Posts Tagged ‘storage optimisation’

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.

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.

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

The storage black box.

10/08/2009

As many of you may know, I am a bit of an aviation enthusiast.  Yes, okay for those that I have bored with discussions about the fuel consumption of an Airbus A380 versus the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner would say that I’m an airplane geek.  Fair enough.

One of the things that I wondered when I first became seriously interested in airplanes was, if the black box is the only thing guaranteed to survive a crash why don’t they just make the whole plane out of the black box material?  The answer is actually a bit more complicated than you might expect, but the short answer is that it is down to compromises and tradeoffs.  Put simply, the airplane would be too expensive to make and would be far too heavy to fly were it to be made to the same exacting standards and of the same material as the black box.

I have been thinking about these tradeoffs and comprimises a lot recently as we still find ourselves in the perfect storm of a credit crunch, increasing oil prices, and increasing C02 legislation.  As I’m sure you have seen, oil is now topping $139 with the largest two day increases back to back in history, many of the top banks have greatly reduced and changed their mortgage portfolios, and the UK government recently changed the air tax from a per passenger fee to a per plan fee.  Individually these events would be interesting enough, taken together they are likely to have a profound effect on our economy and world both now and in the future.

In such circumstances this will inveitably lead our customers to make compromises.

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

As we head into H2 for 2009 and through the current recession, we must constantly bear these events and customer needs for compromise [e.g. we’d like to introduce storage consolidation but just can’t afford it….sell me some more disk please!] in mind to ensure that we are uncovering all opportunities and mapping them to the Computacenter end-to-end value proposition and individual point propositions.  No doubt we can certainly help a customer make compromise without sacrificing quality whilst transforming their estate for the better.  Here’s a few ways how.

1. ROI – Our ROI calculators go some way in showing a customer how investment in a CC proposition is not only the right thing to do technically, but also cost effective and generates real cost savings.  Even if a customer hasn’t asked for ROI calculations specifically, remember that we must give the customer what he has asked for in addition to the things he hasn’t asked for.  Storage Consolidation, Storage Virtualisation, and Virtualised Backup Consolidation, and related propositions all have real world and industry proven ROI.  Equally, they give us an opportunity to provide cost underwriting for our customers where required.  Please contact me if you need help calculating ROI for any storage challenges you are working on now or in future.

2. Virtualise, Virtualise Virtualise! – If location, location, location is the mantra of property development virtualisation should surely be the mantra of cost reduction in the datacentre.  Server virtualisation, application virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, and let’s not forget storage virtualisation all have the capacity to reduce the customer datacentre footprint which leads to greatly reduced management costs, power costs, floor space costs, etc.  Please contact me if you need help formulating a virtualisation strategy for any business propositions you are working on now or in future.

3. Data deduplication / File & DB Archiving – 12 to 18 months ago a customer had to engage at the third party level to introduce data deduplication and/or effective file & DB archiving.  Recently we have seen data deduplication moving directy into the storage fabric, directly on to storage hardware, and being included in backup software.  IBM’s acquisition of Diligent, EMC’s acquisition of Data Domain, Symantec’s inclusion of dedupe within their backup suite, and deduplication offerings within major vendor arrays [e.g. Netapp, EMC, IBM, HDS, et al] are but of few of the many examples we now have.  This is great news for us and great news for our customers as well as dedupe and file & DB archiving have real world cost savings associated wtih them.  Please contact me if you need help in presenting data dedupe / file & DB archiving for any storage propositions you are working on now or in future.

4. Reduce the Physical Storage Footprint – The reduction of the physical storage footprint through consolidation represents a very easy way for customers to reduce costs whilst transforming their estate.  The introduction of a virtual tape library with data deduplication abilities into an ageing customer tape backup environment, consolidation of file server shares to a shared storage fabric, and the virtualisation of existing and future storage arrays are but some of the many examples we could cite in this space.  Remember that consolidation leads to a reduction in physical footprint / DC space thus leading to cost savings.  Please contact me if you need help positioning consolidation for any propositions you are working on now or in future.

