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NetApp unites storage services under one console with BlueXP

Storage vendor NetApp launches a free web service aimed at providing on-premises hardware or SaaS customers visibility into their hybrid cloud infrastructure.

NetApp is bringing a web-based management and store for storage akin to hyperscalers like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

On Tuesday, the vendor unveiled NetApp BlueXP, a new console and product shop, to general availability during this week's virtual NetApp Insight 2022 conference.

BlueXP provides an overview of NetApp services on NAS or S3 storage in one web interface along with the ability to migrate data across any NetApp service. Other capabilities include issue remediation suggestions, such as scheduling snapshot backups and highlighting configurations vulnerable to ransomware attacks.

BlueXP is a free addition for all new and existing NetApp storage customers. An internet-disconnected version is also available.

Unifying storage products into a single interface, especially for hybrid cloud environments, brings NetApp into competition with VMware and Nutanix as a vendor providing infrastructure visibility alongside its storage hardware or software, according to Steve McDowell, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

"They're talking about data in a much broader way than storage," McDowell said. "But their challenge in the short term is going head-to-head with some established players."

Out of the blue

BlueXP provides infrastructure visibility for on-premises NetApp storage services like StorageGrid, OnTap and E-Series as well as any of NetApp's cloud services. Those include Amazon FSx for NetApp OnTap, Azure NetApp Files, and Volumes Service for Google Cloud Platform, among others.

The service also doubles as a storefront for capabilities such as a digital wallet, which can be used to purchase services such as NetApp Keystone, the vendor's consumption-based storage-as-a-service offering.

BlueXP is a separate suite of services and features from Spot by NetApp, the company's other cloud-focused product portfolio. Spot is tailored to CloudOps while BlueXP is focused on storage, NetApp's traditional market, according to Ronen Schwartz, senior vice president and general manager of cloud volumes at NetApp.

"This has been a user-driven innovation," Schwartz said. "We're giving [customers] a broad set of additional capabilities at their fingertips."

[NetApp's] challenge in the short term is going head-to-head with some established players.
Steve McDowellAnalyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

BlueXP will connect storage to Spot services and vice-versa.

Hyperscalers and smaller storage-as-a-service vendors have made buying and managing storage easier than setting up and doting over physical data centers, according to Chris Evans, founder of Architecting IT, an analyst firm.

The expectations for simplified management and consumption drive the market, especially among IT buyers. But they can also bring integration challenges when attempting to make diverse products, even from the same vendor, Evans said.

"We're moving further and further away from needing to understand the intricacies of the hardware," Evans said. "We have to be able to simplify our management."

Roping its storage products under one console and offering it as free service should help NetApp eliminate market confusion and repetition common among traditional enterprise vendors, according to Naveen Chhabra, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"[NetApp] doesn't want to charge for something people might ask, 'Why am I paying for this?'" he said. "Every legacy vendor suffers from the same issue of too many products."

Blue skies yet clouds ahead

NetApp BlueXP will remain wholly separate from the Spot portfolio and could introduce some brand confusion in the market, which runs counter to the cloud ideals of simple transactions and ease of use, analysts noted.

Reorienting NetApp's products and hardware around services is an inevitability in a shift to the cloud, which brings growing pains, Evans said. The diversity of NetApp's products have left a mix of APIs, graphic user interfaces, and command line interfaces running rampant. A consolidation under the BlueXP title and technology can avoid confusing customers about what each service is and how it might benefit their applications.

"This is NetApp trying to reposition their product portfolio into a service portfolio," Evans said. "They've been trying to change their business model for about seven years. … I feel like they've got no choice, [as] on-prem is consolidating further and further."

Enterprises using NetApp products likely take advantage of hyperconverged infrastructure capabilities already and could benefit from an alternative to market leaders VMware and Nutanix, McDowell said. Market changes, such as Broadcom's acquisition of VMware, may provide opportunities for customers to seek alternatives.

"It's follow-the-leader in some sense, [but] this market is so huge," McDowell said. "This is not one area where we want one dominant player to win."

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

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