NetApp at TechEd 2013; more than just surf, sun and sand at the Gold Coast

By Corey Adolphus pre-sales technical specialist - Microsoft Solutions, NetApp ANZ

It’s always a pleasure to travel to the Gold Coast, especially when Microsoft TechEd is involved. This year was certainly no exception.

Ordinarily, when a conference takes place at such a spectacular location, it’s easy to be distracted by the sun, sea and cocktails on offer. But I can genuinely admit that it’s the technology and the people at TechEd that really get my juices flowing.

Microsoft know how to engage well with their target audience, and TechEd reflects this; it’s well organised and features excellent presentations with world class speakers. Even the signage en route to the venue has a real ‘wow factor’ about it.

This year, NetApp was a sponsor and our booth was in a perfect position to engage with delegates. The NetApp marketing team had strategically placed an interactive whiteboard on the stand, so once we engaged with passers by, we were able to bring them to the board, brainstorm ideas and immediately send the notes via email. A great way to make an impact!

Being able to engage with existing and prospective clients was one of the most exciting parts of TechEd for me this year, I felt we really connected with those who visited the stand and those whom we met throughout the conference.

This was easily the best show I’ve been involved in from a NetApp perspective.

In addition to the stand, we had two speaking slots over the four days – the interactive theatre session was packed full with standing room only left, and the track session was well attended at 70% capacity. There were great questions being asked throughout both the presentations and we received fantastic and valuable feedback with regards to our latest offerings and visions, particularly with regards to our Project Shift technology.

Most of the focus this year for Microsoft was around their Cloud OS vision, with it encompassing three aspects: on-premise private cloud, the Service Provider market and their own public cloud offering - Azure. All three of these are now working together to ensure workloads can be moved seamlessly from one to the other.

This Cloud OS vision and its underpinnings of Windows Server and System Center are getting a bump up in the level of functionality and integration with the upcoming R2 release on October 18th. Microsoft are firmly positioning themselves as a devices and services company with their Cloud OS vision firmly at the heart of their strategy.

Through the three aspects above, one thing becoming very apparent is that Microsoft is trying to build as much functionality and capability into the Windows Server OS so they can leverage commodity hardware throughout. Pure-play storage vendors like NetApp have to continually innovate to ensure our value in the stack continues to shine through. Microsoft are also marginalising VMware by shifting the discussion away from Hypervisors and focusing on a complete ecosystem – with the System Center management tools suite now aligned in lock-step with Windows Server.

Should we be worried about the competition?

The functionalities that Microsoft has within their public cloud offering so far means it is really only able to appeal to the SMB market, something that it can do very well at a cost much lower than small businesses can achieve building it themselves on premise. They may have new capabilities, but we are enterprise grade and operate at an enterprise scale. What we need to ensure is that NetApp technology can be leveraged to bridge a customer’s on-premise infrastructure with Service Providers and Windows Azure.

Having Patty Gilchrist (previously at Microsoft) come on-board as our Alliances Manager here in Australia means we’re now in a stronger position than ever to achieve this goal, as we are having fantastic conversations with the team at Microsoft as we engage with them more and more.

Overall, TechEd 2013 was a great success. The event always acts as a platform for insightful and informative information, with this year being no exception. The opening day saw the keynote speaker Jeff Alexander deliver the news that Microsoft had purchased Nokia for $7.2B, an announcement that is sure to shake up the industry for years to come as competition for smartphones and tablets continues to dominate headlines in the technology world. Along with this, the array of technology vendors present throughout the week all had interesting and exciting products and solutions on offer that is great to see.