Finally, what does the future hold for storage in our current economic and environmental climate?  All of the major vendors have recognised that business as usual is anything but and are moving to introduce technologies which will improve storage management, reduce customer costs, and introduce greener equipment.  To wit, I know of a customer in the City who hires two complete datacentre floos for their DR site…one floor to hold the equipment and another floor which remains empty but has all power diverted to the other floor’s equipment.  Not what we would call efficient!

IBM are currently working on new power and cooling technologies for their equipment, EMC are introducing solid state disk and disk ‘spin down’ technologies to reduce power consumption in their equipment, HP’s introduction of Thermal Zone Mapping and Dynamic Smart Cooling…the list grows larger each day and, whilst we remain produly vendor agnostic and solution centric, it is always good to be able to discuss how major vendors are aligning to Computacenter’s market leading Green Datacentre initiatives. (more…)

Telly can be good for you!

17/07/2009

This will be the last Weekly View for a couple of weeks as I am off to Malta with Mrs. PL and PL Junior on our yearly family holiday.  I’ll be taking notes whilst there to see what Malta has to do with storage, and if you’re really missing the Weekly View that much in my absence remember that you can catch up on past installments here on the blog.

Having been born in the States, you might think that my favourite television programmes growing up were Diff’rent Strokes, The Dukes of Hazard, or Family Ties.  Nope.  My father inherited an exceedingly dry sense of humour from my grandfather (z”l) which he then instilled in me …growing up my favourite programmes were actually Are You Being Served?, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Yes Minister, and Red Dwarf.  For someone who was already viewed by his classmates as a ‘bit weird’, I don’t suppose this helped …and the real problem, in the days before satellite television and BBC America was that the only time we could see these programmes was to watch the four hour block each Friday night broadcast by our local PBS [Public Broadcast System] whom had purchased these programmes from the BBC.  To say that my mother was less than enamoured with what she saw as a weekly four hour geek humour fest would be an understatement …and we were often made to video the four hour sessions on to VCR tapes to be be viewed on Sunday when mum went out shopping.  Equally, the way the PBS purchased the programmes was somewhat erratic …and in the days before Google and the internet …we were often left to our own devices to piece together the correct order for the programme series.  Difficult at the best of times, and winding/rewinding VCR tapes was a less than efficient method.

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

People sometimes ask me when I’m going ‘home’, by which they mean the USA.  Truth be told, London is my home and as my family are spread all over the USA …and I haven’t lived there in any capacity for over ten years …I’d be more likely to be making wine in New Zealand [which I hear is much like England in the 1950s] than hunting in vain for Weetabix in the local Piggly Wiggly.  For me the invention of SKY+ has made a huge impact on living and working in the UK …I can search from my favourite programmes, I hit a little red button and hey …presto …it’ll record no bother.  Hit the little green button and whammo …I have a series link to record every episode.  I can even log on remotely to my SKY+ over the internet using Skyplayer to setup a record on my SKY+ box …from anywhere in the world!  No bulky VCR tapes …I can record more than one programme at a time …no need to wind/rewind tapes …sheer unadulterated telly bliss.

But here’s something to think about …if you have SKY+, where are your telly programmes being stored?  The simple answer is on a hard drive, but what is the data structure?  Do you open up SKY+ and see a directory structure that looks like ‘My Documents’ gone wild?  Do you have to search for the file for the programme you want to watch and then double click to watch it?  Nope.  You have an interface that shows you the programmes recorded (and set to record in future), when they were recorded, and so on …and you simply press the big ‘ol PLAY button and you’re away.  The ‘secret sauce’ of SKY+ takes care of the rest via indexing and so forth.  Do you worry if your SKY+ box is going to ‘crash’?  Do you back it up religiously each night?  Not likely as the reputation of the SKY+ product is such that most people treat it like the appliance it truly is and get on with more important things in their lives.

