Posts Tagged ‘aligning data to business value’

The Hanukkah Armadillo and predictions for 2010.

18/12/2009

PL Junior is three years old and a bit, and I thought I’d share an interesting conversation from Friday last week, which was the first night of Hanukkah, whilst I was driving PL Junior to school.

‘Daddy, when will it be dark?’

‘Not until this evening, I’m afraid.  Why do you ask?’

‘Is tonight Hanukkah?’

‘Yes, it is …as soon as the sun goes down.’

‘When it gets dark we light the candles?’

‘Yes, are you excited?’

‘Um hmmm!  After the candles the Hanukkah Armadillo will come and sing me a lullaby.  And bring me presents!’

I start to laugh.  PL Junior isn’t.  He’s deadly serious.

‘Erm, sure. I suppose.‘  Not good to hurt a three year old’s feelings.  Best play along.

‘What else does the Hanukkah Armadillo do?’

‘He has flying powers, just like rocket!  And big jet!  And he comes down with presents each night of Hanukkah!  But he doesn’t like biscuits.  Only water and cucumbers.’

I dropped off PL Junior at school and then phoned Mrs. PL where, after we got done laughing, she tells me that she was channel hopping recently when she happened upon the Friends episode with the Holiday Armadillo.  It being one of her [and my] favourites, she watched and laughed.

PL Junior didn’t.  My father lives in Texas.  PL Junior thought it was real.  So, being a great mum, Mrs. PL decided to just go with it.  And thus was born the legend of the Hanukkah Armadillo in Casa PL.

My father just sent me an email offering to send a stuffed armadillo to place next to our menorah.

Thanks dad.

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

One of the many things that I love about living in the UK generally and London specifically is the amazing diversity and breadth of opinion.

I don’t know if there is such as thing as a Universal Truth other than to say that everyone I know and work with would describe family as being paramount.  It doesn’t really matter much if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Eid, Kwanzaa, Christmaskah, or Festivus …or none of these …you tend to do what you do because it makes you and your family happy.  And, frankly, how you observe or celebrate will often vary from family to family …who’s to say if there’s a ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way to do it?

Although I must say, there is a lot of merit in the Airing of Grievances around the Festivus pole.  But I digress.

As I’ve said before, I have a religion and it ain’t storage.  I’m not aware of any ‘one size fits all’ solution, but we have developed an equation and methodology which gives us as fair and equitable a way as I know for selecting and recommending solutions.  Just as families celebrate holidays in different ways so too do customers select and implement technologies.

That said, my predictions for 2010:

1.  The emergence of the virtualised datacentre.

What do you get if you add optimised storage, deduplication, storage compression, converged networks, virtualised servers, virtualised applications, integrated backup to disk/replication/tape storage, automation for the whole lot …I’m probably missing a few bits, but you get my point.  Whether you call it VCE Vblock, IBM Dynamic Infrastructure, NetApp Virtualise Everything, HP Converged Infrastructure, they’re all articulations of a virtualised datacentre.  We’re headed towards integrated and virtualised datacentres and one of the fascinating things about IT is stick around long enough and you’ll see the same ideas come back round.  We deconstructed the mainframe in pursuit of open systems, but now open systems are creaking under the load of data proliferation and low utilisation.  What to do?  Well, reconstruct the mainframe conceptually using integrated open systems.  And that’s what customers want …not necessarily flashy marketing schtick, but, rather a self healing/self tuning, policy based datacentre which allows customers to flex up/down depending upon market conditions with predictable and best costs and then sits invisibly in the corner and behaves!

2. Innovative products continue the march to becomes universal features.

There was a time when thin provisioning, data deduplication, disk spindown for underutilised disks, and automated storage tiering were products in their own right.  But if a product is so great that it demonstrably reduces costs and increases utilisation, shouldn’t it be a feature?  Exactly.  Which is why 2009 saw EMC, IBM, NetApp, HP, and HDS introduce or extend these technologies as features in their product sets.  And I don’t think that the list will stop there as I expect to see data compression enter as a feature in primary storage in 2010 as well.  Why should we care?  As features within an infrastructure we can use these technologies holistically, whether in a ‘branded’ virtualised datacentre or one composed of open products which work together seamlessly, to deliver storage at the most appropriate cost from creation to cremation with zero disruption to production business.

3. Server and desktop virtualisation are no longer incorrectly viewed as workloads.

VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V are good examples of server virtualisation, whilst VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop are good examples of desktop virtualisation.  Virtualisation of physical resources undoubtedly delivers higher utilisation and cost benefit, however virtualisation is a technology not a workload.  What’s the difference?  A workload is what you do with the technology, and everyone will do something slightly different with their workload based upon their business needs.  If you forget that and leave out the storage design and tuning, you may fail to achieve cost benefit at best or have to abandon the project at worst.  Don’t believe me though, have a read of this blog post by Chad Sakac, worldwide VP of VMware and all round virtualisation guru who is intimately involved with such deployments worldwide.

4. Grid storage / scale out storage take hold and never look back.

IBM XiV, EMC Vmax, NetApp ONTAP v8 …don’t look now, but everybody’s going grid.  Will it solve global warming, introduce world peace, and cuddle baby seals?  Not exactly.  But it will introduce self healing/tuning highly efficient and utilised storage at attractive price points using commoditised components …and become the bedrock of the virtualised datacentre.

5. Automation, automation, automation.

What use are virtualised servers, virtualised desktops, virtualised applications, self healing/tuning storage systems if you have to provision and manage them manually?  Precisely.  If you can’t automate it, chances are it will be left behind in the march towards the virtualised datacentre.  But don’t stop there as pure automation should give rise to …

6. Automation gives birth to policy based storage.

Remember aligning data to business value?  Of course you did!  Automation will remove the manual nature of managing IT and related resources, but customers don’t just want a conveyer belt of chocolates with Lucy and Ethel.  Automation which allows us to align a customer SLA and/or business value is what we truly want to deliver …policy based movement of data with zero disruption.

