Archive for March, 2010

Drinking rubbish wine and deploying silos will both kill you in the end.

19/03/2010

Life is too short to drink crap wine.

In saying that, it is important to read that sentence carefully …I didn’t say ‘Life is too short to drink cheap wine’, or ‘LIfe is too short to drink any wine under £20 a bottle’.

Nope.

I said, ‘Life is too short to drink crap wine.’

I’ve discussed my love of wine, wine production, pretty well all things wine at some point or another in this blog and please let me reiterate …this is not about to become a ‘wine snob’ post nor a ‘wine snob’ blog.

Frankly, wine snobs bore me and, to be fair, I have had bottles of wine which retail for *cough* erm well …a lot …that I thought were crap every bit as much as I have had £4 bottles which I loved.  Equally, I’ve got plenty of other topics I could choose from to bore you without having to resort to wine snobbery …such as listening to live air traffic control from around the world on my iPod with headphones when Mrs. PL and PL Junior are asleep.  And that’s for starters.  Don’t act all surprised …you knew I was a geek of the highest order of technowwenism when you met me.

But back to wine.  See, there’s an awful lot of thought and talent which goes into making a bottle of wine …where to grow to capture the ‘terroir’, what kind of grapes to grow, when to plant, when to harvest …how much of the harvest to use …age in stainless steel or wooden barrels before bottling, if wood what kind of wood, when to bottle …you get the point.

Now …do you care?  As it happens, I do care and am happy to read/research, taste, visit wineries, blah blah.  But does the average punter give a badger’s backside?  I’m guessing a resounding no.

I think the average person …if they’re in the mood for wine …wants to buy a quality bottle of wine at the best cost they can.  The rest is, as they say, commentary.

To that end there are sommeliers in just about every restaurant you go to help you select a wine for your meal, and Masters of Wine who go through some seriously intensive training to achieve accreditation and then work in the wine industry …many MoW are employed as winemakers to make all of the difficult decisions above such that you get a quality bottle of wine at a decent price.  Just walk in (or log on) and buy a bottle or two you fancy, open, enjoy!

What’s this got to do with Data Storage and Protection?

I am convinced that, as with wine, people like simplicity and transparency when making decisions and would prefer to consume a finished product as opposed to being forced to cobble things together.

Fancy planting vines, hand plucking the harvest, and stomping grapes just to have a nice drop with dinner tonight?  Yeah, me neither.

Since my posts about the virtualised datacentre and the impact VDCs will likely have on corporate technology, I’ve had quite a few queries and comments with many querying ‘just what is a VDC and how is it different to the way we consume IT today’ so I thought I would have a go at explaining some of this whilst I’m waiting for our bottle of claret to breathe for tonight’s dinner.

1.   By 2012, 20% of organisations/businesses will own no IT assets. This is a recent statistic from Gartner and it certainly has the ‘wow’ factor as it would seem to indicate that business consumption of cloud based technology will accelerate.  I generally agree with that statement, but I feel that hype, security concerns, and a lack of demonstrable cost benefit over an extended period of time have all played a part in customers taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to moving IT functions into the cloud.  Virtualised datacentres [VDCs] give us a ‘bridge’ to private/public/federate cloud of the not to distant tomorrow whilst giving us demonstrable cost savings today and in perpetuity.

2.  Virtualised Datacentres [VDCs] are integrated solution stacks. VDCs, and they come in many flavours … VCE vBlock, VCN NetApp Virtualise Anything, IBM Dynamic Infrastructure, HP Converged Infrastructure or indeed some other ‘open flavour’ comprised of multiple vendors …are designed to work at a greatly reduced cost over traditional siloed architectures much in the same way as the bottle of wine we discussed earlier.  A VDC has server compute, server virtualisation, network and network virtualisation, storage, and automation all a single contiguous unit which works as such.  In the past we would have sought to find best of breed server, best of breed hypervisor, best of breed network, best of breed storage …all at the ‘right‘ price …coupled with the complexity of all of the decisions required for each component selection …and whacked them together and hoped they worked.  Is it any wonder why we get such low utilisation and high support / total cost of ownership challenges from traditional architectures?

