NetApp Private Storage Room for Improvement

CTO at Dataposit Ltd

I think where NetApp may have missed the boat and created challenges for themselves is that the product is probably one of the most complicated boxes to configure now. Other vendors, by comparison, have really made the effort to simplify configuration. NetApp has not because they want to keep it as a truly unified storage solution. It keeps building out and getting bigger and more complex because of the fact that it is unified. There are many facets of the product that you actually won't even use because so many options are available. Some features still require that you use the command line for configuration and management. You really need to know what you are doing to configure it properly. Things can go awfully wrong if you jump in there without knowing what you are doing. You really need to be certified or you need to take on a consultant to manage the system for you to have a successful deployment.  

There is a level of complexity in configuring this product that people seem to have forgotten in this modern cloud age. Everybody wants everything to be easy, like using Gmail. That is not what NetApp is like and not how it has evolved over time. It could certainly stand to become a little bit more user-friendly and easier to deploy. As it is now, I don't know if most people would like trying to configure it. Because I'm a reseller with a lot of experience, it is good for me. As a user, I know it very well and can customize it to my needs. As someone reselling and consulting for a complex product, other people have to depend on me for my services and this works in my favor as well. There are situations in which customers have tried to deploy the solution themselves without training or a consultant and those customers have a disaster because they just are not ready for the level of complexity.  

NetApp has tried to make the product more user-friendly already by enhancing the GUI, but what ends up happening is that many times there is a disconnect between what you can do in the GUI and what is actually possible using the command line. Eventually, you have to fall back to the command line to make the best use of a feature. They have tried to make shortcuts such as trying to create wizards to simplify the setup and configuration, but these never quite seem work for one reason or another.  

What I'm trying to say is: you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you have a solution that is sophisticated and able to grow with you into the future while retaining backward compatibility, there is going to be complexity. So if you take up NetApp as a solution, you need to be ready for that complexity and be able to embrace it to really make use of the product.  

As someone who could rightly be considered an expert in the solution, even I can't keep up with the number of features that they have right now. They have so much stuff in there that it is like they have got too many features. Certainly, they do not have too few. Someone coming to the product for the first time could get lost in the options.

As far as what I would like added, this is almost impossible to answer. This is already such a feature-rich storage solution already. It is full features — more than anyone knows. So the challenge for the end-user is how to keep up with what is already there and know how to use something if it is valuable to them. For me, I'm happy with the features that it has and I know what works for me. 

Maybe along the lines of features, what they need is a little bit more research into what users need and a little bit more marketing to make sure that those features will be well-understood and well-used. I think that is one of their biggest challenges. They do not really need to add more features. They need to get end-users to use the features that are already there and to only add things that provide high utility. It would be a good goal to present any new feature in an easy-to-use way.  

So they need to work on making users understand what features are meant to do and how to use them. Once users understand the purpose of a feature, they can provide training programs that make sure users are able to successfully implement the feature. Many times they will come out with some new feature and sometimes it may not be well prepared. The wizards sometimes don't quite work. Sometimes a feature disappears because they just take it out. When you come to understand that NetApp is a company of engineers and computer scientists, the soft side of the marketing and the training is not really their focus. The capability and capacity are the focus and things can get complex in trying to use any of the wonderful features that they have.  

Just as an example, I had one instance with a client where they were using a wizard for setting up something called ONTAP Select. It turned out that the NetApp team hadn't tested the networking vigorously. When the client ran the wizard the test used temporary IPs. When the client ran a test before deployment, there was an IP conflict and the test failed. The client thought had tested correctly and they thought that they had found a problem. Because the test failed, obviously they thought they should not go ahead and deploy. But the reality of the situation was that if you just go ahead and deploy the feature to production, it works. It took me two weeks to convince this client what the issue was and to go ahead with the deployment.  

But this is an example of where NetApp was trying to help with a wizard. They hadn't quite thought it all the way through and completed the development. I don't want to criticize NetApp because I'm a huge NetApp fan. The way of the world now is that the end-users are doing the testing, not the manufacturer. Because manufacturers are trying to be very aggressive and bring out a feature-rich product and beat their competition, they create some challenges for the end-users. They try to do too much in too little time in order to go out to market first. They skimp on testing and this is when mistakes happen, things do not get fully developed, and problems occur.  

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Senior Engineer for Planning and Deployment of VAS Systems and Services at a comms service provider with 1,001-5,000 employees

I'm not sure how easy it is to use on the cloud versus on-prem. If they have different user experiences, they should work to make the two as similar as possible to make it easy for a user to understand both even if they only deal mainly with one.

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Systems Engineer Systems Engineering & Adm. at a university with 5,001-10,000 employees

The one thing I've noticed with NetApp when you buy hardware and you can use it for a while and then you have to get new hardware. I wish the hardware would last a little bit longer. Instead, in three to five years, you have to get rid of it because the latest software won't run on it. So the upgrade cycle is kind of expensive. I think Flash is always good, NVMe, that's good. Dedupe and compression improvements always help.

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