A similar ‘revolution’ is happening within data storage and protection.  There are many ways to describe this, and I don’t wish to get bogged down in nomenclature, so let’s call this automated data placement.  Put simply, the data storage system in question is designed to understand where the data ‘is’ at a block level and then move/promote/demote as business needs warrant without any administrative interaction nor, most importantly, any disruption to the users of said data blocks.  ‘Cloud computing’ is predicated on this very idea, however I feel that this is an important solution for our customers in the datacentre as well.

There are several solutions which make great use of automated data placement, and I don’t have the space to list them all here, but I did want to highlight three solutions briefly which I think our customers want and need.

IBM XiV introduced grid storage to the marketplace and is a massively parallel SATA array which allows for scale out without sacrificing performance.  How does it do this?  Well, the full answer can be a bit complicated …and we’ll soon have some videos up on Browza+ to explain more fully …but in short the IBM solution is to write data to all drives simultaneously.  This allows for tier one performance capabilities at a greatly reduced cost, but some customers have asked …how do we know where the data ‘is’ in the array?  Well, there are no storage or RAID groups in the array so you cannot locate it in the traditional sense …but the ‘secret sauce’ of IBM XiV allows for logical drive units [LUNs] to be created with an index effectively understanding where all of the blocks are …not unlike SKY+.

But what if I’ve a customer who likes grid storage architecture but wants the comfort factor of having fibre channel and solid state drives in addition to SATA?  Enter EMC Vmax, the next iteration of the DMX family.  Working in a similar fashion to IBM XiV, EMC allows a customer to also have fibre channel [FC] disk drives, SATA, and solid state disk drives all in the same array.  Why?  Well, some customers still feel more comfortable knowing they have ‘supercharged’ storage throughput available to them …and are willing to pay for it …even if they never use it.  The Vmax will monitor the workload coming into the array and, if the situation warrants it, move the data up from SATA into FC and finally into solid state drives for performance if needs be.  Think of it as taking your SKY+ box and sticking it into a Ferrari …just in case you really really really need to watch Fawlty Towers from zero to sixty in 3.4 seconds.

Finally, we have HDS HCP v3.0, which will be HDS upcoming release to their already hugely popular HDS HCAP content management platform.  Given that, in a typical customer environment, better than 80% of stored data is unstrucutured …and of that 80%, much of the data will be dormant not having been accessed for a considerable period of time …content management platforms, sometimes known as ‘archive’, can be hugely useful and reduce storage costs by an order of magnitude.  We’ll be running an NDA session internally to help explain what HCP v3.0 does specifically, however what has me excited is that this platform sees the emergence of SKY+ for content management.  HCP will be able to support object ‘versioning’ so that I can replicate and/or archive …at the block level …only the bits of data which are evolving.  In addition, HCP will allow me to have one archive device …working with multiple storage devices!  Think of it as one SKY+ box for the whole neighbourhood.  You could easily argue that HCP v3.0 is the first content management for the ‘cloud’ as, by utilising the ‘secret sauce’ of automated data placement fully such that it won’t matter where the data ‘lives’ anymore …HCP v3.0 can handle it anywhere.

As always, I hope that you are excited as I am about the solutions available both in the here and now as well as coming down the line which can help save our customers money …please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require any assistance or need more information on the solutions I’ve discussed.

A kneeboard for IT?

16/07/2009

I’m sure that I’ve spoken about my love of flying several times in this blog, but for those of you who don’t know …I’m a bit of an aviation nut.  To put that into context, I subscribe to ‘Airliner World’ (which Mrs PL tries to hid when it arrives each month) but I wouldn’t go so far as to be found ‘plane spotting’ near Luton or Heathrow.  I tell you this because 9/11 was certainly traumatic enough as it was …seeing a city I know intimately attacked using objects I love as weapons was horrible to watch, and I felt especially helpless having to watch from here in the UK.  My sister phoned from her home near NYC on the day (when the lines were finally cleared) in tears to say that they were broadcasting on all local TV channels ‘If you’re parents haven’t returned home, please dial 1-800-…..for help.’  That really brought the tragedy home, and it is something I won’t ever forget.