7. Customers continue to interact openly and publicly.  Are we listening?

Customers are speaking with us and our vendor partners publicly and openly in ways that we never could have anticipated through the use of technologies such as Twitter and blogs.  If you think that Twitter is just a platform for people to tell you what they’ve had for breakfast, you’ve missed the point entirely.  These platforms are a way for end users/customers to interact with one another as well as business partners efficiently. Storagebod, an end user at a major media company, took the time to write six individual letters to Father Christmas regarding what he would like to see from vendorsIanhf, an influential end user at a major telecoms company, took the time to write about what he expects from business partners.  Think you’re Elite?  See if you can get through all 17 of Ianhf’s points saying ‘yes, we/I do that’.  I’m not sure that I can, and that’s the point …by actively reading and engaging with what our customers are saying we and vendors have two choices …ignore it and continue making products / delivering services which customers find shoddy, or listen and strive to evolve and provide the products / services / solutions which make a difference to them in a positive way.  I know which one I’ll be choosing in 2010, otherwise we’re left just talking to ourselves and what fun or use is that?  Ignore customer public sentiment at your peril, as it would seem AT&T did in the USA with iPhone users.

8. England win the World Cup, Watford FC are promoted to the Premiership, and Mrs. PL stops yelling at me for snoring.

Okay, I kinda made that last one up but a PL can dream can’t he?  And who knows what 2010 will bring but what I do know is this …England, Watford FC, indeed all of us are in control of our destiny for the year ahead.

Have a great Christmas / Hanukkah / Diwali / Eid / Kwanzaa / Christmaskah / Festivus …none of the above …enjoy your holiday with your family and see you in 2010.

I’m off to light the last Hanukkah candle with Mrs. PL, PL Junior …and anxiously await the arrival of the Hanukkah Armadillo.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

Magic Quadrants are good, but working equations are better.

21/11/2009

For those of you who know me well …or have joined me for a Chief Wine Officer event …you’ll know that my two favourite hobbies which I’m most passionate about are aeroplanes and wine.  Not always in that order, and never enjoyed together as the Civil Aviation Authority takes a dim view of such interaction.

But I’ll tell you a secret …I don’t actually have a favourite bottle of wine, nor do I have any silly rules like ‘no bottle under £20’ or some such.  I admit that I do subscribe to Decanter, read Jancis Robinson online, and subscribe to more wine blogs and Twitter feeds than I care to mention.  Whilst data can be very useful, you always run the risk of ‘analysis paralysis’ and, at the end of the day …much of what is written about wine is frankly someone’s subjective opinion.

No, I firmly believe that wine should be had for enjoyment …and I’ve tasted exceptional wine at £5 as well as wine costing much more which I wouldn’t clean Mrs. PL’s motor engine with.  Equally, as each one of us has an idea of the tastes we like and don’t like …who am I to tell someone else whether a bottle is good or not?  All I can do is tell you if I like it, although this does introduce the small problem of what to serve at dinner parties or when Mrs. PL and I are sharing a bottle.

So, what to do?  I do have a little formula in my head that I use which takes things into account when I choose a bottle …why are we drinking this, is it a celebration or a weekday? …how much does it cost, and is that a fair price? …what kind of food are we eating, or are we not eating until later? …and so on.  I want to get on to the crux of this post, but at the bottom of this post there are a few wines which make the PL Wine List.

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

I’ll tell you another secret …contrary to what some might believe …including a few of our vendors …I don’t have a ‘favourite’ vendor or product any more than I have a favourite bottle of wine.  Without getting too Eddie Haskell about this, what is truly important to me …and I know I am far from alone in this within Computacenter …are our customers and how our solutions can help them remain competitive in their respective markets in the midst of a difficult economy.

Great, fantastic, huzzah.  But so what.  Isn’t that, you know …your job?  Indeed it is, but just as it can be difficult to select a wine for an occasion where it will be shared with others …how do we select a solution for a customer in a selective and demonstrably valuable way?

Some customers work directly with vendors and often use Gartner Magic Quadrants as a way to select their preferred solution.  Nothing wrong with that, but just as some winemakers and wineries are now openly criticising scoring systems they see as subjective scoring techniques such as the Robert Parker 100 Point Scale …so too are some vendors criticising the Gartner Magic Quadrants claiming the research methodologies are something less than scientific.  Indeed, a vendor recently brought a suit against Gartner claiming exactly this, with the suit having been initially thrown out but likely to be appealed.

Now, this post isn’t about criticising or having a go at Gartner or their Magic Quadrants …indeed, I applaud Gartner for being very open and transparent regarding their research techniques leaving folks to make up their minds for themselves.

That said, I believe research provided by companies such as Gartner to be but one part of the solution equation.

In an effort to inject more science into a solution decision, rather, I would argue that the solution equation should be expressed as [ROI] + [CBA] + [DPB] = CSS.

ROI, or Return on Investment.  How does our proposed solution return ROI within our customer’s stated period?  How can we leverage the existing infrastructure and investment to improve upon the ROI period?

CBA, or Cost Benefit Analysis.  Once the solution has been implemented, how much cost can be removed from our customer’s infrastructure and related budgets?  Exactly how will this be achieved (e.g. thin provisioning, data deduplication and/or data compression, storage virtualisation)?  What is the CBA not just for one to three years, but for five years from implementation?

DPB, or Disruption to Production Business.  What disruption is the recommended solution likely to have on the customer’s production business?

We give each of the above blocks …[ROI], [CBA], and [DPB] each a possible score of 100 such that a perfect solution would give us 300 expressed as CSS, or the Composite Solution Score.

How do we score each of the blocks such that we aren’t scoring subjectively?  Well, firstly we ensure that our data consultants retain the highest credentials in the industry …but we then couple their knowledge with a point system derived from IDC Storage v3.0 criteria as well as the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity Model.

The findings, CSS, are then presented to the customer in either a ‘leader table’ format or as an executive review comparative matrix based upon the vendor solutions the customer informed us they were most interested in.  In addition, the findings often form the basis on which we can offer to underwrite / gainshare the proposed cost savings for up to and including five years from implementation.

How do we do that, exactly?  Well, I can certainly provide you some samples but it does very much remain Computacenter intellectual property …and it probably doesn’t hurt to have a Practice Leader for Data Storage & Protection who studied neuroscience and Technology Leader for Data Consultants in Bill McGloin who studied applied mathematics.

Does it always work?  Yes …and no.  Just as people have reasons for liking or disliking different wines, so too customers will have reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with our findings.

But I believe this is just about the fairest way I know to present a proposed solution in an agnostic way …and, at the very least, absolutely articulates our value to a customer as a true service and solution provider.

As always, if you would like further assistance in taking this journey please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

PL Winter 2009/10 Wine List

If you like champagne as a pre-dinner drink or to celebrate, you won’t go far wrong with Heidseck Monopole Gold Top vintage 2004.  Always a quality drop, but at £19.99 from the normal £40 …or even £18.99 if you are near a Budgens …this is a steal!

