NetApp Cloud Insights Review

Advanced analytics enable us to look at trending and detect where there are issues or potential issues

What is our primary use case?

We're using it for monitoring and managing all of the NetApp storage in our environment, both in the cloud and on-prem. We are expanding it to use it with our virtualized environment and with our in-house storage environments.

How has it helped my organization?

It's allowed us to tag storage with applications and business units, so that when we have a requirement to migrate data for an application, we can quickly identify all of the storage that the application utilizes.

The solution also provides a single tool for cloud-based architecture, such as microservices and containers, as well as on-premise infrastructure. We're not fully utilizing that part of it yet, but we're in the process of starting down that road. It's provided us with the ability to better manage the storage and to report on it to management. We're able to show them, via dashboards and reports, how the storage is being utilized and what the return on investment is.

And when it comes to the solution's ability to quickly inventory our resources, figure out interdependencies across them, and assemble a topology of our environment, it's very powerful. Because it's SaaS, a lot of the upfront work is being done for us. We're spending less time managing the application and more time getting the data we need out of it.

NetApp Cloud Insights advanced analytics for pinpointing problem areas are outstanding. When we have a performance issue for a specific piece of storage, a volume, or an application we can graphically show the business units, the application owners, how the storage is performing relative to the performance that they're seeing on their clients or on their servers. It helps us to pinpoint where issues may be, whether they are with storage, the network, on the clients, or with the application itself.

The advanced analytics have also enabled us to look at trending and detect

  • where issues are
  • where we would have to do load balancing to keep performance from being degraded
  • where we are running out of space in a given data center or storage node.

The advanced analytics help to reduce the time it takes to find performance issues as well because we run reports that look at trending. We can see where performance issues have not yet occurred, but that if we keep going in the direction we're going, we will have performance issues. That way we can proactively take action to ensure that we don't have any problems. We mitigate them before they happen. It's hard to quantify how much time it saves us, because it's very easy to see the problems before they occur, as opposed to dealing with them once they have occurred. It saves the businesses from having issues and keeps the entire environment running more smoothly.

In addition, the solution helped us to right-size workloads. It has shown us where we have issues, where storage growth has exceeded what is manageable. We've then worked with the business units and the application owners to break the data up into more manageable sizes, so that not only do they continue to get the performance that they need, but we're able to manage the storage without being backed into any corners that we can't get out of. Keeping the data broken into smaller pieces allows us to move it around to ensure that they get the performance they need. We're also able to ensure that the applications that require the highest level of performance get it. And those that don't have those high requirements can be put on lower power, with throughput storage that meets their needs, but without consuming horsepower on the fastest storage where they don't need it. Overall, it provides us with better utilization of the infrastructure.

The right-sizing has also reduced costs because we can more intuitively allocate resources and spend money on upgrades only where they're needed. Instead of just throwing more hardware at an environment, we can do it very selectively, based on the needs of the environment, needs that we are able to analyze through the reports that Cloud Insights provides to us. If I had to make an educated guess, it has reduced our costs by 20 to 25 percent.

What is most valuable?

Among the most valuable features are the queries and reporting that allow us to look at the utilization of resources, at how well the storage is performing, and to report on which resources are being used by which business units. We can track usage across the entire environment, across applications, business units, cost centers, etc.

What needs improvement?

There is room for improving the creating and managing or modifying of reports. That is still a difficult task to do and requires knowledge beyond the storage itself. I would love to see reporting improved so that we can create reports by dragging and dropping pieces into a report form and publish a report that way. We do get by with it, but typically it requires engagement with NetApp to get us the reports that we need.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Netapp Cloud Insights for about six months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's been very stable and very available. I'm not aware of any times that we've encountered an outage where the tools were unavailable to us.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It scales very well. As we've added new parts to the environment, it has been simple to add them to the Cloud Insights environment.

The number of people in our  company who directly utilize it would be about 100. People who benefit from the product and what it produces would be in the thousands; for example, finance. We generate reports automatically in Cloud Insights to show the utilization of all of the storage infrastructure, broken down by the amount of storage that is being utilized by individual applications or individual businesses. All of that is fed into the finance department so that they can track where resources are utilized and who is using them.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their support has been outstanding. They're very responsive when we raise issues. When we request new reports and modifications to existing reports, they're always right there and ready to assist.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Prior to using Cloud Insights, we were using OCI, OnCommand Insight, which is the equivalent of Cloud Insights that we ran on our own hardware within our data center. We switched because it's going to provide us with a better ability to manage and monitor cloud-based data, while at the same time allowing us to do everything else that OCI used to do for us.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was fairly straightforward. It was not that difficult because NetApp worked with us throughout the deployment. Since we already had OCI on-prem, migrating just involved taking that OCI environment and recreating it in Cloud Insights. It was not difficult at all. We planned that all out with NetApp and they guided us through it. In fact, they did a lot of the work for us.

Our overall experience with NetApp support during the deployment was very positive. We didn't have any issues that weren't quickly resolved.

The deployment took about 30 days.

Our team has six people, all of whom are storage engineers, but none of us is dedicated, full-time, to administering or managing Cloud Insights. We're more users than maintainers, because it doesn't require much maintenance.

What was our ROI?

It's hard to quantify ROI, but it is definitely worth the investment. What it provides to us has extreme value, helping us to get the full utilization out of our investment in storage. Cloud Insights has helped us to optimize spend by removing inefficiencies and identifying abandoned resources on-prem. Eventually we will be getting there with our cloud infrastructure as well.

We've used it to find storage that is no longer being used by any clients; storage that had been orphaned. We have been able to work with the business centers to determine if the data can be deleted, or should be archived, or moved to less expensive storage if they need to keep it online.

The optimization hasn't reduced our cloud costs yet, but it will eventually, as we move deeper into the cloud. Right now, the lion's share of our data is still on-prem, but we are starting more migrations into the cloud. Cloud Insights will be integral to being able to manage that space and the amount that that space costs us.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We were using OCI, which was the predecessor to Cloud Insights. We've also utilized other monitoring and reporting tools, such as Nagios and Splunk. But Cloud Insights gives us a level of information we can't get from the other tools. It's far more powerful.

What other advice do I have?

My advice would be to take a look at it, do a PoC, and see all the value that it can add, and all the power that it provides.

We rely on it to manage the storage, to look at trending, and determine where we're going to have problems. We can deal with things before they become problems. That's probably the most powerful thing that we get out of it. I don't think a day goes by that we don't utilize it.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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