Managing IT applications operations for a global enterprise takes vigilance, persistence and a knack for anticipating the unexpected. As director of Service Quality and Enablement at NetApp, business interruption due to downtime is my biggest concern. Our internal business users, external customers, and partners simply cannot afford disruptions; the consequences would be substantial.

 

I used to spend hours working with internal teams to prevent and address incidents. Negotiating change and managing disruptions distracted me from my primary, and more beneficial, role of service support strategy and development. I easily spent 15% of my time every day on change management, including reviewing proposed infrastructure changes, talking with change sponsors, and negotiating or escalating the change schedule. I also spent an additional 30% to 40% of my time managing service restoration activities, its resulting escalations and consequences.

 

My areas of focus changed for the better when our team in IT deployed NetApp® clustered Data ONTAP® (cDOT).

 

Reactive to Proactive

What changed? The predictable, consistent behavior of cDOT made a major difference for NetApp IT. The stabilization and nondisruptive operations that accompanied the adoption of cDOT had a significant impact on our customer success applications. It has been months since we had to plan application downtime because of storage changes. Today we spend less time managing business-critical downtime and devote more time to proactive application lifecycle management. We’ve seen a similar, domino effect on other teams supporting the technology stack. Network, compute and database teams also spend less time in reactive mode.

 

Just as important was the adoption of a formal software lifecycle process for storage. Our First Application System Test (FAST) program uses a repeatable process for execution of all our cDOT upgrades. The rapid adoption of new releases translates to the ability to take advantage of new features almost immediately and address any issues. The combination of these changes delivered a stable storage environment in which we have complete confidence.

 

Stability Brings Trust

With stability, predictability, and data integrity comes trust. It is important for our organization, both with our users, customers and partners as well as our infrastructure team. As the types of storage issues we experienced and the amount of time spent addressing them were reduced, trust increased. As a result, the relationships among teams improved and the trust of our customers was strengthened. We are maturing our engagement with our business customers-now we speak less of issues and focus our discussions on further enabling business capabilities.

 

With the adoption of cDOT by NetApp IT, I have been able to reallocate my time and focus on business priorities. I still review change requests every day, but against the backdrop of our matured relationship, the infrastructure team is aligned with business needs and does the due diligence before requesting approval. I validate them instead of negotiating or escalating the requests like I did in the past. Change management is now focused on proactive management review; it only takes about 5% of my time each week. I spend my freed up time talking to my team, other employees, and business customers about proactive changes that will introduce new and improved application support services.

 

Since the deployment of cDOT began 18 months ago, our worries about potential issues with our storage infrastructure have become a thing of the past. Since infrastructure issues no longer distract us, we can focus on achieving operational excellence. This means more time to proactively manage our applications and processes to better enable NetApp users, customers and partners.

 

The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.

Lara Brisco