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Reflecting on Netapp Insight 2023: A Key Focus on AI Data Pipeline, Storage Consistency and Data Protection


Kyle Davies

OCTO Round-Up

•  Nov 01, 2023

On 23rd to 25th October CDW was a platinum sponsor, alongside Cisco, for the first return of an in-person NetApp Insight since 2019. The focus of the event was turning disruption into opportunity by taking the time to make your data infrastructure intelligent, wherever it is located!

Throughout the three days, NetApp made several key announcements that I have consolidated here.  

Day 1 Keynote Summary:

This day was focused on scene-setting and why change is required, and how we as technologists can use this to our advantage. 

NetApp CEO George Kurian kicked off the day with an insight into the current macro challenges: 

  • Increasing Cyber Threats 
  • Operational Complexity 
  • Talent Shortages 
  • Cloud Complexity  

George went on to outline that data driven businesses are AI-ready and accelerating their market leadership. Those who are embracing technology advancements are now increasing their growth compared to those who are not. 

Being data-driven and AI-ready has three key requirements.

1. Have a Cohesive Data Strategy and Organisation.

Ensure you know what teams and what data you have; a top-down approach to transformation is antiquated. Businesses must view transformation as a unified, cross-functional effort. This is very much like what my colleague Greg van der Gaast has been highlighting as part of transforming from the concept of ‘IT security’ to ‘doing business securely.’ It means bringing your entire organisation together - People, Process and Technology.  

2. Organisations Need To Treat Data as a Product.

Organisations commonly create domain data or data silos, whereas they should be treating data as a single source for multi-use.  

3. Utilise a Modern Data Architecture.

NetApp stated that they are not telling you to transform every level of your stack. What they say is to transform the right parts of your data architecture, consolidate, and simplify other parts to give you agility. This enables you to respond to business disruption and drive incremental improvements over time.  

AI is a major disruptor in all industries and walks of life. Whether you see AI as a positive force for good or not, it is here and making waves. George outlined that AI will be accountable for 7%+ GDP growth. In his own words, to put this into perspective, this is more than the impact of the internet! Goldman Sachs outlines that generative AI could drive 7% increase in global GDP and lift productivity growth by 1.5 percentage points over a 10-year period. 

When you look at the GDP impact, you can see why NetApp and many other technology vendors are laser-focused on AI integrations. 

To provide more insights on AI, the infamous Dr Fei-Fei Li was invited to the stage to provide her insights as an ‘AI for All’ chair and AI researcher from Stanford. Dr Li led the ImageNet project in 2007, which revolutionised machine learning and was a landmark moment in the global technology industry. She has been helping government to understand policy in conjunction with AI to best protect human agency.


In summary she highlighted: 

  • We're at a "special moment, an inflection moment" regarding generative AI. This has been combined with a "public awakening moment", as the likes of ChatGPT have blown up the visibility of the power that the models can bring. 
  • Exciting times come for multi-modal models as we embark into the next era of AI enhancement. 
  • Compute is the biggest issue right now. All the GPU in the universities today with A100 and H100 could not rebuild GPT4. I believe that further announcements next year from wider silicon organisations will help with this challenge. 
  • Don’t use AI as a subject! Her view of AI's role in our world is to augment humanity, but not take away our dignity. Not to take away our human agency. 

The next guest on stage was George Kurian’s brother, CEO of Google Cloud, Thomas Kurian.  


Thomas spoke about the advancements that Google Cloud have been making to further support the enhancement and foundational platform requirements for AI. He went on to outline how Google Cloud Vertex has been designed to provide you with that foundation. It has built-in framework controls (18+), runs within your private VPC, nobody from Google has access to your platform and, importantly, it has built-in distillation and tuning. Distillation and tuning are extremely important to enable AI workloads to become more ESG friendly!  

Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007 and will be carbon-free as of 2030. They are proactively ensuring datacentre designs for AI are implemented to ensure that water cooling, amongst other approaches is used, as this can drive 30-40% increase on performance and minimise waste. By tuning and using distillation you can also look to use edge AI approaches to enable improved experiences. 

There was a nice demo on how Google Cloud Vertex AI can integrate with NetApp volumes (which I have included in my video summary of the NetApp event). This demo shows how you can use Vertex AI and NetApp to talk to your private data and get it to create your marketing content as well as code to create a website for that content.

