Posts Tagged ‘automated storage provisioning’

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.

It’s about much more than socks.

16/08/2009

As many of you may know, the UK is my adopted home and not the place of my birth.  I spent the formative years of my life in the United States and, during that time, picked up both some good and, frankly, bad habits.  It took me a while to recognise that there are an abundance of words which should be spelt with an s and not a z …that z is pronounced ‘zed’ …that colour is indeed meant to be spelt with a ‘u’ …that a fortnight is fourteen days …that there is a difference between while and whilst …I could go on and on, but I won’t.  One of the most dramatic changes I have noticed in the ten plus years I have lived in my new homeland [beside the flattening of my accent!] has been the clothes I wear.  Now, I know that I still sometimes dress like a technoweenie [stop laughing Terry] but if you had seen me when I first moved to Ireland you would wonder as I often have just what Mrs. PL saw in me before we got married.  Yes, dear reader, I thought there was nothing wrong with a dark blue shirt, green tie, tan trousers, and tan tartan checked sports jacket.  Worn together.  And we needn’t discuss the fact that my trousers were shortened in that grand American style which would leave you wondering where the flood was that I was expecting.

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

The Computacenter Sharpen Your Business initiative is certainly about how we can demonstrably save a customer money across the length and breadth of their organisation.  However, if we look deeper one could also argue that the Sharpen Your Business initiative also addresses a common flaw in the development of technology solutions …often, in my expereience, technology solutions can be patchy when it comes to customers …we’re virtualising their environment, but perhaps we haven’t asked how they will store or backup the data.  We have a great reputation for providing desktop support, but perhaps the customer has no idea of the other great service and solution offerings we have which could help them realign their internal resources away from simply managing ‘stuff’ and back to helping their business innovate and stay competitive in a difficult market.  And this got me thinking.  IBM refer to this as ‘clothing’…we sold them the socks but forgot to ask him about the suit.  Now that Mrs. PL dresses me properly [I do have my off days when she isn’t around … let’s not talk about the pink socks] I can more fully appreciate just what it means to be ‘the finished article’ and the importance of wearing colours that are not only found in nature …but are meant to be worn together.  It gives a much bigger impact to others, and with neuroscientists telling us that most humans make a decision within three minutes of meeting someone new as to whether they will work with and trust them I need all the help I can get and can’t allow my clothing to be a barrier.

Our customers are faced with a similar problem.  Virtualising their ‘stuff’ is valuable and has ROI and demonstrable long term cost benefit …but won’t help them achieve true end to end cost benefit which translates into their ability to be more competitive.  Neither does storage tiering.  Nor data ‘dedupe’.  No, these are all point solutions that, left in isolation, will only yield limited benefit.  Tie them all together, mix in a bit of enterprise content management …file virtualisation …virtualised backup …consolidated maintenance contracts …automated storage and server provisioning …now we’re talking!  Imagine taking twenty internal IT personnel who understand your business intimately and redeploying them to business units to help your business stay competitive in a declining market …would you talk to a service and solutions provider who could help you do that?  Yeah, me too.

So when you get dressed on Monday, remember …we need to buy the whole suit, not just the socks.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me

Is optimisation really that difficult?

15/07/2009

I absolutely love working for Computacenter generally and what I do for a living specifically.  I get to work with some amazing people, meet with interesting customers, work on challenging solutions, see fascinating technologies from vendors …what’s not to like?!  That said, I know that the most important job I will ever truly have is that of father and husband …and that time is the most precious and finite commodity we have.  I can easily and without reservation name the two best days of my life thus far; getting married to my wife Sarah [aka Mrs PL] and the birth of our son Louis [aka PL Junior].

I’m quite sure that I am not alone in this …and I always smile when someone boots up their laptop and their family is smiling back as the screensaver, but let’s be honest …none of us really truly knows how much time we have, and yet we often spend it like it was in limitless supply.