But I digress.  What upsets me terribly regarding 9/11, beyond the human tragedy of course, is that a handful of murdering eejits have ruined something I (and others) used to enjoy greatly.  Growing up in the States, flying had been no more difficult than taking the bus.  Get the the airport 30 minutes before your flight, hop on, fly off.  Easy peasy!  For a few months after 9/11, most people really didn’t mind the extra security measures but now almost eight years on …we mind.  A lot.  Flying now has become quite onerous and not particularly pleasant …I flew to Edinburgh yesterday from Luton, and as a Watford supporter I already had enough to dislike about Luton.  After yesterday’s security hassle I’m coming to the opinion that, in the not too distant future, the government is going to expect me to show up naked and wrapped in cling film to speed through security.  Now there’s an interesting mental picture for your Bank Holiday weekend!  And the hassle doesn’t stop there …no liquids over 100ml, unless of course you buy them from the vendors who just happen to charge £9 for a water after security.  Then we are herded like cattle just before being bused (and why a bus? I thought we were meant to be FLYING to Edinburgh, not driving!) to fight for seats which recline about 33mm at best and smell like someone’s been cooking a curry on them at worst.  And don’t get me started on the people who bring on ‘hand luggage’ the size of a cello case which could easily hide a dead body …all because the airline will now charge you for putting bags in the hold.  Eeeeejits.

I do sometimes wonder what the economic effect of all of this has been …do some folks simply decide it isn’t worth the hassle to do business outside of their immediate area?

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

9/11 changed the world in many ways perhaps forever, certainly within air travel.  But people don’t like change at the best of times, particularly when it complicates their lives or makes something which should be easy …difficult.  Humans like simplicity!  Airports, airlines, and governments have tried to respond to this by introducing ‘quick queues’ through security, priority boarding passes for budget airlines, and prescreening for immigration into places like the USA.  And there’s the rub …firstly, these aren’t free as customers have to buy priority boarding or priority queueing …and secondly, they aren’t ‘silver bullets’ as they haven’t solved the original problem, just made it ‘simpler’ to get through a complicated and unwieldy process.

There are many parallels in storage, and vendors are busy introducing ways of simplifying storage allocation [thin provisioning, storage virtualisation], storage migration [file virtualisation], backups [virtual tape libraries, deduplication], storage management, and so on.

But how can we make the sale of the Computacenter solution ‘simple’ as simplicity resonates with our customers?  Well, there are a few ways.  For myself, I’ve stopped producing slide decks which look like I’ve vomited up every thought I’ve ever had about storage …fact is, people find it difficult to grasp a concept and listen to me and read all at the same time …so I’ve started to use pictures to illustrate the concept I’m talking about.  For customers, we’ve already introduced some customer demo videos [e.g. automated storage provisioning] and we’ll carry on doing so for more solutions as a six minute video can often tell a customer mostly everything they really need to know.  For the market we’re openly talking about how Computacenter can underwrite the real savings our recommendations can bring in an effort to make is simpler (and quicker!) to engage for the implementation of a great solution.  And there’s one more ‘silver bullet’ I wanted to talk about.

Flying a plane is not the simplest thing in the world, and even vastly experienced pilots use a tool known as a ‘knee board’ …the knee board contains vital information about the flight [compass headings, expected airspeed, flight plan, etc.] as well as something most people don’t know about …standard procedures for just about everything.  Shouldn’t a vastly experienced pilot know how to land a plane?  Well, yes …but in the heat of the moment (or perhaps when we’ve done something many times before) we can sometimes forget things and so the standard procedures are there as a simple checklist to ensure that nothing vital is missed.

We have something remarkably similar and hugely powerful in Computacenter …which our competition doesn’t …known as Tempo.  The Tempo tools [e.g. Stages and Milestones, Workbook, Document Templates] are there to make your life simple whilst also leveraging the very best of what Computacenter has to offer …and also what we’ve learned works (and doesn’t!) when working with customers.  If you haven’t sat in a Tempo education session run by Andy Poole, I would highly recommend it as it is a great way to spend 1.5 hours and learn how to make life a whole lot more simple.