If you are looking for something more ‘unique’ in the champers department, why not try Nyetimber?  Produced in Sussex, which has geographical features identical to the champagne region, this the the tipple good enough for Her Majesty to serve at the Royal Garden Parties.

I’m a huge fan of pinot noir from New Zealand, and you won’t go wrong with the bottle which won the International Wine Challenge for Best Red Wine, Wild Earth.  At £18 a bottle …and if you hunt around I’ve seen it as low as £13 …how affordable is the world’s best red wine?!

One of the most complex and interesting reds I’ve recently is Lillian Shiraz Mataro 2005.  At £11.75 a bottle, I challenge you to blind taste it and tell me it doesn’t taste about three times more expensive.  I’m stocking up on this one!

Finally, to round out the reds I give you Château Méaume ‘Château Matured’ 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur.  A bit of a mouthful for a wine costing a very affordable £8.99, yet if you open it 45 minutes before dinner I guarantee your guests will think you spent a whole lot more than that!

Chicken soup for the storage.

23/10/2009

Mrs. PL is an exceptionally good cook.  I don’t just say that because she is my wife, I say it because I fundamentally enjoy her food more than just about any restaurant I’ve ever been  to.  I won’t go so far as to blame my weight gain on her cooking …I’ve put on about 7 pounds give or take for each year we’ve been married …as I have nothing but a lack of self control, love of good wine, and inability to put down geek toys and take exercise to blame for that.  I’ve discussed exactly how this all happened here and here.

But I’m not the only one who gets the benefit and joy of Mrs PL’s exceptionally good food.  Mrs. PL runs the catering and prepared food side of the family business, a butcher shop in Edgware, cooks prepared meals and just about anything you can think of for customers and local organisations.  And many of them are as devoted followers of my wife’s culinary delights as I am!  Indeed, we were on holiday in Cannes several years ago when a woman walked up to as as we were walking down the croisette …a customer, as I was later to discover …and proceeded to order her cooked chicken, soup, roasted vegetables and all the trimmings for the Friday when she returned to London.

Now, Mrs. PL is always happy to help and is genuinely delighted when people enjoy her food.  What I admire most about her is that she also isn’t terribly precious about others knowing that it was her what cooked them their lovely meal.  I’ve been to houses and events where I have overheard the host accepting compliments for the meal they have cooked …I’ve even had the host not realise who I am and ask me if I’ve enjoyed his/her food.  To which I smile kindly and reply, ‘Yes, Mrs. [Insert Surname Here].  It was delightful!  Perhaps the best chicken I’ve ever eaten!’  It would probably be crude and overly cheeky to then inform her in mixed company that I’m sleeping with the chef.

What has this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

Mrs. PL really doesn’t give a jot if folks who buy her goods try to pass them off as their own.  She understands all too well just how difficult it is work and also manage a home, PL Junior, me with military precision …and also find time to cook great meals [Note: I’m not trying to be sexist here …I’m rubbish at cooking!].  The only time she does care is if she hears that someone didn’t like the food!  She prides herself on using quality ingredients and spending the time to make the food properly, so if someone has a complaint …she wants to know about it so she can ‘fix’ whatever process or ingredient has led to a possible perception of substandard quality.

I have sometimes heard the term ‘reseller’ used at industry trade shows and even by customers as if it were a four letter word.  Now, I don’t disagree that there are resellers in our industry who have failed to add value, recommend a solution based solely upon the margin they reckon they’ll get from a particular vendor over another, or just won’t work with customers such that they are recommending and implementing solutions which are of real and demonstrable value …which reduce risk, not introduce it.  But we’re not one of them.  In fact, I would go so far as to say …we’re not a reseller, we’re a service and solution provider.  I’m not alone in this, either …my boss hates us being called a ‘reseller’ only slightly less than I hate being called ‘Matt’.

That said, I am not advocating that we make sandwich boards which say ‘We’re awfully nice folks and can add value to your business!’ and go picket our customers.  Nor do I believe we should be so arrogant as to say ‘well, we’re £1.35b company so we must know what we’re talking about!’

So what makes us different from ‘resellers’ and how can we articulate our value to customers and vendor partners alike?

Firstly, I fundamentally know that we recommend solutions based upon the demonstrable cost reductions and optimisation we bring to customers through programmes such as Sharpen Your Business.  How?  Well, one key way is by simplifying the messaging during the sales cycle.  Note that this doesn’t mean diluting the messaging, but let’s be honest …customers don’t particularly care about zero page reclamation, or automated storage tiering, or data deduplication in the same technoweenie ‘indulge my inner geek’ way that I do.  Want they want to know is …how will this solution help me reduce costs and optimise my business?  We have answers to those queries, and that is what our internal sales Masterclasses and related sales enablement are all about.  Equally, watch this space as I’m developing collateral to help our sales folks articulate how these technologies reduce costs and optimise business in language business folks will understand and relate to.

Secondly, remember [ROI] + [CBA] + [DPB] = [CSS]?  Click here if you need a quick refresher, but when we’re working with vendors we need to understand …how will your solution positively affect the return on investment for our customers?  How will your solution positively reduce CapEx and OpEx costs for our customers, expressed in a cost benefit analysis?  Let’s not get too wrapped up in how fast we can whiz a zero or one from point A to point B …that’s what I’m here for, as is our data consultancy team …but, rather, challenge our vendor partners to help our customers understand how specifically their solutions will work in the equation above.  As always, I’m available to help our customers …and anyone else who wishes …understand this more fully.

Finally, we shouldn’t be in any way dismissive about how, no matter how insanely great and safe our recommended solution may be, customers may feel regarding perceived risk within a Computacenter recommended solution.  Given we do this day in and day out, it can sometimes be easy to forget that whilst we may see the benefits of automated storage provisioning with a grid storage architecture …if you’ve never seen such a solution before, all you may see is risk, more risk, and complexity.  Our job …with support from me and the consultants …is to take our customer on the journey, using all the tools we have at our disposal.  Short demo videos, which are currently in production …cost models that show that for a £1.3m expenditure, you’ll save £2.0m per annum each year for five years …demonstrable customer reference sites.  You get the point I’m sure.  That said, I think the ‘secret sauce’ is in our ability to underwrite and gainshare with selected customers once we have agreed it necessary to cover the risk potential.  We reckon you’ll save £2.0m per annum and, if you don’t …we’ll write you a cheque*.  Now, don’t get me wrong …I wouldn’t necessarily lead with this message as it should be seen and appreciated a tool and not a gimmick, but I’m convinced that this empathetic and credible offer is unique in the marketplace.

