NetApp CEO on Cloud and Big Data | Tom Georgens | President & CEO, NetApp | Interviews |


NetApp CEO on Cloud and Big Data

Interviewed on Feb 17, 2012 by John Gallant, IDG
Tom Georgens
Tom Georgens , President & CEO, NetApp The thing about big data is that there isn’t a clear definition of it, and a lot of times, people are putting into big data everything that’s already big, making big data ‘big’ by definition.

Interview Questions

Full Interview with Tom Georgens

CW : What’s the NetApp mission, and what defines the company?

Georgens: At our core, we’re a storage and data management company. That’s been our focus from day one, and we intend to be experts in that, although clearly as we get bigger we’ll expand our footprint. NetApp has been an innovator from day one. We effectively invented the NAS business back in the early days of the company. We innovated there around storage efficiency, around integration with business applications. Then we went through the most recent recession, and we came out of that as the innovation leader in storage for virtualized environments.

CW : A recent analyst report said you are on “an unstoppable growth vector.” What’s driving that, and where in the company are you seeing the greatest growth?

Georgens: Words like ‘unstoppable’ have a certain entitlement message, and I clearly wouldn’t want to imply that. We need to earn our business and our customer trust every day. But the business, even from the early days, has outgrown the market by several [times] for 20 years.

The key to that is bridging the gap between available technologies, software innovation, and customer need. NetApp recognized early on that this virtualization trend had big implications for storage as well. Our innovation has enabled more virtualization, which is the evolution to shared infrastructure or the private cloud.

CW : You have been very aggressive around private cloud. Explain your strategy for private cloud.

Georgens: In the near term, I think the private cloud opportunity is the bigger business opportunity for us. What the private cloud is enabling is what virtualization has done – it has allowed applications to become mobile and decoupled from the infrastructure. What customers are able to do, and this is what NetApp is enabling.

That transition from the siloed model to the shared infrastructure model is something that NetApp has been participating in a significant way. Now you can build one gigantic storage pool, just like you’re building one big server pool, that can serve a big pool of applications.

CW : We also hear a lot about big data. How real is big data today?

Georgens: One of the frustrations with big data is there isn’t a clear definition of it, and a lot of times people are putting into big data everything that’s already big, making big data ‘big’ by definition. The other thing about big data is it covers a bunch of use cases that aren’t necessarily aligned with each other.
We break big data into what we call ABC. A is for analytics. The ability to take multiple, disparate data sources and bring those together to make business decisions is real. A lot of companies are in that transition. The interest on the analytic side of big data is real. No question about it.

The B is big bandwidth. There are segments that are talking about generating a petabyte a day, which is a million gigabytes per day. These are really, really compelling requirements, and video is a big part of it. Products that are designed to serve up email or files or do small database transactions aren’t optimized for that type of workload.

The C in the ABC of big data is, generically, content. Every single business has something that requires a massive repository of data. That needs to be done efficiently, they need to know what they’ve got, and they need to be able to find it if they’re looking for it.
The reason why I don’t like the big data name is that all three of those have a different set of requirements, all three of them have a different application case, and they’re kind of lumped into this generic term ‘big data.’

CW : Next up, data deduplication. You were involved in a high-profile bidding war with EMC over Data Domain some time ago. Is it an area where you still think about an acquisition?

Georgens: Deduplication technology basically eliminates multiple backups and makes disk-to-disk backup cost effective. That’s one form of deduplication targeted at backup, and that’s what Data Domain was about. NetApp has also done deduplication. Unfortunately, it has the same name, but we focus on primary storage. It’s been a big part of our growth and in virtualized environments, the technology advantage is compelling. When NetApp is the first copy of the data, we sell a fair amount of the disk-to-disk backup behind it using our existing technologies. When NetApp is not the primary, the disk-to-disk backup there, what we call heterogeneous disk-to-disk backup, is why we were interested in Data Domain.

CW : One more: Desktop virtualization. Are you seeing greater adoption of desktop virtualization, and is that driving storage sales?

