Why Reinvention of CX Requires Reinvention of Data Services

eWEEK STORAGE ANALYSIS: At Insight 2019, NetApp takes a leap forward in addressing the needs of an increasingly data-driven world.


This week at its 2019 Insight user event in Las Vegas, data management vendor NetApp announced Keystone, an agile program designed to help customers move to hybrid, multi-cloud environments. NetApp is positioning Keystone as a program that “Reinvents the customer experience” for its customer as it provides a range of flexible solutions to companies to evolve to cloud infrastructure whether they want to build or buy or some combination of the two.

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Keystone is a significant step up from its older licensing plans and offers greater operational simplicity and dynamic scaling.

Reinvention of customer experience is key to success in the digital era

The reinvention of customer experience is driven from the fact that customers want greater choice and flexibility in how they deploy and pay for infrastructure. Key features include the ability to mix and match purchases and subscription methods, ability to run any NetApp service in any environment (on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid) and a simplified ownership experience that makes it easier to purchase NetApp’s new systems but then grow when needed.

The new features and licensing plans are certainly more cloudlike and in line with the way customers want to buy things today. Given from where NetApp has come, Keystone is a major shift for a company looking to align itself with the cloud and modernized IT. The subscription pricing model should enable customers to experience NetApp in an entirely different way as they can plot out a path to the cloud without having to worry about doing a “rip and replace” on the infrastructure later. CIOs should also be happy as any investment being made today can be scaled cost effectively as the environment changes.

There’s a bigger story here for NetApp as it tries to be more CxO relevant. In the case of Insight 2019, the reinvention of customer experience is actually a double entendre. Yes, it’s true the NetApp buyer will an experience that’s new and different than before, but so will the customers of the organizations that take advantage of Keystone.

Finding needles in the haystacks of data leads to competitive advantage

We are squarely in the digital transformation era, and success today requires finding key insights in the massive amounts of data that companies own. At the event, NetApp stated that it’s commonly said that every company is a technology company, but today every company is actually a data company.

This statement holds true with many CIOs I have interviewed over the past couple of years. Being a technology company is table stakes, because no company can survive today without relying on its underlying technology; but that doesn’t set one apart. If a business doesn’t have a strong technology foundation, it likely won’t be around in a few years. 

Differentiation comes from analyzing data across traditional silos

Differentiation comes from being able to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze data, discover insights and then act on them faster than the competition. One of the biggest challenges for most organizations is that data exists in silos.

Data stored in on-premises systems, private clouds or in public clouds are typically islands of data. The information can be analyzed within the silo but not in aggregate with the other data. In data sciences, there’s an expression that states “good data leads to good insights.” That’s true, but partial data leads to partial insights and bad data leads to bad insights. Performing analytics on siloed information leads parallel sets of partial insights that then need to be correlated manually. Doing this across multiple islands of information is difficult, if not impossible.

Keystone abstracts data control from the underlying infrastructure

NetApp’s Keystone can be thought of as a software layer that abstracts control of the data away from the underlying physical storage fabric. This makes any data accessible regardless of location: on-premises, public cloud or hybrid environments. Some of the news stories I read on Keystone highlights the cost benefits, and that’s important, but the simplicity of data management across the silos is more significant. A good way to think about the value is that Keystone lets companies do what they are doing today more cost effectively. The single view and centralized control of data across hybrid, multi-clouds enable organizations to do things they can’t do today, which is the goal of digital transformation.

Moving forward, businesses will differentiate and compete on customer experience. CIOs need to focus on creating a single data source that can be the foundation for digital transformation initiatives.

Speed is the new currency of business and companies simply do not have the time to aggregate silos of information. NetApp’s Keystone gives customers a simplified and cost-effective way to reduce the amount of time required to manage data and increase the amount of time spend on innovation.

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.