Getty Images/iStockphoto

Spot by NetApp exec on acquisitions and catalog slimming

In this Q&A, Spot by NetApp's Kevin McGrath talks about the future of Fylamynt, evolving partnerships with hyperscalers and how buying teams for Spot's technology are changing.

NetApp has continued expanding Spot, the all-encompassing portfolio for its data management products, throughout 2022.

The company's acquisitions this year include Fylamynt, a cloud automation startup, and Instaclustr, a database-as-a-service vendor. Terms for both deals, which were focused on rounding out Spot by NetApp, were not disclosed.

The acquisition spree appears to be winding down, however, with Michael Berry, CFO and executive vice president at NetApp, mentioning a potential pause on further acquisitions in the coming months during its fourth quarter and fiscal 2022 earnings call in June.

"From a capital allocation perspective, we expect to hit pause on CloudOps acquisitions for the first half of fiscal '23, as we focus on strengthening our field and customer success go-to-market motions, while integrating our CloudOps product portfolio," Berry said during the call.

In this Q&A, Kevin McGrath, vice president and general manager of Spot by NetApp, spoke about how recent acquisitions will add to the Spot portfolio for customers, how he sees the software suite evolving and what the company's next maneuvers in the cloud might be. McGrath was the former CTO at Spot before NetApp's acquisition of the startup in 2020.

Early analyst sentiment following the acquisition of Fylamynt indicated some optimism about what it can add to the platform. What's the planned implementation for the technology, and what's next?

Kevin McGrath: Fylamynt is going to become Spot Connect and is going to be that connective tissue between everything that we do.

One of the things we've done is we have all these acquisitions [with] all these APIs. Spot Connect is going to be a drag-and-drop system. We want to connect all the different parts of what NetApp is putting together. We're not only going to put [our products] in the same console, but we're going to give you a nice, neat way to connect them -- not only with each other, but with the services you use, like ServiceNow, Jira and Slack.

Are we going to compete with some of the tools a cloud provider is going to offer? Absolutely.
Kevin McGrathVice president and general manager, Spot by NetApp

[NetApp] Cloud Insights has a lot of that visibility and optimization that we're going to start bringing into the platform. I think we will have a networking story sooner rather than later, as we start bringing all these [tools] together.

Last year, NetApp announced partnerships with some cloud hyperscalers, such as the debut of Amazon FSx for NetApp OnTap on AWS. However, Spot by NetApp is a challenger to some hyperscaler tools and capabilities. How do you see those partnerships evolving?

McGrath: What the major cloud providers want is more usage. Are we going to compete with some of the tools a cloud provider is going to offer? Absolutely.

I think, in some cases, we're going to step on each other's toes. But in other cases, we're going to prove [to] the cloud provider that if someone uses our tool set, they're going to be a happier customer, a stickier customer and a customer that will eventually scale more on their cloud.

One trend we've seen this year is vendors attempting to sell outside of typical IT silos. Is Spot by NetApp pursuing a similar goal of expanding NetApp's presence in the customer's data management stack beyond storage, albeit with individual offerings within a catalog rather than just one product?

McGrath: I think that's one of the big transitions that you're seeing in the market. Your top-down sell from the CIO into an IT team, that's kind of breaking off. We don't always sell into the main IT department. NetApp CEO George Kurian said he wants to force NetApp to get out of just selling to storage admins.

Kevin McGrath, vice president and general manager, Spot by NetAppKevin McGrath

The people who are going to use data going forward are not necessarily storage engineers. Remember that, at the end of the day, [NetApp OnTap] is not a hardware thing. It's software that can run anywhere. It doesn't have to run on the hardware that we ship to data centers. I think there's a concerted effort to say, 'We are going to adapt to the cloud and not try to get the cloud to adapt to us.'

I don't know if there's one specific area, but these platform engineering teams, these DevOps teams -- they have an impossible job. They get requirements from application teams, finance teams, business teams. As that role expands at more and more companies, we're going to keep solving for their pain points.

We don't want to take away any of the entry points. We want to keep that consumption-based model of cloud. But for our larger customers, we absolutely want to produce a method for them to come in and consume data, and not have to worry about the point solutions underneath. A suite of services in their own way, a more consumable way, as a single SKU.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity, length and style.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

Dig Deeper on Cloud storage

Disaster Recovery
Data Backup
Data Center
and ESG