3.  VDCs are largely comprised of technologies which we use and deploy today. Much as our competitors may try to convince customers otherwise, VDCs are not made of special plutonium 239 isotopes sold in exclusive lead lined boxes.  Rather, they are blueprint reference architecture designs made up largely of existing components [e.g. Cisco UCS blades, Cisco MDS network fabric, Cisco Nexus, VMware, IONIX, and EMC vMax] which are compiled by a service provider such as Computacenter to work as an integrated unit.  The key difference is the VDC is designed to allow for consumption as a unit as opposed to each component being consumed separately.  For example, a the unit would automatically deploy everything required for project manager to run a new application …server, network, storage, etc.

4.  Virtualisation on its own is not a workload, it is an enabler and component technology of a VDC. But I’ve already got VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V, so I guess I don’t need a VDC?  Not quite.  VMware and server/desktop virtualisation is certainly a key component of a VDC …but so is network virtualisation, universal server compute, storage and storage virtualisation, automation …you get the picture.  Equally, the question shouldn’t be ‘how much VMware can I run on a VDC’ as VMware isn’t a workload …an application is.  So the question should be, ‘how many applications, users, at what response speed, over what distance, and at what cost per user’ can said VDC support.

5.  Why take two small steps forward which will unlikely cover the chasm you seek to breach when a large leap has a higher probability of success? It may be that you don’t have the budget to implement or migrate to a VDC today, but working with service providers such as Computacenter we can show you just exactly how you would demonstrably reduce costs both in the immediate and in perpetuity.  Armed with this information, why not ‘draw a line in the sand’ to make the leap which will slash costs and plan implementation/migration of VDC components today with a view to full VDC integration sooner rather than later?  Isolated small steps such as server virtualisation or  storage virtualisation could be far more useful as part of a greater ‘march to VDC’ strategy.

As always, please contact me directly if you would like a VDC demonstration or help in taking the VDC journey.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

First, execute with urgency. The rest is commentary.

05/03/2010

‘Real artists ship.’ – Steve Jobs

‘Just do it.’ – Nike

‘To be is to do.’ – Socrates

‘To do is to be.’ – Sartre

‘Do be do be do.’ – Sinatra

I’ve talked before about my desire to lose weight and the ‘eureka’ moment when I realised that the answer was in front of me the whole while, but I must admit …even with the best of intentions I haven’t lost as much weight as I would like.  Yeah, okay …a few pounds here and there …which always prompt Mrs. PL to offer to sew up the hole in my trousers from whence I’ve lost three pounds …har de har har.  The brutal truth is that I need to increase my outgoings and reduce my incomings to lose weight, and that requires me to take control of my diary and make time for taking exercise.

I suppose you could say my challenge is execution over intent …in other words, to just get on with it and do.

You could describe me as a ‘doer’ in many other aspects of my life, but I’ve always had a problem with ‘doing’ when it comes to things that don’t interest me terribly.  And let’s face it, exercise isn’t overly exciting.  But I’ve always had a deep respect for anyone who is a ‘doer’ no matter the circumstances, and one such doer whom I’ve come to respect deeply is one of our account managers …Rob MacAlister.

For reasons that entirely escape me, Mr. MacAlister has decided he would like to visit the North Pole.  Now, that in and of itself would normally be interesting …but Rob has decided to race to the North Pole.

Yes, you read that right.

And he’s spending the next year in training …you know, dragging a 75kg tire around Richmond Park, eating freeze dried Pot Noodles, spending hours on end in walk in freezers to acclimate his body to extreme cold, that sort of thing.  I know, I can think of about a million other hobbies I would prefer to have, but hey …it makes him happy and I applaud anyone with this level of dedication.

