Okay, I've decided that the time has come to move properly and stop updating here at all!!
Please go to the new blog....it's just like this one but better!!!
Okay, I've decided that the time has come to move properly and stop updating here at all!!
Please go to the new blog....it's just like this one but better!!!
You will note that I have turned blog comments off on this blog (or at least tried to); I'm not trying to curtail discussion but now that www.storagebod.com is live and appears to be working okay, I'd like the debate to happen there!
So if you can update your bookmarks and head-on over there; I'd really appreciate it!!
I have been intending to do this for some time but have only just got round to starting this; this blog will now be hosted at www.storagebod.com. However this is early days for the move and for the time being I will be updating both sites but in the long-term, I expect that www.storagebod.com will become the main site and indeed it will fairly rapidly have some additional content.
But as I say, until I am completely happy with the stability and functionality of the new site; the blog here will continue to be updated.
Server Virtualisation? Is 'Bod simply being obtuse; yes it is entirely possible but before you write this off as lunacy, I do have my reasons.
Firstly, server virtualisation is not actually a bad thing; it's been around for many years but the landscape today is actually more than a little concerning and I wonder if it will come to bite us really rather nastily over the next decade. The sheer number of virtual servers being built leads me to wonder about the long term sustainability of the current infrastructures and with the current virtualistion==cloud lazy thinking; I am really rather worried.
So how did we come to such a position? The seeds for this were sown in the early eighties when IBM launched the personal computer; prior to this (and yes I am ignoring the early adventures in personal computing by Apple, Commodore, Radio-shack and the likes), computers were large, complex and extremely expensive beasts managed by the computing department; access was very restricted and not many people had access. But with the personal computing revolution; our relationship with computers changed, indeed we actually started to develop a relationship with computers.
One person mapped to one PC; that's the very definition of personal computing but as these devices became more powerful, it became pretty obvious that they were capable of so much more but the big, multi-user, multi-tasking operating systems which ran on the large corporate mainframes were not available for these personal computers. So we ended up running larger and more complex applications on these devices but using the operating systems available on the desktop; these were single-user operating systems with limited multi-tasking capabilities. So an application per device paradigm became the norm and even when multi-tasking became available and more common; the paradigm had become firmly embedded.
And the lack of multi-user capablities really hampered the development of a centralised management and secure environment; so it became even more embedded. Add into that, a growth in CPU power far outstripping our ability to use it for a single application; we ended up in the position that we had rampant physical growth but with ridiculously low utilisation figures.
So in order to use this power and to manage it effectively; we have looked to server virtualisation to fix this problem allowing us to build virtual servers which more effectively use the available CPU or more to the point allow us to run multiple single application servers on a single physical server. It also allows concurrent management of these applications to be more easily achieved. Even the rise of the Intel-based Unix systems has not done little to break the paradigm of one application per server but instead of a physical server, we now talk about virtual servers.
It doesn't have to be this way and we only have to look at the way that virtualisation is used in the mainframe environment; you don't talk about running 1000s of server instances, you are more clever about how you virtualise. You may virtualise an environment but it will still only run a few actual virtual machine instances.You may group related applications into a single machine instance but not have those applications running as separate server-instances.
We could do this in the Intel-space; we should move away from the default position of one application per server instance, we should move to the position where we understand why we do so. There are applications which certainly work better when run in massively distributed and parallel environments but this is not every application. A database server can run more than a single database instance; a web-server can run more than a single web-server.
Okay, it's not server virtualisation itself which annoys me but the unthinking use of it and the traps that we are busy building for ourselves.
Turning desktop operating systems into powerful server systems probably was not the wisest move that the IT industry made but the short-term gains were probably too attractive, can we hope that we don't do the same thing with mobile device operating system? Actually, I am not that hopeful really; history does unfortunately have a habit of repeating itself.
Over the next few weeks, I thought might share some of my annoyances with life in Corporate IT; some of them are vendor driven and some are the result of wrong-headed thinking in the end-users! I'm sure everyone has their own annoyances and some of my readers could probably write several volumes on theirs.
