RIP: NetApp Advanced Technology Group shuffles off this mortal coil

The 'ideas factory' falls victim to latest round of corporate penny-pinching

NetApp has confirmed it is closing down the standalone Advanced Technology Group (ATG) – an incubation unit that was part of the office of the CTO and once described as the "ideas factory".

ATG, which sources said was the closest thing NetApp had to an internal lab, has fallen foul of this week's expenses purge that will see 5 per cent of the 11,000-strong global workforce leave the organisation.

In a statement, NetApp said: "In our realignment of our resources at NetApp, we are changing our approach to advanced technology and our industry standards body participation. We're tightly aligning those functions to the business so that we can be more responsive to the rapidly changing demand of the market and customers.

"As a result, many Advanced Technology Group and Standard and Industry Group Associations Group team members will be integrated into the business and engineering teams, while some will be leaving NetApp."

An insider told us "ATG was shut down completely in the layoffs" and around 50 per cent of teamsters were shunted into product development groups "where it is not clear they'll stay for very long". The other half are being made redundant, our source said.

"NetApp is effectively saying they have given up innovating internally," he added.

ATG, set up in 2006, typically houses between 20 and 30 "really smart storage systems people," said NetApp senior technical product manager Andy Klosterman in a company podcast from January 2019. He said the unit employs people across the world in the US, Europe, and Asia.

"The Advanced Technology Group is kind of NetApp's front line, a speculative execution on storage technologies, an idea factory if you will. We work on stuff that is beyond the immediate roadmap concerns for our product group and try to keep them informed of technology coming down the pipeline so that NetApp is ready for it when it gets to us."

Past innovations included writing the first NFS version 4 server and client code, the Trident Storage Provisioner, early work on Persistent Memory, NVME and non-volatile DIMMs, and Active IQ.

"It is a free-range academic kind of environment," said Klosterman. "We do have some product needs pushed on to us when product groups have more immediate needs."

NetApp this week filed financial results for Q1 ended 31 July 2020 that showed a 5 per cent lift in revenues to $1.3bn but a dip in profit to $77m versus $103m a year earlier. ®

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