And sets us apart from our competition …the ‘resellers’ …thus articulating our unique value to our customers and our vendor partners alike.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

*Conditions apply!

The future is Automatic For The People.

16/10/2009

Donʼt think I can fit useful storage information in to succinct ideas? Follow me on Twitter and watch me try with just 140 characters! http://twitter.com/mpyeager

Iʼm pretty sure that Iʼve talked about this previously, but of all the jobs I have the one which I feel is most important …and the one that, frankly, I enjoy the most …is being a father. Not a Franciscan, mind you …although I dig the robes, kind of reminds me of Jedis …but being introduced as ʻPL Juniorʼs daddyʼ.  Donʼt get me wrong, I love being a PL and all around technoweenie helping our customers and working for Computacenter, but someday in the (hopefully!) far distance I will retire, whereas being a father has a bit more permanence about it.  Folks have sometimes asked for photos of PL Junior, so here you go …click
here …or here for one with a very fetching hat.  His name is Louis, after my wifeʼs grandfather who started the family business over 100 years ago in Edgware.

One of my favourite pastimes is to watch Louis learn new things as heʼs growing up.  Many of the things that we take for granted every day are just not that easy when youʼre learning them for the first time …Louis looking more like he was throwing water into his mouth as opposed to trying to drink from a cup for the first time was particularly amusing.  Although in retrospect, I perhaps should have laughed in private given Mrs. PL wasnʼt so enamoured with my reaction.

But I digress.  What fascinates me is watching as Louis and his brain learn to assimilate many of the functions we as adults hardly if ever think about any longer.  Have you ever sat and watched your children beginning to walk and the progressions they make?  If they are anything like Louis, when he first started walking you could just see his brain thinking ʻleft foot, right foot, left foot …steady!ʼ to the ʻall one speedʼ he then developed where he could only run everywhere and come to a very sudden stop as opposed to the more balanced gait you and I have developed.  Hours of free entertainment, I tell you …and to be honest, the very best part of my day is the forty five minutes we spend together when I give PL Junior a bath and get him ready for a bedtime story and sleep.

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

When was the last time that you had remember ʻbreathe in, breathe outʼ?  Or how to walk?  Or how to hold your cutlery so you could eat dinner?  How about driving?

The fact is, the human brain is the most sophisticated and complex computer ever designed and, as you have grown your brain has learned how to automate many of these processes.  Great, so I wonʼt drool on myself during meetings.  Hugely useful.  Sorry, why should I care?

Every process which cannot be automated by your brain removes cycles which you could be spending trying to solve a sudoko puzzle or deciding whom to vote for in The X Factor.  I jest, but at present we only use about 8% to a maximum of 12% of our brains for pure abstract thinking …the rest of our brain power goes to processes which keep us alive, so frankly we need to automate as many of the highly repeatable processes as we can.  I read an interesting book recently which asserts that we have been able to develop civilization because we started cooking.  Seriously!  You can find it here, and donʼt try to act shocked …you knew I was a geek when you met me.

So it does beg the question …why would a customer want to devote the finite manpower resources they have to highly repeatable tasks?  Surely we donʼt want someone sitting around allocating storage and updating databases when we could automate that to allow our technologists to help business people align information technology to business such that we are more competitive?  Exactly.

This is not to say that this is an easy discussion to have, mind you.  Simply stating fact and scoring points debate style doesnʼt convince a customer that they should hand over these processes to automation …or to Computacenter to help them automate.
One way is to cut through the standard vendor datasheets which might describe automation in great detail, but never really show the customer what it looks like.  It is for this reason that we created the Automated Storage Provisioning demo video, and watch this space as weʼll be creating more videos like it in the not too distant future.

Another way is to run cost benefit analysis models which will show just how much a customer will save in the way of pounds, shillings and pence by automating things like server deployment, software and patch deployment, storage allocation, database management …it is quite an extensive list of the things we can automate, actually!  Indeed, the datacentre of the future is likely to have a man and a dog and nothing more to run it …the dog is there to bite the manʼs hand any time he tries to touch anything.

In all seriousness, the best way to engage on the automation journey is to contact Kevin Ebbs, Practice Leader for Software & Systems Management.  Click here to contact him. Kevin has a wealth of knowledge in this area, and a great team which include Gavin Stone and Mike Hutt who have done more in the area of datacentre automation than just about anyone in the UK.  In fact, I believe that Kevin is running a customer roadshow regarding information management in conjunction with our business partner, IBM. Click here to see what itʼs all about, and be sure to contact myself or Kevin if you’d like to attend.

As for me, Iʼm off to automate my corporate build backups so that I can spend a bit more time with PL Junior this weekend.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

What is Ray lashing now?!

09/10/2009

Mrs. PL and I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Ray Mears.

If you have no knowledge of Ray Mears, or are reading this blog from outside the UK, Ray Mears is a ‘master of bushcraft’ …not the ‘I know everything about the former president of the USA’ kind but, rather, a wilderness survival expert. Ray knows an awful lot more about surviving in the wilderness than I ever will …even after having been a Boy Scout when I was much younger I respect Ray’s vast knowledge and experience …and has had several television series on the BBC.

Now, when I say that we have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Ray in Casa PL, I mean that he is known affectionately as ‘the guy who lashes stuff together’ …although we tend to substitute another word for ‘stuff’, but this is a family blog …as Ray always seems to be taking vines or bark or whatever to lash the daylights out of something to make a tool. To say that Ray ‘overcomplicates’ survival would be an understatement and therein lies our obsession. We watch not because we have any desire to become survival experts …Mrs. PL’s idea of ‘roughing it’ is a hotel without twenty four hour room service …but to see what new bit of overcomplicated nonsense Ray will try to convince us we need to survive in the wild.

Before we had PL Junior, Mrs. PL and I were known to actually go out for a meal *gasp!* and perhaps a bottle of our favourite wine …or two …and it was the morning after one of these outings when we happened upon a Ray Mears omnibus. Too knackered to bother with changing the channel, we were quickly sucked into the warped world that it Ray Mear’s overcomplicated world of survival and ended up turning it into a game …the one who couldn’t accurately guess the next piece of Ray ridiculousness had to run the next errand for the good of the order. I lost and had to go make the tea when I didn’t guess that Ray was cutting down a small tree and planing it down to make a bread board. Yep, you read that right campers …my man Ray decided that, what one really needs when lost in the wilderness after having sourced the ingredients to make bread is …a breadboard. Complexity, thy name is Ray.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the Computacenter Sharpen Your Business programme and I’ll share a secret with you. We’re not manufacturing secret Sharpen Your Business drugs in Hatfield, nor does Sharpen Your Business represent some kind of magic silver bullet that we’ve discovered and decided to brand for the good of all mankind. If we were manufacturing drugs in Hatfield, I’ve no doubts that folks would be asking me if I’m taking them by the pallet full …no, dear readers, this is an all natural technoweenie storage induced sometimes Starbucks assisted high!

