Should you bash your Storage competitor?

I get disturbed whenever a reseller, or even an end user asks for a competitive statement about storage Brand X or storage Brand Y. Given my background of everything storage, many a times, they want me to “dish the dirty stuff” of the storage brands I am competing with. And I often resist. Here is my philosophy and my approach.

Many storage consultants love to say bad things about others. It is one of the ways to get a bright glow about the product(s) they are pitching, and dim the prospects of their competitors. I don’t like to do things this way because what I say reflect on my professional ethos. In the closely connected storage networking and technology industry, we have folks that make career moves from one company to their competitors. Heck, I have a friend who recently joined Hitachi Vantara® after almost 20 years at EMC® (now Dell EMC®). We make career choices but it does not mean we should take the moral low ground to bash which storage competitor we are facing at that moment.

Where do I start?

This blog

The motivation to write this blog came from an article from CRN where NetApp®’s CEO, George Kurian, “corrected” Pure Storage®’s CEO Charles Giancarlo about his “inaccurate” statements about “true cloud storage”. Whatever Charlie said may be innocuous, but it has certainly stung Georgie. 

And in any technology-based industry, this technology bashing habit is rampant. Like it or not, marketing has played a role in creating the perception and the aura of strength with the technology it represents. Over the years, I have my fair share of beliefs cultivated through marketing, although as I wizened over the last 2 decades, I spend a lot of time diving deep into the specific storage technology. If time and resources permit, I even do technical hands-on, just to understand the technology more intimately. And that became the basis of running this StorageGaga blog in the past 12 years. To go beyond the FUDs and the fluffs, and share meaningful details and knowledge. Through my sharing, I learn from others as well.

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Best storage technology ever

In your opinion, which is the best storage technology? Yes, that question.

I wanted to write this commentary because someone with a PhD posted that question in a different context (below) on Facebook last week. It obviously touched a nerve with me because these are the same kinds of questions I get a lot through the latter half of my career. Next year will be my 30th year, and they have been primarily evolved around storage (a lot!), data and Oil & Gas petro-technical computing and subsurface data management.

Best software for Big Data Analysis?

So, obviously, like a specialist doctor at a meeting, many would gather and ask that question over and over again. Too many to c0unt.

Do what the Irishman does

More often than not, the real reason behind that question is always about something else. And to find out more, do what the Irishman does. Always answer the question with another question.

Side story. I learn this Irishman anecdote from an Irishman while working at NetApp® 21 years ago. I am looking at you, Niall Doherty!

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A Storage Field 18 I will go – for the fun of it

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, the Storage Field Day 18 I will go;

The first of twenty nineteen I was told;

Storage Field Days are always like gold;

Plenty of fun, plenty to behold.

It’s probably my fifth, sixth or I am not sure;

There’s plenty to look forward to, like azure.

This time again there are plenty of goodies;

All the storage nerds and geeks to party;

NetApp, Weka.IO, Cohesity;

Western Digital, Storpool and some secret company;

The delegates list is long and respected;

Wait a minute, no Howard?

I have always enjoyed these Field Days every one;

Stephen, Tom, Claire, Rich, Mel and the new one, Ken;

We were entertained in the last few runs;

From a great music guy with funny song names called Ben;

2 more weeks in KL while I wrap up my schedule;

So much to do, after the Lunar New Year that followed.

I will soon be there my Storage Field Day;

By hook or by crook, come what may;

There is so much to learn and plenty to say;

Be still my impatient heart, Stay;

Millions of thanks to Gestalt IT;

We all love you, Gratefully!

Cohesity SpanFS – a foundational shift

[Preamble: I was a delegate of Storage Field Day 15 from Mar 7-9, 2018. My expenses, travel and accommodation were paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]

Cohesity SpanFS impressed me. Their filesystem was designed from ground up to meet the demands of the voluminous cloud-scale data, and yes, the sheer magnitude of data everywhere needs to be managed.

We all know that primary data is always the more important piece of data landscape but there is a growing need to address the secondary data segment as well.

Like a floating iceberg, the piece that is sticking out is the more important primary data but the larger piece beneath the surface of the water, which is the secondary data, is becoming more valuable. Applications such as file shares, archiving, backup, test and development, and analytics and insights are maturing as the foundational data management frameworks and fast becoming the bedrock of businesses.

The ability of businesses to bounce back after a disaster; the relentless testing of large data sets to develop new competitive advantage for businesses; the affirmations and the insights of analyzing data to reduce risks in decision making; all these are the powerful back engine applicability that thrust businesses forward. Even the ability to search for the right information in a sea of data for regulatory and compliance reasons is part of the organization’s data management application.

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Magic happening

[Preamble: I am a delegate of Storage Field Day 15 from Mar 7-9, 2018. My expenses, travel and accommodation are paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I am not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]

The magic is happening.

Dropbox, the magical disruptor, is going IPO.

When Dropbox first entered into the market which eventually termed as BYOD (Bring your Own Device), it was a phenomenon. There was nothing else that matched its simplicity and ease-of-use. A file uploaded into the cloud was instantaneously available on the tablets and smart phones. It was on every storage vendor’s presentation slides, using Dropbox as the perennial name dropping tactic to get end users buy-in.

Dropbox was more than that, and it went on to define a whole new market segment known as Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS), together with everybody else such as Box, Easishare (they are here in South East Asia), and just about everybody else. And the executive team at Dropbox knew they were special too, so much so that they rejected a buyout attempt by Apple in 2011.

