Making time for Insight

With Insight US just a few weeks away and as I have still to complete my session calendar for the event, I thought this would be a good time to highlight those sessions that have stood out for me in the hope that it may help you in making a decision. With 307 sessions 238 speakers and 45 exhibitors how do you distil this down to give you something manageable and meaningful?

Now whilst I normally spend more time on a particular track, it is worth asking yourself “What am I going to take home from this conference?” Now are you here to just get as much information as possible or are you here to get skilled up on a particular topic, either for an upcoming project or to break into a new area of business. This is probably something you should decide before you start going hell for leather and filling your calendar with random topics like FlexGroup (is that even a thing?).

On my first pass over the catalogue I had 38 interests which is way too many for even your most hardcore conference attendee to attend so some culling will need to be done. One thing that does bother me and probably every conference attendee, are the time slots where you have 10 interests happening at the same time and the 2 hours prior you have a big blank hole. Thankfully vendors have started to record sessions at conferences for that very reason so for those that you cannot make there is always the ability to review at some other point plus some sessions just hit you with way too much to take in so you may need to hear them a second time.

Cloud Volumes is probably going to be the hot topic this year and with 50 sessions to choose from there’s plenty on offer. The first thing I would suggest is to verify its either a Cloud Volumes ONTAP (formerly known as ONTAP Cloud) or whether it’s a Cloud Volumes Service (NFSaaS) session you have picked and attending so you get the correct information. I’m sure there will be a few people that will get this wrong this year and you don’t want to be one of them.

1228-2 Designing and deploying a Hybrid Cloud with NetApp and VMware Cloud on AWS presented by Chris Gebhardt and Glenn Sizemore is I’m sure to be a popular session and it will hopefully build on the session NetApp gave at Tech Field Day at VMworld US last month.

1261-2 NetApp Cloud Volumes Service Technical Deep Dive presented by Will Stowe is probably going to be one of those sessions people leave and mention to others you need to see. With a huge potential Cloud Volume Service will become integral into many customers data fabric over the coming year So I’d advise getting skilled up on this as soon as you can.

If you are new to all things cloud and wondering where might be a good place to start, then schedule 4117-1 Cloud Volumes Service and 4118-1 Cloud Volumes ONTAP sessions in the Data Visionary theatre at Insight Central to give you a good idea on these two technologies.

Another product name change Cloud Control is out and been rebranded NetApp SaaS Backup; but there is a lot more this SaaS suite offers so with that piece of knowledge there is a session on One Stop Backup for SalesForce 1121-2 and then head on over to 1188-2 for NetApp SaaS Backup for Office 365 to complete the picture.

With Security being a major focus in the IT industry as a whole there are several sessions of note on this subject. 1234-2 – Data Security at NetApp: An Overview of the NetApp Portfolio of Security Solutions by Juan Mojica would be an excellent place to start if you haven’t thought about how begin with such a huge undertaking.

You may want to follow that up with 1103-2 – Securing and Hardening NetApp ONTAP 9 with Andrae Middleton. Remember security teams need to get policies and procedures right 100% of the time, hackers need to only get it right once.

1214-2 What’s On Tap in the Next Major Release of NetApp ONTAP by surviving podcast host Justin Parisi (It has been a bit Hunger Games/Highlander on the tech ONTAP podcast recently) will no doubt fill up fast as any new OS payload draws in the crowd and the Q&A after that session may spill out into the halls.

1136-3 will also be popular as it covers the advancements made with SnapMirror covering best practices for both Flash and Cloud worlds.

It also looks like some of the sponsors have upped their game as well with some excellent sessions. Veeam for instance have 6 sessions to choose from which is great as they are now on the NetApp price book. 9107-2 – Veeam: Veeam Data Availability Deep Dive—Exploring Data Fabric Integrations presented by Michael Cade and Adam Bergh will highlight just some of the great reasons why Veeam have been added to the price book, and then head over to the hands-on labs as Veeam has made it into the Lab On Demand catalogue. Veeam also have a data exchange white board session 8102-1 – Veeam: Availability Outside the Datacenter: Public Cloud & Veeam Availability Suite 9.5 Update 4 which some of you keen eyed people may have noticed will include some information about the anticipated upcoming update 4.

For those of you who like your speed turned up to eleven then you may want to attend 9126-1 – Intel® Optane™ Memory Solutions. I would be remised if I didn’t mention my colleagues at Arrow with their 9112-2 – Arrow: From IoT to IT, Arrow Electronics Is Accelerating your Digital Transformation looking at how to deliver and scale an IT infrastructure to meet the challenges of deploying IoT solutions.

