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By Matt Watts, Director, Technology and Strategy EMEA at NetApp

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon occurring across a range of industries. More and more businesses are rushing to investigate and adopt new Line of Business (LOB) technologies for fear that the next Uber or Airbnb will eat their lunch. By LOB, I mean the so-called “third-platform” technologies that create a more powerful experience for customers-Apple Watch and iPhone integrations, for example.

But for many established companies, there’s a rub. Their ability to move quickly and invest adequately in these sexy and sometimes game-changing technologies is constrained by their legacy baggage-something their startup competitors are not burdened with. As a result, these companies are under massive pressure to streamline their operations by reducing costs in the data center and around applications, and they’re shifting their IT spend accordingly.

Diffusion of Ideas.jpgThis rush to adopt has interesting implications for the Diffusion of Innovations theory. As anyone who has sat through a business class will recall, that’s the theory that seeks to explain the spread of new ideas and technologies-starting with “innovators” and “early adopters,” passing through a critical mass of “majority” adopters and ending with “laggards.” This progressive diffusion is represented visually by a perfectly symmetrical wave.

The Diffusion of Innovations concept has been around for 50-plus years. During that time, it has gained wide acceptance and been applied in numerous contexts. However, from my perspective, this wave is now shrinking. Or more precisely, as businesses increasingly equate speed of innovation with their own success or survival, the crest of the wave is moving to the left. More early adopters, fewer laggards.

This shifting has very real consequences for numerous businesses. In the world of finance, for example, companies are acutely aware that they need to accelerate their ability to attract and retain customers. To that end, many are investigating LOB apps by the hundreds, literally.

If you’re one of these companies, the good news is that NetApp’s Data Fabric can help you stay competitive. It’s something that will be covered in detail at the upcoming NetApp Insight user conference in Las Vegas. In the meantime, keeping with the finance sector, let’s look at some of the ways Data Fabric can make a difference.

Data Center

For finance companies, data center technologies will always represent a significant chunk of IT spend, and reducing these costs has become an urgent priority. The Data Fabric helps achieve this in several ways. We understand that our customers are integrating new and legacy technologies together as fast as they can. We are the only ones who allow them to do so without creating new data siloes in the process.   Customers can seamlessly manage data across flash, disk and cloud resources thanks to the unique capabilities of our clustered Data ONTAP® storage operating system.  ONTAP powers our new All Flash FAS, which marries all the enterprise-class capabilities customers are used to with the performance gains available only from flash.  In a FlexPod converged infrastructure solution, it delivers a smaller, simpler to manage and lower cost option to aging Tier-1 technologies.

There’s help, too, for finance companies that are struggling to reduce the sheer quantity of apps they run, and to figure out what to do with the data from the apps they retire. This can be a significant challenge-one company I spoke with is trying to reduce the number of apps from 7,000 to 2,500. An elegant solution is to put the data into a NetApp object store using our StorageGRID software. This allows you to keep the app metadata, to continue to query it and get value from it-at a much lower cost than would otherwise be possible.

Modernizing Applications

Finance companies also face the need to modernize their applications, which requires new infrastructure. This is true when you move from a traditional SAP environment to a SAP HANA in-memory compute system, or when you introduce Hadoop, Spark and other systems.

Data ONTAP® has unique strengths here as well. This remarkably flexible, adaptable and fast platform supports these cycles of application modernization, without the need for new infrastructure. It’s certified for the apps you have today and for the new and modernized apps you will have tomorrow. (SAP HANA was developed on this platform, which was the first to be certified for that system.)

NetApp technology contributes to a more agile development cycle as well. Many finance companies have huge test and development infrastructures-in some cases accounting for a greater spend than production itself. With NetApp’s cloning technology, companies can instantly create a replica of any environment (SAP, SAP HANA, Oracle, etc.) that consumes no storage at all. It’s like tracing an image with tracing paper. You’re not copying it, but rather providing a different view onto the same data set. You clone your new version and run the test. If it doesn’t work, you kill it and clone again. The result is a dramatic acceleration of the test and development cycle.

And if you need to test an app but don’t want to own a substantial test and development infrastructure, the Data Fabric lets you do so at incredibly low cost by tapping into the resources of the cloud. You can spin the app up inside a hyperscale public cloud like Amazon using NetApp’s Cloud ONTAP (the software version of our OS) as your underlying storage system. This allows you to replicate your data to the cloud, run the test, then kill it. A company could have scores of people spinning up Amazon environments for high-performance development work, running them for an hour or two at negligible cost, then killing them again.

Cloning removes the cost of using physical platforms for development, and now the cloud is further shrinking that cost. Tapping into the likes of Amazon as a service provider to complement your test and development environments is also an incredibly powerful way to test apps at massive scale.

For many finance companies today, the “innovate-or-die” mantra is all too real. The LOB or third-platform technologies are the ones that end customers see, touch, feel and consume, and that contribute to a perception of how advanced an organization is. Many banks, for example, are investing in everything from mobile apps and crypto currencies to biometrics and Apple Pay. The Data Fabric helps these companies focus on these all-important innovations by helping them easily integrate their existing data with these new technologies while reducing their costs in the data center and around applications. It’s what makes the Data Fabric unique. It’s what makes it real. Come share your thoughts on what this means to you at Insight.

Have your registered for NetApp Insight yet? This technical conference provides customers and partners a chance to dive deep into the trends and technology shaping the future of storage and data management, starting with how to build a Data Fabric. Learn how to meet your data challenges from NetApp engineers and thousands of the brightest IT innovators. Register for Insight today!

NetApp Insight 2015

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Matt Watts

Matt Watts works closely with the Office of the CTO, Product Operations and Marketing teams at NetApp, but spends most of his time at events or with businesses articulating NetApp’s Strategy and the business value of IT. He has over 25 years of IT experience and has been with NetApp for the last 12 years.