NetApp's hybrid cloud is all about storage, not compute

With its new hybrid cloud, NetApp creates a data fabric that interoperates with Amazon and other vendors

hybrid cloud

Since at least last year, NetApp has been making noise about creating its own hybrid cloud infrastructure, but questions swirled as to what form it would take.

NetApp has now unveiled it plan, NetApp Data Fabric for the Hybrid Cloud -- not one single product, but changes to several star products in the NetApp constellation and a few new additions. It also focuses on the storage side of hybrid cloud, thus playing to NetApps's strengths, even if encompassing only part of the hybrid cloud.

A key building block for the strategy has been around for a while: NetApp's Private Storage product, which can connect NetApp's local private-cloud hardware solutions to major-league cloud providers like Amazon, Azure, and Softlayer. (The connectivity between private and public clouds is provided by Equinix Cloud Exchange.)

To this, NetApp adds is a new version of its Data ONTAP storage OS called Cloud ONTAP, used to manage the size, provisioning, and data movement for any cloud-connected storage in Amazon Web Services. Users can either pay as they go -- such as by way of an Amazon Marketplace machine type, available by the hour -- or bring their own license and use a six-month subscription with an Amazon machine instance. The price tag and feature set favor the latter, as the hourly model tops out at 10TB of storage, while the six-month subscription hits a maximum of 50TB.

To manage Cloud ONTAP and AWS resources, NetApp hasn't relied exclusively on functionality in Data ONTAP. Instead, it unveiled a new product called OnCommand Cloud Manager that handles deployment of Cloud ONTAP instances and monitors usage and costs for AWS instances.

NetApp's strategy for hybrid cloud has focused almost entirely on storage and underpinnings, rather than the compute side. The company hinted at this as far back as two years ago when NetApp and Amazon announced a partnership wherein a customer's storage arrays were hosted in parallel both on-premises and in Amazon's cloud. There has been no talk on NetApp's part of creating its own challenger to vSphere or creating its own OpenStack distribution (maybe tied closely to its hardware). Rather, NetApp CTO Jay Kidd saw "the benefits of stitching together the infrastructure" as an unexplored way forward.

Likewise, Amazon has no explicit plans for its own hybrid cloud, barring various partnerships. TBR analyst Jillian Mirandi believes that if Amazon makes any moves in this space by itself, it'll be through the connections with network and telecom vendors -- the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world, rather than the NetApps. Still, If NetApp's infrastructure- and storage-centric approach gains traction, Amazon and NetApp could further deepen their partnership.

[An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Equinix as Equinox.]