​NetApp Industry Analyst Meeting announcements – Google and more flash

There were two main announcements, a new relationship with Google Cloud Platform and a new flash device – the AFF A800. Also, in our interviews with NetApp, we learned about the future of Fibre Channel at the hyperscalers.

Google.  Google Cloud Platform now integrates NetApp Cloud Volumes as a drop-down menu capability as part of the Google console.  This allows enterprise customers, for instance, to use Cloud Volumes to manage their data on Google’s cloud service while simultaneously managing their data on premise.  This relationship with Google now rounds out the NetApp relationships with the main hyperscalers – it already has in place relationships with both Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft (Azure).  NetApp Cloud Volumes on Google Cloud Platform is currently available as a “preview” capability (sign up at www.netapp.com/gcppreview) and is expected to go to commercial status by the end of 2018.  Customers will pay Google for the use of NetApp Cloud Volumes.

AFF A800.  New flash hardware available from NetApp, which besides having impressive density and low-latency capabilities supports NVMe-over-Fibre Channel.  Of course, the product also supports 100 Gbps Ethernet.  From a historical standpoint, it is interesting that NetApp, a company whose heritage was driven by storage over Ethernet, is touting Fibre Channel.  But, that’s what its customers are asking for in order to accelerate their on-premise workloads such as database (Oracle), ERP (SAP) and other mission-critical enterprise workloads.  In our interviews with NetApp, we were told that Fibre Channel is growing faster than Ethernet – this makes sense given the company’s foray in recent years to flash and low-latency workloads.

Fibre Channel at the hyperscalers?  We asked about what is going on with the hyperscalers’ architecture to adapt to AI/Deep Learning workloads.  NetApp executives explained that AI workloads are different from traditional workloads; they are random, low latency workloads connecting to GPUs.  This type of workload, we were told by NetApp, works very well when attached to Fibre Channel.  From NetApp’s perspective, if customers want to run AI workloads fastest, they would likely do so on-premise, using Fibre Channel.  Yet, many customers run their workloads on hyperscalers, all of which use Internet Protocol and the underlying Ethernet infrastructure.  We have always been skeptical that hyperscalers would adopt Fibre Channel.  We believe the hyperscalers may work with vendors such as NetApp to develop additional software capabilities to address the changing workloads relating to AI/ML/GPU workloads in the future – on top of IP/Ethernet infrastructures.