For many IT leaders, the ability to make a real difference in the world is about as far removed as their first job, but not for NetApp’s George Kurian. Kurian, who took the helm at NetApp almost a year ago after 5 years in product development, spent time recently in the National Capital Region, meeting with government IT leaders to talk about the changes he is driving, as well as to listen to the challenges that they face as their agencies help meet the critical challenges facing the United States.

Kurian was quick to point out that “IT is great, but what it enables is the most important thing” and keen to highlight the innovations NetApp is driving to enable customers in the age of digital transformation. Agencies are using digital technology to serve customers better, to optimize their own internal business processes, and to integrate talent from around the world. All of these imperatives are powered by data, and that is where NetApp’s expertise adds value.

Kurian noted that “service providers have their own tools to move data into the cloud, but not out.” While this might not always be a challenge, the inability to move data in and out for compute requirements can stifle mission execution and innovation. In taking a hard look at this situation, NetApp under Kurian’s leadership, has attacked this problem head on with the data fabric vision that brings a set of tools to where the agency data resides in order to liberate it from silos. NetApp is developing a set of tools that ensure data can be located, tracked, moved, and governed in a consistent, efficient, and cost-effective manner that stops “innovation from becoming shelfware” and ensures “it has a business impact.”

To put this situation into real world terms, Kurian talked about NetApp’s partnership with the State of California. Beyond being the world’s eighth largest economy, California is one of the largest data generators in the world, with more than a 30 percent annual rate of growth in data that needs to be stored. Their pre-NetApp configuration consisted of enormous data silos that were both expensive to operate and maintain as well as costly in terms of preventing achievement of goals. Using a multi-tenanted private cloud architecture, the State of California was able to consolidate 29 data centers, which lowered costs through efficiencies, enabled 24×7 non disruptive operations, and facilitated the ability to provision additional capacity in minutes, instead of days. These are benefits – both in IT performance and budgetary terms that make a tangible difference for the world’s 8th largest economy and that is the undisputed driver of global innovation.

At the end of his talk, Kurian said that he wanted NetApp to be known as “the company that helps people manage their data” and the team whose vision is helping customers meet not only the challenges they face today, but also those that lie just around the corner. And with that, he pulled up a chair at a table of customers and began to talk about the ways they could work together to “unleash genius.”