At its core, Sharpen Your Business is about …simplicity. Whilst Ray Mears is introducing ever more intricate ways to make breadboards in the wild, we’re advocating our customers remove as much complexity as is possible from their IT infrastructures to reduce costs and optimise their business. If there is a secret to Sharpen Your Business, it is that it is our expertise and demonstrable breadth of experience with a broad spectrum of technologies within Computacenter allow us to introduce the reduction of complexity of IT into a customer without a disruption to their production business.

The seeds of the simplification movement within IT can be found in multiple places, and the race to remove complexity across the board carries on at pace.

VMware and related hypervisors have become ubiquitous within the technology market, and I believe it is just a matter of time until we see the death of the physical instance …everything will be virtual instance, from servers to desktops to software packages. It is this virtualisation of everything, including storage which will enable customers to make real use of cloud computing and remove major amounts of complexity from their environments.

Within storage we see vendors introducing simplicity in different ways.

IBM acquired XiV to give them a simple yet very effective massively parallel SATA array which no longer requires disk groups, RAID groups, and other barriers to simplified storage allocation and consumption. The use of thin provisioning and self healing algorithms in the array help to extend and amplify this simplicity. We were able to setup automated storage provisioning in a little under fours hours …on our very first try. Testament to how simple yet effective XiV can be.

EMC have introduced VMax and are currently working on a ‘unified storage’ platform with the CLARiiON with both platforms introducing a reduction in complexity. VMax, the EMC enterprise storage platform developed around CLARiiON controllers, allows a customer to scale out almost ad infinitum without adding the complexity of managing multiple arrays by hand. A unified storage platform within the CLARiiON range will introduce a ‘Swiss army knife’ approach to storage whereby a customer will have the ability to use NAS, SAN, virtual tape library, and archiving functions ….all within the same array.

NetApp were born of a mantra to remove complexity from storage and this philosophy remains very much part of their DNA. We have seen NetApp NAS devices become increasingly sophisticated in their approach to simplicity, and I would argue that their approach to NetApp storage platform’s tight integration with virtual environments [read VMware and/or virtual desktops] is wholly unique in the storage market and sets them apart from their competitors. When one adds the easy application integration with Oracle and Microsoft Exchange …admins who know nothing of storage can make backup ‘snapshots’ in no time at all using the NetApp integration …you could make an argument that NetApp understands the need for simplicity much better than most.

HDS introduce simplicity by allowing for storage virtualisation …that is to say, creating a storage ‘pool’ by virtualisation of other storage vendor arrays. IBM, EMC, HP, and other SAN attached storage vendor products traditionally don’t like talking to one another so you have to manage them separately. And if you have space on one vendor array, you can’t easily ‘share’ that space with another vendor product. Not so with HDS USPV which allows you to make a storage pool with just about any vendor product you can think of …simplicity in the form of a storage Babelfish! Throw in Zero Page Reclamation [ZPR] whereby we can reclaim unused space from traditional storage arrays as we migrate into the pool and you’re into simplicity amplified.

Not to leave out our friends at HP, I have seen time motion studies which clearly show that HP servers attached to HP storage can have storage provisioned in far fewer mouse ‘clicks’ and in about a third the time required for other products. Not to be outdone in the simplicity stakes, I am watching HP as they may ‘crack the code’ by introducing a massively parallel server/storage infrastructure in the future. Watch this space!

Each vendor introduces the reduction of complexity in a slightly different way, and who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is purely a matter of what the business problem is that we’re trying to solve.

In other words, how we apply this simplicity to demonstrably reduce costs and optimise a customer’s business is what Sharpen Your Business is all about.

Hacking down trees so you can make a flippin’ breadboard whilst lost in the great beyond isn’t.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

If it rains this weekend, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

02/10/2009

Before I go any further, please allow me to clearly state that I am not intending to offend anyone nor be blasphemous or sacrilegious in any way. If you are easily offended, best not to read beyond this and perhaps give this Weekly View a miss.

“14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make an opening for daylight in the ark, and terminate it within a cubit of the top. Put the entrance to the ark in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks.

17 “For My part, I am about to bring the Flood — waters upon the earth — to destroy all flesh under the sky in which there is breath of life; everything on earth shall perish. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall enter the ark, with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. 19 And of all that lives, of all flesh, you shall take two of each into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 From birds of every kind, cattle of every kind, every kind of creeping thing on earth, two of each shall come to you to stay alive. 21 For your part, take of everything that is eaten and store it away, to serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did so; just as God commanded him, so he did.

Chapter 7

1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation. 2 Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate; 3 of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth. 4 For in seven days’ time I will make it rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the earth all existence that I created.” 5 And Noah did just as the Lord commanded him. “

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

Being a data guy, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Noah. Think about it …first the Big Guy tells our man Noah to go ahead and build a massive storage device, and even goes so far as to instruct him to make it a three tier model instead of a flat tier! That’s right readers …bottom, second, and third decks could easily be solid state drive shelves, fibre channel drives, and SATA drives …or SAN, NAS, and archive if you prefer. And then the Big Guy actually TELLS Noah not only when to expect the outage, but also how long it will last! Oh that we could be so lucky when designing business continuity systems.

But what really interests me most about the whole shebang is that our man Noah had, in essence, a data problem. Yes, I know I’m probably skipping over the more obvious and probably bigger problem of the fact that the earth …and everyone Noah had ever known …was about to be destroyed by a massive flood but hang with me as I do have a point to make here.

The reason that Noah had a data problem is because the Big Guy tells Noah to grab seven pairs of every clean animal and two of every non clean animal …not to mention birds, seeds, creepy crawly type things …the lot. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that being cooped up with that lot for forty days is going to get a bit smelly at the very least …and prolly a bit dangerous as the bigguns try to eat the littleuns and whatnot. But Noah has to grab ‘em and keep ‘em in the ark as everything he’s collected is going to be used to reproduce and repopulate the earth once it had dried out a bit. By the way, do you know what the first was our boy Noah did when he was able to leave the ark? Plants a vineyard, makes some wine, and gets royally pissed! Good man …and as some of you know, I’m a bit of a wine lover so I’ve always had a soft spot for Noah.

