Archive for June, 2010

#awesomesauce isn’t cricket, part two.

21/06/2010

Whilst we are in the throes of one of the most wide open World Cups in memory with some predictable results and some less so …Switzerland beat favourites Spain one nil?! …Germany lose to Serbia one nil after having trounced Australia four nil?! …Brazil predictably found their ‘gear’ and now look to be getting on form …and understanding our all important qualifier with Slovenia on Wednesday afternoon …please excuse me for taking us back to cricket for a few moments.  If you missed the first part in this two part series, click here.

I promised to give you four more reasons why #awesomesauce isn’t cricket in addition to the first I began a fortnight ago so let’s get going before that kickoff on Wednesday.

2. The whole will always be greater than the sum of the parts.

One of the things I love about cricket is the consistency and concentration required for a good batter to become a great batter …standing at the crease for hours to score his century, and the like.  In that respect, being a great batter means being able to hit against different bowlers, deliveries, in differing conditions …consistently.

Whilst there have been some significant improvements in data storage over the past five years in the form of thin provisioning, data deduplication, grid, and so on I wouldn’t look at any of these developments as saviours in and of themselves.  What many of them represent are the evolution of data storage technologies and not the revolutions which the marketing hyperbole would have you blieve.  Equally, I must admit that I struggle when I see either a vendor partner presentation or customer RFP which seems intent on focussing on just one particular feature as opposed to what a complete feature set would deliver over not just an ROI period but, rather, over a period of five years.

I’m not saying that our vendor partners shouldn’t be proud of what they develop to help customers, but I do think that to focus on just one feature …or call it a ‘product’ …runs the very real risk of devaluing a positive by turning it into #awesomesauce.

3. A good cricket captain knows his side so he can select a great batting order and setup his fielders as conditions change.  So too should our customers have a usable Service Catalogue for IT which focusses on much more than simply cost.

We have some exceptionally talented Service Designers in Computacenter, so I won’t pretend to be an expert in the design and implementation of Service Catalogues and leave that to our experts …but what I do know is that as IT has evolved so too have our business challenges …and Service Catalogues aren’t just for managed/outsourcing contracts, they have much to offer the day-to-day running of IT within a modern organisation.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that a good Service Catalogue is the foundation to an organisation utilising their internal IT department as a true service provider as opposed to treating it as a cost centre.

So what is a Service Catalogue?  I think Chris Evans …the Storage Architect, not the ginger bloke from Radio Two …has written what I would consider to be one of the easiest to understand and well written definitions on the subject.  In fact, Chris has taken the time to write a series of posts on what he calls the ‘Four Pillars of Storage Management’ which are well worth a read.

My short view is that when we are discussing data storage in the context of a Service Catalogue we need to be focussing on what the storage needs to do and, ideally, how much we would like to pay per user per year as opposed to selecting #awesomesauce componentry.

How would we do this?  Well, there are many ways but I would start with defining the workload …how quickly do users require response time? …in the event of an outage, to what point do we need to return [Recovery Point Objective, or RPO]? …in the event of an outage, how quickly should we be able to recover to the RPO [Recovery Time Objective, or RTO]? … and so on.  The answers to these queries will enable us to define the storage infrastructure required to support the workload(s) and fit into the Service Catalogue along with compute, network, application, et al.

4. Watching live cricket will always trump watching on the telly but, either way, show me.

I’m not a huge fan of slideware as it is often a two dimensional solution to what is a three dimensional challenge.  Our customers rarely have 2D issues which can be solved by my throwing some slides at them, so to my mind slides should be aide-mémoire as opposed to the solution.

So what should we be using as opposed to slides?  I don’t think this is a zero sum game, so in addition to any slides I think we should be showing our customers live demos where possible …and demo videos where they aren’t possible.  In an ideal world, the demo would be using the customer application, data, etc.

Demos give us the ability to describe the why and how as opposed to what …I could describe why I love cricket, or I could take you to Lord’s and you could see cricket for yourself and decide.

Do demos always come 100% right in the first instance?  Not in my experience!  And that is half of the ‘fun’ …working with a customer so that they can see the solution for what it is and decide if the why of our solution is sufficient for selection.

Heck, even Steve Jobs has a demo fail every now and again.  And I’m not sure that I’ll reach the lofty heights of having a demo fail in front of millions of users, analysts, and the like!

5. What are you spending today and how will this enable me to spend less both now and over the next five years?

Finally, in what may be the most challenging of the sequence …what are you spending on data storage today?  If we understand this metric, we should next calculate the cost benefit of deploying the storage solution over the next five years.

We would of course need to understand how much data is being created …known as the CAGR or Compound Annual Growth Rate …such that we would be able to understand how much data storage will cost us at the present rate of growth multiplied by the amount we are spending per GB, per TB, per user, what have you.

And, to be fair …if we can’t show how the proposed solution will reduce the storage spend over the next five years, we do have to ask ourselves …is this solution appropriate, or have we just found ourselves some #awesomesauce which is best avoided?

Right, Mrs. PL is giving me ‘the look’ which means time to wrap this up and take PL Junior to school and then off to work so have a great week and COME ON ENGERLAND!

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#awesomesauce isn’t cricket, Part One.

07/06/2010

Before I get started with this week’s Weekly View, quite a few people have asked me how the VDC: VCE vBlock 2 launch went on Friday 21 May.  I’ve thought a lot about the answer as I don’t wish to appear flippant, so I’d say we should be pleased …but not satisfied.  There were many positives, indeed it isn’t every day that we get Simon Walsh and a vendor partner MD in Adrian McDonald of EMC to host an exclusive customer launch for a market leading solution where we continue to hold first mover advantage.  Of the forty customers who had confirmed to attend only three didn’t show to an event held on a Friday from 13:00 – 15:30.  In Hatfield.  When it was 24C without a cloud in the sky.

