As I started to write this blog entry I noticed that, whilst I knew I hadn’t blogged in a few weeks, the inertia of life has well and truly taken over recently as it has been almost five weeks since my last entry. Along with my normal day to day responsibilities, the last five weeks has seen an unfortunate death in the family, Mrs. PL embarking on the conversion of our garage into a proper playroom for PL Junior …she is a formidable project manager! …the deployment of our first virtualised datacentre [VDC], trying to enjoy the three days of English summer …you get the point! I’m just now getting back on top of things, more or less, so normal service will resume from this week and I apologise in advance as this week may see a ‘double’ entry as I try to get back to once a week entries each Friday at 17:00.
As we were clearing out the garage in preparation for the conversion I realised that Mrs. PL and I have a strange habit which could get us into trouble some day. Hold on, bear with me before you delete this more quickly than usual or I get invited for a brief ‘chat’ with HR! As we were clearing I was struck by the number of old magazines and catalogues we had amassed in the garage and the habit which led to this detritus.
Mrs. PL and I jokingly refer to our nasty habit as ‘catalogue porn’.
It is a nasty habit, possibly worse than biting my nails or picking my nose at traffic lights, which I was convinced only I was afflicted with before I met Mrs. PL. Yet one Sunday morning shortly after we got married, as I was filleting the papers and preparing to throw [or hide] the useless catalogues of rubbish we’ll never need or even know how to use …we didn’t have a garden at the time, but I still enjoyed perusing the odd ‘garden scarifier’ or two …when Mrs. PL looked at me and said ‘Don’t throw those away! I want to look at those’.
It was in this moment, as I looked at her lovingly, I realised that amongst all that we already shared we also shared a perverse desire to look at catalogue upon catalogue of useless items. I could come out of the closet, free at last to indulge my secret habit in full view of the world safe in the knowledge I was no longer alone.
But that was quite a few years ago and things have moved on a bit for Mrs. PL and I in the strange world of catalogue porn. We have our favourites, such as Pedlars …otherwise known as ‘I saw you coming dot com’ in our house …and even have a bit of a game challenging each other to find the most outrageous claims and/or marketing hyperbole. At present I’m in the lead with ‘Nutrileum’ …what in the name of my giddy aunt is that? what, washing my hair with a substance rumoured to require heavy water and centrifuges to produce? …but Mrs. PL is coming up fast with skin cream ‘pentapeptides’ and their related nonsense.
What’s this got to do with data storage and protection?
Whilst there is the obvious space that our catalogues ‘o crap take up prior to our getting round to throwing them away, the real danger posed by our habit is the very real possibility that …sooner or later …we’re going to buy something from one of these ‘I saw you coming dot com’ merchants.
Why is that a danger? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but let’s face facts …the scientific ‘fact’ used to sell this rubbish, when ‘facts’ are even bothered to be used that is, is a bit shady. I say shady …statistically meaningless would be a more accurate description. One advert actually states ‘of 84 people polled’ …84 people?! Ideally a poll should have a sample size of 3,000 to 10,000 to be statistically meaningful …and don’t get me started on randomised distribution! Suffice it to say, most adverts with their ‘polls’ are about as meaningful as me running in to my local and yelling ‘oi, who likes booze?!’.
But I digress.
We find something similar in technology generally and in storage specifically where I think that sometimes we focus too much on the ‘razzle dazzle’ as opposed to the business benefits. And yes, I admit I sometimes suffer from this as well! No comments re my obsession with productivity apps and iPads, thanks, I am all too familiar with my own shortcomings.
1. Make it statistically meaningful for the customer.
I don’ think that there’s anything wrong with talking about the potential positive effects or business benefits of a technology, so long as you either ‘show your work’ or state that the data may not be available as yet. For instance, if you’re going to talk about data deduplication and the transformative effects it can have on a customer’s environment by reducing costs …and that you have 522 implementations around the world …don’t you think it would be useful to state ‘we have reduced our customer’s costs by xy% on average’ and back that up with field data? Yeah, me too. I’ll continue to challenge our vendor partners on this point and we’re also keen to collect this ROI and TCO data ourselves moving forward.
2. Leave the awesomesauce at home, what’s the benefit?
I fully recognise that I’m a geek and, whilst I often think I’m speaking proper English …albeit slightly accented, admittedly …I may not be speaking in a language easily understood by others. I’m paid to stay in front of technology and understand not just today’s movements but the technologies of tomorrow most likely to benefit our customers. But. There’s always a but, isn’t there? This must be translated into business benefit for our customers, and I’ve noticed that there are folks in technology who would prefer to focus on the ‘I can move a bit faster than you my competitors’ ‘this one goes to eleven’ style of value description. Some of our customers call this ‘awesomesauce’. Sunshine is the best antiseptic, so why not be clear about business benefit? Geeks like me need to understand the ins and outs of the technology, but we shouldn’t lose sight of aligning technology to business value.
3. One size fits all?
Just as I’m sure there are men in the world who can carry off skin tight spangly leggings …I’m not one of them as you’ll likely have gathered. Equally, I am not aware of a single ‘one size fits all’ storage technology. IBM XiV might be appropriate for a customer given certain criteria, where NetApp might be more appropriate for another or EMC vMax for yet another. This is where true consultancy comes into play and, if I’m honest, we need to work with a customer re the immediate and future challenges in an interactive way that RFPs don’t often satisfy. Early engagement, in my humble opinion, is key.
4. The only constant in a customer environment is inertia.
Nothing wrong with inertia, but just because we’ve done a good job of engaging with the customer and articulating how we believe we can help we shouldn’t underestimate the power of how things have been done before or presently. This is where the Solution Centre in Hatfield, our £10m investment in the technologies we’re discussing, comes into its own. A Virtualised Datacentre [VDC] might very well be the right answer, but there will surely be the need to test workloads and proposed solutions; it most likely won’t be the technology but, rather, people and processes that will catch you out if you haven’t tested properly.
5. Show me the Nutrileum.
As I’m keen to discuss in future posts, I fundamentally believe that VDCs will help to solve many more customer issues than they may potentially introduce. At a bare minimum I believe that they can reduce IT costs by as much as 30% – 50% or more. But here’s the rub …we just don’t have the field referenceable statistics to support these claims as yet. You can rest assured we will collect these stats as we deploy VDCs for our customers, but in the interim I think it is possible to build a business case based upon field referenceable statistics available from components of a VDC. We should be able to add £xx saved from server virtualisation plus £yy saved from grid storage plus £zz saved from network convergence and so on to show a cost benefit over a five year period post VDC deployment, and I see nothing wrong with being honest and up front about where these statistics come from.
If you’ve stayed with me to the end, thanks for reading and I hope that this has been useful as, truth be told …that’s the only reason I blog, hoping that what I’ve learned may be of interest and use to others.
Right, Mrs. PL and I have some catalogues to be getting on with so until next time dear reader.