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A look at Cloud Storage vs Traditional Storage by NetApp’s Director for Technology and Strategy, Matt Watts

Matt Watts

Director for Technology and Strategy at NetApp

I’m asked this question a lot. But it’s not really as simple (or complicated) as cloud vs traditional storage. Both can, and probably should be used in varying combinations to create the perfect solution for you.

Each has its own advantages, based on your business needs and goals and it’s nonsensical to suggest that you must choose one in isolation. It probably suits some providers to stand firmly on one side of the fence, but at NetApp, we don’t believe in borders and barriers, we just believe in using the tools that deliver for you.

You probably know that our key focus is on helping businesses to create their perfect data fabric (hear more about this when I'll be speaking at Techfest 2019). We made this our strategy four or five years ago and are delighted to see that Gartner is now referring to it in their ‘Top 10 Data and Analytical Trends of 2019’ report. We think this just goes to show where having a brilliant idea and committing to it for half a decade will get you.

Back then, we wanted to very clearly define our strategy and purpose and help shape our customers’ way of thinking about how they store, control and protect their data. We wanted them to treat data as their priority and build everything else around it. If your data fabric enables you to have your data in the right place at the right time with the right resources and applications available, then it enables greater speed and opportunity for your business.

A lot of companies are going with the ‘cloud-first’ strategy like it’s a mandate. For some, this has worked, confirming its value.

For others, it turned out to be not so good. Mandates often drive poor decisions and a lot of companies that simply moved stuff to the Cloud are now bringing it back, as they realise it wasn’t the magical cheaper solution. Most companies are now using the hyperscalers and are developing their hybrid multi-cloud strategies.

The current problem with public cloud file services, however, is that it’s not very performant with enterprise-grade security or protection. This can be solved by solutions like our Cloud Volumes Service, which runs inside the hyperscalers environment, delivering great performance and keeping our customers’ data secure and protected, whilst not missing out on any of the huge benefits that solutions like Amazon and Azure bring.

Regardless of which approach you plan to take, the important thing, which we often see missing, is a clear strategy. ‘Cloud First’ for example is just the ‘what’. It’s an approach, not a plan. To sleep soundly at night, knowing you are on the right track, you need the ‘why’ and just as importantly, you need the ‘how’. Clicking your fingers does not an optimum data fabric bring. (Although, it probably will in the near future; you heard it here first.)

Most good data fabric strategies will invariably involve a natural synergy between on-prem and cloud, for most businesses to gain the commercial and operational functionality they need. In fact, a key part of developing any strategy is to accept that the cloud is here to stay and then establishing how to use it.

A great example of why having a clear data strategy is so necessary, is the wealth of businesses taking the plunge with SaaS solutions like Microsoft 365 and Salesforce. I’m not denying that this is, most often, with great effect, but how many know that Salesforce’s data recovery time is 3-4 weeks and costs $10k? Even then, all you get is a bunch of .csv files that you have to restore to your system yourself. If this works for you, that’s fine, but it at least requires some serious thought…

We mentioned Gartner earlier and we’re touching on it again as we found their description of data fabric quite interesting: ‘Through 2022, bespoke data fabric designs will be deployed primarily as a static infrastructure, forcing organizations into a new wave of cost to completely re-design for more dynamic data mesh approaches.’

We don’t see it this way. We see creating a data fabric as moving away from rigid design constraints and utilising a more dynamic, flexible infrastructure which allows for ease of scalability and evolution, picking and choosing what you need, regardless of whether that’s cloud or on-prem.

Companies do need to put more focus on data though, our recent Data Thriver research shows 1,000 businesses plotted on a spectrum, listing ‘data resistor / survivor’ at one end and ‘data thriver’ at the other.

We found that 52% were ‘resistors / survivors’ and only 11% were ‘thrivers’. Consider this alongside well-established stats that show that optimising how businesses use their data multiplies operational efficiency by six and drives twice as much business profit.

Our aim is for ‘thriving’ to be considered the norm and to make it easier for businesses to achieve. We hope to make this happen by working with great partners like Node4. If you want to know more, you can catch me at Node4’s TechFest, where I’ll be joined by a host of industry experts talking about all things innovation and tech.

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