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NetApp deepens storage offerings, security for AI buyers

New data protection and ransomware recovery features headline the latest NetApp updates. The vendor is also expanding its Nvidia partnership to ensure its offerings are AI-ready.

NetApp is expanding the data protection and ransomware protection capabilities of its hardware and software as it eyes becoming the storage of choice for generative AI buyers.

The vendor introduced new services in preview and made updates to others generally available today, including OnTap Autonomous Ransomware Protection (ARP) with Artificial Intelligence and automated, immutable snapshot tools for applications in its SnapCenter 5.0.

NetApp is also deepening its partnership with Nvidia, an AI chipmaker and the market darling, to offer flash storage hardware certified for Nvidia's enterprise GPUs and servers.

The focus on ransomware and security in primary storage is critical, as it's now part of the data security struggle, according to Dave Raffo, an independent storage analyst.

Ransomware infections target backup storage because removing recovery options could make an enterprise more likely to pay out, Raffo said. Primary storage now needs to incorporate features and protection to detect ransomware at the time of infection or potentially sooner, meaning that storage administrators have been drafted by security teams, he added.

"There is a trend with vendors building all these features that used to be in data protection products into the primary storage," Raffo said. "You can't have a gap in security anywhere. It's got to be end to end."

Storage specialists

ARP now offers a machine learning capability within the OnTap storage operating system to detect changes in unstructured files as well as compare potential ransomware signatures against a database of known threats.

The prior version of ARP offered ransomware detection, according to NetApp, but the latest update can detect slower change rates to catch ransomware payloads that could slip past existing signature detection technology.

Identifying slower change rates is a vital component of ransomware protection today, according to Marc Staimer, founder and president of Dragon Slayer Consulting. Ransomware creators are aware of detection software timings and will attempt to vary their approaches to secure a payload and prep for detonation.

"There are a number of [malicious software] variants that have changed the ransomware game," Staimer said. "If you're going below the change rate threshold, you're not going to detect [the vulnerability]."

SnapCenter 5.0 will offer application-aware snapshot capabilities, enabling automated backups with a retention lock instead of requiring a user to manually create snapshots from primary or secondary data sources. Application-aware snapshots are also available natively in Azure NetApp Files, a service fully managed by Microsoft, and in Amazon FSx for NetApp OnTap, which is fully managed by AWS, for faster cloud recovery compared with restoring from secondary sites.

Both services will be available at no additional charge to on-premises OnTap customers with support entitlements. ARP will expand coverage into customer cloud environments in the future, according to NetApp.

BlueXP additions

BlueXP, NetApp's GUI management console for storage products, is adding NetApp BlueXP Ransomware Protection. Available in public preview at no cost, the new service adds another control plane for an overview of a customer's available backup services, enabling users to see what backup services are available and how they want to apply those services.

The NetApp BlueXP Disaster Recovery service, introduced last fall, enters general availability this week, offering VMware infrastructure failover and recovery for both on-premises data centers and the cloud through Amazon FSx for NetApp OnTap.

Adding security features into storage and backup products can provide more protection and fail-safes, according to Simon Robinson, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group. While useful, those protections still require human intervention to ensure proper configurations and avoid accidentally creating another point of failure.

"Every vendor says they've got you covered," Robinson said. "[But] am I going to need some sort of validation too? It's great there's been an explosion of capability, but there's a risk of fragmentation. When you find fragmentation, you find [security] gaps."

Nvidia AI partnership

NetApp is also expanding its generative AI storage bundle offerings today with the NetApp AIPod.

The NetApp AIPod combines NetApp's AFF C-Series flash storage hardware with Nvidia's DGX H100 server, the chipmaker's flagship AI converged infrastructure product.

AIPod builds off the existing Nvidia-NetApp hardware and software partnership, which includes other products and architectures such as the converged infrastructure offering FlexPod and AI reference architecture BasePod. NetApp is also releasing a new AI reference architecture for FlexPod and is the first storage vendor to be validated for Nvidia OVX systems, the company's 3D simulation hardware and software.

No one storage company can claim it's the storage of choice for generative AI workloads and training, Robinson said. Buyers will need to consider more than capacity and raw speed, so hardware partnerships and tight software integration, such as between NetApp and Nvidia, could make the difference.

"It's still the Wild West as far as AI is concerned," Robinson said. "Just having a bunch of flash isn't going to cut it. You're going to have to start delivering [performant storage] at scale."

Tim McCarthy is a news writer for TechTarget Editorial covering cloud and data storage.

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