Under Kurian, NetApp, which had started as a data storage company, has evolved to help customers get the most out of their data with cloud data services, storage systems, and software.
“Everyone from McKinsey to Boston Consulting Group to Accenture to Microsoft and IBM have written about the fact that if you have the ability to use data strategically, you can drive a much better return on investment, or return on equity, profit margin, improvement of top line growth. You name the financial metric, you’re going to outperform, not just incrementally but by several orders of magnitude,” said Kurian, a Bengaluru boy who took over as CEO of the $6-billion company five years ago.
The fundamental challenge with data, he said, is that it is constantly changing, and tends to be highly siloed in large companies. “Every department has a slice of data that isn’t representative of a comprehensive view of the business problem you’re trying to solve. And, if you think about a hybrid cloud, that data problem gets even more complicated. So what we enable our customers to do is to build an integrated technology platform that they can use to share across all the different parts of their business, and then scale that business with the cloud,” he said.
Canadian outerwear company Arc’teryx is a NetApp customer. They decided that all of their divisions – from apparel design to marketing to the digital supply chain to their store and inventory management – were going to be on one data platform. What it gave them, Kurian said, was the ability for all the different pieces of the business to actually understand exactly where what was going on. “The designers could see what was going on in the store and immediately learn from it. Or the store could say, Hey, I see these things coming from the apparel designers, how should I think about positioning them in my storefront. So, it’s no longer that their Italian team doesn’t know what’s going on with the French team or the American team,” he said.
Dublin-based Icon, specialists at drug discovery and clinical trials, helps pharma companies take their drugs through the final scaling stages. Icon has built an integrated platform where researchers can collaborate and do all their lab experiments and scientific research. It has given them a huge knowledge advantage, Kurian said. “A typical pharma company has one or two drugs in the clinical trial phase. These guys have so many going in parallel that they can see and bring insights and knowledge (from all the projects they do). What they used to do as a contract service now they’re making a cloud service. Data as a service is a revenue generating opportunity for them,” he said.