Storagebod Rotating Header Image


Meaningless Metrics!

Recently we’ve had a bit of a senior management reshuffle and as a result, people are in ;prove that their teams are valuable’ mode again. Inevitably this means producing metrics to show why your team is brilliant, so my manager came along and asked me to produce some metrics about our storage estate.

So off I went and produced some pretty graphs showing storage growth, increase in number of technologies supported and some other things that I thought might show why my team does an excellent job. One of the problems with running a very good team is that they tend to have a relatively low visibility; they don’t cause problems and things don’t often break. Most of the time, people don’t know that we are here.

Anyway, as is the way of these things; the usual comment comes back; how many terabytes per head do we manage and what is the industry average?  Now with over two petabytes of active data per head under management, I could claim that my team is great but to be honest no-one really knows what the industry average is and would it be meaningful anyway? I’ve seen from 50Tb to 1 Petabyte quoted but with a figure of 150-200Tb most oft quoted; so my team could be good, great or downright amazing (it’s somewhere between the last two).

However, this is all meaningless and becomes more meaningless the more that industry changes. For example, we are managing what is closer to a big-data environment; big data environments have large infrastructures but if I am being honest, they are not especially hard to manage.

We rely on a fair amount of automation and standardisation; applications often do a lot of the storage management function and although the storage infrastructure grows, it tends not to change massively. Allocations are large but they tend to be relatively static; in that once allocated, it does not move around a lot; we make a lot of use of clustered file-systems and most of the work we do is non-disruptive. We add nodes in and even if node fails, it tends not to take every thing with it; we can live with a node down for weeks; the applications are resilient and services can generally cope with failures.

We have our busy times but it does generally run pretty smoothly; most of our time is spent on working out how we can make it run even more smoothly and how we improve the service, which in my opinion is exactly how it should be. The best support teams look busy but not stressed; hero cultures are not where it’s at.

So I’ve given my boss a figure but I am really not sure that it has a lot of value. Lies, Damn Lies and Metrics!

Happy New Year

Hope everyone had a nice break and is ready to get back into the swing of things; 2012 is upon us and for us living in London, we look forward to a summer of travel chaos and ever increasing levels of hyperbole. It is both the London Olympics but also the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, so a great time to visit London and probably a great time to be living elsewhere.

Next week sees the Dell Storage Forum in London and the first #storagebeers of the year. Dell has had a year now to get their storage portfolio in order and 2012 must be the year that they begin to see their acquisitions deliver; yet, even that might not be enough and we need to see some innovation and road-maps presented. From Exanet to Compellent via Equallogic, there is enough product and I am looking forward to see how it gets woven into a strategy.

Yet Dell are not the only company who need to start weaving a strategy, arguably with the exception of EMC, this is the year when everyone needs to start drawing the weft and clothing their products with strategy and coherence.

And it is not just the vendors who need to get their strategies in order; this is very much the case for the end-user as well. Too much product and too much fluff still proliferates in many end-user organisations, this often due to a confusion between flexibility and choice.

From Cloud to Data Analytics; there has been a lot of playing with these technologies but many organisations need to move beyond this and into delivery of investment and results. As in every year, there is lots to do and as in every year, there might be too much to do. Start stripping away the fluff and delivering.


Bod’s Stuff of the Year

It’s bit late but if you still have some Christmas shopping to do, here’s a few ideas of things I’ve liked over the past twelve months.

Anyway, hopefully there are a few ideas for late Christmas presents or even some New Year’s retail therapy. Do your bit for the economy and spend, spend, spend!

Gadget of the Year

Don’t care which model you get but Amazon’s e-reader is probably the must have for any geek. It slips into a large coat pocket and you can have your favourite books with you where-ever you are. The only problem with it is that it is far too easy to buy books and you will find yourself spending more than you used to on books. But for me, it’s my favourite gadget.

Geek-out Extravaganza

It might be expensive and completely indulgent but if you are a Star Wars nut; then Star Wars: The Blueprints is a must have. The packaging is gorgeous and the content, especially from the filming of the original series, is sublime. Treat yourself, you’ll love it. Just hide the receipt!

Games(s) of the Year

I am already loosing sleep to Star Wars: The Old Republic (had a great gaming session with Storagezilla) but my Game of the Year is not really a game but a collection of games; can I recommend that you all support the Indie Games industry and especially Humble Bundle, some fun games at pocket money prices and you get to support independent games companies and charity at the same time.  There are other indie games bundles out there, it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.

