Posts Tagged ‘Sharpen Your Business’

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!

And then there was one …erm, well OneConnect actually.

06/11/2009

I had the good fortune this week to have been invited by friends to fly a Boeing 737-300.  I arrived at LHR, went through my preflight checks, boarded the BMI 737-300, and proceeded to prepare for takeoff from runway 27R with flaps 5.  The copilot called out 80 knots …vee one called at 123 knots …I rotated the control column at 125 knots and we called vee two at 135 knots, cleaned up the gear and flaps and climbed to 6000 feet.  A quick right hand circuit around LHR and London, waved to Hatfield, and prepared to land safely at LHR.  I slowed down the airspeed to 136 knots and deployed flaps 15 …six miles to go and I slowed to 127 knots and deployed flaps 30 …four miles to go and we deployed flaps 40 …2500 feet called, down gear …see two reds and two whites on the PAPIS …80 feet to go …flare the nose and …touchdown!  A little bumpy, but a safe landing nonetheless.

Okay, so I didn’t fly a ‘real’ Boeing 737-300 …it was a full motion flight simulator operated by BMI at London Heathrow …but as simulators go this was about as realistic as you can get short of hearing the passengers behind you scream when you bank at 45 degrees over Canary Wharf.  From the time I walked in until the time they had to practically peel me from the captains chair I thought I had died and gone to geek heaven.  Those of you that know me know that I’m not just any run of the mill geek …nope, I’m an aeroplane technoweenie.  Perhaps not to the extent that you would mistake me for Colin Hunt, but Mrs. PL has sometimes come down at 02:00 to tell me that I’m not really flying to Japan its Microsoft Flight Simulator dammit now come to bed!  I know some men who feel they have to hide some magazines of a delicate nature from their wives …in our house, I hide my landing charts and cockpit video DVDs.

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

I have known for quite some time just how difficult it is to fly a commercial airliner, although the experience of flying a Boeing 737-300 full motion simulator brought into even sharper focus the number of processes which must be mastered and continually monitored to ensure a safe flight.  Indeed, with the advent of low cost airlines many of us fly so frequently that we can easily forget to remember just how remarkable a thing it is that we can get on board a metal tube, have a seat, and fly through the air at several hundreds of miles per hour as I was reminded in this humorous clip.

However, it is rare these days that a pilot will fly a plane entirely ‘by hand’ as systems have been designed which can take off a plane, fly to a destination, and land again all on autopilot.  Why?  Well, the reasons are somewhat complicated …and most commercial pilots actually use a mixture of automation and flying ‘by hand’ …but, put simply, computers are far better at automating the speed and direction of an aircraft such that the human pilots can concentrate on more important matters such as not crashing, monitoring airspace to avoid collisions, monitoring the weather to move the plane to smooth altitudes and so on.

One of the more interesting storage products to have been recently announced is the Emulex OneConnect Universal CNAs.  Try as I might, I won’t ever be able to make host bus adapters [HBAs] nor network interface cards [NICs] ‘sexy’ …sorry Emulex! …but what the OneConnect CNA product is capable of is fascinating and deserves attention.

Firstly, the converged nature of the Emulex product is certainly interesting as it means that we can use the same card for both network and storage traffic.  This in and of itself would equate to demonstrable cost savings for our customers …you can essentially use one product where you would have previously used two …however Emulex doesn’t stop there.

The OneConnect products allow me to not only operate and leverage multiple network / storage mediums and protocols [Fibre Channel Over Ethernet a.k.a. FCOE, iSCSI, fibre channel], I can also offload these from the server to the chipset on the Emulex card.

If your eyes are glazing over just like they were when I was geeking out with the flight references above, here’s what that means in English …and why we should care.

The offload of protocols to the humble converged network adapter allows the server to do what it does best without having to carry the overhead of worrying about the network and storage protocols.  Just like we want pilots to worry about the important stuff and we’ll leave the highly repeatable tasks to computers and automation, this offload will allow the server to worry about the more important elements of the technology infrastructure.

How much more?  Well, Emulex claim that by using a OneConnect Universal CNA we can operate 20% more virtual machines on a server than we would otherwise.  Imagine our being able to ‘shrink’ a customer datacentre by upwards of 20% …and all of the management operating costs, power, cooling, etc. that go with it …by simply using another card which costs the same as competitive products and you can see why I’m excited about this product release.  Talk about Sharpen Your Business!

I know that we are all incredibly busy during this time of year and can often overlook which card we select when recommending a server and/or storage solution, but I would urge you to bear Emulex in mind.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require any assistance in taking this journey.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

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.

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