So first up is 'Enterprise License Agreements' or what they mean and how end-users tend to look at them; this is often a case of the end-user walking into a nicely vendor-dug trap and smiling as they fall into it.
For a single payment; you can consume as much of a vendor's product as you possibly can over a period of time; so what's not to like?
Well after the contracted period, you face a license true-up; so you've merrily gone on consuming as much as you can eat and now you have an elasticated waist-band on your servers and now you must pay for all those licenses.
Of course that payment will probably take the form of another 'Enterprise License Agreement' and so it goes on but you've got so many installs of the software; you have effectively become an addict and there's no way out.
Time after time; I hear project managers tell me 'But it's free and it doesn't cost my project anything!'. You try to explain that it's not free and there might be a better fit for their problem but it all falls on deaf-ears. After all, the project manager gets it for free and there's no annoying budgetary considerations for them to take on.
And then there is the situation where an inordinate amount is spent on an ELA and yet at the end of the period when you do the calculation, your cost per license is no better than if you'd gone for a PAYG-type model.
ELAs, one of the industry's great cons or at least, one of Bod's annoyances!
So 2010 is nearly done and I must say that 2010 in storage went pretty much as I expected. 3Par, Isilon and Compellent being gobbled up by bigger companies; no special surprises there. New hardware from HDS, NetApp and IBM; no special surprises there either. And more Cloud-washing from everyone; from Public-Cloud to Private-Cloud, everyone wants a piece of the action. I've taken to calling my test-environment at home a Pico-Cloud.
So what will 2011 bring us? These are some of my guesses and thoughts.
Even More Cloud?
I expect EMC to continue painting just about everything they do with Cloud-wash and adding a layer of virtual tarnish to the Cloud. Despite all of this, I think EMC are going to be interesting as always.
It's no secret that we should expect some kind of NetApp killer in the coming together of Clariion and Celerra; with the much maligned Celerra-brand to die and it all to come together under some Unified Storage brand. We should also be expecting very tight integration with VMware; I think EMC still feel very hurt that NetApp have managed to do a better integration job with VMware, whether perception or reality. EMC are going to focus some serious attention on NetApp and believe that technically they can now compete; expect the war of words to escalate.
However, having built a NetApp-like Unified Storage platform; EMC have muddied the water again by buying Isilon and yet again have a standalone NAS product. An internal battle brewing within EMC? If they've learnt the lessons from the DG and Clariion; one would hope not but history does have a habit of repeating itself. At the very least, expect some serious marketing spin to try to differentiate the capabilities. Don't believe it for one minute; if the future of most storage is predominantly file with a ever diminishing proportion of block; Isilon become extremely important very quickly to EMC with the new Unified Storage Platform getting squeezed between Isilon and Symmetrix. Granted not a 2011 problem, more a 2013 issue but something worth thinking about when planning investments.
A side question on Isilon, how quickly do EMC try to move Isilon from its BSD roots to their more preferred internal Linux platform? Now, that's a holy-war brewing!
HP have far too many storage lines and this has left many of their user-base confused and more importantly, I suspect many of their user-base are feeling reluctant to invest more heavily in an HP strategy.
David Scott is going to have to be ruthless over the next six months and he will have to move fast to get his charges all pointing in the same direction and singing from the same hymn-book. The future of EVA will need to be clarified very quickly; letting the market decide seems to be pretty rash at this point and is adding to the confusion. I'm expecting a statement of direction from them by the middle of the year allowing customers to put together an investment strategy.
HP's problem is how they scale 3PAR's technology both up and down; I'd expect announcements from them on this. Or are they going to have to look at Lefthand for this.
HP's other problem is that they still don't have a really strong file story; they have stories but most of these have as much substance as a Dan Brown thriller. Could HP acquire again; if there were anyone left to buy, that would not surprise me but I don't see anyone who could fill this hole for them.
NetApp refreshed their hardware and released another version of Ontap 8; also announced a virtual appliance version of the filer and by all accounts, they've had a stonking 2010 sales-wise. They continue to out-grow their competitors and continue to gather plaudits; so what will 2011 bring?
Well NetApp aren't a company without problems as much as they like to claim and they appear to have got away with a lot; customers are still giving them a fair amount of slack but...