Well, yes and no. Do I see desktop virtualization? The answer to that is, unquestionably, yes. Initially desktop virtualization was in places where we saw big fixed PC infrastructures. But over the last few years, we’ve been seeing it a lot more from a mobile perspective. The ability to make the applications platform independent clearly is a driver. Obviously, the security, the patch management, the data protection is also key.
As far as storage, desktop virtualization effectively takes the storage off the desktop and puts it in a data center, where NetApp does participate. So the trend is moving storage demand towards NetApp-style products. A lot of the very, very largest virtual desktop installations in the world are actually done with NetApp storage because of these technology advantages we have.

CW : Oracle’s strategy seems to be one of trying to re-create and own all the pieces of the so-called computing stack, with hardware, operating systems, applications, etc. Do you expect Oracle to get more aggressive in storage? Would you expect them to acquire a storage company?

Georgens: Obviously, I can’t speak for them. The generic case that they’re doing, of integrated solutions from software all the way down to storage, is for all intents and purposes orthogonal to the virtualization story of building a big, broad horizontal infrastructure that can run many apps at the same time. As I see that play out, the velocity of the economics is too compelling. That will be the primary way of deploying applications. As far as Oracle more broadly, if their aspiration is to be IBM, then clearly I think they need more elements of the portfolio. If their aspiration is to basically dominate all components that run the Oracle database, then they can pick a different strategy. But Oracle is an aggressive company and I expect them to continue to do aggressive things. Whether they invest in storage or not, I don’t know.

Other Latest Interviews


Forecast 2015: IT Spending On An Upswing

As purse strings loosen up, CIOs blend innovation into 2015 IT budgets, but security and cost containment remain top priorities.

‘Security Compliance is Not a Proactive Phenomenon in India’

Pavan Duggal, Cyber Law Expert at the Supreme Court of India, explains why channel partners need to look beyond the IT Act 2000 as the security standards, given today’s fast-changing threat landscape, rapidly evolve.

IT is Indispensable for Business Optimization: David Aires, Intel

David L. Aires, VP, Information Technology Group, and GM, Information Technology Operations, believes security to be the biggest challenge in the current IT environment.

Is the CIO Role Nearing Extinction?

New technologies are shifting power to the hands of the user, endangering the CIO role. But do Indian CIOs consider that a threat or an opportunity? 

The Authentication Market is Big Play for Channels: Gaurav Chawla, Gemalto

We are building a partner network to address the increased demand for authentication solutions across India, says Gaurav Chawla, Director, IAM, Gemalto India.

Versatile Infosecurity: Riding the Security Wave

It takes vision and persistence to stay on top of the security curve. Versatile Infosecurity has mastered that art.

How Futurenet Technologies Helped Sterlite Copper Adopt Next-gen Client Computing

Sterlite Copper was able to successfully adopt next-gen client computing facilities with hand-in-hand assistance from Chennai-based Futurenet Technologies.

DigitalTrack Solutions: Right on the Security Track

DigitalTrack is keeping pace with the changes in the IT security space through DDoS and WAF solutions and is pushing security audits as part of its next move.


6 Leaders Who Headed for an Abrupt Exit

The abrupt exit of top leaders of Indian and global tech companies this year, with many of them citing ambiguous reasons, surprised the technology world.

Gartner Executive Summary Survey 2014

Gartner's Annual CIO Survey highlights the trends that will drive organizational IT spend in 2014.

10 Overhyped Tech Products That Crashed and Burned

The demos blew everyone away. Then reality hit.

Gartner Executive Summary Survey 2014

Gartner's Annual CIO Survey highlights the trends that will drive organizational IT spend in 2014.

ChannelWorld Survey: State of the Market 2014

Partners poll their sentiments, expectations, pain points, and challenges for the coming year.


Mudra Electronics

A vendor-agnostic strategy helped us sustain business, says Bharat Shetty, CMD, Mudra Electronics.

Systematix Technologies

Our USP is a customer-friendly approach backed by services, says Akhilesh Khandelwal, Director, Systematix Technologies.

CorporateServe Solutions

Our ability to turnaround complex ERP projects in record time is what gets us customer referral, says Vinay Vohra, Founder & CEO, CorporateServe Solutions.

KernelSphere Technologies

We are emerging as an end-to-end systems integrator, says Vinod Kumar, MD, KernelSphere Technologies.

