Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/05/cloud_ontap/

NetApp turns onto ONTAP cloud storage

Three's company

By Chris Mellor

Posted in Storage, 5th August 2009 12:43 GMT

Comment NetApp's cloud czar, Val Bercovici, has blogged about NetApp's "upcoming NetApp Cloud Launch later this year" which will involve NetApp working with Cisco and VMWare to deliver a virtualised cloud network, server and storage infrastructure.

Data ONTAP is NetApp's storage array operating system for its FAS arrays and V-Series virtualising front-end controller for third-party arrays. It provides file and block-access storage and comes in standard ONTAP 7G and clustered ONTAP GX form. A well-telegraphed ONTAP 8 is expected later this year that combines the two variants in some way. We also expect a new high-end FAS array, more powerful and more scalable than the current top-of-the-range FAS 6000 series.

So far, NetApp has not released any cloud specific storage products - ones that would provide specific services - such as secured multi-tenancy, literally global scalability and name space or anything else. NetApp indicated that it will not offer cloud services itself, with co-founder Dave Hitz blogging: "NetApp’s strategy is not to build clouds ourselves, but to help other people build them... NetApp’s core competency is storage and data management. This is a very different skill set from running large data centers efficiently."

He said that NetApp already supplies storage to cloud service providers, such as Oracle On Demand, Yahoo! Mail, SAP by design, Photobucket, AT&T, IBM Hosting and others, and thinks: "we are already the number one cloud storage vendor in the industry."

However, NetApp is developing its products to function better in a cloud computing environment. Bercovici introduced himself publicly as NetApp's cloud czar on August 3rd, saying NetApp assessed the cloud market, and had: "made a few key strategic decisions which we will be introducing throughout the remainder of this year."

Some of these strategic decisions are listed: don't compete with your best customers; don't fight evolutionary trends; build an (ecosystem) village of system integrators, telcos and cable operators, and technology partners. He talks about leveraging partner strengths to produce "the most comprehensive Cloud Computing Solution in the marketplace." That sounds like bundled products are coming. He says NetApp won't produce a separate cloud-focussed business unit or a separate cloud-focussed product line. Instead NetApp will become, in its entirety, a cloud-centric company with cloud-focussed offerings.

The point is made that existing application/server/storage silos can be transitioned to a highly virtualised horizontal shared infrasture through virtualisation technology. But this is more than putting a cloud interface on them, as these silos will be absorbed into a virtualised infrastructure where they think they are still silo'd. In fact they will only be in virtual silos.

Multi-tenancy and chargeback

Bercovici gives us a better sight of NetApp's cloud approach in the second of a set of articles about NetApp and its cloud journey.

He discusses the importance of a chargeback mechanism for private clouds, implying that NetApp will provide granular usage reporting to facilitate charging for storage use by cloud customers.

He also emphasises a need for hypervisor neutrality, saying: "NetApp has been strategically prioritizing and balancing our R&D, certification and sales investments for a multi-vendor hypervisor landscape. Much like competing with your best customers, or releasing yet another silo’d tactical product into a new market, placing all your eggs in one hypervisor basket is a very short-sighted approach to a long-term market trend." Candidate hypervisors include VMware, Xen, KVN, xVM and HYPER-V.

The message is that NetApp has a cloud storage portfolio which supports, or will support, secure multi-tenancy, service automation and management, and continuous operations. It will build on NetApp's existing storage efficiency guarantees, "extreme storage efficiency" plus integrated data protection. NetApp will probably suggest that you get it all in one virtualised box, in other words, which you can transition your existing NetApp storage to as you set up internal clouds.

We're talking about developing ONTAP here, I reckon, and also developing a cloud-focussed channel-cum-ecosystem.

The context is secure multi-tenancy, the secured isolation of multiple customer environments in a single cloud infrastructure. Bercovici says this: "NetApp, VMware and Cisco have been collectively working on a joint Cloud solution to this key requirement for quite some time. Expect more details at our upcoming NetApp Cloud Launch later this year."

Bercovici refers to NetApp, Vmware and Cisco testing a secured end-to-end-multi tenancy platform. An architectural paper is also mentioned.

How could this be delivered to customers who want to provide a multi-customer cloud service, either as an internal private cloud or an external public cloud?

Cisco could set up its own cloud service. EMC, VMware's owner, is already active in this area. The three suppliers, Cisco, NetApp and VMware, could cross-certify their products in a 3-way cloud offering with the pieces bought separately. The pieces could be presented as a single entity through channel partners. NetApp's desire for hypervisor neutrality suggests that it would prefer a cross-certification and sale through the channel approach, so that, say, a HYPER-V equivalent could be offered on, say, an HP blade server set-up, or an IBM one.

NetApp is not saying it sees a files-based cloud or a block-access cloud as its future. It wants its storage to be accessed by whatever protocol a cloud customer or service provider could want; CIFS, NFS, iSCSI, WebDAV, FTP, HTTP/REST, SOAP, BitTorrent, etc.

What is not being said by NetApp's cloud czar, yet, is how much scalability is needed in the storage area and how it could or should be delivered. We could envisage NetApp thinking that multi-petabytes are needed. It could get this with a scale-up big box - an FAS 7000 or whatever it might be called - or through scale-out by clustering existing NetApp FAS products, or both.

So now we have ONTAP8 coming, a possible larger FAS hardware platform, and a cloud launch later this year, featuring close integration with VMware and Cisco. Some elements of that cloud launch are pretty clear already. We can envisage ONTAP 8 being presented as delivering data access Martini-style - anytime, anywhere, with self-service and chargeback. It will offer secure multi-tenancy and be able to move data around the storage boxes in the cloud with no business operation interruption. Capacity can be scaled up or down as required. There will also be 24/7 service agreements - are you listening Cisco?

El Reg's best guess is that ONTAP 8 is going to be presented as opening the door for existing NetApp customers to enjoy cloud storage on tap, courtesy of the three best buddies; Cisco, NetApp and VMware. But this is not going to be an exclusive arrangement. Other partners are already in the wings and just waiting to be invited to NetApp's cloud village party. ®