Relinquishing Freedom in our Digital Future

There was a TV cartoon show I loved when I was a kid called “Wait till your Father gets home“. I was probably 5 or 6 then, but I can still remember the mother was practically nagging all the time of having the father to come back to deal with the problems and issues caused by the kids, and sometimes the dog.

This patriarchal mentality of having the male manning (yeah, it is not a gender neutral word) the household is also, unfortunately, mimicked in our societies, in general, being obedient and subservient to the government of the day. This is especially true in East Asian societies, .

While dissent of this mindset is sprouting in the younger generation of these societies, you can see the dichotomy of the older generation and the younger one in the recent protests in Thailand and the on-going one in Myanmar. The older generation is likely fearful of the consequences and there are strong inclinations to accept and subject their freedom to be ruled by the rulers of the day. It is almost like part of their psyche and DNA.

So when I read the article published by Data Storage Asean titled “Malaysians Optimistic on Giving the Government Increased Access to Personal Data for Better Services“, I was in two minds. Why are we giving away our Personal Data when we do not get a guarantee that the our privacy is protected?

Data Privacy should be in our own hands

Why are we giving away our freedom in new digital Malaysia when in history, we have not been truly protected of that freedom? 

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Storageless shan’t be thy name

Storageless??? What kind of a tech jargon is that???

This latest jargon irked me. Storage vendor NetApp® (through its acquisition of Spot) and Hammerspace, a metadata-driven storage agnostic orchestration technology company, have begun touting the “storageless” tech jargon in hope that it will become an industry buzzword. Once again, the hype cycle jargon junkies are hard at work.

Clear, empty storage containers

Clear, nondescript storage containers

It is obvious that the storageless jargon wants to ride on the hype of serverless computing, an abstraction method of computing resources where the allocation and the consumption of resources are defined by pieces of programmatic code of the running application. The “calling” of the underlying resources are based on the application’s code, and thus, rendering the computing resources invisible, insignificant and not sexy.

My stand

Among the 3 main infrastructure technology – compute, network, storage, storage technology is a bit of a science and a bit of dark magic. It is complex and that is what makes storage technology so beautiful. The constant innovation and technology advancement continue to make storage as a data services platform relentlessly interesting.

Cloud, Kubernetes and many data-as-a-service platforms require strong persistent storage. As defined by NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, the 4 of the 5 tenets – on-demand self-service, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, measured servicedemand storage to be abstracted. Therefore, I am all for abstraction of storage resources from the data services platform.

But the storageless jargon is doing a great disservice. It is not helping. It does not lend its weight glorifying the innovations of storage. In fact, IMHO, it felt like a weighted anchor sinking storage into the deepest depth, invisible, insignificant and not sexy. I am here dutifully to promote and evangelize storage innovations, and I am duly unimpressed with such a jargon.

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Storage in a shiny multi-cloud space

The multi-cloud for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) era is not here (yet). That is what the technology marketers want you to think. The hype, the vapourware, the frenzy. It is what they do. The same goes to technology analysts where they describe vision and futures, and the high level constructs and strategies to get there. The hype of multi-cloud is often thought of running applications and infrastructure services seamlessly in several public clouds such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft® Azure and Google Cloud Platform, and linking it to on-premises data centers and private clouds. Hybrid is the new black.

Multicloud connectivity to public cloud providers and on-premises private cloud

Multi-Cloud, on-premises, public and hybrid clouds

And the aspiration of multi-cloud is the right one, when it is truly ready. Gartner® wrote a high level article titled “Why Organizations Choose a Multicloud Strategy“. To take advantage of each individual cloud’s strengths and resiliency in respective geographies make good business sense, but there are many other considerations that cannot be an afterthought. In this blog, we look at a few of them from a data storage perspective.

In the beginning there was … 

For this storage dinosaur, data storage and compute have always coupled as one. In the mainframe DASD days. these 2 were together. Even with the rise of networking architectures and protocols, from IBM SNA, DECnet, Ethernet & TCP/IP, and Token Ring FC-SAN (sorry, this is just a joke), the SANs, the filers to the servers were close together, albeit with a network buffered layer.

A decade ago, when the public clouds started appearing, data storage and compute were mostly inseparable. There was demarcation of public clouds and private clouds. The notion of hybrid clouds meant public clouds and private clouds can intermix with on-premise computing and data storage but in almost all cases, this was confined to a single public cloud provider. Until these public cloud providers realized they were not able to entice the larger enterprises to move their IT out of their on-premises data centers to the cloud convincingly. So, these public cloud providers decided to reverse their strategy and peddled their cloud services back to on-prem. Today, Amazon AWS has Outposts; Microsoft® Azure has Arc; and Google Cloud Platform launched Anthos.