I do hope that these blogs, the Computacenter Storage Masterclasses, and related collateral are all demystifying storage a bit in addition to helping you understand how we can make storage …a challenging and potentially complicated topic at the best of times …‘simple’ for our customers.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any ideas or recommendations on how we can continue to make these decisions more simple for our customers …and have a look at Tempo if you haven’t already!

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.

What comes after books?

14/07/2009

I recently received a Sony eReader [PRS-505] from Mrs. PL and PL Junior for Father’s Day and, knowing me as you probably do by now, I love gadgets and anything technical that will help me save time.  However, I must admit that I was incredibly sceptical when I received the eReader at first.  Now, I had read more than one article which pitted the Sony eReader against the Amazon Kindle and other like devices …but not matter how greatly improved they said the electronic ‘ink’ is which comprises the secret sauce of these eBook readers, I am very much in love with the visceral experience of reading a traditional paper book.  The sound of the pages turning, the smell of the paper, the different fonts each publisher chooses to use, the sense of accomplishment of looking at a 900 page tome and thinking ‘I read that!’ …not easily replicated in the world of eBooks.  I know what you’re saying …but you’re a data guy!  You are constantly banging on about how to increase efficiencies with storage!  Yep, I know …all arguments that Mrs. PL had used with me before when she tried to convert me to the ways of the eReader.

More than that, Mrs. PL also likes to read …a lot …and between the pair of us I suppose I have lost sight of just how cluttered our house has become with books we’ve read.  Always happy to lend or give to a friend, would never dream of throwing a book out.  Throwing away a book is tantamount to sacrilege in both Mrs. PL and my extended families, but I think the warning signs that we had too many books to be sustainable came when we contemplated building PL Junior’s cot out of used books [but you could use a hardening shellac to make the pillars from old hardbacks!] and Mrs. PL looking at five bedroom houses [we live in a 2.5 bedroom house at the moment in North London] …not because we have other little PL Juniors on the way, sadly, but because Mrs. PL was seriously considering converting a bedroom or two into floor to ceiling library space.

Thankfully Mrs. PL was the realistic and rational of our little tribe and made the leap to the eReader …gave me one for Father’s Day so she could guilt me into using it if needs be …and then proceeded to cull our house of better than 80% of the books we’ve read and don’t need any longer.  Fifty seven black bin bags full of books, at last count.  Has it made a difference?  Who knew that we had a dining room?!

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

I’ve had the eReader for a little over two weeks know and, truth be told …I love it.  Seriously.  It’s not perfect, and it does have some drawbacks [no native support for my MacBook Air …although I have a cunning workaround!] but being able to download the next ten or more books I want to read to the eReader is hugely useful and doesn’t take up any more space than the physical device does already.  Equally, after having used the device for a while, I am utterly convinced that this is the future for many magazines and newspapers …think about it, instant and automated delivery via your existing home or corporate WiFi connection …the device already knows what you have and haven’t read so it can automatically delete/replace based on your preferences …and all without the clutter of unread/read newspapers and magazines [also a bit of a problem in the Yeager household]!

When it comes to data storage, we have a very similar challenge.  Five or more years ago, heck maybe up to only a year ago …simply adding more storage capacity was an oft pursued storage strategy …and deemed perfectly valid when we had shed loads of cheap datacentre space and power wasn’t an issue.  Indeed, in the heady days before the recession many of our customers had a desperate need to stay ahead of their competition and so adding more capacity was the order of the day …trouble was, much of the capacity that was added was tier one / high end / monolithic / enterprise [however you wish to describe it!] storage.  Now, nothing wrong with this type of storage …but we don’t need it for 100% of our infrastructure!  We know that the average customer environment is comprised of 20% structured data [the important stuff …you know, the data which makes us money!] and 80% unstructured [MP3s, old or duplicate spreadsheets, joke emails …you know, the data which COSTS us money to store!].

I don’t think in the span of my career have I seen customers so evenly split into two camps …those that have run out of space and power due to continued purchase and provisioning of high end enterprise storage alone …and those that will.