OnTap 8 needs to get tightened up and there needs to be a single mode; this is certainly NetApp's plan and there is some deserved embarrassment when you bring up the current situation. So expect this to be rectified at sometime in 2011 with OnTap 8 cluster-mode to be fully functionally equivalent to 7-mode with the advantage that it is cluster-able. EMC's acquisition of Isilon makes this all the more important and NetApp cannot afford this to be delayed much longer.
NetApp's teams are tired; I would say that the company is struggling to keep up with it's own growth. I've heard this from people inside and out; teams are stretched too thin and the company is going to have to grow the number of foot soldiers. NetApp are not the only company with this problem but they've always run very lean with no fat; admirable in start-up but NetApp can probably afford to grow some girth.
And finally, NetApp need to acquire someone relatively substantial and not only for the obvious reason but also to prove that they can do so successfully. I don't expect NetApp to stray too far from the storage beat with someone like CommVault in their sights but that will probably bring them into a bidding war with Dell.
Ring the Dell?
It appears that Dell want to be the storage game; getting involved in and loosing a very public auction for 3Par and then ending up the year by purchasing Compellent. If you had asked me at the beginning of 2011; I would have bet very heavily on 3Par going to HP and probably not so heavily on Compellent ending up with Dell but it seems a more logical fit than vice versa.
Dell have three interesting pieces of a storage jigsaw right now; Equalogic and Compellent, solid SME products and Exanet, a clustered NAS product. The latter needs some serious investment to turn it into more than an intellectual curiosity; it's market presence is somewhat less than zero and ever since Dell acquired it, it has been invisible.
Somehow Dell have to turn all of this into a coherent strategy but Dell have a secret weapon; a couple of years ago, Dell bought a small British storage consultancy called The Networked Storage Company. They have continued to run this as an independent entity; TNWSC generally get involved with enterprise customers when they are looking to issue RFPs etc and you can hear the sighs of pain/irritation/annoyance when a vendor finds out that they are responding to a TNSWC tinged RFP. They also run birds of the feather type get-togethers for storage end-users and the agendas always look interesting even if for various reasons I've not managed to get to one yet. I like to think of them as a more sober #storagebeers.
Dell by now should have a real insight into the problems that enterprise customers are trying to solve; turning this into a product is going to be more challenging but at least they've been listening.
Its Bazza Magic?
IBM's announcement of the v7000 based on SVC technology was one of the more stand-out storage announcements; not because of the technology, most of the industry had been expecting something like this for some time but because it wasn't strangled by the other interests in IBM. Even long-standing rivals were quietly pleased to see that IBM finally came to their senses and realise that the answer to many of their storage problems had been sitting in Hursley for sometime.
The DS8000 also appears to the array that refuses to die; in a year dominated by zombie-tinged media, the DS8K is almost the zombie array; every-time someone thinks it's dead, up it rises. Unfortunately, like zombies; it will never be popular and people will keep trying to smash it with shovels and whatever else comes to hand.
Next year tho'; XIV should get its long awaited upgrades, time will tell whether these will be enough to see it become a strategic stand-alone product. Infiniband connectivity between the nodes should finally be with us; this was discussed at the IBM launch many moons ago; a 'flash cache' type enhancement to help XIV cope with more random workloads and give the SATA a boost; clustering to improve scalability and I am wondering if we could see 2.5" drives make an appearance to improve floor-space-to-byte density?
I am also expecting to see significant enhancements to v7000; with both some of the artificial limiters coming off but also Storwize making an appearance with block level compression. Obviously, feature enhancements will make an appearance in SVC as well.
Also expect Storwize to make an appearance in the SONAS product range; expect IBM to launch a smaller version of SONAS to compete with their partner NetApp but also aimed at the smaller Isilon deployments. Finally, expect IBM's storage OEM agreements to become less important to them.
Highly Dependable Storage?
Finally, HDS have refreshed their USP platform with the VSP; feature-rich, enterprise-ready and very capable but is it really where the real growth is? I think this is HDS' real problem; how do they show real relevance to the problems that many storage managers are facing?
