NetApp is probably not a name you might be familiar with, unless you are an IT technician or specialist for your company. If you are; great, you know what they do and how they serve the commercial market. If you are not familiar with their name; let us enlighten you.
NetApp, in its simplest, most general description, is a hybrid cloud service provider. To put it plainly NetApp is sort of a solution to manage its clients data in either a physical server format, or a cloud format. To be completely accurate though they provide their clients with more than just data management in whichever space they choose. They provide companies with something they call Data Fabric. Now the question becomes; “what is Data Fabric”?
We will revisit the explanation of Data Fabric in detail (as explained by NetApp’s South East Asian CTO) on a later date. For now you would have to make do with our explanation of what Data Fabric is.
Data Fabric in is plainest looking form is basically a data management solution that links and transfers multiple data strands and clusters across different storage types and locations. It is sort of like building a high-speed expressway for data to be transferred between two storage locations and types. It bridges data across multiple platforms for whatever sort of application that the client needs to run. If this sounds over-simplified; that is because it is.
For now though that explanation would have to do. We had a chance to sit down with NetApp’s CTO, Matthew Hurford to have a chat about their latest collaboration plan with their long time client, MAMPU. The discussion covers the topic that every other government and organisations talk about – Smart Cities. In this first part of a two-part interview series we spoke to Matthew about the concept of Smart Cities itself and Malaysia’s vision of a smart city.
Smart City for Malaysia
So first things first, we talked about the main subject itself; what a Smart City is. Matthew spoke about Smart City as a collective use of technology in an implementation of infrastructures. One of the key technologies to look out for when it comes to smart cities is IoT. According to Matthew a Smart City is technically using these technologies, especially IoT to solve plenty of problems and provide services that are more efficient and effective to its citizens.
But how do you consider a particular smart city a Smart City? NetApp think that there are no specific criteria for a Smart City. However the availability and accessibility of data is important here. For the case of Malaysia as well; policies play an important role in the creation of Smart Cities in Malaysia. Policies that involves data sharing especially could play a larger role for Malaysia’s Smart Cities initiative. It depends on largely how accessible certain information is to citizens and all its users, how convenient it is for a citizen to work with certain services. Ultimately, according to NetApp it is up to the citizens to decide whether or not the city that they live in is a Smart City.
NetApp works with plenty of governments and government bodies to provide data management services for a while now. With MAMPU (Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit) NetApp has been providing data management services for over 8 years. That amount of years has moved MAMPU to a more efficient way of managing data with certain capabilities that makes Malaysia a suitable environment for a Smart City initiative. The key here is the instant and efficient accessibility of real-time data. Data is consumed at a much faster rate than ever before which means that the demand for real-time data increases all the time. NetApp provides just that capability of presenting real-time data when it is required.
The problem that NetApp solves for MAMPU for the number of years working together is technically the presentation of real-time data that used to be unavailable. With NetApp’s services and expertise, gone are the days where data is uploaded to MAMPU’s servers once a month. Instead NetApp’s services collects and uploads data from wherever nearly instantly. those updated data. The principle here is older data presents less value to decision makers like MAMPU. So fresh data is always key in a Smart City implementation.
When speaking about Malaysia’s readiness to taking on the Smart City project Matthew does think that, depending on what MAMPU and Malaysia wants to do, is ready. According to NetApp there is nothing in particular that holds Malaysia back to implementing the smart city project. Malaysia already has the fundamental technologies and certain infrastructures in place for IoT implementation and what not. There are of course still some more investment in more infrastructures that would make a city more IoT friendly and therefore creating a Smart City. Fundamentally though Malaysia is where it needs to be.
The important part though is the data collection and usage when it comes to Smart City. NetApp mentions that data management is always the core of a Smart City. Their strategy is simple; collect, disseminate, and provide data where it needs to be and when it needs to be. That sort of real-time availability of data allows for better and quicker decision-making and convenience of its users to utilize certain services.
NetApp, in this sense provides that ability to store all sorts of collected data in any sort of storage chosen by its clients like MAMPU. They could use a software defined storage if they choose to do so and NetApp would still be able to manage the data. Those data can then be used in whatever solution software that MAMPU chooses; be it Amazon’s Web Services, or SAP, or Microsoft’s Azure platform. That sort of flexibility is important for a Smart City obviously when data management and deployment is the core of its implementation. As they go as well NetApp is also developing its own technologies as well like its own Native Cloud to be able to service the market better and more efficient.
But then what about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence? We heard Matthew speak of it a little bit here and there, of course it became a burning question; what is its role in Smart Cities? According to Matthew the avenue of Machine Learning is a very interesting one for Smart Cities. The current working order of a Machine Learning is still at its infancy and in repetitive input. The Machine Learning that we know today is mostly implemented in CCTV technologies and identifying patterns. Mostly observable patterns that people might miss sometimes. That, in turn might be able to help with threat analysis and identification in most situations. Of course there are more to it than just security; there is plenty of unexplored potential. NetApp though thinks that they will be ready to take on whatever progress that Machine Learning makes with the amount of data that NetApp’s clients can sift through with their services.
Source: NetApp South East Asia
Also published on Medium.