Thursday, October 29, 2015

NetApp Insight 2015 Recap

NetApp Insight was a few weeks ago in Las Vegas and it was a blast. I would have had something posted sooner, but I have been recovering from the information overload and Las Vegas just gets to you at some point. I picked up some kind of black plague that I thought was going to take me out, but I am on the mend and I want to do a recap of what Insight was for me. 

It’s all about the Data Fabric!

It took me a bit to wrap my head around this idea. When NetApp first talked about their vision of the Data Fabric, I couldn’t really figure out what they were trying to do. Hybrid clouds are becoming almost a standard for people wanting to get into the cloud market, but what is this Data Fabric? Is it a product? Is it a service? Well, it is kind of both. It is a vision that I think they have brought full circle. 

So what is Data Fabric and why should people care? Here are the basics of it. It’s your data, do with it as you wish. 

  • Do you want your data on-site? 
  • Would you like a copy in the cloud? 
  • Would you like to move that data to another cloud? 
  • Do you want to bring that data back on-site? 

These are the questions that the Data Fabric help answer. You can do all of these things using a number of NetApp products, as well as the most recent acquisition of AltaVault (formally SteelStore). NetApp gave a couple of great demos that showed how powerful this idea really is. I really recommend you take the time to look them up on the NetApp YouTube channel or look at the playlist for NetApp Insight videos here. The ability to SnapMirror your data from your onsite FAS or AFF to AWS or Azure and then back again is really powerful, if you think about it. NetApp is offering a bridge between the types of storage that everyone uses and allowing the users to control their own data in ways that no one else is able to do. It’s freeing people up to the option of using the cloud in a way that works best for them. 

Insight is great for learning!

There were a TON of sessions and classes at Insight that really showed how much NetApp wants people to understand the technology and how it works well with others. There were not only sessions on core NetApp ONTAP and E Series solutions, but also on OpenStack, FlexPod, VMware, and Hyper-V to name a few. If you have something running on top of a NetApp product, there was probably a session on how to make that run more efficiently.  I really enjoy how NetApp seems to try and help customers and partners to get the most out of the collaborations that they have with other vendors. 

On top of the great sessions, NetAppU provided the ability to get certified! I am a huge fan of NetAppU and how great their materials are, but they have really kicked it up a notch with their certifications this year. The questions are harder across the board and I think that is better for the overall testing process. But the best part? Free certification tests! And boy were people taking advantage of that. The testing center was always full, and there was a celebration for everyone who was certified on Wednesday evening. With over 200 people showing up wearing their certified bracelets, I think it was a wonderful success. 

Insight Central was the place to be! 

Insight Central was the “vendor” area this year. It was full of NetApp booths, as well as the partners they work with, offering solutions for almost every problem you can think of. Some of my favorites were Cisco and VMware. Veeam had a good booth and Catalogic Software was in full force this year. I really enjoyed talking to people from all these vendors, as well as being able to get with people from NetApp who were helping build the products that we work on. There was always a cool feeling at Insight Central as customers and partners were able to connect to NetApp and their partners to work out solutions. Whiteboards were everywhere and they always had diagrams and drawings on them. The “Meet the Engineer” area was always full of people working out the worlds problems, and next to it the social hub was keeping everyone informed on the happenings of NetApp Insight. While wandering around, I even ran into Dave Hitz!

The Social Network!

As people in IT, we all know about the network. NetApp Insight offers us a chance to get out of the office and participate in our social network. There were multiple opportunities for people to get together and interact with other attendees and NetApp employees and expand that human network that is important to us all. I tried to take advantage of this as much as I could. I am not that social really, but I hide it well, and really reached out to people through the events and the Tech ONTAP podcast. There was the Tech ONTAP Live shows at Insight Central that were great to watch (and I even participated in one, little more on that below), the Greet and Geek certification meet-up, as well as the huge customer appreciation party featuring Train! (Yes, that is myself with a real mermaid!)

Hanging out with the NetApp A-Team!

Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of being part of a great group of people that tries to support NetApp the best way we know how. We are the NetApp A-Team and we were in full force at NetApp Insight. What did we do? Well, we were able to get great seating during the general sessions, we were able to participate in the Tech ONTAP podcasts, we did two tweet chats, and we helped to host the Greet & Geek celebration with NetAppU. I was able to participate in a Tech ONTAP live show with Hercu Rabsatt from Mansfield Oil and hosted by Andrew Sullivan; which was amazing. Participating in that show was a great experience for me. Like I had mentioned before, I have really been trying to push myself to get out of my shell more and being up on stage definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. 

NetApp has a strong vision and they have put in place amazing technology to make this vision a reality. With AltaVault, Cloud ONTAP, OnCommand Cloud Manager, and SnapMirror everywhere, I think NetApp has the foundation for flexible customer choice and really showed that during the presentations and sessions at Insight. NetApp Insight EMEA is only a few weeks away. If you were unable to attend the one in Las Vegas, then I really recommend trying to get to that one. 

If Vegas proves anything, Berlin is going to be one great show. 

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