I don't believe that they will but I'm expecting them to push very hard on the Hitachi Unified Compute Platform as a catalyst for IT transformation. I think HDS have a very rich seam to mine here in their traditional high-end market place especially with those customers who are very uncomfortable with putting all of their eggs into Cisco's basket
And just perhaps they will finally buy BlueArc? Perhaps we can convince Dell or HP to put in a bid, just to get things moving?
Well, 2010 was the year when somebody finally allowed me to have storage in my job title again; which was nice as my nascent storage team went from having a few hundred terabytes under management from something closer to three petabytes with an ever steepening growth curve.
Next year brings the challenges of render-farms, 3D HD editting stations, migrating most of our storage into a new building, building disaster recovery capabilities, multiple upgrades and lots more fun I hope.
Happy New Year!!
Merry Christmas to all my readers!!
I hope that Santa is kind to you all and brings you your heart's desire or if that'll get you into trouble; he at least brings you some decent toys to play with!
And I hope all my fellow bloggers get some peace and quiet; a time for inspiration to replenish and new barbs to be composed!!
Have a great time....
p.s look out for my predictions for 2011 next week...
Dearest Storage Santas,
last year I took time to write to each of you individually and I must say that most of you appear to have taken note and have generally delivered what I wished for, so for that, thank-you very much. Unfortunately, this year I'm finding it hard to find time to write a letter to each of you; so perhaps a letter to you all as a group.
You have all been very busy acquiring companies and launching new products; your elves must be very tired and perhaps you should give them some time off over the festive period. A time for them to recharge and to launch themselves back into the fray. And some of the new elves that you have acquired might need time to acclimatise to their new surroundings, I can see little Elf Farley blinking in the corner after his lucky escape after nearly getting caught by Mr Dell again.
As you fly your sleighs across the cloudy skies; contemplate what the meaning of Cloud really is? Is it simply a way of selling more of stuff or indeed a way pressing your elves into servitude providing Cloud consultancy? Or is it more fundamental? It certainly has many aspects of the clouds that you are flying in; it can be a threat of a deluge or it can be the bringer of life; either drowning or nuturing. Too much Cloud is a bad thing; so think what are users trying to do and then how does Cloud enable them. Stop thinking Cloud can do this, how do we get customers to do it so that we can sell it to them. Don't look so perplexed Little Chuck-Elf; you're a clever chap, I'm sure you'll figure it out.
Now Christmas is time of goodwill to all men (and Elves) but surely we can do better than this; no more poking and prodding at each other all year, most of the time you miss and end up poking yourselves in the eye. You don't have to play nice but you don't have play nasty either; you can be competitive but it can be a bit friendlier. I don't want to have spend 2011 seperating you!
Val-Elf stop kicking Elf-Zilla; yes, I can see him prodding you but you are big boy and you don't need to react. Yes, Zilla-Elf; I know Val-Elf gets a little self-important and proud of himself but we all do at times. And Calvin-Elf, 'Don't Do That!'; put him down, you don't know where he's been!
Anyway, Storage Santas; some of you appear to have far too many toys and don't seem to know what to play with. I think it's time to throw out the broken ones; yes, it might upset a few people but in the long run, it will probably do everyone a power of good. And then again, at least one of you needs some different toys; spread your horizons and take a few risks.
Ahhh, look at Wee Barry-Elf; almost bursting with pride at his new invention! Yes Barry, we know that you worked very hard and the nasty Moshe-Elf tried to stamp on your new toy but he's gone away now, so time to make it really good. Storwize is a very good name by the way; did you think of that all by yourself? No? Big Blue Santa bought it for you? Well what a nice man he is!
Oh, look at Big Barry-Elf running around as FAST as he can; good for you; is the new version available yet? And you've been a bit quiet on the blog front; what have you been up to? Talk to Chad-Elf, he's got an army of pixie-helpers (have you met @Kiwi_Si, he's not big enough to be an Elf) and perhaps he could lend you one to help you write some more blogs.
Och, there you are McElf; congratulations on the new role, looking forward to seeing you co-operate and trying your best to be nice to people!! You can do it, I know you can!