There are also the certification prep sessions and with the release of two new Hybrid cloud certifications by NetApp U recently sessions 1279-1 & 1280-1 will no doubt draw in a crowd, so if you are planning on having a go make sure to get these in your diary, and I may bump in to you there as my Hybrid cloud certification achieved at Insight two years ago is up for renewal.

Now whilst this list is my picks I would suggest you spend a bit of time ahead of going and populate your calendar with the topics you want to hear and do it sooner rather than later, so you can get on the list before the session fills up. Just remember though pretty much all sessions are repeated during the conference and spend some time at insight central as an hour there can be just as beneficial as a session but most of all enjoy yourself. I would strongly suggest you follow the A-team members on twitter for an up to the moment review of sessions and whether catching the second running is worth you amending your calendar; and before you start filling the comments section with “Duh – FlexGroup is a hugely scalable container of NAS storage that can grow to trillions of files and yottabytes of storage there is a session on the topic number 1255-2 FlexGroup: The Foundation of the Next generation NetApp scale-out NAS.

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Time it’s on your side

We all seem short on time these days. We have conference calls and video chats to save us travel time when we can. We use TLAs (three letter acronyms) whenever possible. We are forever on the hunt for the next “life hack” or “time saver”.

NetApp Insight is getting closer, and if you’re planning on attending, hopefully you’ve already started mapping out your schedule, but if you haven’t then fear not. As an IT professional, your time is extremely valuable. Time is precious to myself and to my employer and you both want to get the most out of a day but with Insight 2017 stacked with so many great sessions this year, how can you choose?

Whilst everyone’s interests are different, I thought I’d give my pick for the sessions that I’m looking forward to at Insight Las Vegas. Whether you’re a first timer or an old guard Insight veteran, I hope this will help you be smart with your time or as the Stones put it, “time is on your side.”

13145-1 – Data Privacy: Addressing the New Challenges Facing Businesses in GDPR, Data Privacy and Sovereignty – Sheila FitzPatrick. GDPR is a critical challenge that affects companies all over the world, not just in Europe. I have heard Sheila FitzPatrick speak on this topic several times, and every time, I leave with some really useful info about how to help customers move towards legal compliance with the imminent deadline looming (May 25, 2018). This session will help you elevate the conversation around GDPR with details about how to help your business avoid those hefty fines.

16365-2 – First-Generation HCI versus NetApp HCI: Tradeoffs, Gaps and Pitfalls
Gabriel Chapman
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HCI is definitely going to be the hot topic at this year’s Insight and with SeekingAlpha highlighting NetApp as one of the likely winners in this space. Here we have an opportunity to hear from Gabe who has spoken at Tech Field Days in the past with great passion
on the topic and has been working hard with the SolidFire team to craft this solution. This session will highlight the advantages of this solution over traditional HCI offerings and their limitations, as well as why it will appeal to those who see a benefit in next generation infrastructure.

16594-2 – Accelerate Unstructured Data with FlexGroups: The Next Evolution of Scale-Out NAS – Justin Parisi. For those of you who haven’t heard the Tech ONTAP podcast (what a shame!), this is a session presented by one of its hosts and will give you an idea of the great content it puts out. During the session, Justin Parisi looks at why FlexGroups are winning in the unstructured data space and how it improves upon the FlexVol. Just don’t ask him about SAN…

12708-2 – How NVMe and Storage-Class Memory Are Reshaping the Storage Industry – Jeff Baxter and Quinn Summers. These are two very knowledgeable presenters who deliver information rich content and I’m happy to see them giving a session together. This session looks at NVMe which NetApp is currently leading the field in capacity delivered to its customers and Storage-Class memory and how these technologies will affect data centre design and application deployments in the near future. For those wanting to keep at the forefront of technology advancements and were unable to get to the Flash Memory Summit this is the session for you.

16700-2 – FabricPool in the Real World: Configurations and Best Practices – John Lantz. FabricPool was one of the key features of the 9.2 payload and when it announced at last year’s insight general session was a mike drop moment. Now with the availability of the required ONTAP version this is an excellent way to hear how best to put that into practice and who better than John delve into the core part of this technology, design considerations and walk you through how to deploy one of the more fascinating parts of the data fabric.