Fiction Book of the Year

There’s been some great fiction this year, Neal Stephenson told a cracking tale in Reamde and really hit form again; William Gibson’s Zero History was full of ideas and great fun but for me, a new City Watch tale from Terry Pratchett was always going to be the highlight. Snuff takes Captain Vimes into the country and out of his beloved city, as he struggles with the duties of Lord of the Manor, he stumbles into a murder. The ensuing tale is Pratchett at his best.

Non-Fiction Book of the Year

The sad and expected demise of Steve Jobs lead to the early release of Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography. I think it is a credit to Steve and his family that this rounded picture of him was allowed. A deeply flawed genius; this book does not shy away from the flaws whilst painting the picture of the driven genius. If you love Apple or even if you hate Apple, it’s worth reading and perhaps reflecting on the bit of Steve which is in us all, certainly Biography of the Year. Pencil Me In: A Journey in the Fight for Graphite is a allegorical tale of technology introduction in education; I think many of my readers will both find relevant and fun [especially recommended to Chuck Hollis and Matthew Yeager].

But my non-fiction book of the year is The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers: 1.3 Billion People, 1 Secret Regime; as power continues to move eastwards and China continues its rise to become the dominant economic super-power, this book details how China has pulled itself out of the doldrums and transform its economy. Anecdotes are well used to demonstrate ideas and why China will not transform into a Western-style democracy any time soon.

Album of the Year

I’ve enjoyed House Of Cards by Emily Baker, Suck It And See by Arctic Monkeys and especially enjoyed the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica in the form of Lulu. The return of Atari Teenage Riot’s aural assault was a welcome return by the Teutonic terrors, Is This Hyperreal?.

Still, I have to agree with the Mercury Music Prize panel and make PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake my stand-out album of the year. As English as it gets, PJ’s anger and passion for our homeland’s current place in the world is a powerful piece from an artist who never fails to push our buttons.

Computer Component of the Year

SSD, get one! It changes your desktop experience, I use the Crucial variations but do your research and transform your desktop computer.

Dear Santa – 2011

Dear Santa,

it’s that time of year again when I write to you on behalf of the storage community and beyond. 2011 promised much but delivered less than hoped; the financial crisis throughout the world has put a damper on the party and there are some gloomy faces around. But as we know, the world will always need more storage, so what do we need to deliver in 2012.

Firstly, what we don’t need is Elementary Marketing Crud from the Effluent Management Cabal; perhaps this was a last grasp at a disappearing childhood as they realise that they need to be a grown-up company.

What I would like to see is some more serious discussion about what ‘Big Data’ is and what it means both from a Business point of view but also from a social responsibility point of view. I would like to see EMC and all get behind efforts to use data for good; for example, get behind the efforts to review all drug trial data ever produced to build a proper evidence based regime for the use and prescription of drugs, especially for children who often just get treated as small adults. This is just one example of how we can use data for good.

There are so many places where ‘Big Data’ can be used beyond the simple analysis of Business activities that it is something which really could change the world. Many areas of science from Climate Research to Particle Physics generate huge amounts of data that need analysing and archiving for future analysis that we can look at this being a gift to the world.

And Santa, it can also be used to optimise your route around the world, I’m sure it is getting more complicated and in these days of increasing costs, even you must be looking at ways of being more efficient.

Flying through clouds on Christmas Night, please remember us down below who are still trying to work out what Cloud is and what it means; there are those who feel that this is not important but there are others who worry about there being no solid definition. There are also plenty of C-level IT execs who are currently loosing sleep as to what Cloud in any form means to them and their teams.

So perhaps what is needed is less spin, more clarity and leadership. More honesty from vendors and users, stop calling products and projects, Cloud; focus on delivery and benefits. A focus on deliverables would remove much of the fear around the area.

Like your warehouses at this time of year, our storage systems are full and there is an ever increasing demand for space. It does not slow down and unlike you, our storage systems never really empty.  New tools for data and storage management allowing quick and easy classification of data are a real requirement along with standards based application integration for Object storage; de-facto standards are okay and perhaps you could get some of the vendors to stop being precious about ‘Not Invented Here’.

I would like to see the price of 10GbE come down substantially but also I would like to see the rapid introduction of even faster networks; I am throwing around huge amounts of data and the faster I can do it, the better. A few years ago, I was very positive about FCoE; now I am less so, certainly within a 10 GbE network it offers very little but faster networks might make me more positive about it again.