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Intel is still a formidable force

It is easy to kick someone who is down. Bad news have stronger ripple effects than the good ones. Intel® is going through a rough patch, and perhaps the worst one so far. They delayed their 7nm manufacturing process, one which could have given Intel® the breathing room in the CPU war with rival AMD. And this delay has been pushed back to 2021, possibly 2022.

Intel Apple Collaboration and Partnership started in 2005

Their association with Apple® is coming to an end after 15 years, and more security flaws surfaced after the Spectre and Meltdown debacle. Extremetech probably said it best (or worst) last month:

If we look deeper (and I am sure you have), all these negative news were related to their processors. Intel® is much, much more than that.

Their Optane™ storage prowess

I have years of association with the folks at Intel® here in Malaysia dating back 20 years. And I hardly see Intel® beating it own drums when it comes to storage technologies but they are beginning to. The Optane™ revolution in storage, has been a game changer. Optane™ enables the implementation of persistent memory or storage class memory, a performance tier that sits between DRAM and the SSD. The speed and more notable the latency of Optane™ are several times faster than the Enterprise SSDs.

Intel pyramid of tiers of storage medium

If you want to know more about Optane™’s latency and speed, here is a very geeky article from Intel®:

The list of storage vendors who have embedded Intel® Optane™ into their gears is long. Vast Data, StorOne™, NetApp® MAX Data, Pure Storage® DirectMemory Modules, HPE 3PAR and Nimble Storage, Dell Technologies PowerMax, PowerScale, PowerScale and many more, cement Intel® storage prowess with Optane™.

3D Xpoint, the Phase Change Memory technology behind Optane™ was from the joint venture between Intel® and Micron®. That partnership was dissolved in 2019, but it has not diminished the momentum of next generation Optane™. Alder Stream and Barlow Pass are going to be Gen-2 SSD and Persistent Memory DC DIMM respectively. A screenshot of the Optane™ roadmap appeared in Blocks & Files last week.

Intel next generation Optane roadmap

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Valuing the security value of NAS storage

Garmin paid, reportedly millions. Do you sleep well at night knowing that the scourge of ransomware is rampant and ever threatening your business. Is your storage safe enough or have you invested in a storage which was the economical (also to be known as cheap) to your pocket?

Garmin was hacked by ransomware

I have highlighted this before. NAS (Network Attached Storage) has become the goldmine for ransomware. And in the mire of this COVID-19 pandemic, the lackadaisical attitude of securing the NAS storage remains. Too often than not, end users and customers, especially in the small medium enterprises segment, continue to search for the most economical NAS storage to use in their business.

Is price the only factor?

Why do customers and end users like to look at the price? Is an economical capital outlay of a cheap NAS storage with 3-year hardware and shallow technical support that significant to appease the pocket gods? Some end users might decided to rent cloud file storage, Hotel California style until they counted the 3-year “rental” price.

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Resilient Integrated Data Protection against Ransomware

Early in the year, I wrote about NAS systems being a high impact target for ransomware. I called NAS a goldmine for ransomware. This is still very true because NAS systems are the workhorses of many organizations. They serve files and folders and from it, the sharing and collaboration of Work.

Another common function for NAS systems is being a target for backups. In small medium organizations, backup software often direct their backups to a network drive in the network. Even for larger enterprise customers too, NAS is the common destination for backups.

Backup to NAS system

Typical NAS backup for small medium organizations.

Backup to Data Domain with NAS Protocols

Backup to Data Domain with NAS (NFS, CIFS) Protocols

Ransomware is obviously targeting the backup as another high impact target, with the potential to disrupt the rescue and the restoration of the work files and folders.

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Down the rabbit hole with Kubernetes Storage

Kubernetes is on fire. Last week VMware® released the State of Kubernetes 2020 report which surveyed companies with 1,000 employees and above. Results were not surprising as the adoptions of this nascent technology are booming. But persistent storage remained the nagging concern for the Kubernetes serving the infrastructure resources to applications instances running in the containers of a pod in a cluster.

The standardization of storage resources have settled with CSI (Container Storage Interface). Storage vendors have almost, kind of, sort of agreed that the API objects such as PersistentVolumes, PersistentVolumeClaims, StorageClasses, along with the parameters would be the way to request the storage resources from the Pre-provisioned Volumes via the CSI driver plug-in. There are already more than 50 vendor specific CSI drivers in Github.

