NetApp Insight 2017 – Farewell Berlin

Four years ago we began the first chapter of our story in Berlin, today we close the book and the Insight train rolls on to its next destination, and the first chapter for a new book in Barcelona.

NetApp Insight is over for another year, the main stage equipment is already back on the trucks, Insight Central has closed and our partners are taking everything apart ready for their journeys home to the many different parts of the world that they joined us from.

My flight home isn’t till late this evening so I find myself sat alone in the lounge at my hotel. At the end of an event like this, where so much effort has been put in by so many people it’s always an unusual moment for me, there’s an energy, a buzz, a sense of excitement and anticipation while the event is happening and when that’s over, it’s hard to describe it, there’s the happiness of thinking back on some of the special moments with friends and colleagues, a little sadness that it’s over and a time for reflection. As the piano player tinkles the ivories in the background in this wonderful city I find myself reminiscing.

I was at one of the first Insight events 13 years ago, they were called Fall Classic back then. Two hundred of us gathered in ‘The bunker’ at the end of Java Drive in Sunnyvale and we spent three days Networking ‘Filers’, configuring switches that Brocade had been good enough to lend us and connecting up Tape Drives also kindly lent to us from StorageTek. It was a very technical event.

Since that first event, the momentum really picked up and we’ve had to keep moving in order to deal with the increasing number of attendees and the increasing number of breakout sessions as more and more capabilities were being rolled into the products. We moved to the Crowne Plaza in San Jose, then on to San Francisco and Los Angeles, then the decision was made that we had to split the event for EMEA and the US.

Insight EMEA landed in Prague and the momentum carried on, Athens, Rome, Dublin and Berlin, the event expanding from less than one thousand people in the first year to over four thousand people this year of which nearly a third came from our customers; we made the decision to invite customers a few years back and they’ve become a bigger and bigger part of the event ever since.

NetApp is now 25 years old and like a child growing up it’s gone through many stages in order to become what it is today. It was born as the ‘Filer’ company, establishing the category of Networked Attached Storage and brought capabilities to it that no one had ever seen before, becoming a billion-dollar business in the process. When I joined they were simple times, we had three products, small, medium and large and we supported Unix and / or Windows, we had to fight to prove ourselves, but the technology was good, very good. Once we’d managed to convince people to give us a try the job of the SE was pretty simple.

How much data do you currently have?

How much do you think you’ll have in the future?

And will you be using Windows, Unix or both?

The theme for the event this year, which is also our purpose is ‘Change the world with Data‘, more specifically to empower our customers to change the world with Data, pretty lofty eh? but think about it this way…Data defines everything! autonomous vehicles make decisions based on their ability to collect and analyse data, Finance companies make trades based on the rapid analysis of data, the plane that I’ll fly home on later will fly and land itself based on Data.

Existing companies are looking at how they evolve for the future, how they build new business models from data and every week a new company is born because of data. Data is an incredible resource and everyone is looking at what they have, what they need and how they can extract the maximum amount of value from it, and we are helping them to do this.

This requires change, companies need Data Visionaries, people who can understand the value of data to the existing business processes, but also to find entirely new business opportunities. It requires existing roles to adapt to new technologies and new capabilities, traditional roles such as the Storage Admin will change, that’s inevitable, if that’s currently what you do then you must consider what you could be doing in the future, where are the new areas you could add value.

NetApp now has a significant portfolio of capabilities that we can bring together to help companies establish a Data Fabric, enabling them to have their data in the right place at the right time with the right resources available so that they can extract the maximum value from it. That could be physical systems or it could be in the Cloud with our many partners or the hyperscalers such as Amazon, Microsoft, IBM or Google.

I spent a lot of time at our Insight briefing centre this year and I think the one comment that came up most frequently was ‘We didn’t realise NetApp could enable us to do that!‘ and this is why Insight is so important for everyone that attends. For our employees it shows them that they have to change the way they talk, we are a Data company and to truly help people to understand the incredible value we can offer we must start by talking about the Data. For our partners, it’s about how they enrich this data conversation even further by bringing more capabilities to the data, be that Analytics, Cognitive capabilities, Machine Learning and a wide variety of others. For our customers, it’s to ensure that they get to hear about the complete scope of what we can help them do today and our plans for the future.

Our Data Fabric journey started in Berlin, it brought with it a renewed energy, a new passion within our employees and our partners and it was important for us to have our customers join us to be part of this.

We arrived in this city as a Storage Company and now, four years later we leave with a clear purpose ‘Empower our customers to change the world with Data’ and that’s an exciting opportunity.

Thank you to everyone, employees, partners, customers and the hospitality of the people of Berlin for the wonderful four years that we’ve spent together.

Auf wiedersehen


  1. That word Passion. The Passion is most certainly back. I heard that word a lot this week in Berlin. After a few years of “adjustment” NetApp is on track with great people and great products to deliver true advantage in a Data Driven world.

    Thansk all for a great Insight

  2. … Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it this year (my wife is in the last days of her pregnancy….)
    I love Berlin (have lived there quite some time) but November in Berlin is not very nice… so from that point of view I am looking very much forward to Barcelona 🙂

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