Evolution of the data fabric

It’s always nice to hear something that validates your own thinking and helps you realise you are on the right track. Recently at NetApp INSIGHT in London, I heard Matt Watts, NetApp’s EMEA CTO, do just that as he talked about the evolution of their data fabric.

NetApp’s data fabric was introduced to the world around 5 years ago as a concept that aimed to provide a consistent storage experience across multiple repositories, be that in a datacentre, branch office, private or public cloud. The aim of a fabric is to “weave” together these locations with a consistent platform that allows for data portability, consistent management, protection and security experience.

Personally, the fabric concept also began to change my thinking when discussing infrastructure design, for too long it was focussed on technology, infrastructure and location, which would then be delivered to a business upon which they would place their data. However, the issue with this was the infrastructure could then limit how we used our data to solve business challenges. Data fabric changes that focus, building our strategy based on our data and how we need to use it, a focus on information and outcomes, not technology and location.

Over time as our data strategies evolved with more focus on data and outcomes, it became clear that a consistent storage layer while a crucial part of a modern data platform design, does not in itself deliver all we need. A little while ago I wrote a series of articles about Building a Modern Data Platform which described how a platform is multi-layered, requiring not just consistent storage but also must be intelligent enough to understand our data as it is written and provide insight, apply security and do these things immediately across our enterprise.

It was this that was in my mind as I saw Matt’s presentation in London, as he shared what I think is the evolution of NetApp’s data fabric message into the beginnings of the NetApp data platform. He outlined how NetApp’s broad solution set that spans on-premises, branch office, cloud (public and private) as well as modern deployment methods like Kubernetes, was now merged into a coherent platform, one that moved beyond just supplying a consistent data service and starts to focus on delivering business and data outcomes.

What this evolution shows is how NetApp has put together a range of solutions, which initially may have seemed disparate into something that when joined together starts to provide an intelligent and modern platform to meet the demands and objectives of today’s enterprise, the fabric evolution is focussed on delivering across 5 core capabilities;

Importantly, rather than these just been a stated aim, we can already see NetApp solutions that come together to deliver this today.

These solutions deliver the basics of a data platform, intelligence, native compliance and security, protection and automation all while retaining a consistent storage layer to ensure that not only do we maintain portability of data between locations but can also maintain all our desired enterprise controls wherever that data resides.

Why does this matter? Today for most enterprises data is a true asset, one that we need to use as we see fit and extract value from, but we have to do that while maintaining proper management, security and governance and that is what a platform is for. It delivers insight, security, intelligence portability and automation to our data as and when it is written so we can understand how our data is used, ensure it is secure, have it where we need it and when, so we can deliver the outcomes that our enterprise demands.

NetApp’s data fabric has been something that I have used over the last few years to help people understand how to build a strategy focussed on data and outcomes and not just technology, the evolution of this approach ensures it will continue to remain very relevant and also underlines NetApp are not only committed to delivering the strategy they started 5 years, but ensuring it continues to evolve to meet the rapid evolution of both technology and business demands.

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