In order to bring in innovation in technology and develop an ecosystem to offer new solutions NetApp started its accelerator program – NetApp Excellerator Program. The aim of the program is to nurture data driven technology start-ups. In January 2019, the company had announced the graduation of its third edition of the program and chose six start-ups to work with. NetApp provides an equity-free grant of $15,000 to each of the participating start-ups. In fact, the company has signed up two of the participants as alliance partner to work with them and offer solutions to NetApp customers.
DynamicCIO caught up with Deepak Visweswaraiah, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, NetApp India to talk about this program and take a look at the technology trends that will drive the CIOs to the next phase.
DynamicCIO (DCIO): Can you talk about the NetApp Excellerator program a little in detail?
Deepak Visweswaraiah (DV): The NetApp Excellerator program is the company’s flagship accelerator program designed to nurture technology start-ups. We chose six start-ups previously, which was for the Cohort 3 of NetApp Excellerator, who used NetApp’s technologies, platforms, tools, HR, marketing and legal support, and fine-tuned their products using the expert knowledge provided by our team.
Our aim is to bring together technology know-how and innovation. This program is to enable start-ups to work around key technologies like artificial intelligence, cloud, cyber security, analytics etc. The aim is to encourage solutions that can be applied in wide-impact areas like marketing, healthcare, and operations. In this data driven world, it’s exciting to see such start-ups that are shaping the economy through wide-impact initiatives such as healthcare.
DCIO: How does having a program like this help NetApp in the long run? What is in it for the organisation?
DV: A few things we take away from this initiative – we look at building an ecosystem that creates an innovation agenda where we are accelerating innovation. If you look at our intention, it is to build some B2B context and be able to really take that innovation to next level.
We don’t necessarily believe that we can solve all the technology challenges, so we look for partnerships; we look for companies to come and solve some of the problems that our customers may be facing. We want to work with them to be able to offer solutions with leading edge technologies.
We also look at learning new innovations from these start-ups. Their agility, latest technologies and some of the processes that they use potentially can help us become more agile. We like to look at ourselves as a 26 year old start-up. So we would like to keep ourselves agile and abreast with new technology.
With this we are also able to think through and develop some unique solutions, working specially with our strategic alliance partner. We are able to answer some of the questions our customers may have. With every Cohort, we are able to partner with some innovative companies to offer unique solutions. This year we have two new alliance partners – FirstHive and Cardiotrack. NetApp will co-create solutions and go to market with them.
DCIO: How will NetApp work with its new alliance partners?
DV: The start-ups need to be in the learning mode and should be able to leverage what we have to offer. We focus on start-ups in the data space, data management area. Irrespective of the verticals they are focussing on, we look at how they are using data management and related technology in different verticals.
We offer them our expertise and help them create an enterprise level product that can compete in the market. We can actually help them design and architect and mentor them in terms of how to build an enterprise level product. We work with them and take them to market, and opening customer doors for them.
FirstHive, one of the Alliance partners from last year’s Cohort has developed solutions in the marketing space. Their solutions enable companies to improve their marketing results, and also help companies improve their leads to sales conversion ratio. They do that by connecting data silos and disparate data into legible insights. They take structured and unstructured data bringing that together into a system to develop business insights that can be used to achieve results of a particular business initiative.
Cardiotrack is the second Alliance partner which is in the health services tech area. They have developed a device that can take ECGs at very low cost. Their solution ensures that even a regular person in a remote location can take an ECG, which can be shared over cloud or the Internet with a healthcare expert, who can offer diagnosis over the system. Here there is a significant usage of machine learning and AI.
DCIO: What are the technology trends you are looking at for the enterprise?
DV: In my personal opinion there are certain things that will define the technology decisions of the enterprise. First will be in data centres, where performance is going to push the envelope. So you are going to find newer technologies like NVME coming in. I also see flash technology becoming a norm. I see it becoming ubiquitous in terms of people adopting the flash technology rather than any other kind of technology.
Another area is the IoT space. As we increase the capability of handling large amount of data – adjust it at the edge, work with the amount of data that comes to the core, aggregate the data – and develop insights from that, it will drive innovations at the next level. This is going to be huge. The AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning capabilities are going to push heavily into how intelligent the systems evolve, and will have the ability to get into pretty much every application.
DCIO: How do you think the enterprise is evolving its technology usage and expectations from the solution providers?
DV: There’s a strong push towards things becoming simpler, especially in our area where there is a significant push in terms of skillsets becoming more generic. Few years ago you would have found an administrator for every technology or process running within IT – network admin, system admin, application admin, and cloud admin. Those days are gone. IT organisations can’t afford to have that many people.
The phenomenon is that they all are becoming generalist. Now one person has the role or the capability to handle more than one aspect. But they cannot have the bandwidth to go deep it. So, what they are looking for are, the systems and applications to become simpler and to be able to handle those things in a much simpler way.
I think you will probably see it in form factors of devices and even see user interface of applications becoming simpler. That’s a journey we are already on.
DCIO: Why is there the evolution of the IT generalist with the IT organisation of an enterprise?
DV: When you talk to CIO, you will find that one of the tasks that burden him or her is to reduce the budget. So the CIO is always on a mission to optimise the resources. Then, there are many companies and CIOs who are focussed on having a cloud set up and that requires different skill sets. Some of them are cloud first. Some of them are still figuring out what they should do in cloud vs data centres and how do they build skill sets that work in both onsite and in the cloud. So the skillsets needed are constantly changing. This is where a generalist comes in who has an understanding of every aspect of the IT organisation without being in depth.
This puts a pressure on application developers definitely. Earlier, we would not have worried about putting 20 different things on the screen, since the users had required skill sets. Now, we always think about every icon or capability we put on the screen, the focus is on what the user experience is going to be like. Now we are always thinking about how our customers feel when they are using our applications. We go as far as to bring in customers and do tests of customer experience. This is how having generalist IT managers have impacted us.