NetApp Insight and why it’s the best conference in the IT industry

As summer is ending, the season of annual IT events has already started with VMworld World US in last month. There will be other IT following, however for me one of the best will always NetApp Insight. NetApp Insight is an annual event organized by data management company NetApp. The first time I’ve been to the event was in 2015. Over the past few years, the EMEA version of event has been held in Berlin. As usual, this year’s US event is held once again in Las Vegas, but the European edition will be this year in Barcelona, Spain in beginning of December. This is a welcome change of location for me. Not that Berlin wasn’t good, but going to conferences is great opportunity to do some quick sightseeing.

NetApp Insight 2014

And after three visits in Berlin, it already feels very familiar like home town to me, and the thrill of the unknown is already missing. As you can tell, I’m excited about Barcelona is to say the least. NetApp Insight has fascinated me by how well organized everything is, every session is carefully selected, so the participants are never bored and can always learn more useful information and acquire new knowledge. Each year there are more than 100 unique breakout sessions featuring NetApp solutions, case studies, best practices, tools and innovations.Of course, the NetApp technology mentioned a lot, but it’s done in a nice discreet way, so you don’t get the feeling you are being brainwashed, as I felt at so many events run by other technology vendors, where the organizers are very pushy and everything is all about them. NetApp Insight is well known among attendees as a very technical, not sales-oriented conference in contrast to other similar conferences. Sessions are built around NetApp product in combination with technologies from alliance partners such as VMware, Microsoft, Veaam, SAP, Oracle and others. You can hear and learn about other technologies aside from NetApp, which always comes in handy, when working on projects. Furthermore, NetApp Insight is also a great opportunity for improving and test your skills with Hands-on-Labs, free of charge NetApp Certification exams and technical training sessions. For me personally, the best feature of NetApp insight are the keynotes -with very interesting speakers like NetApp’s founder Dave Hitz (@DaveHitz) and Matt Watts (@mtjwatts), Director of Technology & Strategy.

I will never forget Dave Hitz’ story about comparing water pipes with data and how he came up with a new technology for NetApp customers to use less storage.

Dave Hitz looking to the future…

This feature is now known as deduplication and NetApp was the first company to introduce deduplication running on primary storage. Many people thought that Dave will sink the NetApp ship by providing deduplication for free to every NetApp customer and NetApp will end up selling less storage. They were wrong and NetApp was selling even more of storage and also other vendors followed the Dave Hitz idea…

In the next year’s keynote, Dave explained how he come up with the idea that NetApp needs to develop a way for customers to able to move their data seamlessly from their storage to cloud, like using plumbing pipes. The idea is now called Data Fabric. Data Fabric is now days widely used over the world as a highway for shipping data to clouds. Matt Watts had one year very interesting speech about how role of IT is changing. I find key notes like this very inspiring and they show you the vision of NetApp for the upcoming years. Most likely this year’s focus will be on cloud, as the cloud opportunity is rapidly growing. NetApp is focused on cloud innovations to create more cloud opportunities for accelerating new services. I believe modernizing IT architecture with cloud-connected flash will also be a major topic this year at Insight. Aside from the great content, one of the best benefits of attending Insight are the networking opportunities to connect with great people. I’ve enjoyed a lot the evening activities, which are always well organized, fun and overly great experience to remember. For example, I truly enjoyed the last year’s visit to the Berlin

NetApp logo build with lego

Classic Remise depot, where classic cars and very expensive ones like Bugatti Veyron are displayed, as well as the appreciation parties at iconic venues such as the at Olympic stadium and the famous Tempelhof airport in Berlin. Last but not least, last year party was in an old Berlin underground station, was definitely one to remember, featuring an awesome cover band called RPJ, which was phenomenal and definitely rocked the party. I hope they bring them back once again in Barcelona. For me, personally the only downside to Insight is the conference pass price, which is a bit high. However, if you look at what the conference has to offer to you and your business it’s a great investment, especially considering the free certifications opportunity. I honestly promise you won’t be disappointed, just like one of my customers wasn’t when I took him to conference last year. Since then he’s been explaining how he thought it will be just another trip to Berlin, but he ended being amazed at the value of the conference and changed his mind completely. When we were on the way back from Berlin, he said that NetApp Insight is definitely a conference he will be coming back to next year.

