‘Data is more distributed & dynamic; data management needs to adapt’

‘Data is more distributed & dynamic; data management needs to adapt’

Anil Valluri, President, NetApp India and SAARC, discusses how technology will transform the way people consume products and services, and enterprises redefine the way they engage with customers.

Anil Valluri, President, NetApp India and SAARC, is an industry veteran who has seen IT evolving from the days computing was done on mainframes to its evolution to distributed client-server computing and back to the days of centralisation and the current consumerization of technology. In this exclusive interview with CIO Dialogues, he shares his insights into how technology will transform the way people consume products and services, and enterprises redefine the way they engage with customers.

You have witnessed the industry transition from the time when companies sold processing power to the days when they are talking of digital transformation. What has essentially changed?
Every decade or so, the IT industry has witnessed new innovations in computing, which in turn have changed the way IT services are delivered to businesses and consumers. After the mainframe era, mini-computing era, personal computer and client-server era, and the web era, we are now in the era of Digital Transformation.

The core characteristics of customers and employees have changed. They are expecting a new style of commerce, content and collaboration—they are looking for the same anywhere, anytime, and any-device convenience that they’re familiar with in their personal lives. This has led to businesses rethinking their operating models and becoming more agile and insightful.

Data has become the most valuable resource, and in a hyper-competitive world, companies are re-inventing their business with data at their core. At the foundation of the radical rethinking vital to the digital transformation journey is intelligent management of the proliferation of data throughout the enterprise.

As the data authority in the hybrid cloud, NetApp is working with organisations to unleash this power of data, which provides the opportunity to deliver transformative business results and competitive advantage. Organisations that capitalise on it early are differentiating themselves as market leaders.

First, we saw the commoditisation of hardware, storage and peripherals, and today we are well and truly into a world where IT is consumed as a utility. What’s the future?
Today, we are looking at an ecosystem that is heavily inclined towards SaaS approach and services on cloud. Data migration, big data analytics and on-board cloud environments all in a subscription-based service delivery model have gained traction in recent times. The benefit to customers and partners from this is that they have seamless and reliable data migration to the cloud in a secure and cost-effective manner.

The public cloud has created a new standard for IT that all industry leaders must match to provide the experience users enjoy in the cloud and now demand on their premises. To be successful, organisations must fuel data-driven innovation by leveraging the cloud and modernising their IT, bringing the power of the cloud to every part of their business through a seamless hybrid multi-cloud experience.

For example, we can look at NetApp Cloud Insights, a SaaS-based tool that provides infrastructure-monitoring and cost optimisation, designed specifically for today’s dynamic, hybrid cloud-based infrastructures.

Simply put, cloud computing is helping businesses around the world save money, improve productivity, and deliver unparalleled customer service.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace each day, which makes predicting the future a tough ask. What we consider innovative today will become the norm. The potential for new is limitless, and many things of the future may not even exist today. But in all of this IT infrastructure and digital transformation will remain crucial and essential for business. In fact, 67 per cent of CEOs in the Global 2000 are putting digital transformation at the centre of their growth and profitability strategies.