But I digress. I’ve often wondered if it wouldn’t have been a whole lot easier …and a lot less smelly …if the Big Guy had just said to Noah, ‘Look, just get out there and collect DNA swabs of everything and we’ll worry about how to reconstitute it all later.’

On the one hand, the Flood introduced the harshest version of data deduplication I have ever heard of …but also introduced us to the idea of the needs for good backups, a sturdy backup architecture, and stonking business continuity plan.

If only the Big Guy had let Noah use ZPR [Zero Page Reclamation] by grabbing DNA samples and sticking them in a yacht instead of having to round up the London Zoo and building a massive ark by hand.

Yet none of our customers have the pleasure of knowing when their next catastrophic event will be nor which of their systems will be affected. Some folks decide to go ahead and replicate everything from their production environments to a secondary or sometimes even tertiary datacentre ….challenge is, as data grows beyond a couple of terabytes to multiple petabytes that can get awfully expensive to maintain. Think herding two pairs of elephants from London to Manchester constantly as opposed to letting a couple of pairs of swallows fly back and forth on their own.

What to do?

Well, data deduplication of backup data can certainly lighten the load …the industry standard is a 20:1 ratio, or twenty copies of extraneous data we can get rid of for every one copy of ‘good’ data although I frequently see ratios that are much higher in the field.

Equally, given that 90% of data backed will be restored within six weeks …or not at all …it makes a lot of sense to consider backing up to a virtual tape library or to disk first, dedpuing as we go, and then clone whatever is left in six weeks to tape for long term storage.

Inevitably, however, as my dear old grandfather used to say …‘You gotta know where you are first if you want to know how to get somewhere.’ We need to understand what data we have, align it to the business importance placed on each data set as not all data is created equal, and how best to protect both the data long term and provide continuity for the business in the event of a catastrophic event or outage.

I can think of no better starting point than our Storage Assessment & Strategy Service which addresses all of these areas and gives our customers a well defined series of real recommendations which have demonstrable ROI, cost benefit, and minimised disruption to their production business.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like help in discussing your backup/recovery and business continuity strategies.

If only poor Noah had had access to the Sharpen Your Business tools from Computacenter!

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

Weight loss revisited.

25/09/2009

I wrote some time ago …24 April 2009, to be exact …about my challenges with weight and new initiatives using to lose four and a half stone to get to a slim new me by 09 September 2009. I won’t go into further depth about how and why I wanted to do this, although you can click here to read the archived Weekly View discussing this if you wish.

By way of an update, as 09 September has well and truly come and gone,I have had very mixed results. I had a full medical workup prior to starting and, whilst no specific problems were noted at the time by my doctor, it was observed that my blood pressure was a bit higher than it should be and …I should lose weight. I thanked him for his sage advice and got on with it. Five months on and my test results are marginally better, I feel a bit better than I did …but my clothes don’t feel significantly looser, I still have my dreaded moobs, and I haven’t lost anything like the amount of weight I set out to.

I won’t deny that I am somewhat frustrated by this, but I’m not one to sit idly by without analysing how I got here …or didn’t, in this case… and what to do to get back on track.

In its simplest terms, what does one have to do to actually lose weight? Well, wouldn’t it be a great excuse for not losing any weight if this were a complicated equation, but it really ain’t …[Reduce Caloric Intake] + [Increase Metabolic Output] = Lose Weight. Put even more simply …eat less, exercise more, shed the pounds. Whilst I have at times considered a ‘radical’ diet, such as a liquid diet for a few weeks or even months, I know that this isn’t really the answer. Given the equation above, simply cutting out the odd Krispy Kreme I’ve eaten …mmmmm, Krispy Kreme!… and reducing the odd gin and slimline or glasses of wine will reduce the caloric intake even further. But that isn’t the part of the equation with the problem, so loading that up isn’t really going to help. Nope, I need to increase my metabolic output …or, put simply again… get off my lardy backside and get into the gym as, the last time I checked, geeking out on my MacBook Air and creating home NAS devices with 802.11n weren’t considered contact sports.

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

I have been a member of a gym for almost eighteen months now, so the hardest bit …joining… is already done. The real challenge lies in actually going to the gym or, more to the point …making time in my diary to do so. In what I suspect is not an uncommon or isolated challenge for me alone, finding time to the gym when one works and has a family can be very challenging indeed. However, the gym doesn’t really care if I show up or not and will continue to take £50 from my account each month. Given I’ve been to the gym about three times in the last six months, I make that almost £100 a trip. Ouch. On the other hand, if I went three times a week as the doctor has suggested …that would work out to £4.16 a trip. And I would be healthier. And I probably wouldn’t have moobs any longer. And I would likely be around a lot longer for PL Junior as well as Mrs. PL getting to dress me in new slimmer togs.

So what we have here is a low utilisation problem and I am paying way too much for my gym. This is a challenge that our customers face as well, and I have yet to meet a customer who is completely happy with their storage utilisation. We know that, on average, a customer reaps just 40% utilisation out of their storage yet, just as I have to pay full whack for my gym membership, so they have to pay for 100% of their storage infrastructure whether they are using it all or not.

What to do? I won’t wax lyrical about how great data deduplication is …although it is and works a treat in backup environments …nor will I bore you silly talking about thin provisioning, zero page reclamation, universal connectivity, or grid storage. They are all fantastic solutions …nay, features… which warrant Weekly Views in their own right and do play a major part in solving the challenge of low storage utilisation.

It can certainly be a fairly complicated discussion, but, just as I know that balancing an equation will help me lose weight, one of the surest ways I know in helping a customer work through this potential minefield is by using the Computacenter consultative equation. [ROI] + [CBA] + [DPB] = Composite Solution Score …Return on Investment + Cost Benefit Analysis + Disruption to Production Business = Composite Solution Score. How quickly will I recoup my investment, how much money will I save, can I implement in a ‘cost neutral’ manner are but some of the questions that this equation helps us to solve.

Before I talk about one place where we’re using this equation today, I should mention that we employ this equation when working with all of our Tier One vendor partners and use both the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity Model and IDC Storage v3.0 criteria to help reach accurate scores …in other words, what I’m about to say would also work with HDS, EMC, IBM, or HP given different customer criteria.