Another speaker for day 1 was Director Jen Easterly from CISA.  

Jen said that in the era of generative AI, security by design must be a key priority for developers and innovators in this space. CISA is in the process of outlining a roadmap for responsible AI development, and its potential use in cyber defence. Achieving these goals, will require greater collaboration between the public and private sectors. Jen is also aiding the UK efforts in this space.  

It took 20 years of work to implement legislation requiring drivers to wear seatbelts in the United States. There is an obvious risk here, and everyone can see it. With AI, regulations and legislation must be introduced quickly, we can’t wait 20 years like we did for seatbelt safety. Cyber Hygiene should be as embedded as brushing your teeth! 

Let’s put into perspective the importance of data pipelines and data management. Weta FX is the visual effects company for many movies, but the one that is worth noting is the Avatar series of films. Visual effects production requires serious storage capabilities, such as performance, efficiency and reliability. The first Avatar film required 1 petabyte of storage for visual effect development. The second movie needed 23 petabytes. Being able to access that data on-prem and across their chosen cloud platforms was key to success. NetApp supports their Enterprise Storage capabilities on-prem as well as across all three major cloud platforms: Azure, AWS and GCP. 

The closing summary for Day 1 was that intelligent data infrastructure is built on a unified, integrated data architecture. This removes silos! Analytics and data itself have evolved.  

Modern, scalable, event-driven architectures broke other platforms in the market. NetApp provides one architecture for data storage across all clouds; providing resiliency and visibility. Any App, Any Data, Anywhere.  

All powered by a single storage OS with unified management and observability. 

Day 2 Keynote Summary:

Kicked-off by the high-energy host Mario Armstrong, introduced Harv Bhela, NetApps Chief Product Officer and Haiyan Song, EVP and GM for CloudOps. 

They both hit home the AI messaging from day 1 but wanted to outline that it’s not all about storage and data! Apps running reliably, efficiently, and securely that create and consume data is key. Customers want flexibility, agility and streamlined data storage as they look to transform the way they use their data to unlock value. To this end, NetApp’s three key areas for investment are: 

  1. Unified and seamless data storage 
  2. Integrated data services 
  3. Cloud operations 

1. Unified & Seamless Data Storage

NetApp consolidated block and file in 2002! The business now has over 20,000 customers consuming block workloads. NetApp has expanded its portfolio to support any data type, any workload and any storage type; simply put file, block, or object on any cloud. To enable this consistency of experience, NetApp has built all of this on a single operating system (ONTAP).  

Earlier this year NetApp brought out the A150 entry-level all-flash array. They also brought the AFF C-Series, which is the fastest growing product in NetApp's history. Finally, the NetApp ASA S-Series was introduced to offer "industry-leading efficiency and availability with future-proofed cloud connectivity”, delivering optimised storage for block with 99.9999% availability. NetApp have also introduced: 

  • NetApp advance. Guaranteed efficiency, ransomware recovery, and availability. 
  • Simplified licensing with ONTAP One. This gives you simplicity of deployment, management, and consistency of automation. That's important in the world we live in with all the changes we must confront. 


NetApp unveiled the all-new ASA C-Series, with up to 70% better energy efficiency compared to other offerings. This unveil provides dedicated block storage with capacity flash with 99.9999% availability and 4:1 storage efficiency guarantee. 

When you use Keystone alongside your NetApp portfolio it guarantees at no extra cost: 

  • Performance 
  • Availability 
  • Ransomware guarantee 
  • Sustainability SLA 

Harv then went on to say that the announcements at NetApp Insight are not limited to flash storage. NetApp is deepening its ties with AWS, Azure and GCP to provide enterprise-grade storage in the cloud. Harv outlines how this is a unique arrangement; the hyperscalers don't do this with anyone else. Nobody else has native first-party engagement, which is sold and supported by the hyperscalers. 


NetApp has 20,000 customers that rely on NetApp every day to support VMware workloads. NetApp outline that they are the only cloud storage vendor working with VMware for on-prem storage. To simplify setting-up and testing DR, NetApp are providing a new high-availability feature in VMware environments. There was a Public preview of Snapmirror Active Sync for VMware. A demo video of this in action can be found here. Essentially it simplifies the configuration and testing recoverability of your workloads embedded into the ONTAP and VMware platforms. This is provided by the BlueXP disaster recovery platform, where you can configure your recovery plans for undisrupted failover. 