18342-1 – BOF: Ask the A-Team – Next Generation Data Centre – Mark Carlton. I would be remiss if I didn’t call this out as a session of note (and yes, centre IS spelt with an R-E). This is a “birds of a feather,” session which means it’s more of an open conversation or Q&A rather than a lecture. Hosted by Mark Carlton with several members of the A-Team on hand to provide honest opinions, feedback, and tales from the field with the Next Generation Data Centre, you should leave this session with a greater understanding of how to make the move to NGDC.

18442-2 – Simplify Sizing, Deployment and Management of End-User Computing with NetApp HCIChris Gebhardt Another session covering this year’s H O T topic. In this breakout Chris will go in to what you need to know to have a successful deployment of NetApp’s First-generation Enterprise HCI offering. This is likely to be a popular session so make sure you book early.

17349-2 – Converged Systems Advisor: Simplify Operations with Cloud-Based Lifecycle Management for FlexPodWyatt Bennett and Keith Barto. Emerging from a recent acquisition by NetApp is this superb piece of software that allows you to graphically explore the configuration of a Flexpod against a CVD and make sure that you are correctly configured. If you have anything to do with Flexpod this is probably one of the more interesting developments in that area of the portfolio this year and at this session you can hear from 2 of the people who have been building this product for several years and gain a better understanding as to how it can benefit your deployments.

18509-2 – VMware Plugins Unify NetApp Plugins into a Single Appliance – Steven Cortez. With the recent update of the plugin for vSphere, here is your one stop for a good look at what has changed with Steven Cortez. Backup can seem like a beast of burden, but it needn’t be when you look at this offering and see what this new plugin can provide, whether that be over the old VSC dashboard, improvements to VASA integration and SRA functionality, or even VVol support. In this session, Steven will cover the more popular workflows within the unified plugin.

17930-3 – Virtual Volumes Deep Dive with NetApp SolidFireAndy Banta. Andy will be telling you why you want to flip the switch and move from traditional datastores to VVols and all the benefits and loveliness that comes with implementation a next generation VM deployment. Some of the conference attendees may feel they know ONTAP like the back of my hand but maybe this is the year to give SolidFire some serious focus and this is one session that will show you why.

26420-2 – Hybrid Cloud Case Studies – Scott Gelb. Come to this session to hear Scotty Gelb‘s top reasons for why you should embrace and implement a hybrid cloud strategy to the benefit of your company and customers. Based on customer experience, in this breakout, he will cover the considerations needed for a successful deployment and how to migrate your data to the cloud.

It’s also worth noting that whilst the sessions are the real meat on the bone for the conference (and you do get access to the content after the event), there’s lots more to do! The general sessions are always enlightening, and I look forward to what George Kurian will have to say. Then there’s the ability to give honest feedback directly to the PMs. Get your certs up to date (these have all been updated since Insight Berlin 2016) or spend some time in the hands-on labs. The Dev Ops café was also a hit last year. The list goes on and on.

The best advice I can give for attending is to do your homework and plan what you want to get out of the conference. Plan for lunch. Plan for some downtime during the day. Plan for a “working from home” day after the conference to get caught up, as you will no doubt be shattered. Maybe even plan to have a go at tumbling dice whilst in a casino. Plan for new friends and new faces, and most of all, plan to have a good time, because before you know it, you’ll be singing “It’s all over now.”


Hindsight from Insight

NetApp Insight Las Vegas 2016 Roundup

I was lucky enough to get to go to Las Vegas with the NetApp A-Team and attend the NetApp Insight Americas and APAC conference. I have attended Insight EMEA many times, but this was my first time attending it on US soil

I would be remiss if I did not mention that both the Vegas and Berlin events have the same number of high-quality breakout sessions. As expected, the majority of the sessions that were offered in Vegas are re-offered in Berlin. The organisation of the conference is the same, with things like Insight Central consisting of NetApp partners and vendor showcases. From that standpoint, it felt like I could very well have been at the EMEA conference. There is also a high number of NetApp technical employees on hand to debate different deployment methodologies which is a great reason in its self to attend.

However, Vegas did seem a lot more relaxed, and with over twice as many attendees there, it somehow felt quieter due to the size of the conference centre. There’s also a lot more going on in the evenings, (even just within the Mandalay Bay Hotel, never mind the rest of Vegas) with lots of opportunities for delegates to mingle and converse.

At this year’s conference, NetApp announced 16 new products! This is a huge amount for any company, and I think it just goes to show how NetApp are trying to stay at the leading edge of the storage industry. There were disk shelves and controllers announced, and if you would like to know more about the new controllers, see my previous post here. There was also an update to ONTAP Select as well as the arrival of ONTAP Cloud for Azure, all made possible by the release of ONTAP 9.1. There was a lot of messaging in both the general sessions and in the breakouts geared towards DevOps and this new way of deploying applications either on premises or in the cloud.

