein, NetApp has collaborated with Cisco to publish FlexPod converged infrastructure architectures designed for Zero Trust (via secure segmentation) and ransomware recovery.

NetApp’s streamlined licensing model is helping customers to adopt what the vendor counts to be more than 30 advanced security features built-in to ONTAP. Adding capabilities and services to BlueXP for centralized management and more autonomous-driven operations will simplify the user experience for time-strapped IT operations teams. NetApp’s focus on fast time-to-detection and recovery addresses the need to mitigate damages resulting from attacks, and this positioning is strengthened by the fact that it has now rounded out its spectrum of support for DR implementations.

NetApp rolled out several other infrastructure announcements, enhancing on- and off-premises offers:

  • NetApp ASA C-Series. The C-Series is optimized for large-capacity workloads. Like the All-Flash SAN Array (ASA) A-Series launched in May, the ASA C-Series is block-only storage. It supports fibre channel, iSCSI, NVMe/FC, and NVMe/TCP protocols but not the NFS and SMB file protocols. Like NetApp’s AFF C-Series of unified storage, the ASA C-Series uses lower-cost QLC flash drives. The block-optimized ASA systems use symmetric active-active for multipathing. All paths are active/optimized to speed up storage failovers. NetApp also removed configuration selections for file storage, simplifying the interface and setup.
  • NetApp Keystone STaaS. Provides added performance, availability (five-nines), and sustainability (max watts per TiB energy consumption) guarantees. NetApp also said it plans to extend its Ransomware Recovery Guarantee to NetApp Keystone in the future. This rollout follows the launch of NetApp Storage on Equinix Metal, powered by NetApp Keystone, launched earlier this month.
  • Public Cloud Enhancements. Google Cloud NetApp Volumes that launched in August with Premium and Extreme Service levels now includes a lower-cost Standard service. NetApp also added file and object access via the ONTAP S3 API for FSx for NetApp ONTAP, and enhanced capacity scaling and support for automated tiering of data to the Azure Cool Blob tier in Azure NetApp Files.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

NetApp Analyst Summit: Building a Moat Around Data Services

Key Trends in Generative AI – The AI Moment, Episode 1

The Need for Cyber Resilience: A Conversation with Rubrik – Futurum Tech Webcast

Author Information

Dave’s focus within The Futurum Group is concentrated in the rapidly evolving integrated infrastructure and cloud storage markets. Before joining the Evaluator Group, Dave spent 25 years as a technology journalist and covered enterprise storage for more than 15 years. He most recently worked for 13 years at TechTarget as Editorial Director and Executive News Editor for storage, data protection and converged infrastructure. In 2020, Dave won an American Society of Business Professional Editors (ASBPE) national award for column writing.

His previous jobs covering technology include news editor at Byte and Switch, managing editor of EdTech Magazine, and features and new products editor at Windows Magazine. Before turning to technology, he was an editor and sports reporter for United Press International in New York for 12 years. A New Jersey native, Dave currently lives in northern Virginia.

Dave holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism from William Patterson University.

With a focus on data security, protection, and management, Krista has a particular focus on how these strategies play out in multi-cloud environments. She brings approximately a decade of experience providing research and advisory services and creating thought leadership content, with a focus on IT infrastructure and data management and protection. Her vantage point spans technology and vendor portfolio developments; customer buying behavior trends; and vendor ecosystems, go-to-market positioning, and business models. Her work has appeared in major publications including eWeek, TechTarget and The Register.

Prior to joining The Futurum Group, Krista led the data center practice for Evaluator Group and the data center practice of analyst firm Technology Business Research. She also created articles, product analyses, and blogs on all things storage and data protection and management for analyst firm Storage Switzerland and led market intelligence initiatives for media company TechTarget.

Krista holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Journalism with a minor in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire.

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