Archive for March, 2011

Is your array easy enough to manage for a four year old?

14/03/2011

Sixty Second Synopsis

Customers are rapidly moving from having a storage strategy to having a data strategy. This is important as the criteria for a storage strategy, i.e. ‘how do I store more stuff’, are fundamentally different from a data strategy which seeks to provide more intelligent management, access, security, and ultimately looks to move data from a cost centre to a wealth generator.

Many thanks to those of you, from customers to colleagues to vendor partners and all points in between, who have asked ‘why aren’t you blogging’?

I honestly thought that it had only been a few weeks, but on closer inspection realised it had been almost eight weeks!  So, why haven’t I been blogging comes down to a few things …and it certainly isn’t that I don’t have an opinion on data, technology, okay just about anything! …but without sounding too Eddie Haskell on the point I have a fantastic job that I love working for a great company and things have been a bit ‘busy’ as of late.

But that is no excuse, so from this post consider me back on at least a weekly basis …perhaps more moving forward …and feel free to applaud, sigh, or hit the delete button as appropriate.

As I was getting ready to write this post, it occurred to me that there has been an interesting and recurring theme of ‘back again’ since I last blogged.

Steve Jobs left his post as CEO of Apple on indefinite medical leave …only to return, if but briefly, to launch the iPad 2.

Speaking of iPads, my iPad left me (or, more to the point …I left it) on the DLR as I was travelling to present at Cisco Live …only to come back to me barely a fortnight later.

Eric Schmidt left Google …with Larry Page back again as CEO.

I plan to blog about these and similar topics over the next few weeks, but I wanted to come back to something interesting that happened to me after I returned from Barcelona on business this week.  I came home to find Mrs. PL on her iPad in bed …at 01:00 in the morning. Playing Doodle Jump.

‘Hello dear …erm, perhaps it’s time to put the iPad away and go to bed?’

No answer.

‘Sweetheart? Don’t you want to hear how my business trip was and I’d love to hear about what you and PL Junior got up to.’

‘Shhhh. I’m trying to concentrate.’

‘I see that. How long have you been playing?’

‘Erm …dunno, about three hours I think.’

‘Right, okay …and time to go to bed now perhaps?’

‘I’m not going to bed until I beat PL Junior’s Doodle Jump score. Little blighter scored 49,000 whilst you were away!’

I should note that PL Junior is four years old.

What’s this got to do with data storage and protection?

I must admit, I’m not surprised to learn that my four year old son has become the title holder for a video game in our home …after all, he is a third generation geek and my first video game was ‘Star Trek’ on an IBM mainframe …albeit I was eight years old.

Now, I should mention that we don’t let PL Jnr sit around playing video games all day long …he is limited to weekends only and then only for limited periods of time …but he has only ever known the ease of the Apple iOS, Sony PS3, and Nintendo Wii interfaces and so I do wonder if this has something to do with his intuitive interaction and play.

I was reminded of this as I was reading a great post by storage blogger Storagebod who equated the different storage vendors and their array management interfaces with different video gaming platforms and games …and it got me thinking on a few things.

1. Data storage arrays are becoming more application centric.

Data proliferation or, put more simply, the enormous amount of data being created every day, means that amongst many challenges data management remains very high on the list of items keeping customers awake at night. However, I do see an interesting and positive trend in the data storage market right now as storage vendors move towards more application centric arrays …in other words, array management which caters more towards how the users need to consume and manage data from an application perspective [e.g. ‘How do I add more Exchange users?’] and less from a storage perspective [e.g. ‘How do I create disk groups, RAID groups, LUNS?’].

NetApp has arguably been application centric for quite some time, and I was very impressed with the EMC megalaunch on 18 January where the new VNX and VNXe products were displayed and demoed which introduced application centric management to the EMC product lines. This isn’t necessarily a new trend, but certainly one that I see taking more centre stage in the months and years to come as customers demand ever greater ease of use for their data systems …less geek more cowbell, if you will.

There’s much more I could talk about here with regards to unified storage, application integration, cloud integration, and management simplification but I’ll leave these to future blog posts.

2. If you think you’re user interface is simple enough, give it to a four year old.

One of the things that made me chuckle during the EMC megalaunch was when they let a fourth grader manage the VNX storage platform with an Apple iPad. Click here if you want to watch this, skipping to minute 32:00 of the presentation.

Now, managing storage platforms from Apple iOS devices is nothing new for us here at Computacenter …indeed, Alan Senior has been managing IBM XiV with his iPhone for over two years and was coding his own iOS app for storage management when I spoke with him last …but my point is that customers want simple and easy to use management interfaces for their data storage.

If you think your interface is easy enough for a fourth grader to use, ask yourself ‘but is it easy enough for a four year old to use?’ as this may be nearer the true litmus test.

Watch this space as I may find out first hand once we get our VNX series up and operable in the Hatfield Solution Centre.

3. Then again, why not automate the storage provisioning?

Ease of use and reducing management complexity in the user interface is important and a hot topic in the storage world, however we should also ask the question …why are we managing the data storage manually in the first place?

I’ve blogged about automated storage provisioning previously, and again this is going to be a hot topic and trend in data storage moving forward as customers will seek to implement Service Catalogues and automate as many services as is possible and practical.

Again, something I will be blogging about in the weeks and months to come.

4. As we continue towards more integrated solutions, transparency is everything.

Ease of management and reducing complexity with provisioning is only one part of this battle …another major part and, some would argue a much larger and more important aspect, is the transparency required to accurately and easily view the data being created, stored, application integration and access …and the associated costs.

There are no easy answers with this one, and I’ve blogged about this previously, however I think it is fair to assume that just as storage vendors are understanding that they need to do more to help users simplify provisioning and management so too do they need to provide more transparent tools for data consumption …particularly with the advent of virtual datacentre solutions such as VCE vBlock, NetApp FlexPod …and the cloud.

But that’s another post for another day.

Have a great week and, as always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance in helping you understand data storage.

-Matthew

 

 

 

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