What in your view are the three or five technologies that will change the way people live their lives and companies do business?
According to a popular advisory service, there will be a dramatically accelerated period of cloud-native digital innovation. Organisations will take advantage of cloud and cloud-based AI, Blockchain, and hyper agile application technologies, such as containers, functions, microservices app architectures, and API-based integration to drive innovation at an increasingly fast pace. Here are few technologies that are and will continue to disrupt lives and businesses.
Cloud: In a data driven world, you need the right data infrastructure, data services and data insights, in the right place at the right time. Over 50 per cent of data driven digital transformation efforts get stalled due to application technical debt, lack of technical readiness, or fear of interrupting quarterly performance. The #1 IT spending priority in 2019 is increasing IaaS and PaaS budgets, as getting more workloads to the public cloud can help re-invigorate digital transformation efforts. Customers need to move, deploy and manage their key enterprise workloads in hybrid multi-cloud environments. Moving to the cloud faster and scaling workloads with higher performance and flexible costs will offer freedom of choice to use any public or private cloud environment in any combination.
Artificial Intelligence: If machines can learn repetitive tasks and extrapolate from there, it leaves human beings free to do better things. AI and ML will be game changers in how we deal with our own lives, in personal as well as business efficiency terms. With digital transformation taking centre stage in organisations, enterprises are keen on employing AI. To lead the way in the strategy for technology and future-proof the organisation and customers, unlocking the power of AI is almost completely dependent on the data that will fuel it—acquiring, organising, and using that data in a cycle that continues to optimise as more and more data is accumulated.
DevOps: Businesses have realised DevOps enables them to keep pace with escalating customer demands, creating new and innovative customer experiences and rapid response to requests from business. Interest in DevOps adoption is high because it has become a key component of satisfying customers and becoming more agile. Speed is the new scale to secure customer satisfaction and revenue streams. While there isn’t a single ‘silver bullet’ DevOps solution, the foundation for successful DevOps is architecture. If done right, such cloud infrastructure can be the basis for delivering success. NetApp—one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing data management companies—creates such data services for companies.

As we usher in a virtual world, there are risks and security threats that loom large. How do you see technology helping deal with these?
Yes, this is important. And as individuals and organisations begin to deeply understand the fact that data is the new asset—or currency—measures will be taken that hermetically seal the data against possible thefts.

This will be an evolving process as new innovations will test the limits of the norm, and therefore the security ecosystem will be compelled to evolve at equal or greater pace.

At an enterprise level, organisations need to be aware of what resides on the network, what is moving laterally across the network, what is extending out in the cloud, how it is accessed and how often, and then protect the data, both wherever it resides and in transit.  Apart from strict access controls and authentication to access data—at every level—organisations must also prepare for the unknown threat. A very strong incident detect and respond capability is critical for zero-day threats and anomalies.

How do you see NetApp evolving moving forward? What's the future of storage?
Globally, NetApp has transitioned to a data management company from a pure-play storage company. We are the data authority in the hybrid cloud. NetApp is embracing the cloud and making changes to adapt to the future. In the real world, there is a need for both cloud-based solutions, on-premises solutions and the hybrid in between, and it all must work together, seamlessly.

As far as storage is concerned, data will continue to expand. A popular advisory firm predicts that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 Zettabytes, which is ten times the data generated in 2016. Data has become more diverse, distributed, and dynamic. Data management needs to adapt. For many companies, data is no longer centralised in the data centre—it’s also at remote sites, cloud, and temporary instances.

Thereby, organisations today demand IT infrastructure that’s easy to consume, agile, and efficient—all the capabilities that first-generation hyper converged infrastructure can’t deliver. They require the all these, while also delivering a similar breadth of services and experiences from on-premises environments. However, most organisations cannot succeed if run solely in the public cloud. Organisations require a hybrid multi-cloud experience to enable private clouds to respond at the speed of public cloud. The need is to converge hybrid cloud services between traditional and new applications, between data centres and public clouds.

NetApp, the data authority for hybrid cloud, built its data fabric strategy and vision to simplify and to integrate data services for enterprise and cloud-native applications. The enterprises get the freedom to use any compute and developer environments, in any combination, across a hybrid multi-cloud environment. Only NetApp offers infrastructure purpose-built for the hybrid cloud. NetApp’s data fabric uniquely enables customers and partners to combine on-premise capabilities with cloud provider resources to take advantage of a whole new level of compute power and automation for their business. More importantly, it supports the evolution of our data management strategy to meet the demands of the future. With today's new data services and solutions, integrated through the NetApp data fabric, organisations can accelerate data pipelines across an entire enterprise to train deep learning models and power AI applications with the simplicity, choice, and scale necessary to achieve real impact.