Cloud infrastructure has emerged as the backbone for a fast-moving digital business transformation. Similarly, as the pace of the digital economy accelerates, companies are flooded with data. This data is the foundation of intelligence for crucial business decisions, thereby making data management solutions a must for companies to invest in. NetApp, one of the dominant players, explains itself as the specialist in the world of generalists.
To understand what makes NetApp stand out, Analytics India Magazine caught up with Ravi Chhabria, Managing Director, NetApp India. Ravi has specialised with a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the Pennsylvania State University and has held several roles at leading technology companies and early-stage startups.
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AIM: With the Indian startup sector booming, how is NetApp mentoring startups to help them build innovative solutions?
Ravi: Our flagship startup accelerator program – NetApp Excellerator, was introduced with an aim to leverage our learnings and expertise over the last three decades and foster innovation by mentoring deep-tech startups. The program provides both technical as well as business mentorship to them over the course of 4 months of program. The shortlisted startups get access to our resources and stakeholders, including customers and investors.
We also make our Cloud Volumes ONTAP (CVO) license available to them, which in turn helps them optimise their cloud storage costs and performance – a major challenge for startups. Owing to the pandemic, we have now evolved to become virtual in nature, further strengthening the program’s global outlook. Through the four-month-long program, we enable the participating startups to experiment and finetune their existing models, iterate on those faster, and deploy their work seamlessly. We are currently in the 9th cohort and have impacted 58 startups thus far globally.
NetApp ExcellerateHER – a subset of the NetApp Excellerator program, is dedicated to promoting women entrepreneurs in the deep-tech space. This is in its third edition and has mentored ten women-led startups so far. We create opportunities for them to increase visibility through various means such as webinars, conferences, and one-on-one industry connections. As a result, the startups get an opportunity to pivot and strengthen their technology solutions while finding the right product-market fit.
AIM: Talking about your recent acquisition of Data Mechanics and now CloudCheckr, how do these steps elevate your cloud automation platform?
Ravi: Organisations across verticals are adopting cloud-first and cloud-native strategies now more than ever. These strategies enable them to be agile and adaptable in the face of unprecedented data deluge. Spot by NetApp automates cloud infrastructure to assure performance, reduce complexity and optimise costs.
- NetApp’s Data Mechanics solution makes AI and ML-based applications, running Apache Spark, a go-to open-source framework for big data, easy and accessible on Kubernetes. With the integration of Data Mechanics capabilities into the Ocean product family in Spot Wave, many big data application owners can run fully automated, optimised Spark on fully automated, optimised cloud infrastructure.
- CloudCheckr is a cloud optimisation platform that extends our already robust FinOps offerings. While Spot by NetApp has changed how public cloud users approach spot instances, CloudCheckr goes deeper in enabling our customers to further optimise their cloud use, uncover spend trends and get recommendations to save. Both the acquisitions of CloudCheckr and Data Mechanics complement and expand the ‘Spot by NetApp’ portfolio, creating a suite of CloudOps services.
These strategic acquisitions help us address key cloud challenges at a time when they’ve become critical priority areas for our customers. We better equip them to meet cost management, security, reporting, and billing analytics needs. We plan to accelerate our public cloud services and continue to grow our hybrid cloud business. We are looking to leverage our deep tech expertise to further expand our multi-cloud infrastructure management services.
AIM: How does NetApp ensure the security and reliability of data centres for Indian partners?
Ravi: Data centres today have gone beyond the boundaries of a physical data centre building and into the cloud as well. NetApp works with both customers and partners to build a very secure infrastructure across hybrid cloud environments, ensuring continuous availability of data. NetApp solutions protect the information assets against any component outage in the data centre, site-level failures and even cyber threats like ransomware in real-time, and more importantly, NetApp technologies allow our partners to recover within minutes from any such eventuality.
Our solutions are at the heart of operations for some of India’s largest banks and many public and private sector organisations where information security is the top priority. Our platform offers the safest option to the partners and customers alike as we bring the same industry-leading testing and reliability to the enterprises’ on-prem data centres and cloud infrastructures, eliminating multiple points of management and thereby limiting potential avenues for any breach.
AIM: What all challenges do you regularly face as the head of the engineering team at NetApp?
Ravi: Innovation is at the core of what we do at NetApp. Nurturing a thriving community of the industry’s top minds is on top of every leader’s mind at NetApp India. Whether it be attracting the best, mentoring and coaching them to do their best, enabling them to master new skills, showcase their innovative spirit, engage with India’s thriving startup ecosystem, keep the customer at the centre – these are the jobs of every leader at NetApp India.
It brings together heads across functions, not just engineering, but also talent acquisition and development, learning services; even our focus on corporate social responsibility and community engagement is driven by our people’s passion for all things data. It’s a big reason why NASSCOM recognised us for exemplary value addition in driving innovation in the cloud.
AIM: Can you share some of the unique solutions from NetApp aimed towards changing the data management game in India?
Ravi: We hold a unique position as the cloud-first data-centric software company. We are the only cloud solution provider that has a strategic partnership with all three major hyperscalers – Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. NetApp solutions are available natively in the top three public clouds, enabling organisations to build a hybrid multi-cloud data fabric with ease. Our not-so-secret ingredient is our storage operating system, ONTAP, which provides a smart, powerful, and trusted storage infrastructure that reduces costs, accelerates critical workloads, and secures data across hybrid multi-cloud environments.
One advantage of this focused investment in innovation is NetApp today is able to provide businesses with a plethora of solutions based on the industry’s leading storage operating system, ONTAP.
AIM: What are the challenges faced by organisations when transitioning to the cloud?
Ravi: Some of the major concerns w.r.t transitioning to the cloud include infrastructure support, data migration, data protection and security, and compliance. It is, in fact, easier for the smaller companies to adopt cloud than the larger legacy ones. The main challenges that legacy companies face before fully transitioning to the cloud and being able to reap maximum benefits from it are:
- People and Processes – Cloud migration usually brings with it big changes to already established business processes within a company. Most often, it’s the people and processes that prove to be more challenging than the technology – we see a lot of resistance to change and adapt. Cloud adoption in these cases becomes a much larger process, limiting its effectiveness.
- Security and Compliance – Businesses naturally have security concerns while adopting the cloud and often prefer to keep their data on-prem. With the cloud, security is relegated to a third-party provider. Companies should assess the providers’ security and privacy laws while also looking at compliance.
- Bandwidth and Capability – While organisations can save considerably on hardware, storage, space, and cooling expenses with cloud adoption, migrating to the cloud also means that businesses may need to restructure their IT teams based on the newer skillsets it demands. In an increasingly mobile world, the rising demand for data and applications may lead to an increased bandwidth cost which is not fully predictable.
AIM: Why are hybrid cloud deployments primarily the domain of large organisations? If not, then how are you making it accessible to even smaller ones?
Ravi: Hybrid cloud deployments are not the exclusive domain of large organisations. It allows large organisations with massive legacy infrastructure investments to rapidly transition to more agile cloud solutions. Until a year or two ago, hybrid cloud was a distant dream for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – mainly because of the high cost and complexity attached to it. Our ONTAP based portfolio that spans clouds does a lot to reduce if not eliminate most of the cost and complexity. As we say, we are the data management specialists, so our customers don’t have to be — specialists in data, that is. We like that they specialise in transforming their business with data and creating happier customers.
More recently, we have augmented our cloud offerings portfolio with SPOT by NetApp. We can offer cost-optimised cloud solutions to our partners and customers looking to either transition to the cloud or better manage their existing cloud infrastructure.
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