Thursday, 31 October 2019 06:46

What next for NetApp Australia after local success goes global?

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Global hybrid multi-cloud data management vendor, NetApp, announced its data fabric as a service initiative, Keystone, this week. With Keystone's roots in Australian innovation, ANZ MD Paul Crighton speaks about where the region's sights are set next.

On Tuesday NetApp CEO George Kurian took to the stage at the company's NetApp Insight 2019 conference in Las Vegas to explain how the business saw hybrid multi-cloud as the overwhelmingly predominant enterprise architecture, and how NetApp wanted to help people get there by removing barriers on procurement, support and other items.

Under NetApp Keystone customers can buy NetApp products and services as a capital expense, or by consumption pricing, irrespective of whether they store their data in the own data centre, in a private cloud, or with any of the major hyperscalers, and no matter if they want to manage it themselves or not.

The initiatives that led to Keystone originated in Australia where the local sales team found customers wanted cloud-like pay-as-you-go pricing but had constraints preventing them going to public clouds like AWS, Azure or Google. Determined to make things work for their customers, Data Fabric-as-a-service - or DFaaS - was launched on these shores, while the global NetApp business watched with keen interest.

The Australian experiment was a customer success, and evolved into the new globally-available Keystone announcement.

While the Australian team can rightly take pride in their pioneering work there's no opportunity to sit back and relax, says Paul Crighton, Australian and New Zealand Managing Director, NetApp.

Crighton has been in this top job for just short of 12 months. He explains his leadership philosophy when joining a company as firstly listening, learning and leveraging for three to five months, working on customer meetings and team one-on-ones. Then, depending on what has been learned, you can "go either break / fix and become a rip-and-replace leader, or you can identify and amplify, looking at the people and the strategy in place, and harness and amplify it."

Crighton liked what he saw and went the amplify route. 18 months ago the local goal was to have 19% of the region's business on the as-a-service model so his BHAG - or "big, hairy, audacious goal" - was to ramp this up to 40% within three years. However, he expects to hit 50% within 14 months. "I might have to revise that goal," he said.

Crighton explains his leadership and sales style is to focus on customer success, to identify the business outcomes customers seek, and for the sales team to use real-world examples and stories in their discussions.

Early in his appointment Crighton observed the 10 largest customers in the region historically spent $45m a year, but nine months into the year were down to $14m. He spoke with them and heard a recurring theme, "all a little bit confused as to what their cloud strategy was now," he said.

Customers were going all-in to a single cloud provider, then realised they still needed their data centre and private cloud, and further they needed some workloads in different public clouds. "They were sweating their assets they already had as they were getting out of data centres, and spending stopped due to uncertainty about a hybrid multi-cloud strategy," he said.

Keystone - or, as Australians knew it last year, Data Fabric-as-a-service - "assumes the risk so it does not matter what their strategy is, whatever their workload is, wherever it sits, whenever they want to move it. NetApp is sharing the risk," Crighton said.

Locally, NetApp employs 230 people in the ANZ region, including support, sales and finance. Recently the business took on five interns, "a breath of fresh air," he said.

Crighton sees authentic and regular communication as a key way a leader can drive an organisation's culture. After his first week in the business he had performed around 30 one-on-ones and was compelled to make a "brain dump" - an informal and impromptu A4 page of what he had learned, what he had done, what he was thinking. "That's me on a page," he said. The feedback was outstanding so he continued this weekly, sending it to the entire regional team. A month in he thought these notes have done their job and casually mentioned to the receptionist he was thinking of stopping. She said "please don't stop; it's a great read," so Crighton has continued his weekly brain dump correspondence for the almost 12 months of his tenure.

92% of orders work through partners, and Crighton describes himself as a passionate partner supporter. "One of the focus areas to support our BHAG is to work more closely with service providers, and to take Keystone to market via the provider's service catalogue," he said.

"NetApp shares the risk. We really do want to help our customers and we take assets on our book for that reason. We want to invest in our customers, take partners on the journey to hybrid multi-cloud and we mean it," Chrigton said.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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