By Paul Hughes, IDC Analyst
The cloud is almost an inevitable destination for the enterprise in some way, shape, or form. A recent 2015 IDC Storage Services survey showed that 55.1% of U.S. enterprises plan to engage in a “datacenter to cloud transformation” project with a storage vendor within the next 12 months, highlighting that the shift towards the cloud continues with reasonable fervor. In a business shift, enterprise IT has also moved from cost-driven decision making to making more strategic and performance oriented decisions. A recent European IDC Storage Manager survey highlighted that only 26 percent of respondents cited reducing capex as a top driver for investing in public cloud-based storage services. Clearly, the desire to embrace new service opportunities from the cloud is the new reality.
As enterprises move from an asset-based model to a services-based model, finding the right service provider partner requires the alignment of capabilities that map to a pricing model that also fits the bill. Pricing pressures on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and ancillary services from the hyperscale providers have pushed potential revenues and profits downwards, creating an environment in which high value must be matched with high efficiency. Achieving payback from the investment in virtualized infrastructure takes time and creative service options. While this works fine for the hyperscale providers, it is more challenging for traditional cloud service providers, all of which look to differentiate themselves based on service flexibility, quality, and value. The big questions service providers must ask themselves include:
- Can I scale up without scaling out?
- Can I find a lower cost alternative that also expands my cloud portfolio beyond commoditized IaaS offerings?
- Can I offer the same level of cloud functionality at a competitive price point?
- Are there partners that I can work with to grow and mature and my cloud offerings?
Service providers can answer these questions and find a potential alternative to VMware thanks to the recent announcement of a combined cloud offering from Microsoft, Cisco, and NetApp. The Cisco Cloud Architecture (CCA) is well established as a leading technology to help link on-premise and off-premise environments together, and CCA for the Microsoft Cloud Platform is a competitive scale-up cloud architecture for today’s service providers.
NetApp’s leadership position in the hybrid cloud comes from the company’s vision of its Data Fabric, linking on-premise and off-premise storage using a data management ideology that is well mapped to Cisco and Microsoft’s service offering. The addition of NetApp to the combined cloud offering creates a new service layer by adding additional storage services that move the value needle upwards. Service providers will be able to offer a multi-tenant public storage offering for IaaS with dedicated storage performance tiers and quality of service metrics. NetApp helps extend IaaS further into higher value data protection, allowing users to choose the appropriate backup, replication, retention, and long-term storage options that best fit the needs of their data and applications. These offerings include backup services using CommVault’s Simpana software, archiving services, and higher-value disaster recovery services using SnapMirror. NetApp also brings more efficient fulfillment and provisioning automation capabilities for higher value storage services through its service catalog, facilitating the creation of new services by unifying application requirements, storage tiers, data protection levels, and services needed for the application. It can also help manage data migration services or format conversions for incoming virtual machines. For a service provider, these functional areas allow faster time to market for new services, greater breadth of offering for the enterprise customer, and ultimately, the ability to truly maximize the value of all cloud-based investments.
This announcement from NetApp is unique in the marketplace, and it shows the company’s ongoing commitment to making its Data Fabric foundation a reality. It also helps its technology partners Cisco and Microsoft create a more robust cloud “ecosystem” for its service provider partners, along with greater service capabilities. NetApp is a longstanding player in helping enterprises build hybrid cloud environments with the help of its storage infrastructure and Clustered Data ONTAP management software. This announcement extends that capability to enable service partners to do the same for others. NetApp plans to extend its role in marketing and cross-selling those services, creating a win-win for the entire ecosystem. NetApp’s active role in providing technology and helping to promote the service provider offerings demonstrates the company’s commitment both to the cloud and to ensuring that customers can create a true hybrid cloud environment.