Cloud Challenges, Disruptive Change, and Data Protection: Information from the Tenth NetApp University Day

About 80 people attended the tenth NetApp University Day on February 27, the day before USENIX FAST. Participants included more than 20 faculty members and postdoc researchers from 18 different universities, 14 graduate students, 12 ATG engineers, and 19 technical and product leaders from various groups. We also invited five distinguished speakers and hosted a successful poster session at the end of the event. Everyone enjoyed the lively discussions between academic faculty, students, researchers, engineers, and industry leaders.

Mark Bregman, NetApp SVP and CTO, gave a “top of mind” keynote speech. Mark shared his thoughts on data management challenges in hybrid cloud environments and the need for a unified data fabric to manage data across heterogeneous clouds. EVP Dave Hitz, a NetApp cofounder, shared lessons he has learned in moving forward with NetApp’s hybrid cloud vision. Cloud is a disrupting change that is changing the way software is delivered and consumed. It’s not enough to simply port traditional enterprise systems so that they can be run in the cloud. We should offer the system’s capabilities as services for applications within the cloud. Software delivery needs to expand beyond traditional delivery. It should be available in app-store-like packaging and use a pay-as-you-go charge model.

In addition to the inspiring talks by NetApp leadership, we heard from three industry speakers. The first speaker was Tushar Bandopadhyay, a technical director and product architect from Veritas. He shared the challenges in each of the four stages of the data lifecycle. A basic requirement for good data management is the ability to classify data and derive its value. He also discussed dark data — data that is never accessed after being stored. The ability to detect this type of data could lead to major savings in the long term. Tushar also described the Data Genomics Index, which analyzes the data access patterns of many customers. The data is made available in online reports.

Our second industry speaker was Brent Welch, a senior staff software engineer from Google. Brent shared how Google Cloud Storage evolved as the computational model changed. Google Filesystem (GFS) is a replication-based cluster filesystem that delivers its value on cheap servers and disks. On top of GFS, MapReduce, Bigtable, and Dremel were introduced. Brent related that as new computation models such as real-time and interactive analysis emerged, it became necessary to build Colossus, the next-generation Google Filesystem. Google also built other data systems, such as Megastore and Spanner, to meet the requirements of new use cases. Brent also described Kubernetes, for managing containerized applications running in heterogeneous clouds. There is also a need for “Kubernetes for data” to manage large-scale datasets distributed across multiple clouds.

Our final industry speaker was Krishna Narayanaswamy, cofounder and chief scientist of Netskope, a startup in the cloud security space. He described how the adoption of cloud and mobile technologies renders traditional security tools of little use in the new environments. He highlighted three areas in need of continued research: data classification, data protection, and threat protection. Krishna stated that human-based classification is insufficient and unreliable and that machine-based classification and verification are a must. At the moment, encryption is the common approach to protect sensitive data, but once data is encrypted, the operations or computations that can be performed on it are limited. Novel key management is also now required so that data owners can keep control and flexible use of their data. Finally, new vulnerabilities from using cloud services, such as the recent MongoDB ransomware situation, require better approaches to protect data and IT infrastructure, whether it’s running on the owner’s premises or in the public cloud.

The event ended with a happy hour with food and beer. Active discussions about posters and new project ideas flowed in the hallway. We hope that everyone enjoyed the event, and we’re all looking forward to next year.

— NetApp University Day Organizing Committee 2017