I’m excited to be back to Insight this year in Barcelona and look forward to the keynotes and meeting with my fellow United members. I’m sure Petya Stefanova (@PeytStefanova), NetApp United coach will prepare something great for NetApp United members. Last year she organized a lot of activities (Pop-Up tech talks, hand football competition…) and I can not forget to mention a dinner with NetApp A-Team members and NetApp VPs, which was a very special start of NetApp Insight week.

Artificial intelligence – computers are getting smarter and predictive much like humans

We are using AI (or Artificial intelligence) already all the time throughout our day, without being aware it. AI is present in our everyday life, every time we use SIRI, google assistant or Cortana, they know every aspect of our life – the coffee meetup with a friend every Sunday at the same time and place, our everyday commute details, our spouses’ birthdays or even the child’s next football match. Facebook’s software is even capable of recognizing famous faces and tagging them automatically without any human assistance.

According to a technology review by Google, in 2017 more than 26% of the interviewed companies planned to invest more than 15 % of their IT budget on machine learning and AI. AI is applied to solve bigger problems with a business purpose – for instance, a fast food chain is using AI to increase customer engagement and increase shop visit by pushing a targeted ad for a free ice cream on a hot afternoon. Another example of solving problems with AI – finance institutions are analyzing a large amount of data in order to discover frauds and eliminate risk. Machine learning on the other side plays an also important part at Uber. Uber uses machine learning algorithms to predict more accurate arrival times, pick up locations and so on. Furthermore, did you know that airplanes are already using AI for autonomous flying? Autopilot mode for instance is based on flight planning management systems, that defines the most efficient route from point A to be. The dedicated system analyses data from a large number of sensors and adjusts the plane speed, rate of climb, altitude accordingly throughout the flight.

As announced last week, NetApp and Nvidia have joined forces to bring to market a solution called NetApp ONTAP AI to enable companies to adopt artificial intelligence faster and easier. NetApp with its Verified Architecture Program offers customers a proven architecture which is thoroughly tested, easy and quick to deploy and within a short time to market.  NetApp ONTAP AI combines NVIDIA DGX-1 servers with NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphic processing units and a NetApp AFF A800 (also lower models are supported) with ultra-fast networking with Cisco Nexus 3232C 100Gb Ethernet switches, that are useful for inter-GPU communications by remote access (RDMA) over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). Traditional HPC infrastructures are connected to compute nodes via RDMA over InfiniBand which is providing high-bandwidth and low-latency, but now when an Ethernet technology has the same or better performance. That’s the reason why NetApp ONTAP AI uses well understood and widely deployed Ethernet technology.  Data on storage is accessed through NFS protocol using four 100GbE links. Each DGX-1 server is powered by eight Tesla V100 GPUs configured in a hybrid cube mash topology leveraging the NVIDIA NVLink technology.  The NVlink technology provides low-latency fabric for inter-GPU communications. DGX-1 is powered by NVIDIA GPU cloud, providing Nvidia GPU optimized containers for the most popular DL frameworks like Caffe2, TensorFlow, PyThorch, MXNet and Tensor RT and is incorporated with NVIDIA CUDA toolkit. NVIDIA CUDA toolkit is providing NVIDIA CUDA Basic Linear Algebra Subroutines Library (cuBLAS) and the NVIDIA CUDA Deep Neural Network Library (cuDNN). NetApp ONTAP AI simplifies deployment by eliminating design complexity and guesswork. NetApp ONTAP IA solution is scalable up to multiple racks and is capable of providing a massive throughput up to 300 GB/s and 11.4 million IOPS in a 24-node cluster. Imagine how much faster and how much more data can be analyzed with a solution with this kinda performance. When your complete system depends on a solution, the solution must be capable to be upgraded non-disruptively. One of greatest and long living NetApp’s principles is that you can start small and grow with without interruption. Similar to FlexPod, the first solution collaboration between Cisco and NetApp, NetApp ONTAP AI comes along with a single point of contact support, backed by AI experts, a winning strategy that has been proven invaluable with FlexPod customers in the past.

I believe easy access and deployment of AI solutions will make huge changes in our lifes that we are currently not capable to understand and imagine. Hopefully in the future, I solutions like NetApp ONTAP AI will contribute to discovering cure for deadly diseases like cancer and HIV,  growing food more efficiently, making transportation faster and safer and maybe even automating basic tasks like calling car service or making a dentist appointment, so we, humans, would have more time to spend with our loved ones.