Today, Dropbox is beyond BYOD and EFSS. They are a full fledged collaboration platform that includes project management, project workflow, file versioning, secure file transfer, smart file synchronization and Dropbox Paper. And they offer comprehensive plans from Basic, Plus and Professional to Business and Enterprise. Their upcoming IPO, I am sure, will give them far greater capital to expand, and realize their full potential as the foremost content-based collaboration platform in the world.

Dropbox began their exodus from AWS a couple of years ago. They wanted to control their destiny and have moved more than 500PB into their own private data center for their customer data. That was half-an-exabyte, people! And two years later, they saved $75million of operating costs after they exited AWS. Today, they have more than 1 Exabyte of customer data! That is just incredible.

And Dropbox’s storage architecture started with a simple foundational design called “Magic Pocket“. Magic Pocket is a “fixed-length, immutable” block storage layer.

The block size is fixed at 4MB chunks (for parallel performance and service resumption reasons), compressed and deduped (for capacity savings reasons), encrypted (for security reasons) and replicated (for high availability reasons).

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Storage dinosaurs evolving too

[Preamble: I am a delegate of Storage Field Day 15 from Mar 7-9, 2018. My expenses, travel and accommodation are paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I am not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]

I have been called a dinosaur. We storage networking professionals and storage technologists have been called dinosaurs. It wasn’t offensive or anything like that and I knew it was coming because the writing was on the wall, … or is it?

The cloud and the breakneck pace of all the technologies that came along have made us, the storage networking professionals, look like relics. The storage guys have been pigeonholed into a sunset segment of the IT industry. SAN and NAS, according to the non-practitioners, were no longer relevant. And cloud has clout (pun intended) us out of the park.

I don’t see us that way. I see that the Storage Dinosaurs are evolving as well, and our storage foundational knowledge and experience are more relevant that ever. And the greatest assets that we, the storage networking professionals, have is our deep understanding of data.

A little over a year ago, I changed the term Storage in my universe to Data Services Platform, and here was the blog I wrote. I blogged again just before the year 2018 began.


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My dilemma of stateful storage marriage

I should be a love match maker.

I have been spending much hours in the past few months, thinking of stateful data in stateful storage containers and how they would consummate with distributed applications containers and functions-as-a-service (aka serverless, aka Lambda). It still hasn’t made much sense, and I have not solved this problem yet. Although there were bits and pieces that coming together and the jigsaw looked well enough to give a cackled reply, what I have now is still not good enough for me. I am still searching for answers, better than the ones I have now.

The CAP theorem is in center of my mind. Distributed data, distributed states of data are on my mind. And by the looks of things, the computing world is heading towards containers and serverless computing too. Both distributed applications containers and serverless computing make a lot of sense. If we were to engage a whole new world of fog computing, edge computing, IoT, autonomous systems, AI, and other real-time computing, I would say that the future belongs to decentralization. Cloud Computing and having edge systems and devices getting back to the cloud for data is too slow. The latency of micro- or even nano-seconds is just not good enough. If we rely on the present methods to access the most relevant data, we are too late.

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Data services platforms – 2018 and beyond

2017 is drawing to a close. Sadly, I was greeted with the news of Oracle laying off their storage hardware sales team yesterday. And I couldn’t help to see where all this is going, the Oracle Cloud. The cloud has become the data services platform of choice, not on-premise storage infrastructure anymore.

Years ago, when I first started blogging, I wrote that Cloud Computing could make you lose your job unless… I don’t usually make predictions but that prediction in 2011 is becoming true and more prevalent.

What is the future looking like?

For one, it is not bleak and plenty to look forward to. Forrester predicts that in 2018 (or at the end of it), Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google will capture 76% of all cloud platform revenue and 80% by 2020. More data will be generated at the edge than it is being created centrally on public clouds. The demand for high performance data services platforms will be beyond your usual object-based storage and having a data singularity where data can transcend across premises will become crucial in maintaining, extending and improving the services from core-to-edge. Multi-Cloud or Cross-Cloud services platforms are maturing because the cloud platform space, while dominated by AWS, Azure and Google, includes IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, Rackspace, Alibaba Cloud, and is also about localized and regionalized players like Markely, Virtustream and ReScale serving unique and niche markets.

To address this shift, data services platforms are reinventing itself to be different. Flash-based, NVMe storage (err, I mean data services platform) is the foundation of building and drive self-service analytics, whether it is file-aware or content-aware, or infrastructure-aware. This new found “awareness” would inculcate platform intelligence and data intelligence, driving automation towards predictive and preemptive actions.

From a security point of view, data privacy and data governance take precedence of form and shape. As Europe enforces the General Data Protection Regulation in May of 2018, the proliferation of multi-clouds and cross-clouds will be questions. How safe is my organization’s data? How will it be regulated as the data crosses cloud boundaries? How to ensure that data workflows and pipelines move freely to shared and unencumbered? These questions are surely be eyeballed in any data regulated segments of the businesses and the individuals who have dealings in those markets.

What about people like us who have been in the storage technology industry for a lot time? I have reverberated that a technology person doing technical work has stand out. Going back to my old 2011 blog, you have to be better than better, knowing the technologies deeper than deeper, and be more connected than you are connected right now. Be EXTRAORDINARY than the typical run-of-the-mill engineer or consultant or architect. Stand Out!

This is not a prediction for the future. I am not a futurist but the signs of change upon the data services platforms (storage for you dinosaurs, yours truly included) are shaping up to tangible forms. And we are going to see lots of more disruptive stuff in 2018 and beyond.

Just my once-in-a-while ranting and we will have a fantastic 2018!