This year we also had the joy of SolidFire joining in, and with a raft of sessions available, this technology did prove popular. The two-hour deep dive by Andy Roberts was the third-most attended session of the conference, and the SolidFire Hands-On Lab was the third-most requested. They also announced the integration of SolidFire into FlexPod, which my A-Team colleague Melissa Wright (@vmiss33) coined the “DevOps workhorse.” It is a perfect tag line, and one I am going to start to use.

NetApp Insight also gives you the opportunity to take NetApp certification exams, so I thought I should try some. I passed two exams whilst there: the updated FlexPod design NS0-0170 and the new Hybrid Cloud NS0-0146, which give me the NCSA accreditation. These came with some lovely luggage tags courtesy of Liz Burns from NetApp University, to  add to the certificates which I already held. This is a great way to provide value back to your employer for attending if you need a stronger reason to attend. It’s best to book your exam before you get there as it can be very busy, and you may have to wait around for a while for a walk-in appointment.

A nice colourful collection

If you are new to SolidFire and want to understand how it’s managed, the two-hour deep dive mentioned earlier is a great place to start. It’s a great mix of slideware and demonstration on how to configure various key features of the Element OS. I would also recommend Val Bercovici’s (@valb00) “Why DevOps will move to the ‘lean’ cloud” break out. This session will help you understand the shift in application development and what you can do to try and keep pace and remain relevant.

NetApp now seem to be pivoting towards messaging that helps the developer and the DevOps team, providing products and tools that will integrate into their style of working as we have seen over the years with NetApp. Below is the link to the scenario covered in the General session on the third day. I think it provides good insight into how the pace of application development is changing, the tools that this new breed of developer is adopting and using, and also how NetApp is taking this methodology seriously (as evidenced by the fact that they have a site with a host of tools and scripts aimed purely at DevOps). Also embedded in the picture below is the link to the scenario acted out on stage during the general session.

I would also recommend looking into the sessions on VMware’s vVols functionality. They’re a great primer on this area of VMware’s evolving portfolio and they also show how NetApp can utilise this ever-improving technology. Andy Banta (@andybanta, who wrote an insightful blog on the topic and appeared on GreyBeards on Storage Ep. 36) and Josh (‘the intern’) Atwell (@Josh_Atwell) gave a joint session on how SolidFire differs from conventional storage arrays in their implementation and how best to utilise policy-based storage with SolidFire. Then there was Andreas Engel from NetApp and Pete Flecha (@vPedroArrow) from VMware who provided a deploy, implement, and troubleshoot session which was almost as popular as Pete’s session at VMworld. It illustrated some handy tips, tricks, and gotchas that a lot of the audience then took with them as they headed to the Hands-on Labs to get up to speed with vVols.  I would also keep an eye out for the Inform and Delight sessions, including a great one by Veeam on “Closing the Door on the Data Center Availability Gap.” And let’s not forget the “Dave and Dave show,” which is a must-see attraction.

Also in Vegas this year attending NetApp Insight for the first time was vBrown bag. Their online presence has been helping IT professionals become more proficient with virtualisation for the past six years and is a must point of call for anyone chasing a VCP or other certification, due to the wealth of knowledge on their site. They were there to expand their ever-increasing field of topics, and one of the presentations recorded was Sam Moulton (@SamMoulton), Champion of the NetApp A-Team(@NetAppATeam) with A-Team member Trey Davis (@ntap_seal), Senior Consultant from iVision in Atlanta providing some insight into the NetApp A-Team and what we do. This short discussion (embedded within picture) will hopefully help people understand the team better and where we fit within the ecosystem.

For more information on the A-Team’s presence in Las Vegas this year, check out the session called “Birds of a Feather: Walk the line with the A-Team” which is hopefully on the site for review. There will be a strong presence in Berlin, so come up and talk to us or send us a tweet.

One of the highlights during the opening of the third general session was the reel put together from the carpool Karaoke. I would urge you to have a look and a laugh.

This was a great conference, with a phenomenal amount of superb content, too much to take on board in the four days but I will enjoy reviewing over the next few weeks. I am thankful to my employer for letting me attend and I now feel invigorated and more confident to go out and have discussions and point out why customers should be looking at NetApp for their cloud, hybrid, and on-premises storage needs. If you are heading to Berlin, then I will hopefully see you there.