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The hybrid cloud is NetApp IT’s solution for growth, cost control

We believe in the value and flexibility of the hybrid cloud. By allowing workloads to shift between public and private clouds, we’re able to maximize our flexibility and avoid complete reliance on one environment.
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Bill Miller
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For emerging companies, embracing the cloud is an easy decision. The power and scalability of the cloud fuel innovation and enable companies to reach maturity and adapt their business models much faster. For rapid short-term growth, it’s the right answer in almost all cases.

Managing IT infrastructure should not have to be a priority for a fast-growing business. Emerging software-centric companies are eagerly embracing DevOps models, which are particularly attractive in the cloud. However, without regular governance and oversight, cloud costs can easily skyrocket and negatively impact the path to the profitability that is required for long term success.

Very few businesses go to the cloud today with the primary intent of saving money. Complete reliance on the public cloud, without intense oversight, can lead to massive expenses, and unregulated workloads in the cloud can result in shockingly large bills. Although it’s easy to spin up instances and resources at most hyperscalers, the utilities available to monitor and modulate usage may not be fully embraced by fast-moving engineering or business management teams. How can you avoid this problem? How does a company not just grow, but grow intelligently to avoid these types of challenges?

Get the upside of the public cloud while avoiding the downside

At NetApp® IT, meeting these challenges begins with a strong belief in a robust FinOps model. We’re charged with delivering the best overall value for our IT spend, and operating efficiencies continue to fund our digital transformation. Our FinOps model helps guide our decision making about CloudOne, NetApp IT’s innovative solution-as-a-service that is the foundation of our IT ecosystem.

We believe in the value and flexibility of the hybrid cloud. By allowing workloads to shift between public and private clouds, we’re able to maximize our flexibility and avoid complete reliance on one environment. Business needs remain the top priority, but costs are contained. With the hybrid cloud, we can be agile and at the same time cost conscious, while continuing to meet the needs associated with security and rapid deployment.

How FinOps works at NetApp IT

We did a significant amount of due diligence, working with our public cloud partners and our own internal analytics. It started with one principle that rose above all others: Developers and IP creators must have access to the resources they need to continue to deliver the highest quality products and services. That principle was not negotiable. However, we also understood that not all systems need to be running at 100%, 24/7. That usage is highly inefficient and not cost effective. The CloudOne operating principles are now based on the cost of compute and storage capacity.

We also created a dynamic cost model that changes with needs and expenses. Cloud cost models cannot be static; they must understand that business requirements and the cloud market can shift by the minute. Our governance processes include regular introspection to assess performance and changes as needed.

We also empowered those most affected by these changes, our developers. We educated them on the actual costs of tasks and how to change workflows to minimize the impact on the bottom line.

Why we believe in the hybrid cloud

For us, the flexibility we get from the private cloud is of paramount importance. Our fully automated, high-capacity utilization private cloud configurations are extremely cost effective. Our IT ecosystem is constantly evolving, and a hybrid cloud strategy enables us to grow our infrastructure with its changing business needs. We need to be able to scale our business, bursting to the public cloud for preferred workloads, without breaking the bank. We leverage our private cloud for sustained applications that require a high level of consistency, security, and control, such as for product development activities. Sensitive information is kept behind firewalls and is never exposed to external networks. We also maintain full control of our private cloud, allowing us to modify it to fit our unique requirements. Our private cloud also experiences relatively high utilization rates, so resources don’t sit idle.

We use the public cloud more for our scalable workloads. The on-demand option helps us grow as needed, and using Spot by NetApp® helps us avoid ballooning costs. Capex is reduced, and we’ve found our public cloud partners to be very reliable. Many of the benefits of placing workloads in the public cloud come from the many utilities that are associated with tools and platforms found in the hyperscaler marketplaces. We would never attempt to replicate in house the wealth of tools available in the public cloud. The public cloud also allows us to distribute Kubernetes-based workloads in a geographically favorable manner without excessive overhead.

Our hybrid cloud is enabled by a software-defined data fabric and is tied together with a unified data management system. Indeed, we enjoy the best of both worlds, with a highly efficient private cloud complemented by a dynamic and agile public cloud for optimized workloads. 

Want to learn more about how NetApp uses our own products? Check out NetApp on NetApp and see how NetApp IT leverages our own technology as the company’s Customer 1.

Bill Miller

Bill Miller is the senior vice president and chief information officer of NetApp, Bill leads NetApp’s IT organization, supports the company’s ongoing transformation, and works with peer organizations to advance business strategy and technology initiatives. He also directs the NetApp on NetApp and Customer-1 programs, which help the company’s engineering and field organizations use, improve, and showcase the value of NetApp technology solutions to customers, some of whom are peer CIOs.

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