That said, one of the more interesting projects on the go right now using this equation is a campaign and project we are running with NetApp and F5 for a major customer in Scotland. This customer already knows the great ROI and CBA they can reap from server virtualisation, but with a storage infrastructure stretching into the petabytes the next question was how to achieve the same with storage. We are currently executing a storage assessment and analysing the environment to show how, by consolidating a majority of their servers and much of the existing storage supporting these servers to a NetApp NAS environment, we will save ££ by reducing power, cooling, storage management and so on. And you may be thinking, why NetApp and not someone else? Well, to be fair, we did the initial indicative analysis using this customer’s specific issues and a comparative vendor matrix derived from the [ROI] + [CBA] + [DPB] and NetApp consistently came out on top as their technology which includes thin provisioning, universal connectivity, et al which result in particularly high ROI and CBA scores for this customer.

Put simply, we have been able to show our customer how we can help them increase their storage utilisation to save money both now and for the life of the storage deployment.

And as for me, I’m off to review my diary and make sure I get to the gym and increase my utilisation to lose weight.

Have a great weekend and, as always, please contact me if you feel we can help you save money with your storage.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

On vendor agnosticity …and being selective.

06/09/2009

When I was growing up, I had an Uncle Malcolm.  Now …nothing unusual in having an Uncle Malcolm, save Malcolm isn’t a very common name in the United States …and he wasn’t my uncle.  To be sure, Malcolm was anything but common …some would call him an eccentric here in the UK, whereas most people in the States called him ‘weird’ …and my father insisted I call him Uncle Malcolm out of respect.  You see, Malcolm and my father worked together …and when I was a kid I thought Malcolm was the coolest guy in the world.  A mainframe programmer who has remained single his entire life, Uncle Malcolm taught me much of what I know of small plane flight and also how to play ‘Star Trek’ on the mainframe.  I spent a lot of time with Uncle Malcolm when my father brought me in to the office with him on weekends to verify mainframe backups and the like, and Malcolm was a bit of a minor rock star in my father’s company …there wasn’t much Malcolm didn’t know about mainframes, and what he didn’t know probably wasn’t worth knowing.

And then a young upstart named Bill joined my father’s department …indeed, he has been recruited and hired by my father as dad was beginning to develop solutions to his corporate ‘open systems’ requirements.  You see, the young upstart was …a client / server engineer!  GASP, egads!  It is de rigeur and not uncommon now, but back then?  Well, let’s just say that Bill and Malcolm didn’t exactly see eye to eye!  Bill didn’t do himself any favours by calling mainframes ‘dinosaurs‘ …but Malcolm didn’t exactly take the high road either when he continually referred to Bill’s servers as ‘not REAL computers’.  Things somewhat deteriorated after that, and really came to a head when Uncle Malcolm caught me playing Microsoft Flight Simulator on an IBM XT PC that Bill had setup for me.  In the end, my father made it quite clear to both of them that he wasn’t about to buy flak jackets and UN blue helmets …get on or get out …and thus began a computing cold war which carries on between them to this day.

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

The problem with Bill and Malcolm was that they were both right …and both incredibly wrong.  Bill was right to highlight that the open systems movement was the evolution of corporate computing …but mainframes were hardly dinosaurs waiting for a hurtling comet to wipe them out forever.  Malcolm was right to highlight the incredible uptime and reliability of mainframes …but open systems were ‘real’ computers and offered corporate users options and flexibility that mainframes simply don’t.  And frankly …who cares?  Their job was to understand how to solve business issues without bringing computing religion into it …and they both failed …miserably.  As a strange circumstance, I got to work with both Bill and Malcolm after my father moved to Texas to take a CIO position and his previous company needed help completing a three tier client / server implementation …in plain English, an open systems infrastructure for their order and delivery system which leveraged the mainframe on the back end and brought the best of both worlds to their corporate users.  Bill and Malcolm called a truce, and I bump into Bill now and again at industry conferences …and Malcolm is making money hand over fist as one of the few people who still know how to reliably make billing systems work on mainframes.

Over the past twelve or so months, some vendors have described me at times …quite unhelpfully and inaccurately, as it happens …that I am either ‘in love’ with a competing vendor product at best, or a [insert competing vendor solution] ‘bigot’ at worst.  Now …they do have one thing right in that equation.  I am a bigot.  I am a customer bigot and …as I’ve stated before …I have a religion, and I can assure you that it is not storage.  Every vendor I talk to is rightly proud of their solutions …and their job is understandably to tell the world that their storage is the only solution to solve customer problems …but the simple fact is that each vendor solution is applicable and ‘correct’ depending upon the customer requirements.  And I’ve not met two customers yet who both had the exact same requirements.

I’m a customer bigot and am only truly interested in how data storage and protection can help our customers both save money as well as remain competitive in their respective markets.  Okay, now and again I will feed my inner geek and get into esoteric conversations with either our consultants or vendor partners by discussing the merits of NAS and NFS/CIFS with traditional database and OLTP systems …or how stable grid storage systems which retain thin provisioning and zero page reclamation in the frame with universal fibre channel, iSCSI, CIFS/NFS likely represent the future of data storage.  But this is not a message likely to excite a customer …customers spend money to solve problems, and nothing of what I’ve written in the last two sentences gives any hint as to how these systems would do this.

My job …and, by extension, the job of our consultants …is to use our consultancy equation* to evaluate our customer’s needs and requirements with a view to recommending what they need, not necessarily what our vendors have.

Please don’t misunderstand my messaging here …this isn’t a vendor bash, and we rely on our vendors to continue to make great products.  But just like Bill and Malcolm were convinced that they were both right, the simple truth was that there were corporate needs which open systems solve and corporate needs which the mainframe solve.  How much better and robust their solution could have been had they decided to work together as opposed to slagging one another off.

Our solutions are designed to solve customer issues as opposed to highlighting the ‘speeds and feeds‘ of a one storage solution over another.  Will thin provisioning solve the problem?  Perhaps, but should we access the storage via fibre channel, iSCSI, or CIFS/NFS?  And what about data deduplication …will that help?  Probably, but should we be looking at inline or post processing data deduplication …or both?

The only way to know is to listen to our customers and articulate our solutions in a way that makes it very clear how our solution helps to solve that issue.  Please don’t hesitate to  contact me if I can be of any assistance in helping you take our customers on this very important journey.

Have a great weekend.

-Matthew
Click here to contact me

*The consultancy equation we use is [ROI] + [CBA] + [Disruption to Production Business] = Composite Solution Score …return on investment plus cost benefit analysis plus potential disruption to the customer’s production business to give us a composite solution score where we can fairly and accurately measure multiple vendor solutions.  It’s somewhat complicated, but feel free to contact me and I will happily walk you through how this works in practice.

Is ILM dead? And what does the Queen have to do with it anyway?