Rob is a doer, and rather than talk the talk (how many of us have made pint sozzled plans to rule the universe with mates in a pub?!) he is going to walk the walk.  Applied for and received sabbatical.  Train for a year.  Diet for a year …no boozin‘ or ciggies (prolly for the best in any case)!  Six weeks away from his wife and young family racing 350+ nautical miles in -40C.

Rob, I take my ten gallon yarmulke off to you my friend and Godspeed.

If you want to follow Rob, his blog can be found here http://robmacalister.blogspot.com/

What does this have to do with Data Storage and Protection?

One of the storage customer blogs I read regularly is Grumpy Storage written by the inimitable ianhf.  Ian always writes things as he sees them and rarely sugar coats anything.  He wrote a post …actually, it’s damn near a manifesto …towards the end of 2009 called ‘Show Me the Money! (Information)’ and what Ian wrote in this post has been swirling round in my head since the first time I read it.  If you’re in technology, this is essential reading on how to engage and actively work with your customers in a positive fashion …actually, thinking on that, Ian’s commentary is applicable for just about any business you might be in!

I wanted to pick up on point 13, however where Ian writes …”I need electronic copies of any & all materials discussed or presented – no exceptions, without this I can’t use it as reference material in my internal strategy planning. If you hide behind “it’s beyond NDA”, or “NDA prohibits” then I’ll interpret that as “you don’t trust me personally or respect me professionally” and the relationship will be difficult from then on.”

I personally struggled with this one a bit when I first read it as I meet with all of our vendor partners frequently under NDA, and I wouldn’t ever wish to betray their confidence …but I could empathise with where Ian was coming from.

Then it occurred to me …what is an NDA really but protecting intent over execution.

Time was, not so long ago, that within data storage specifically and technology generally that if you came upon an idea such as thin provisioning, data deduplication, automated storage tiering, or data compression you could pretty well rest assured that you had a good 18 months before anyone could bring anything similar to market.

So you used an NDA to protect yourself from competition long enough so you could launch your product, as well as protection from someone launching something that seemed similar when you did but in actuality wasn’t as good.  Customers hate esoteric FUD based arguments …see Ian’s point 12 if you don’t believe me …so you prolly don’t want to be having a ‘but mine goes to eleven’ type argument with customers.

What’s the answer?  For me I think the answer lies in reversing the intent over execution equation with customers.

  1. Show me, don’t tell me. I hate slides and slideware presentations generally, but I recognise their use as a medium for delivering information.  But that shouldn’t be the whole presentation, in fact I would reserve slides for ‘handouts’ post meeting.  Why not show someone what you’re talking about with a videoed demo?  I could give you slides to articulate automated storage provisioning, or I could just show you.  Watch this space as we’ll make similar videos for containerisation, container mobility, and secure multitenancy for virtualised datacentres.  Just don’t expect me to schlep a 75kg bit of vulcanised rubber around the Solution Centre like Rob will be in Richmond Park.
  2. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. ROI/TCO calculators are great and very useful, but in the end they are nothing more than numbers which have most likely started in a lab and may or may not have field referenceability.  Firstly, I think we as an industry should stand by cost reductions by underwriting them and, if we’re wrong …we’ll write you a cheque.  Secondly, the TCO data should be field referenceable …and the iPod/iPhone app we’re developing for virtualised datacentres will have the ability to reference the most up to date field TCO data every time you use it.
  3. Let customers consume information when they wish, how they wish. Part of the reason we’re developing an iPod/iPhone app is to allow customers to interact with TCO modelling, virtualised datacentre demonstrations, virtualised datacentre components, application containers moving between our virtualised datacentre and another in the USA ..all without me hovering over you!  Seriously, though …I believe customers want to consume information in ways that are useful to them, and this requires us to present information and data in ways that allow this.

Execution drives true value, intention tells me you might (or might not) get there one day.

I hope you’ll join me in execution and perhaps someday NDAs will become a thing of the past.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.