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NetApp Insight 2018 Trip Report, Part 1

If you haven't heard of NetApp Insight, it is NetApp's yearly conference that is held in the US in Las Vegas (and in Barcelona in December, although sadly I will not be at that one!). It's a great place to meet and talk to people not only in the NetApp organization, but also other partners and customers that are likely trying to solve the same problems that you are.

This was my second time at Insight US - I went in 2017 as well - and this year didn't disappoint. There were a lot of cool announcements, both for new products that are now available and for existing products that are continually seeing product development updates.  Here are some highlights:

Day 1 (October 22nd)

Once I got checked in on Monday morning, I hit up a couple of sessions right away. By far the coolest session of the day was the one by Skottie Miller, Technology Fellow at DreamWorks Animation. His session was all about how DreamWorks Animation uses NetApp technologies to produce all of their movies and animated series (and has, in fact, for over 20 years).

I was very impressed by the level of detail in the presentation, which included lots of neat in-depth information about the CG production process and really illustrated how much hard work goes into these productions. He shared lots of technical information as well about their NetApp environment and how they use it to enable their render farm to perform over 200,000 jobs per day. 

The thing that left a lasting impression on me was the feeling that Mr. Miller had a powerful command over not only his storage environment, but also the business processes and challenges that the NetApp infrastructure helped solve. It motivated me to endeavor to understand more about the processes at my workplace to better serve the businesses' needs with the infrastructure that I am responsible for managing. 

After a day of sessions, it was time to blow off a little steam with the NetApp A-Team Beer & Bacon Social event. This ended up being a perfect opportunity to mingle with and meet some of my fellow NetApp United team members as well as the NetApp A-Team. Plus, who doesn't love beer and chocolate-covered bacon?

Day 2 (October 23rd)

Day 2 started for me (after breakfast, of course) with the Tuesday morning keynote, starting with a statement by the NetApp CEO, George Kurian. I won't go into great detail on the keynote overall as it was streamed live (you can find it on YouTube here if you'd like to watch it in its entirety). The story and future of the Data Fabric was featured heavily and there were several product demos for NetApp Cloud Central, Cloud Volumes, Cloud Insights, ActiveIQ, and more.

After the keynote wrapped up, I attended a few more sessions, including one of the "birds of a feather" sessions, which was a panel of NetApp A-Team members - Paul Stringfellow (@techstringy), Glenn Dekhayser (@gdekhayser), Jason Benedidic (@jabenedicic), Paula Silva (@paula_maria) and moderated by Mark Carlton (@mcarlton1983). This was a really cool session for me because it gave the panel members an opportunity to tell stories about their experiences with the Data Fabric and how they helped their customers overcome the challenges surrounding their data. I also got some valuable feedback on my question about how to tackle the challenge of better internal awareness within other business units on the capabilities of our infrastructure, whether it be on-prem or in the cloud. The answer, if you're curious, was to be more involved in the business processes to understand the proper technology solution and strive to be included early on in the business initiative. A big thank you to them for taking the time to have a good discussion about the topic.

I also got a chance to attend Justin Parisi's (@NFSDudeAbides) session on new features that we can look forward to in ONTAP 9.5. A couple of cool things:

SnapMirror Synchronous (SM-S) was announced - provides ability for zero-RPO replication for mission-critical workloads. Oracle transaction logs seem to be a good use case for this.

New networking stack - ONTAP 9.5 will introduce support for L3 routing via the magic of BGP rather than relying on L2 protocols. I wonder if we'll see LIF migration to the cloud down the road?

NDAS (NetApp Data Availability Services) - enabling backups from secondary storage locations to the cloud. I feel like this would be a good fit for dev/test workload use cases.

All in all, really cool stuff and awesome to see that while there is a large focus on the Data Fabric, ONTAP still sees a ton of improvements as well.

I'm going to split my Insight 2018 experience into two parts to keep them relatively short and easy to read, so keep an eye out (hopefully later today or tomorrow) for Part 2 which will cover Day 3 of the conference and my final thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

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