Posts Tagged ‘virtualised backup’

Avoiding industry buzzword bingo.

12/08/2009

When I was in university I became extremely good friends with the librarians across campus.  This was more out of necessity than anything else as the information I required for papers and course research were often hidden in the private university stacks or considered ‘privileged’  material which had to be used in the library as opposed to being checked out an returned again.  Put simply, if I had any chance of meeting often aggressive timescales for my university coursework a strategically placed box of chocolates or cup of coffee was often a good way of ensuring I got access to the materials I needed.  Looking back I now realise just how labour intensive a process this was not only for me but for those poor librarians!

Flash forward seventeen years and now my niece will come in to ask me what she should Google and Wikipedia to get similar data.  Think about that for just a moment …people now use Google as a verb …when was the last time you saw a technology introduced just ten short years ago enter the lexicon as not only a noun, but also a verb?  Don’t worry, I am not going to wax lyrical about Google but what I do think is that Google as a technology and a company is having a profound impact on our lives.  Gone are the labour intensive librarian lookups as information is rapidly becoming accessible anytime anywhere.

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

Whilst I am fascinated by the mathematic logarithms and high performance computing / data storage technologies required to optimise data searches, what also interests me are the very real operating expense reductions that technologies like Google can bring.  By allowing students to ‘google’ their data or, more to the point, by giving them the ability to find and access data without librarian intermediaries, the university gets to reduce operating expenditures [OPEX] as well as the student reducing their OPEX as the research and retrieval processes become far shorter.

In saying that, someone recently highlighted to me that we need to ensure that we don’t fall prey to the buzzword bingo of our industry in bandying terms like ‘CAPEX/OPEX reduction’ about without ensuring we are articulating what is behind these terms.  Fair point.  What sets us apart from our competition is our ability to understand and articulate the difference between return on investment and cost benefit analysis …how quickly can I get a return on my investment and what money will I save long term after it has been installed are hugely important during this recession and, arguably at all times frankly …but also our ability to demonstrably show a customer HOW we would help them achieve capital expenditure avoidance and operating expense reduction.  This is what the Sharpen Your Business initiative is all about within Computacenter, and here’s the kicker …we can show them WHERE we have done this for other customers.  Link this all up and we’re miles ahead of our competition!

Backup consolidation and virtualisation is one such area.  For the life of me I don’t know why data backup and restoration sometimes becomes a poor cousin with IT projects, but in my experience it represents one of the best ROI and CAPEX avoidance / OPEX reduction scenarios going.  Some vendors such as EMC, IBM, Fujitsu, HP, and Symantec are introducing backup products or upgrade to their existing backup products which consolidate technologies such as data deduplication and data archiving directly into the backup product to reduce backup data sizes and the amount of active data being stored …and hey, why not?  If the data hasn’t been accessed in 6 weeks or more …or is duplicated several times over …why would I want to back it all up and store it?!  Another interesting angle is CommVault who have introduced a Google-like front end to their product which allow business users to search for a file or files they have lost and …here’s the clever bit …restore it themselves with no interaction from a backup admin.  Brilliant!  Now that is demonstrable OPEX reduction and not buzzword bingo!

My guess is that in these uncertain economic times customers are already looking for solutions which help them reduce their costs so that they can not only survive but thrive.  Bill McGloin and the Data consultancy team have done a great job to design and deliver backup consolidation projects, so if you might be interested in understanding how a consolidated and virtualised backup environment could help you reduce costs [and frankly I’d be surprised if you didn’t!] please contact me as I’m only too happy to help.

Have a great day and keep on Googlin’.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me

Is optimisation really that difficult?

15/07/2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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