SSDs have changed my desktop experience but I want that level of performance from all of my storage; I’ve got impatient and I want my data *NOW*. Can you ask the vendors to improve their implementation of SSDs in Enterprise Arrays and obviously drive down the cost as well? I want my data as fast as the network can supply it and even faster if possible; local caching and other techniques might help.

But most of all Santa, I would like a quiet Christmas where nothing breaks and my teams get to catch up on some rest and spend time with their families. The next two years’ roadmap for delivery is relentless and time to catch our breath may be in short supply.

Merry Christmas,



More Books

Every now and then I like to post some short reviews of books I’ve enjoyed; there’s no particular theme, I generally just love books and read just about everything. So here are a handful of books that I’ve enjoyed recently.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?; Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was an award winning first novel when it was published 1985, pretty much everyone knows that it was semi-autobiographical but now Jeanette Wintersone has gone back and written the real story. And what everyone assumed was exaggerated for effect actually turn out to be true or actually they put a more cheery gloss than what was the lonely reality.

Stories of  a mother who refused to enter Marks and Spencer announcing that ‘The Jews Killed Christ’ manage to evoke laughter,disbelief and sadness all at the same time. Never self-pitying but often painfully honest, the book still manages to be amazingly easy to read. I suspect it would make a great Boxing Day tonic to the sometimes cloying sentimentality of Christmas TV.

And now for something completely different

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I; Francis Walsingham is often credited with creating the English secret service and the first great English spymaster.  To be honest, there are few good books about him and I don’t think there is one which places him so well in the period.

Elizabethan England was a fragile place; full tumult and change, the divide between Protestant and Catholic, the tensions between a fierce loyalty to both crown and faith are brought to life without ever coming down in favour of either side.

For a scholarly book, it is fascinating and entertaining;  reminding me of John Julius Norwich’s Byzantium histories in style; both learned and witty…certainly worth a read.

Peter Hamilton is famous for writing tomes; books that you could build a house with but he is also an accomplished writer of short stories; Manhattan in Reverse is his second collection of short stories covering a variety of settings from an alternate  19th century Oxford to the more familiar setting of his Commonwealth novels.

It includes a new Paula Myo story which gives the book its title which is why many people will pick it up but bizarrely it omits his  award-winning short story ‘The Suspect Genome’ which features Greg Mandel from his early trilogy. Still, it’s a nice collection of his short stories and proves that he doesn’t actually need 1000+ pages to tell a good story and that he can demonstrate some kind of restraint!

So there you go; three very different books for you to try!

Brief Bod

So I’m going to be at SNW Europe (all funded by the nice people who run it) and part of the deal is to spend time with vendors and let them brief me about their products; it’s almost like being a real journalist or analyst but of course I’m not!

And this seems to make it harder to know how to engage with me and with my fellow bloggers. Vendors try to work out whether to sell to us as many of us are end-users in our day jobs or do they treat us like they would a more traditional journalist.

So here’s some thoughts…

1) Read the blog; you don’t have to read the every entry but you should have an idea of what interests me and my style. We all have different styles; I don’t blog that much about product at the moment, so spamming me with speeds and feeds does not really work. I like to think that I blog more about themes and memes; thinking about why we do something as opposed to the detailed how.

2) Don’t talk at me; be prepared for a conversation. I’m not simply going to take your word for anything. As a end-user, I will use my experience and experiences as reference points but this is not an excuse for you to try to sell.

3) Don’t expect me to write a post about your product but you may find that it gets a mention in a broader piece about a theme or idea. I blog for ‘fun’ and not for profit…

4) Relax and enjoy it….us bloggers are generally a friendly bunch and the fact that we do this for fun means that it should be fun for you too. I’m not looking for a scoop or an exclusive; I’m just looking to find out cool stuff!

So tell me something cool….


500 Not Out! How Did This Happen?

Another milestone for the Storagebod blog; this is my five hundredth post!  I should write something really meaningful but I’m not sure I can think of anything, so I thought I’d just put down a number of short ideas which might get developed more into full blogs.

Enterprise IT – Enterprise IT is a meaningless term; it is insulting and disparaging of anyone else who is not an Enterprise. If you run a business and your IT infrastructure is core to the continuation of your business; you need IT which is reliable, scalable and all those other good things. You can of course leave off paying the premium for what people call ‘Enterprise’!