Now, I sometimes get the balance wrong, but truth be told I would like to spend more time with my family as I’m sure we all would.  Having a child changes things forever, and I have noticed that I am much more ‘precious’ with my time since PL Junior was born almost three years ago.  Indeed, I am always on the lookout for new and more efficient ways of doing things and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in the past three years is that trying to find a half day here or a full day there to ‘make up’ time is next to impossible and has a low probability of success.  What does seem to be possible, and I’ve had much success with, is finding more efficient methods of doing things which ‘give back’ 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there …add them up and you will find the half day, full day [or more] that you were looking for.

Don’t believe me?  Why don’t people use VCRs anymore …because Sky+ is much more efficient and better quality.  When is the last time you heard the digital squelch of a dial-up modem …broadband gets faster with each year, and WiFi has made access remarkably simple in the home …and the time we spend on the internet trying to get information that much more efficient.  Do you still have a Sony Walkman or play records on a turntable  ….nah, me neither as iPods, iTunes, and Spotify have made downloading and listening to music ridiculously easy and far more efficient than popping down HMV to buy the latest ‘Take That’ album which will only play tracks in succession anyway.

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

I have been amused recently to have some vendors remark that they have heard I am ‘in love’ with this or that vendor’s storage technology.  For the record [no pun intended], I’m not ‘in love’ with any technology …I don’t give a badgers backside if vendor A can move a data bit faster from Edinburgh to London faster than vendor B.  Truth is ‘speeds and feeds’ are not really what impress customers, and I can see why vendor A’s solution would be applicable for a customer under certain circumstances and vendor B’s solution would be applicable given others …it is futile, in my opinion, to turn such things into ‘religious’ arguments …I’ve got a religion, and it’s not storage.

What I am ‘in love’ with is how a vendor solution can demonstrably reduce a Computacenter customer’s costs and optimise their business infrastructure.  The recent launch of our Sharpen Your Business initiative is hugely useful to our customers as it shows them how to demonstrably lower their IT costs without sacrificing functionality or putting their business at risk.

Picking up on this theme, I would argue that our customers in the current climate are both carefully controlling their expenditures as well as seeking ways to gain back time …in other words, trying to make sure that every minute they spend is useful to the bottom line without sacrificing quality or customer service with their customers in turn.  Equally, I’m quite certain that were we to walk into a customer meeting and state ‘I can show you how you could spend more time with your family without sacrificing any quality at work, in fact you might be able to increase your quality’ we would get their attention!

We often talk about the ‘what’ when it comes to technology …and I’ll put my hand up in that sometimes it can be confusing as to what, exactly thin provisioning, virtualised backup and zero page reclamation are for example.  Watch this space as I am working on some collateral which should, hopefully, make this a bit less confusing.

More importantly, however, we’ve begun to speak in earnest about the ‘why’ to consider implementing technology, for example the Sharpen Your Business initiative…and, to be fair, the decision makers in our customers want to know both why from a cost benefit perspective and from a return on investment perspective our solution makes sense to implement now.  We’ve plenty of collateral in this area, and again …watch this space as more will be released over the coming weeks / months.

I’d like to also see us ‘cut to the chase’ with customers around key storage technologies and how they can save them time by increasing their efficiency, understanding that the collateral exists regarding the ‘what’ and ‘how’ should the customer wish to know more.

Why automated storage provisioning? Because we can automate highly repeatable storage provisioning tasks, allowing you to reallocate storage admins to more meaningful work …because we’ve saved you time.

Why virtualised backup? Because we can optimise your backup environment from a pure tape environment to a virtualised backup environment, allowing you to reallocate backup admins to more meaningful work … because we’ve saved you time.

Why thin provisioning? Because it is a more efficient method of storage allocation and will allow you to buy far less storage following implementation and perhaps no new storage required for several years to come …and because we’ve saved you time.

Why data deduplication? Because you are storing band backing up multiple copies of the same pieces of data, and data deduplication can remove all of this inefficiency allowing you to reallocate backup and storage admins to more meaningful work … because we’ve saved you time.

Why ZPR [Zero Page Reclamation]? Because we can give you back 30% of the storage you think you are using but aren’t actually, thus saving you money and giving you in year ROI.

Just a few ‘starters for ten’, and comments always welcome for more!

Time is precious, let’s help our customers save every minute they possibly can by optimising their datacentres.