And here I was convinced 50% of attendees wouldn’t show as they were firing up their barbecues!  My sincere thanks to the customers who came out and worked with us on the day.

Not a single customer dropped out through the presentation and demos, and what was fascinating to me was that after we had presented the solution and during the panel Q&A with Simon, Adrian, Paul Casey, a customer from a legal firm, Chris Vance of Cisco, and yours truly …not a single customer asked why deploy a virtualised datacentre but, rather, how and when.  There were some great customer queries and the Q&A could have easily gone on for another hour …needless to say, we learned as much from the questions being asked as perhaps attendees did from the answers being given.  Heck, we even impressed an analyst from IDC who said in an email after the event, “It was an excellent event. To see the vBlock system in operation, plus the evident commitment and expertise of CC, was a very compelling proposition.”

We also launched the eagerly anticipated Optimised Environment app, based on the original VDC cube.  Click here to view a brief video of the Optimised Environment app in action!

Watch out for more VDC customer events as we continue to build VDC solutions in the Solution Centre and, as always, feel free to bring your customers to Hatfield for presentations and demonstrations of our VDC solutions.

And so it was perhaps the 24C weather which got me thinking about cricket and my getting engaged to Mrs. PL in what seems like a world away.

I met the future Mrs. PL, born and raised in London, when I was working in Ireland [long story, but I promise to tell it in the Weekly View someday if you like] and I’ll never forget a brief conversation I overhead between herself and a family friend during our engagement party.

‘So tell me, are you excited to be getting married?’

‘Yes, absolutely …and I’m delighted that he was born in the United States.’

‘Really, how so?’

‘Well, I’ve always wanted to live in Manhattan and I’d be eligible for a passport …and then there’s the fact that I won’t be a football, rugby, or cricket widow!’

Hope may have been permanently dashed after Mrs. PL and I had a long chat about how living in NYC is nothing like ‘Sex and the City’ and I much prefer London.  Couple this with the fact that I woke up at 05:00 on our honeymoon in St. Lucia so I could watch a French TV transmission from Martinique of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, have a season ticket to Watford FC, and have got into more than one ‘robust discussion’ with Mrs. PL when I refused to go out due to a key cricket test and you can see why perhaps Mrs. PL is somewhat peeved at having thought marriage to an immigrant meant freedom from sporting widow status.  Best not to discuss living arrangements for the forthcoming World Cup.

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

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that I love cricket.  Indeed, I can think of no better way to spend a day than watching the cricket with cucumber sandwiches and jugs of Pimms and, whilst I promise not to turn this Weekly View into a cricket column, how can you not love a sport which takes lunch and tea intervals?!

But when I say cricket, I mean cricket of the test variety.  Try as I might, I just can’t get into the Twenty20 nor One Day International varieties.  I suppose this is because I am fascinated by the strategy and skill required to win a test and a test series which could be papered over or prove not relevant in the shorter Twenty20 and ODIs.  The preparation to win an Ashes series, from the strategy to team selection to batting order and the captain’s field plan, can often begin years in advance.

Having been born in the United States I do have an appreciation for cricket’s distant cousin in American baseball, but there is one critical difference between the two …with baseball a team can not do particularly well for 8 and a half innings and then, but a stroke of luck [no pun intended] a solid hit here and there loads the bases.  Send in your designated batting lumper and hey, presto …you’ve won the game.  With cricket, it’s all about consistency.  You have to have a batting order comprised of batsmen who can stand at the crease and bat for hours against all types of deliveries and delivery speeds.  There really is no lucky ‘home run’ concept to be found in cricket.

One of my favourite cricket books which has much to teach not only about cricket but about life and business is The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley where many of the concepts I’ve described above are discussed in great detail.  My other favourite cricket book is Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson as I suppose I hold out hope that as PL Junior gets older I’ll have the good fortune to live a vicarious cricketing life through him or even get the chance to play with other cricket fanatics who are more than likely a bit hopeless when it comes to actually playing.

But I digress …I see many parallels between the skills and strategy required to win at cricket as I do with the design and execution of data storage specifically and virtualised datacentres generally.

I’ll discuss one of them now with a view to completing this series in next week’s Weekly View.

1. Without a plan, it becomes difficult to direct resources efficiently and effectively …particularly when events change ‘on the ground’.

No great test series, from the great Ashes Bodyline Tour of 1932-1933 to the closely fought Ashes of 2005 which saw the Ashes returned to England for the first time in 18 years, were won by individual heroics alone.  Rather, the planning began years in advance of the series with different scenarios played out well beforehand to ensure consistency if indeed events changed on the ground.

This equally, if even more true, with data storage.  As I’ve discussed in recent posts, nothing is designed to deliver miracles …especially data storage.  Whilst others in our industry may choose to think differently, my view is that thin provisioning, data deduplication, automated storage provisioning, automated storage tiering such as FAST, zero page reclamation are technology enablers and not saviours.

How you use these technologies is probably of far greater importance than what they actually are.

Having a storage strategy which looks at what the current business issues are, what they might be in the future, budget considerations, and so on is of prime importance.  I’ve discussed how we look at these variables and design solutions in other posts and we also have a Storage Assessment & Strategy Service including a customer free to use Storage Resource Analysis portal.

In keeping with the theme of cricket and test series, we’ll complete this series by reviewing four more parallels between cricket and technology in next week’s Weekly View.

-Matthew

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