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By 2 October 2017 | Categories: interviews

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Last week brought the opportunity for an illuminating interview with NetApp South Africa country manager, Morne Bekker, who offered some insights into NetApp’s focus, the necessity for agility and why organisations have become more cautious.

To start, he noted that NetApp has undergone its own significant transformation, away from a traditional storage vendor, to being far more data-centric, where data is its prime priority.

Bekker continued that no less important to the company these days is cloud. Both data and cloud speak to what NetApp has, and still does, consider imperative – agility. “We allow the customer to have the flexibility and choice so that they can be agile in using the cloud without having to worry about data sovereignty,” he enthused.

Insight and agility

Having data, and being free from the traps and tangle that the data  sovereignty issue can pose, is well and good. However, it is really actionable insights that are gleaned from it where real business value lies. Bekker explained that when companies have the flexibility of moving their data seamlessly, it makes it easy for customers to genuinely garner reward from their data.

The one surprise, given how popular cloud has become, is that Bekker believes that more businesses should be taking even greater cognisance of cloud adoption, whether it is private, public, or hybrid, as part of their digital transformation. Even as many companies are already adopting cloud, he pointed out that this varies from one company to the next. “On that maturity curve, organisations will be at different points so everybody is on that journey in some factor or form. The reality is that if you are not, you are going to be left behind,” he continued.

“To organisations I would advise focusing on their core business and leaving the technicalities of cloud adoption, whether it is public, private, or hybrid, to people who have the expertise for it,” he asserted. He explained his reason for encouraging companies to make cloud adoption even more of a priority is due to the agility cloud provides. “The ability to do things quickly, such as new product development, updates, etc, is a key factor for me, that differentiates really successful, transformed businesses from laggards,” he added.

You have to be fast

Offering the implementation of business analytics as an example, Bekker pointed out that a business does not want to invest heavily into analytical software and rollouts, and in today’s fast paced environment, needs results quickly.

“That is where NetApp has a massive role to play, in enabling people to have that agility to quickly make business decisions, test new systems, new applications, or a new product. It is really a matter of succeeding fast, or failing fast, and moving on, instead of going through these long development cycles and test phases,” he elaborated.

Why so cautious?

Even with the potentials for data to deliver business-enhancing insight, and cloud to offer business agility, it is difficult not to notice that today’s customers seem to be quite cautious. Bekker believes that there are a number of reasons for this, including concerns around the aforementioned data sovereignty, given the global political climate. However, he added that the undeniable contributing factor to this caution are the prevalence of security breaches and hacks, and the potential risk of these to an organisation.

“There is a lot more awareness from customers and enterprise, especially at C-level and board level, to understand that they are the custodians of very important key elements of their own business data, but also potentially their customer data. From that point of view, there is a big awareness within organisations around data and data management,” he elaborated.

Pain and potential

Addressing what he considers to be a particular pain point in the industry, Bekker explained that everyone wants to do a lot with very little. However, he elaborated  that once the conversation is shifted to centre around the critical importance of data, then customers become considerably more likely to embrace newer technologies, to protect themselves and aspire to reap benefits from their data.

Cause for optimism

As for NetApp in South Africa, Bekker is optimistic. For one, there is the fact that IoT is burgeoning on the horizon, with more data generation and usage being good news for the company’s expertise.  

Additionally he added that the company’s focus in the year ahead will continue to be on its cloud strategy, as well as the work it does with hyperscalers, and the second iteration of its hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offering.

“That is really key because that environment is now transforming to accommodate multiple workloads and multiple applications that can run on HCI. It's a very exciting time for us in that space,” Bekker concluded.

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