Outlook 2018: Flash and Hyper Converged Storage Will Continue to be Popular

Channel Post speaks to Fadi Kanafani, the Regional Director for Middle East and Africa at NetApp about how 2017 was for the company and the company’s plans for 2018

Fadi Kanafani, Regional Director for Middle East and Africa at NetApp.

What were the major technology and market trends in 2017?
2017 witnessed data’s emergence as the new currency of the digital age – a development that is redefining many aspects of the enterprise including technology, business models and user expectations. Over the past months cloud technologies have been deployed by more organisations to meet their data needs. The ready availability of cloud-based services and the pay-as-you-go model has facilitated this fast adoption.

This year also saw the emergence of a wider, dynamic range of storage technologies. Flash and hyper converged storage were quick to gain popularity by offering enhanced efficiency and performance. The new focus on data also demanded a range of services that can work in harmony and this required the support of platforms and an ecosystem of providers and developers that enables them. Business drivers led to the dominance of new technologies, especially in the form of new application paradigms.

Do you believe any technology buzzwords from 2017 will really kick-off in 2018?
Digital transformation will continue to redefine the way enterprises do business. The local ICT industry is set to witness massive growth driven by opportunities in the government sector ahead of Expo 2020. With overall ICT spending expected to cross USD 20 billion by 2020, the Middle East region will be one of the fastest growing ICT markets in the world for the next few years, according to IDC. Communications, finance, and oil and gas will continue to be major sectors in terms of ICT spending.

The UAE will require more collaborative technology and data storage ahead of the event. In the years leading up to the Expo, enterprises must make sure that their IT strategies and infrastructures are agile and will be able to adapt to new trends and changing business needs, and accommodate unprecedented demands.

With new government initiatives aimed at recovering the energy sector, companies are looking to reduce their energy consumption and energy providers are using innovative technologies to produce clean and sustainable forms of energy. Physical, digital and cyber security, Big Data and analytics are expected to remain buzzwords throughout 2018 as well. Optimization of Big Data could make businesses more competitive.

According to the NetApp-IDC study ‘Become a Data Thriver: Realize Data-Driven Digital Transformation,’ every industry vertical is now seeing the impact of digital transformation. Data will continue to be the core as every change and process relies on converting data into actionable insights. To address new data challenges, gain competitive edge and thrive in the digital transformation era, organizations need to make investments in cloud while also adopting data services for hybrid cloud.

How has 2017 been for your company and business?
NetApp recently announced its financial results for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018 ended October 2017. Net revenues reached $1.42 billion, a 6% YoY growth from the second quarter of fiscal 2017, while product revenue increased 14% YoY. All-flash array annualized net revenue run rate of $1.7 billion, an increase of 58% YoY.

NetApp also celebrated 25 years at the forefront of data management this year. We spent the last quarter of a century helping and enabling banks, governments, hospitals, manufacturers, and many other enterprises to store, protect, and manage their data — the asset that today is changing the world in many different dimensions. The company has been experiencing growth in an environment where technology changes quickly, and our customers’ needs evolve along with it.

The launch of NetApp HCI, the industry’s first enterprise-scale hyper converged solution that delivers guaranteed performance, independent scaling, and Data Fabric integration, was another major highlight of the year. In addition, we also announced a consumption purchase model with cloud-like flexibility to simplify technology acquisition.

What were your major achievements in the year 2017?
In 2017, we successfully enabled local GCC governments to accomplish their cyber security missions using the latest NetApp data management solutions. This includes the SAP Cloud Roll-Out in the Middle East, the STC Public Cloud based on NetApp technology and OpenStack or other renown telecommunication organizations to provide Storage-as-a-Service to their clients.

The launch of NetApp HCI, an enterprise-scale hyper converged solution that delivers independent scaling and Data Fabric integration, was a major highlight of 2017. In addition, we also announced a consumption purchase model with cloud-like flexibility. 2017 also marked 25 years of NetApp’s leadership in the field of data management.

Did you enter / expand your operations into new markets in 2017?
NetApp continuously explores the opportunity to enter new market segments based on verticals and customer technology requirements. The launch of NetApp HCI, the next generation of hyper converged infrastructure, and the very first HCI platform designed for enterprise-scale applications, was announced in June 2017.

The solution delivers on the full promise of hyper converged solution (HCI), allowing customers to run multiple applications with guaranteed performance and benefit from unmatched flexibility, scale, automation, and integration with the Data Fabric. Built on SolidFire innovation, NetApp HCI gives enterprises, mid-sized businesses, and service providers the confidence to easily consolidate all workloads, scale in ways that won’t strand resources, and deliver the performance required by next-generation applications.

The introduction of a consumption purchase model with cloud-like flexibility to simplify technology acquisition was also part of the announcement. NetApp’s expanded portfolio, with its new HCI, hybrid cloud, and consumption model solutions, provides the means to maximize the impact of data, no matter where it lives, and create new value across the organization.

How was the technology and telecom market in general in 2017? Was there any increase in business?
The region’s Internet of Things (IoT) market is becoming increasingly competitive, prompting organisations to make use of a range of innovative digital solutions aimed at transforming business operations, enhancing customer experiences and employee engagement. IoT now offers a multitude of industry-specific solutions that can be easily deployed by organisations.

The demand for service-based storage consumption models is growing quickly as they lower the barrier to entry for high demand services such as Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS), Disaster Recovery as-a-service (DRaaS), Container as-a-Service (CaaS), and other Software as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings whilst allowing users to pay for only what they use.

NetApp also offers cost-effective storage and data management solutions made available with different commercial models including subscription and consumption based that allows companies of all sizes to manage their applications through a consistent interface and move data to where it needs to be (ie the right cloud) at the right time for the right cost utilising NetApp’s Data Fabric software and solutions.

How do you foresee opportunities for 2018?
Digital transformation should be the focus of any enterprise’s IT strategy and data must remain as the center point of this transformation. Data will continue to become even more distributed and dynamic. In response to new challenges in the hybrid cloud world, IT infrastructures, application architectures and provisioning strategies will evolve rapidly. Data is becoming self-aware and metadata will enable data to proactively categorize, analyze and protect itself. Evolution from ‘Big Data’ to ‘Huge Data’ will drive the demand for new solid state-driven architectures.

The ability to manage data in a secure, reliable, immutable and distributed way will emerge and change the data center ecosystem. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and edge computing will become more pervasive.

What sort of strategies do you have in place for 2018?
NetApp will continue its efforts to facilitate the growth of market share to become the leader in Flash in the MEA region, in addition to driving the adoption of the Hyper Converged Platform. Attracting the best talent to build the strongest team will remain as one of our priorities throughout the year, making NetApp the best place to work for in the region.

Will you be investing more in terms of expansion of your market reach, channel programs and general marketing?
In general, MEA remains a strategic focus area for NetApp with a growing customer base, an increasingly successful channel partner and service provider network and a continuous growth path in terms of entering new market segments.