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Three-Part Architecture of the Next Generation Data Center Inside NetApp

Michael Morris

Our definition of data center is no longer four walls. It's a hybrid, multi-cloud platform where we can best get the resources and apps at the best price point and performance level. We refer to this as our next generation data center (NGDC).  It is a software controlled and orchestrated development platform to build and run cloud aware applications using DevOps and CI/CD delivery models.

Regardless if our resources are on premises or off premises, we need to provide IT governance oversight to ensure our investments and services support business objectives. Today all governance in NetApp IT is managed via ServiceNow, including the management of incidents, problems, and changes, our CMDB and service catalog, project and portfolio management, and more. Maintaining governance is an important part of the overarching NGDC architecture and building a development platform for cloud-aware applications. There are three main parts to our NGDC architecture. The first part involves the developer tools. As a development platform, developers need tools like application stacks, e.g. OpenResty and MeanStack, and a developer ecosystem like Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services (recently renamed by Microsoft to Azure DevOps). As a development environment, giving developers access to open source software and tools is a given.

Another part of the architecture is platform software. Since we are building cloud-aware applications in microservices, we need containers and container management. The applications run in Docker containers, managed by OpenShift or Kubernetes, while Helm charts help us to specify the application stack. NetApp Trident is used to do the storage provisioning through OpenShift. We use RedHat Cloudforms as the cloud management platform and JFrog Artifactory to manage the binaries that get created during the build process. When our developers require resources, they don’t have to go to a PaaS platform or IaaS platform. They just do a regular code commit in their development environment because their tools are integrated with the platform seamlessly.

We then combine that with infrastructure services because the tools, the platform software, and the business applications themselves that eventually get created, all need hardware to run on. Whether it's public or private cloud, we make the assigned infrastructure transparent to the developer.

The NGDC architecture has been built on our learnings from an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering put in place over four years ago. This first-generation IaaS marked the beginning of our hybrid cloud strategy and allowed users to log into a central self-service portal, pick an infrastructure item from the services catalog, and then get it delivered across any of the clouds orchestrated by NetApp IT.  We thought we were golden. Yet it wasn’t what our developers wanted or needed.

One key principle we adhere to with our NGDC architecture is end-to-end, automated DevOps workflows. We want our developers spending their time writing code and releasing changes, not dealing with cloud resource provisioning, OpenShift changes, or Artifactory set up. When a developer wants an environment where he or she can start building a new application, they simply go into ServiceNow to begin.  Using a service catalog, a new development environment is automatically built.  This allows our developers to do what they do best—write and release code.

The NetApp-on-NetApp blogs feature advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading data management solutions to support business goals. Visit to learn more.

Michael Morris

As the Senior Director for Platform, Cloud and Infrastructure, Mike leads NetApp IT’s hybrid cloud and DevOps platform strategy―orchestrated and managed by an automation ecosystem―to create a holistic environment for cloud-aware enterprise applications. Mike leads the automation, infrastructure, cloud, and service management teams for NetApp which culminate to create NetApp IT’s DevOps platform, “CloudOne”. He also spearheads the internal feedback program between IT and product development and marketing, discussing how IT uses NetApp products and services.

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