The NetApp effect

Maya Zakhour, head, Distribution and Alliances, Middle East and Africa (MEA) at NetApp, says the company isn’t ceding territory to other rivals in the HCI segment as Middle East organisations increase adoption of hyper-converged infrastructure systems.

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The NetApp effect Zakhour says HCI is undoubtedly the next big step in the evolution of software-defined infrastructure.
By  Manda Banda Published  August 21, 2018

As hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) revenues get set to overtake those of converged systems, it seems the traditional market leaders are dominating the sector for combined server and storage nodes.

For NetApp, which rolled out its HCI systems based on the SolidFire flash array, consisting of two VMware compute nodes and two SolidFire storage nodes, at its Insight user conference in October 2017, the entry into this segment has brought some dynamism and a challenge to the likes of Dell EMC, Nutanix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and other rivals.

Maya Zakhour, head, Distribution and Alliances, Middle East and Africa (MEA) at NetApp, said hyper-convergence, though still in the early stages of adoption in the Middle East, is undoubtedly the next big step in the evolution of software-defined infrastructure.

According to Zakhour, the global HCI market is growing at a CAGR of 42% from $1,459.56m in 2016 to reach $17,026.74m by 2023. “Converged IT infrastructure is no longer a bundled and pre-integrated selection of different manufacturers’ IT systems offerings,” she said.

Zakhour noted that enterprises everywhere are increasingly becoming interested in converged infrastructure that bundles hypervisor, server and storage in a single node to provide the flexibility to scale-out to form a single logical entity.

She pointed out that the NetApp HCI, which signals the arrival of the second generation of hyper-converged infrastructures, is a solution based on SolidFire software defined all-flash storage and standard compute nodes. “NetApp HCI runs on the SolidFire operating system Element OS and the hypervisor VMware ESXi, which acts as the operating system for virtualisation,” she said. “Several data services from NetApp and third-party vendors are integrated to ensure high availability, replication, data backup, reduction, and backup and recovery.”

In addition, NetApp HCI is cloud-connected through industry standard APIs such as S3 which enables interfaces to Amazon Web Services, NetApp SnapMirror, or StorageGRID Webscale. “Third Party data protection applications such as Commvault, Veeam and VMware SRA are also supported,” she said. “That’s why NetApp HCI is ideal for standard HCI use cases like VMware private cloud, end user computing/virtual desktop infrastructure as well as web infrastructure, cloud, databases and workload consolidation due to its guaranteed performance and flexible scaling capabilities.”

Given that NetApp works with a two tier channel model, the company has been working closely with distribution and reseller partners to roll out initiatives that are aimed at overcoming the challenges partners face and growing the vendor’s share of business.

“We are working with our distributor Logicom on a programme that will help us to jointly build NetApp HCI specialist partners. We will guide them through a journey of different phases from enablement all the way to becoming specialists,” she said

Zakhour explained that once launched, the programme will allow NetApp to jointly with partners, generate demand and help them close deals faster while at the same securing great profitability. She added that NetApp has lots of competitive channel programmes that allow partners to scale up much faster and secure higher market share in the HCI space. “We care about our channel partners so we are making sure to provide them with the best, at the best and for the best customer satisfaction,” she said.

Zakhour added that while training, enablement and empowering partners is high on the agenda, channel partners need to ensure that the HCI solutions they are recommending to their customers can provide flexibility and scalability where modular building blocks of IT are added incrementally into a customer’s environment, following a “pay as you grow” model. “The channel should be able to tell whether the solution integrates with existing infrastructure resources as most enterprises will require hyper-converged environments over time,” she said.

She added that: “In addition, channel partners must help customers evaluate which HCI solutions are strong enough to work outside of a self-contained system so that customers are not locked into their old or new infrastructure.”

Zakhour pointed out that HCI solutions that are only optimised to run standalone workloads on a single infrastructure prevent customers from realising the full value of their investment in new technology.

She said NetApp offers several advantages over rival HCI systems currently in the market. “Through our large installed base of ONTAP-based systems, and direct and channel sales mechanisms, NetApp leverages sales of its HCI offerings,” she said.

Built on SolidFire Element OS 10 and support for ONTAP Select for file services, NetApp HCI is being offered to the enterprise market in the region with a focus on enterprise cloud, web infrastructure and workload consolidation within the enterprise space. “NetApp HCI offerings provide competitive advantage through workload consolidation and simplified, centralised operations,” she said.

In addition, she said NetApp is actively working on differentiating NetApp HCI systems with guaranteed performance, increased infrastructure elasticity, less infrastructure overhead and easy automation when compared to other HCI solutions in the market. “NetApp continues to demonstrate and communicate the specific advantages that our customers realise with our HCI offerings in the market,” she said.

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