NetApp, Microsoft Expand Partnership for Azure Hybrid Clouds

NetApp's hybrid cloud news came at the company's Insights show where CEO George Kurian said carrying on with the conference may help the healing process after the deadly shooting in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS—NetApp is expanding its partnership with Microsoft to bring more capabilities to Azure to make it easier for enterprises to migrate more workloads to the public cloud.

The expanded collaboration with Microsoft was announced on Oct. 2 at NetApp’s Insight user conference, which is moving ahead under the pall of the country’s largest mass shooting, which occurred the day before the event was set to begin.

On the night of Oct. 1, Nevada resident Stephan Paddock, armed with more than a dozen firearms, fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino into a crowd of more than 20,000 concertgoers at show across the Las Vegas Strip from the hotel, killing 59 and injuring more than 500.

NetApp’s Insight show actually was set to begin at the Mandalay Bay conference center, where thousands of employees, partners and customers are staying this week.

The hotel went into lockdown well into Oct. 2 and a portion of the Strip that runs past Mandalay Bay and the site of the concert remains closed to regular traffic. Police vehicles are a constant presence both along the strip and at Mandalay Bay.

Speaking to journalists before his keynote and then to attendees during his address, NetApp CEO George Kurian said that he and other executives had considered cancelling the entire show in the wake of the shooting. But after consulting local authorities and security services inside Mandalay Bay, they decided to move forward Tuesday through Thursday at the hotel conference center. Events scheduled for Oct. 2 were cancelled.

Kurian noted that by Oct. 3, more than 4,100 people had arrived in town to attend the conference, and that enabling them to come together as a community would accelerate the healing from the “unspeakable events of just a few days ago.” They were also assured that the conference would be safe.

“After much consideration, we decided we wanted to go forward with [Insight],” the CEO said. “We need to respectful of the event that happened, but we wanted to start the process of moving from grief to grace.”

After asking the thousands of attendees to rise and observe a moment of silence, Kurian began his keynote, focusing on NetApp’s belief that the industry is moving away from traditional IT and business processes to one more focused on software, data and the cloud, and emerging technologies like data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

He highlighted the collaboration with Microsoft, which has been a NetApp partner for several years. This summer the two companies unveiled plans to work together to accelerate enterprises’ efforts to embrace hybrid cloud environments, by enabling them to deploy applications to the cloud in a flexible architecture that enabled them to leverage their on-premises infrastructures. That announcement included plans to bring hybrid cloud data services based on NetApp’s OnTap data management software to Azure.

The Insight announcements build on that, according to Brett Roscoe, vice president of product, solutions and services marketing for NetApp.

The company announced that its network file system (NFS) technology is being integrated into Microsoft Azure. While NFS offerings are available on public clouds, NetApp’s technology will be delivered natively in Azure through the cloud’s console, making it available to anyone on Azure, including NetApp and non-NetApp customers. This will give customers access to the same high-performance NFS capabilities via the cloud that they have in their own data centers.

It also gives businesses that have not used NFS before to try it out, and “it opens up Microsoft to whole new workloads, workloads that they may not have supported before,” Roscoe said.

Enterprises can preview the Azure Enterprise NFS service powered by NetApp here.

Along with the NFS partnership with Microsoft, NetApp also announced that its Cloud Control for Microsoft Office 365 and its AltaVault cloud backup product both now support Azure Storage.

In addition, the company introduced Elio, a virtual support assistant that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning in NetApp’s Active IQ cloud-based analytics software to accelerate problem solving for customers.

Elio is based on IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology, and leverages intelligence extracted from 368 billion data point from more than 300,000 installed NetApp Data Fabric solutions to inform its answers to customer queries. It also learns from the input it gets, such as questions users ask and how they ask them.

NetApp has been using Elio internally for a while, Roscoe said. Now the company is offering it up to customers with the promise of delivering answers and resolving problems up to four times faster than conventional means. It will be available online through mobile devices or within products, according to NetApp.

Elio and Active IQ are available now via a NetApp Support contract, and are also included in such products as NetApp All Flash FAS, SolidFire, Altvault, E-Series, StorageGrid, OnTap Cloud and OnTap Select products.