All in all, it's been a good year for many of you. Let's hope 2011 is equally good to you all!
So Storage Santas, have a very merry Christmas and just remember, Clouds can hide Mountain-tops; don't crash those sleighs!
So you are sitting there unwinding over Christmas, perhaps reading a book and all is quiet, too quiet what you need is some music.
Ray Davies: See My Friends
Ray Davies is one of the great British song writers of any generation; even amongst the golden generation of the sixties, he stands out as somebody special. This album sees him revisit some of his classic songs and duet on them with a variety of artists. Yes it's indulgent, yes it's lazy but I don't really care; there are some really rather special songs on here and although arguably none of these 'covers' are a patch on the original versions, they pretty all stand-up in their own right.
I love the Metallica duet covering 'You Really Got Me'; it's proto-metal riffs are given new power; Jackson Browne sounds good on 'Waterloo Sunset' and Mumford & Sons do an excellent job on 'Day/This Time Tomorrow'; for me the weakest is 'Celluloid Heroes' with Jon Bon Jovi but then again I find Bon Jovi assinine and irritating. And also on the album is Alex Chilton's last recording with a good version of 'Till the End of The Day'.
This could have been a car-crash but it brings new life to some classic songs.
Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid
Touted as many as the new Prince; albiet from Atlanta and female; that's a hell of a tag line to live up to and then to do your debut album as basically a concept album, that's surely a bad case of hubris and a gaping chasm waiting to fall into. Crazily ambitious and sprawling over a pot pourii of 18 tracks, this girl is simply an insane genius.
From the start of the album which moves from an classical overture into rap on 'Dance or Die', a Grace Jones slab of dance greatness; audacious but sublime. 'Tightrope' is best James Brown track that he never recorded; you can see his ghost nodding his approval at this and when those horns kick in, well the funk is back.
Rap, funk, classical, pop, white-boy indie; this has it all. We might still be waiting for Prince to release one more classic album but I think Janelle Monae may have done the job for him. He can retire to Paisley Park, happy in the knowledge that there is another and even more insane musical genius recording.
Kele: The Boxer
The 'ex'-frontman of indie band Bloc Party; Kele has gone solo for the time being, finding the constraints of the indie genre boring and the result is 'The Boxer'. It's not a massive departure though from 'Intimacy' which was Bloc Party's last album and certainly 'One More Chance', their last single; those signposted the direction that Kele wanted to take the band.
Stand-out tracks are the full-on 'Tenderoni' and the Joy Division tinged 'Unholy Thoughts'.
Not an album for people who wanted a re-hash of 'Silent Alarm' but as a slab of indie-tinged dance, pretty damn good.
The Crookes: Dreams of Another Day
Heralding from Sheffield's conveyor belt of indie guitar bands; I suspect most of my readers have never come across The Crookes but if you can imagine a band which takes The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian and even a sprinkling of the House Martins with some Edwyn Collins thrown into the melting-pot and forging their own sound.
Not yet fully formed and yet to decide what they want to be; this collection of early songs shows potential and range which once they decide who they want to be points to a bright future.
'Back Street Lovers' opens the record sounding like if anything a very young 'The Smiths'; as if 'The Smiths' had started as a much younger band and later on the record, there's a sweet version of 'Born Under A Bad Sign' by fellow Yorkshire-man Richard Hawley (another artist that my American readers would do well to check out).
Can't wait for the first album proper.
Die Antwoord: $O$
Warning, I suspect that 90% of you are going to hate this album!
An incredibly confrontational rap-rave trio from Cape Town, South Africa. White Afrikaans hip hop, this the sound of 'Zef' music from rough Cape Flats district; this is grimy, urban and in your face, this not township jolly but belligerent in its intensity. Not a record for the sensitive but fortunately much of it is impenetrable as it is rapped mostly in Afrikaans, a language which you might not necessarily think lends itself to hip-hop.
But as their press release asked 'Is this Die Antwoord terrible, like the worst thing ever, or the most amazing thing the entire universe'; the answer is somewhere between these two poles but it made me smile, laugh and I've heard nothing else like it this year. And at time of the year when derivative 'X-factor' crap dominates the charts, this is the perfect antidote!
Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling & Dharohar Project
Okay, the fusion of Western and traditional Indian music does not always lend itself to success; sometimes ending-up as some horrible pastiche of both forms but fear not dear reader!
nu-folk darlings Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and the traditional Rajasthani folk collective the Dharohar Project have produced what is a remarkable four-track EP. Laura Marling's 'Devils Spoke' opens the EP and takes her Dylanesque opening track fromm her 'I Speak Because I Can' album to a new place; a joint vocal flies and it just sounds like Laura is having the best time on this. Next is the turn of Mumford and Sons to take their place on the stage building from a quiet and contamplative start to a huge crescendo. 'Anmol Rishtey' allows Dharohar Project to display their skills in their setting, a marvellous piece of Indian call and response music.
But the best is saved till last, 'Meheni Rachi' is a true fusion of the traditional sound of Dharohar Project with the voice of British nu-folk; completely joyous and simply shows that Laura Marling has what it takes to become a huge artist on her terms.
So it's nearing Christmas and hopefully everyone is planning a little bit of personal downtime to spend with their loved ones and generally get away from the mad, bad world that is IT and especially storage. A time to reflect and a time to recharge but also a time to look forward but best of all it's a time for presents; giving and recieving...so if you've been working so hard that you've not had time to work out what you want for Christmas, I thought I'd give you some ideas .
Today it's the turn of the bookworms amongst you all, here's a few of the books I enjoyed this year and not a techie book amongst them.
Life: Keith Richards
A life lived as the world's most elegantly wasted man is a tale worth telling and that Keith manages to recall it in such detail is simply superhuman. His humanity, humour, brutal honesty and simple common-sense shine through. Yes, there's a lot drug taking but in between the episodes of madness; there's a reflection and a exposition of one of the great rock partnerships. Simply a great rock autobiography!
What Would Keith Richards Do: Jessica Pallington West
As an accompaniment to Life; this tongue-in-cheek 'self help' guide reminds me of the Tao of Pooh and the ilk. It's genuinely funny and often genuinely wise. For all those moments in life when one doesn't quite know what to do, turn to 'Keef' for the answers. He may steer you in a direction completely opposite to the one you think you should go but you'll have a hell of a journey.
The Finkler Question: Howard Jacobson
Not just the Booker prize winner this year but actually a damn funny book; who says that literature has to be serious? A reflection on middle age, male competition, friendship, identity and search for a tribe; darkly funny in the way that only the Jewish mind can be, this novel is full of sadness, cleverness and subtlety but mostly just funny.
The Quantum Thief: Hannu Rajaniemi
A debut novel which dumps you right into the middle of the action from the first page; there's no gentle easement and introduction into this unique imagining of the post-singularity universe. Allegedly rattled off in seven weeks, this reads like it; ideas fly out and there is almost a sense of the author trying to show how clever he is but bear with it and the book will reward you. He maybe showing how clever he is but he also trusts the reader to be equally clever, I will warn you, it is a novel which has divided the SF community, loved and hated in almost equal measure. I loved it and look forward to the next one.
Scoop: Evelyn Waugh
I've come to Evelyn Waugh rather late but this short book is almost Wodehousian in it's humour; a classic farsical mix-up leads to a rural gentleman who pens a pastoral and soporific column for a London paper called 'The Daily Beast' being sent off to report on a war in the fictional African Republic of Ishamelia. Based in the 1930s, some of it has dated somewhat and the casual racism is at times disturbing but it is a product of it's time and it should be read in that context. And much of the core reflection on the nature of reporting and newspapers still rings very true today.
The Flavour Thesaurus: Niki Segnit
A work of genius; what flavour pairings work? From the familiar to the completely bonkers; Segnit takes 99 basic flavours and has come up with 980 pairings which should work. This is not a cook book and assumes that you already have a certain level of competence in the kitchen; recipes are part of the general prose like Elizabeth David and like Elizabeth David it reveals a whole new set of flavours to be enjoyed. And the writing is superb; funny and without the pretension that many food writers tend towards; a book to be enjoyed in many ways.