Now, our solutions aren’t designed to go in and tell customers ‘you’re doing it all wrong!’ or that you need to ‘rip and replace’ …no, our solutions are designed to save customers money whilst helping them utilise assets they already have.  I wouldn’t dream of ever calling someone’s baby ugly, Mr. Burton!  But how do we articulate our solutions in a way which will resonate?

A few examples for those that know they have a problem NOW:

Problem: I’ve run out of datacentre space, my datacentre power is costing me too much …but I need to find more storage space with a tight budget!  And I have been buying nothing but enterprise storage and/or have more than one storage vendor already!

Solution: Let’s look at storage virtualisation such as HDS USPV or HP XP  to help us consolidate without disrupting the production business…we can create virtual storage pools universally available for our server hosts without needing to worry about what vendor badge the existing storage arrays have …migrate to thin provisioning so we only allocate what we are physically using …and give you in year ROI because we can use Zero Page Reclaim [ZPR] to return 30% or more of their existing allocated storage into usable unallocated storage.  And finally we automate the storage provisioning to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs. Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

Problem: I’m running out of datacentre space as I’ve too many servers, my power and cooling for the servers is costing me too much, I can’t afford to hire more administrators to look after more servers …but I need to add more servers with a tight budget!

Solution: Let’s look at consolidating all of the existing server shares to one or more NAS devices such as NetApp, HP Lefthand SAN, or IBM N series …we can then create a universal NAS namespace using F5 Acopia so we can manage the NAS devices as one and make the NAS storage universally available for server hosts …and then virtualise the remaining servers with automated provisioning of storage AND servers to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs.  Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

Problem: I’ve run out of datacentre space, my datacentre power is costing too much …I need to reduce costs and find more storage space with a tight budget!  And I’d like to have access to tier one functionality as I may need it …but I’d prefer tier three pricing!

Solution: Let’s look at consolidating the storage to a grid storage architecture such as IBM XiV …we can migrate from existing tier one arrays to a grid storage architecture with tier one functionality but at greatly reduced cost, up to 25% of what tier one would normally be in some cases …and it uses SATA drives, which consume 97% less power and cooling over traditional tier one FC drives …whilst also giving us thin provisioning so we only allocate what we are physically using …and give you in year ROI because we can use Zero Page Reclaim [ZPR] to return 30% or more of their existing allocated storage into usable unallocated storage.  And finally we automate the storage provisioning to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs. Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

I could give you more examples, but I’m running out of space [and you may be running out of patience!] so I want to talk about the other half of the customer stack …those who haven’t run into the same problems …yet.  What do we say to them?

Well, Mrs. PL and PL  Junior went out and bought me a tool which they knew would allow me to keep only the 20% of books I truly need whilst giving me a much more efficient way to read and store the other 80%.  They knew there was a problem there, although I was loathe to admit it …but am very much loving our ‘newly’ discovered dining room in addition to my eReader!

We need to engage our customers to discuss their business problems now and not wait  until they issue an RFP.  What if they say ‘we’re not bothered about storage optimisation at the moment as enterprise tier one storage from [insert vendor here] is so cheap it’s more cost effective for us to add to our [insert vendor here] arrays’?

Fair enough.  On balance, over the next month or three months or even six months they might be right.  But what about after that?  Do we know what their 20% of structured data is and how fast their storage is growing per annum?  Can we extrapolate these figures to show them when they will run out of datacentre space and/or be consuming more power than a small Yorkshire village?  Can we marry this data to the total cost of ownership manpower costs to show them how expensive this storage will be to maintain in the future?

You bet we can.  And we absolutely should.  We won’t win them all, but I would be surprised if we didn’t find something that we can help them with …automated storage and server provisioning, data deduplication, reducing backup windows, consolidating server shares, virtualising their servers …to name but a few.

I’m up for it if you are … and I bore everyone I meet at cocktail parties, wine tastings, Waitrose, my dry cleaners something silly with how proud I am to work for Computacenter and how insanely great our solutions are.  Let’s get out there and talk to all of our customers about how we can Sharpen Their Business and save them money by optimising their storage now.