Uniware Systems

We constantly validate emerging technologies for first-mover advantage, says Vergis K.R., CEO, Uniware Systems.

Astek Networking & Solutions

An innovative approach helps us stay successful, says Ashish Agarwal, CEO, Astek Networking & Solutions.

CSM Technologies

Our approach is backed by innovation and simplicity, says Priyadarshi Nanu Pany, CEO, CSM Technologies.

ETSC Computers

We want to be recognized as a complete solution provider, says Kailash Gupta, Director, ETSC Computers.


Arun Parameswaran on VMware’s Cloud, Mobile, SDx Strategy

Arun Parameswaran, MD, VMware India, talks about transformation, strategy, roadmap, and VMware’s role in driving the shift to cloud, mobile, and SDx.

Parag Arora, Citrix: Our Portfolio Will Augment Our Strategy

Parag Arora, Area Vice President, Citrix India, elaborates on his action plan for the company after taking over operations in India.

Shibu Paul, Array Networks: ADN is a Great Business Opportunity for Channels

Shibu Paul elaborates on how Array Networks is empowering its partner ecosystem to address the modern datacenter challenges in India.

Scott Robertson, WatchGuard: We are an End-to-End Security Solutions Company

Scott Robertson of WatchGuard elaborates on the company’s partner roadmap in India and its subsequent shift in the security space.

Gaurav Ahluwalia, R&M: Channels Will Accelerate Our Datacenter Business

Gaurav Ahluwalia of R&M speaks on the company’s renewed focus to build its channel ecosystem and address the datacenter demands of India Inc.

Venkat Murthy, 22by7 Solutions: Real Value is in Solutions

Venkat Murthy, Prime Mover, 22by7 Solutions, elaborates on the need to look at a solutions approach rather than a mere hardware approach.

What Channel Partners Can Learn from a Sahara Adventurer

Steve Donahue, a desert adventurer and a best-selling author, takes experiences from this travels in the Sahara and turns them into lessons for channel partners, as they navigate the shifting sands of today's business and IT environment.

Rahul Agarwal, Lenovo: Profitability and Value Proposition are Vital

Rahul Agarwal, executive director, Commercial Business Segment, Lenovo India, talks about Lenovo’s renewed channel strategy and why the company is now an attractive proposition for its partners.


Partnering for Profitability

Atul H. Gosar, Director, Network Techlab, shares how the company’s association with EMC has provided it with a competitive edge and a wide customer base, leading to increased profitability.

Sponsored Content

Promising Pipeline

Venkat Murthy, Prime Mover, 22by7 Solutions, shares how EMC brings in competitive edge by enabling technology, GTM and lead generation, helping 22by7 acquire new customers and retain old ones.

Sponsored Content

Powerful Performance

Deepak Jadhav, Director, VDA Infosolutions, says initiatives by EMC around training and certification have helped the company’s staff improve its performance and enhance customer experience.

Sponsored Content

Performance Booster

Rajiv Kumar, CEO, Proactive Data Systems, says that the solution provider’s association with EMC has helped expand its customer base and added value to existing offerings.

Sponsored Content

Pursuit of Profitability

Santosh Agrawal, CEO, Esconet Technologies, shares insights on how the systems integrator’s association with EMC has spelled sustained success over the years.

Sponsored Content

Non-Performance is Not an Option

Nitin Aggarwal, Director, Trifin Technologies, shares insights on how the association with EMC has helped the system integrator stand out and empowered its personnel to deliver consistent performance.

Sponsored Content


Driving IT to Make an Impact: IDC

IT is being increasingly viewed as something which would help drive revenue rather than just another cost line-item.

Software-Defined Infrastructure: Forrester

Firms must invest in transforming infrastructure to eradicate complex infrastructure to keep pace with business needs.

Better Safe Than Sorry: PwC

Organizations should create a culture of security that starts with commitment of top executives and cascades to all employees and third parties.

New Skills for a New Era: Gartner

A new talent strategy is required—one that is a key part of the evolving IT strategy and one that focuses on a blend of business and modern IT skills.

The Rise and Growth of Big Data: Ernst & Young

Leading organizations are reaping rich rewards on their investment in big data even as competition struggles to keep pace.


Signup for our newsletter and get regular updates.