13/08/2009

Firstly, I do hope you and yours are having an enjoyable summer break and relaxing break as I did with Mrs. PL and PL Junior recently in Malta.  As I’m sure with most families, to escape the intensity of the sun during the midday we watched a fair bit of television over our holiday and after watching Doctor Who it got me thinking…television hasn’t always been as visually appealing and interactive as it is today.  Indeed, when television was first broadcast, the presenters sat around a table or stood in front of microphones and simply read the same script they would have read on the radio!  Why is that?  Well, put simply…the producers at that time just didn’t understand the power of television as a story telling medium through a more visual context and just tried to use the new technology much in the same way they had radio.  Needless to say people weren’t over the moon at paying what was a serious amount of money at the time to acquire a technology like television that simply did what their existing radios already did.  It wouldn’t be until producers started producing material that wasn’t available on radio that people started buying televisions en masse…one of those key events was the coronation of Elizabeth II on June 2nd, 1953 which saw many people rushing to buy televisions…or huddle around the set purchased by their family or friends.  Many people I have talked to and met since moving to the UK years ago have told me that they remember watching telly for the first time during the coronation!

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

Information lifecycle management is dead.  You would be forgiven for thinking this is true given the lack of media coverage ILM receives these days, and customers often ask me just what happened to ILM and is cloud computing the new answer to their data storage challenges.  The long answer to ‘is ILM dead’ can be somewhat complicated as I accept that trade magazines and newspapers need to sell copies to make money and, frankly, cloud computing is the current hot topic that everyone seems to be talking about.  Equally, I believe that cloud computing will play an increasingly important role for both SMBs and enterprise customers alike; for SMBs the promise of cloud computing is the agile and cost effective implementation and support of IT without massive overhead, and for enterprise customers cloud computing could prove a useful and economical adjunct for road warriors as well as a worthwhile strategy for data in their private cloud behind corporate firewalls.  In addition, cloud computing is designed to address the storage architecture and make it easier for users access this infrastructure whilst allowing corporate customers to increase their storage utilisation and reduce costs.  Cloud computing doesn’t really answer what to do with the continued creation of unstructured data and, frankly, why should it when some vendors would be happy to become utility companies in their own right with customers paying for storage as they do electricity today?  Cloud computing is a much deeper topic which deserves it’s own discussion and the short answer for me is no, ILM is by no means dead and is just as valid today as it ever was.  Perhaps even more so given the explosion of the growth of unstructured data coupled with sometimes confusing data compliance and retention regulations.  When I relate this view to customers, their natural response is, ‘So why then haven’t more customers implemented ILM?’

Part of the issue with the relative lack of take up in ILM has been in the marketing of ILM to customers by vendors, resellers, and systems integrators; ILM has often been marketed and discussed as if it were a single shrink wrapped product that customers can buy off the shelf and implement quickly.  This strategy was most likely taken due to the fact that ILM can be a confusing and complicated topic to discuss with customers, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Information Lifecycle Management is actually a series of data storage technologies and techniques designed to automate the movement of corporate data from creation to eventual cremation based upon established business rules and/or service level agreements.  This is an important distinction as this leads to two principal reasons customers haven’t implemented ILM; one, they haven’t aligned their corporate data to business value and two, they rightly view the implementation of ILM as potentially disruptive to their production business.  What to do?

The first step, in my opinion, is we need to help customers to align their data to business value.  This is an easy thing to say but, in actuality, becomes somewhat more challenging when you take on board the fact that each customer will be at a different stage of aligning data to business value as well as the fact that each customer often interprets data compliance and retention regulations slightly different.  This is not to say that aligning data to business value is not a worthwhile exercise as I fundamentally believe that this is the cornerstone to the adoption and implementation of ILM.  As with ILM, there isn’t a shrink wrapped product available off the shelf which helps a customer to automate the alignment of data to business value.  The most assured way I have found in helping customers to achieve this alignment is through fixed cost and fixed deliverable consultancy.  These engagements make use of software discovery tools which identify structured and unstructured data, including the hugely useful classification of data, and result in a consultant delivering a report which details a coherent and practical approach to the customer’s implementation of ILM over a set period of time.  Customers can sometimes react cynically to this approach, and my experience is that vendor supplied storage assessments and consultancy have too often given a very limited, immediate, and short sighted approach to recommendations which simply point to the acquisition of more kit.  We must actively work with our customers to help demystify the consultancy process by showing them how we conduct such engagements, how long it will take to deliver, and what business benefits they will receive by investing in such an engagement.  Computacenter have a well defined storage strategy engagement which does just this, and the documentation can be found here.

The second step, following the successful consultancy engagement which establishes how a customer will align their data to business value, is the implementation of technologies which will move data to the appropriate ILM tier in a non-disruptive way.  This is critical as no matter how great an ILM implementation strategy is, and irrespective of the return on investment and cost benefit analysis which supports the strategy, no customer will implement ILM if it is going to be disruptive to their production business.  To be fair, they need to be conducting business and increasing their revenue whilst implementing ILM in a way which is transparent to their internal users and external customers alike.  One of the foremost storage technologies for achieving this movement of data in a non-disruptive way is storage virtualisation.

Storage virtualisation has actually been in the market for longer than server virtualisation, however many customers have not seen the value and import in the implementation of data block level storage virtualisation.  There are several ways to achieve storage virtualisation, and I don’t wish to digress into an esoteric argument about the merits of array versus fabric storage virtualisation.  That’s what the Computacenter Storage Academy bootcamp sessions and related Masterclasses are for!  What I will say is that I believe it is important to consider such technologies which have a proven track record.  There are several Computacenter business partner products such as HDS USPV, the HP XP array which is based on the HDS USPV range, and IBM SVC all have referenceability worldwide as storage virtualisation products capable of virtualising data in a mult-vendor environment.  Again, there are are several applicable options and solutions within storage virtualisation and the key takeaway is the need to move data from tier to tier within existing corporate environments in a non-disruptive way.

I hope that I have been able to prove that ILM is by no means dead…and that we’re not looking to use technologies the same way we have before ala early television adoption…but, rather, ILM has not been taken up by customers in a significant way due to confusing market messages and a perception that ILM implementation will disrupt their business.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but within Computacenter we are seeing a much great customer acceptance of ILM when we structure the conversation around the alignment of business data to business value as the ‘what’ in the ILM equation and the virtualisation of data to introduce non-disruptive data movements as the ‘how’.  Perhaps you will find similar positive responses through such techniques, but feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance in helping to articulate these messages …and long live Information Lifecycle Management!

-Matthew

Click here to contact me