RFPs – Request For Pain. RFPs generally exist for one reason in IT; that is to give a bunch of vendors a kicking. In the storage world, you probably have little reason to change vendor but you might as well kick the crap out of your incumbent for laughs. The result of nearly all RFPs is driven by politics and not technical reasons; it is probably better for your sanity if you acknowledge that up front. If a customer really wants to change, they will.

It’s a PC Plus World; the reality is that if you’ve got a desktop, you will probably keep a desktop. Don’t expect this to change any time soon. Yes, you will probably be able to get access to some services via an alternative device but I suspect that most desktop users will stay just that.  You will see more mobile devices about but we all know that it’s a pose and it gives us something to do in tedious meetings.

Big Data; use Big Data to make better decisions, don’t use it as an excuse to dive into analysis paralysis. If it has all the characteristics of a duck, it probably is a duck…you don’t need to decode it’s genome before you serve it with Orange sauce.

Cloud; it’s a way of delivering service but it’s not the only way of delivering service. If you find yourself getting religious about how you deliver a service as opposed to delivering the service…take a holiday and get some perspective.

Internal Service Providers; you only have one customer to focus on. This is your biggest strength and weakness.

IT Management; take the chance if possible to manage a team outside of your technical experience. You learn to manage, delegate and trust your team; you focus on managing and not trying to do two jobs. You can always go back to managing in your technical discipline but you will bring new insight and ideas.

Work/Life Balance; you will die, this is inevitable. Make sure that the people you love remember you for the right reasons and not for times you weren’t there.

So that’s post 500 done…here’s to the next 500!!


Three is the Magic Number?

I never thought that I’d keep this going so long but it is now three years that I’ve been writing this blog. It’s still fun to do and keeps the mind going; sometimes I think it’s getting easier and then at times, I just sit here writing and re-writing the same sentence again and again!

It amazes me that people come and keep coming back to read more. It also amazes me when people actually write nice things about the blog even when I’ve been very critical of their company; the vendors have been incredibly supportive (no, no money has changed hands) as have my fellow bloggers.

I look back at some posts and wonder ‘what the hell was I thinking?’ and then there are others which I can read with pleasure. There are the posts which I know have changed things; encouraging and badgering  EMC to include VP as part of the standard stack with Symmetrix is something I am quietly proud to have influenced.

Its been interesting to watch the take-over shenanigans as the tier 2 companies have been gobbled up; leaving only NetApp really retaining its independence.

And now we have new wave of storage start-ups; many virtualisation focused and many trying to figure out the best way to deploy SSDs. How many of these will grow into take-over targets and can any of them become the next NetApp?

Then there is the growth of Cloud and what that means; does Cloud mean anything? It certainly still seems to mean many things to many people. From the consumer cloud to the private cloud; Cloudwashing is the order of the day!

So dear reader, thank-you for reading, thank-you for commenting and thank-you for the generally nice things you say about the blog.

Here’s to the next year and beyond.

And Back To Reality…

A lot of my spare time recently has been eaten up by something that I can’t blog about but is very cool but non-storage or even work related but it’s sadly come to an end, so I guess I’ll have some more spare time again.

I thought I’d make a quick mention of the Celerra/OS X Lion issue; this is not the first time that OS X has caused an issue with a commercial NAS. The last time was with OnTap where a case change on a file-name would cause a file to disappear and cause data-loss.

If Apple are going to make more in-roads into the Enterprise Desktop space and with the current ‘Bring Your Own Device’ meme seeming to make some headway; all of the Enterprise vendors are going to have to be more aware of OS X and make sure that their test suites cover OS X cases adequately.

Apple users are some of the most unforgiving and impatient users that I have ever had to support; they generally expect everything to work and do not show the tolerance of long-suffering Windows users.

Apple have done a great job in convincing them that IT should just work and they believe it! They (Apple users)  sometimes do have short memories and forget Apple’s screw-ups but they never forget a non-Apple issue.

Evil Cloud!

There is much to say about the AWS outage and there is much that has already been said about the outage. However whilst the outage was happening I was at the UK National Science Fiction Convention (yes, I am that much of a geek) and one of our favourite t-shirt designers had the following t-shirt design available..

Evil Cloud

It seemed very appropriate and made me laugh, so obviously I bought one. But if you want one too and I suggest that you all do, you can get them from Genki Gear. They’ve got lots of other cool designs and I won’t be held responsible for your credit card bills!

They obviously have very little idea as to why it is so funny but I think all ‘Cloud Experts’ can appreciate it, no matter where they stand on Cloud!