NetApp presented their latest in proactive maintenance technology, Active IQ at Tech Field Day 18 in Austin, TX. Active IQ is a blend of software and service that allows NetApp to review configurations and propose suggestions based on their extensive body of knowledge. To power the product, NetApp collects more than 10 trillion data points per month of information from customer’s systems, stores it in a massive data lake, and exposes that data to other systems within NetApp to look for trends. The tech vendor also uses a machine learning algorithm to mine customer data for issues and optimal configurations. It’s really quite promising stuff.
Back when I was an admin, our NetApp storage would send off e-mail alerts about a failing hard drive and even order a replacement part complete with ticket number. I could also view a listing of my configuration and generate a report on all the missing firmware and system updates. It was hot stuff at the time, But that was just a single stop along the journey. The current system is more advanced. It not only recommends firmware, but it can also tell an admin if that firmware will solve an actual problem going on on that storage subsystem. It’s a great use of data and it makes a difference in the lives of admins. Anything that can be done to move from theoretical to actual I’m in favor of seeing. Admins don’t want to schedule a potentially risky maintenance window for something that might fix a problem. Active IQ provides ratings that help humans make decisions about which actions to take. Admins who can speak with certainty gain trust within an organization; NetApp’s Active IQ is a big step in the right direction.
To be fair, I was more than a bit skeptical on NetApp’s claims during the TFD presentation. Lots of companies throw around buzzwords like AI and ML. Many companies say they mine customer data. NetApp showed a very practical use for the tech. The focus on doing something simple was perhaps what made it resonate.
As an aside, I think NetApp should publish a whole series on data lake best practices. Long story short, NetApp leverages their own technologies, such as Data Fabric, to store and process the tremendous amount of customer data.
NetApp could have stopped at just break / fix type of recommendations. NetApp, however, went a step further and also built an interface which allows customers to compare aspects of their configuration such as storage efficiency against others. It’s an interesting way to surface other data collected by the company. There may be some better ways possible to get at and display the information, but the product team seems flexible to customer requests. NetApp is also working on the APIs to help customers work with the data they way they choose. The video below goes into more detail on how NetApp sees customers consuming the Active IQ offering in some day-to-day scenarios.
NetApp has crafted a technology in Active IQ that takes a lot of tech like cloud, big data, AI/ML and hides all of that from the end user. The reality is that admins and storage engineers don’t care about all the background stuff. To them, that’s just noise at the end of the day. What matters is having actionable information that improves the reliability and performance of the systems they manage. NetApp’s long history of providing this type of info to customers helps me to believe that they can deliver on this vision.
Disclaimer: Tech Field Day (TFD) pays for my travel, hotel, and meals during the events. Vendors might also provide small items similar to what is provided at conferences such as stickers, key chains, t-shirts, etc. TFD nor any of the presenting companies pay for my blogging.