Kubernetes and CSI initiative

Kubernetes and the CSI (Container Storage Interface) logos

The CSI plug-in method is the only way for Kubernetes to scale and keep its dynamic, loadable storage resource integration with external 3rd party vendors, all clamouring to grab a piece of this burgeoning demands both in the cloud and in the enterprise.

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Falconstor Software Defined Data Preservation for the Next Generation

Falconstor® Software is gaining momentum. Given its arduous climb back to the fore, it is beginning to soar again.

Tape technology and Digital Data Preservation

I mentioned that long term digital data preservation is a segment within the data lifecycle which has merits and prominence. SNIA® has proved that this is a strong growing market segment through its 2007 and 2017 “100 Year Archive” surveys, respectively. 3 critical challenges of this long, long-term digital data preservation is to keep the archives

  • Accessible
  • Undamaged
  • Usable

For the longest time, tape technology has been the king of the hill for digital data preservation. The technology is cheap, mature, and many enterprises has built their long term strategy around it. And the pulse in the tape technology market is still very healthy.

The challenges of tape remain. Every 5 years or so, companies have to consider moving the data on the existing tape technology to the next generation. It is widely known that LTO can read tapes of the previous 2 generations, and write to it a generation before. The tape transcription process of migrating digital data for the sake of data preservation is bad because it affects the structural integrity and quality of the content of the data.

In my times covering the Oil & Gas subsurface data management, I have seen NOCs (national oil companies) with 500,000 tapes of all generations, from 1/2″ to DDS, DAT to SDLT, 3590 to LTO 1-7. And millions are spent to transcribe these tapes every few years and we have folks like Katalyst DM, Troika and more hovering this landscape for their fill.

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Reap at low tide

[ Note: This article was published on Linkedin more than 6 months ago. Here is the original link to the article ]

[ Update (Apr 13 2020): Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and restricted movement globally,  we can turn our pessimism into an opportunistic one ]

Nature has a way of teaching us. What works and what doesn’t are often hidden in plain sight, but we human are mostly too occupied to notice the things that work.

Why are they not spending?

This news appeared in my LinkedIn feed. It read “Malaysian Banks Don’t Spend Enough on Tech“. It irked me immensely because in a soft economy climate (the low tide), our Malaysian financial institutions should be spending more on technology (reaping the opportunity) to get ahead.

Why are the storks and the egrets in my page photo above waiting and wading in the knee-deep waters? Because at low tide, when the waves ebb, food is exposed to them abundantly. They scurry for shrimps, small crabs, cockles, mussels and more. This is nature’s way.

From the report, the technology spending average among the Malaysian banks is pathetic.

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The negative domino effect on SMEs

When the banks are not spending on technology, the other industries, especially the SMEs (small medium enterprises) follow suit. The “penny pinching” and “tightening purse string” effect permeates across industries, slowly and surely putting the negative effect in tech spending into a volatile spin-cycle.

From a macro-economic point of view, spending slows down. Buying less means lesser demands and effectively, lowering supply, and it rolls on. The law of demand and supply just got dumped into an abyss.

A great opportunity for those who see it

When I was an engineer at Sun Microsystems more than 2 decades ago, I read a comment delivered by one of the executives. It said “When times are bad, those who know will get the best parts“. I took his comment to heart because what he said held true, even until today.

This is the best time, when the country is experiencing an economic downturn. When the competitors are holding back and may be reeling from the negative effects of the economy, the banks are in the best position to grab the best deals. This is the time to gain market share, when the competition is holding back for fear that the economy will become softer.

Furthermore, with the low interest rates across the board, there is no better time than the present to step up the tech spending. Banks should know this very well but I am perplexed.

That is why the Malaysian banks must kick start their tech spending campaign now. And the SMEs will follow, overturning the downturn with demands of spending for the best “parts”. The supply “factories” are fired up again, and will lead to a positive growth to the economy.

Bank Negara RMiT is that one opportunity

One thing which has been looming is Bank Negara, Malaysia’s Central Bank, RMiT (Risk Management in Technology) framework. A new version was released in July 2019, and to me as an outsider, is a great opportunity to grab the best parts. And some of these standards will come into effect in January 2020

Bank Negara is strongly encouraging banks to improve the security and the confidence of the country’s financial industry, and the RMiT framework is really a prod to increase tech spending. Unfortunately, in some of my business interactions with a few of the banks, the feet dragging practice is prevalent.

Nature’s lesson

The best time to have your best pick is at low tide. This is nature’s lesson for us. What are we waiting for?