2. Integrated Data Services


Cisco and NetApp have partnered to expand their FlexPod architecture to now provide a FlexPod Cyber Secure Architecture. Existing FlexPod customers can use this reference architecture to strengthen the security of their FlexPod infrastructures. New FlexPod customers can deploy a more secure solution immediately. 


The NetApp solution includes "multi-admin" verification features and tamperproof snapshots to prevent data destruction. It also harnesses machine learning to offer automatic ransomware detection and protection. NetApp plans to extend its guarantee to cover all ONTAP on-prem systems including AFF, ASA and FAS. The recovery assurance service will ensure that systems are protected against ransomware. If the worst does happen, you will automatically get 365-day, 24/7 recovery services. If somehow NetApp can't recover this data, they will stand behind that with their guarantee. 

NetApp wants to build the most secure storage solution(s) on the planet. At a high level: 


  • Multi-admin verify 
  • F-Policy 
  • Immutable storage 
  • Tamper proof snapshots 


  • AI/ML ransomware automated real-time detection 


  • Tamper-proof snapshots enabling you to recover 
  • Snapshots with real-time detection can limit the amount of potential data loss 

When you use NetApp professional services or approved partners, this can qualify you for the Ransomware Guarantee.  

The ransomware protection feature is available for free within ONTAP One. See video here for how this works.


NetApp want to solve the challenges around AI data pipeline: 

  • Scale of data and agility 
  • Exposes data that requires new protection approaches 
  • Uses large amounts of energy

NVIDA came to the stage to jointly talk with NetApp on why their partnership is critical to overcoming the above. AI is all about the data! Data is the source code for AI. NetApp simplifies the data storage for AI with consistent operations and data management on-prem and in the major three clouds. NetApp ONTAP AI enables businesses to tap into their data to deliver generative AI applications by leveraging a scalable, efficient, rapidly deployable infrastructure solution, NVIDIA DGX with ONTAP AI. 

3. Cloud Operations

Haiyan Song came back on stage to talk about the value of cloud insights; a valuable tool for migration to cloud as well as right sizing. She also covered Instaclustr for opensource integrations, and Spot for public cloud optimisation through automation. With Instaclustr, NetApp has integrated ONTAP into the key opensource service blueprints to provide a 3x greater throughput with Azure NetApp Files (ANF), as well as support for NetApp Storage Grid as a backup target. 

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Daniel Cap from Nubank joined the stage with Haiyan to outline the great work they have been doing to make banking available for across LATAM. With now over 90million banking users, they are leveraging cloud, focused on scale and innovation. They have used Spot Ocean to keep tight control of their Kubernetes clusters, with it now managing over 70% of their platform. With this providing cost control and automation, it is allowing them to focus on innovating their banking products rather than managing costs. 

Day 3 Keynote Summary:

Music producer and creative Timbaland shares how the use of technology can play a powerful role in creativity and productivity. There are parallels between data and talent in the music industry. 68% of all data is just sitting dormant and unused. Organisations are missing out on enormous value from not maximising the use of that data.  

Imagine if 68% of all artists in the music industry weren't active. The industry would be missing out on huge value. Unlocking that is the key to success in both instances here. Timbaland believes every artist is going to use AI. Eventually, musicians won't want to miss out on the potential benefits of integrating AI within their workflows to support creativity. AI-generated voice samples are a source of excitement for Timbaland to unlock the next level of creativity and sound. 

NetApp is "all in" on artificial intelligence and aims to support customers exploring the use of generative AI tools in the coming months and years. 

In summary, this was something different for me to attend, as it was my first NetApp Insight event. It was a great opportunity to network with peers, obtain industry insights and understand from the NetApp leadership team where they are laser-focused. 

The approach to consistent storage operations anywhere for file, block and object makes perfect sense; enabling you to get an Enterprise-grade storage platform across your chosen cloud(s). With further development and integration into AI platforms such as Google Vertex, I can see how your unstructured data could become more valuable overnight, whilst ensuring tuning, distillation and controls are in place to ensure you are executing on AI responsibly.

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