Storagebod Rotating Header Image


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.

Chuck D was right

So we are less than a week into 2011 and the Hype has already started; I was hoping that this was the year that we moved beyond superficial marketing and into something more substantial to reflect the market but instead EMC are mailing out broken records hyping some announcement that they intending to make later on this month. This is also accompanied with an on-line campaign with a whole host of EMCers singing from the corporate hymn-sheet having spent the festive season learning the words and consuming the kool-aid.

I'm sure that they will announce a new product which will surpass everyone else's current product; yet another manifestation of the commonly seen phenomena that 'my new product is better than your old product'; this will be inevitably followed in the next six months by someone announcing a product which surpasses the announcements made by EMC. The whole thing is reminiscent of the old DB2 vs Oracle or the Sun vs IBM vs HP benchmarketing wars of yore. Do we really want a year of boy-racer announcements from the storage vendors? 

I really hope that I am wrong and that EMC's focus of their announcement is not going to be purely performance based and how fast it is? Or even worse how it is the fastest array when combined with VMware and UCS but only in perfect weather conditions and being driven at a steady 60 miles per hour? 

I actually think that most of the storage vendors have some interesting things to talk about and there are some big themes to be tackled but it's less than a week into the New Year and I'm already irritated! And if this announcement does merely turn out to being all about how fast EMC arrays are, I hope that NetApp et al show some maturity and do not respond with similar hyperbolic and meaningless announcements.

Until then, can I recommend track 3 on Public Enemy's 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'? A record worth holding and keeping.


Spinning Down for Christmas – part 2

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.

Seeding the Media Cloud – Part 1

If you are a regular reader of this blog and a follower of my tweets, you will be aware that I work for one of the UK's largest broadcasters and at the moment, I'm working on a massive media archive. I doubt that there is a media company in the world who isn't trying to work out to move away from what is a fairly tortuous workflow which involves a huge number of systems and eventually ends up on a tape. 

When I say tape, it is important to differentiate between video-tape and data-tape; life can get very confusing when talking about digital workflow and you find people talking about tapeless systems which actually use a huge amount of tape but this is about from moving from a video-tape based system to a data-tape archive. 

But this little entry isn't about tape; it's about disk and more importantly, it's about how a build a massively scalable archive with some very demanding throughput requirements. In fact, what we are building is a specialised storage cloud and much of what we are doing has application in many industries. 

The core of this storage cloud is a cluster file-system; more importantly it is a parallel cluster file-system allowing multiple servers to the same data. The file-system appears to the users/applications as a standard file-system and is pretty much transparent to them, There are a number of cluster file-systems around but we have just chosen the venerable GPFS from IBM.

When I say venerable, I mean it; I first came across GPFS over ten years ago but at that time it was known as MMFS (multimedia filesystem) or Tigershark; it was an AIX only product and it was a pig to install and get working. But it supported wide-striping of data and it's read performance was incredible. I put this into what was a large media archive in a UK university (it is fair to say that I probably have more media on my laptop now) but it was very cool at the time.

MMFS then mutated into GPFS and what was already arcane descended in the world of the occult. GPFS was aimed at the HPC community and as such ran on IBM's SP2; I suspect it what at this point that GPFS got it's reputation as incredibly powerful but an extremely complex environment to manage. And running on top of AIX, it was never going to set the world alight. But in it's niche, it was a very popular product. However at about GPFS 1.x; I moved away from the world of HPC and never thought I would touch GPFS again.

In between now and then various releases have come and gone largely un-noticed I suspect to the world at large. However in 2005, an important release was made, GPFS 2.3 was released and Linux support was brought in.  I suspect it was at this point, that GPFS started to make a quiet comeback and move back into what was it's original heartland; the world of media.

So here we are in 2010; GPFS now sits at version 3.3 and supports Linux, AIX and Windows 2008; Solaris was road-mapped but has fallen off and there appears to be no more plans to support Solaris.

Figures are always good to throw in I guess; so let's get some idea of how far this will scale. 

  • Maximum Nodes in a cluster: 8192 (architectural); 3794 Nodes Tested (Linux)
  • Maximum Size of File System: 2^99, 4 Pb Tested
  • Maximum Number of Files in a File System: 2 Billion
  • Maximum Number of File Systems in a GPFS cluster: 256

So it'll scale to meet most needs and more importantly there are clusters out there which drive over 130 Gigabytes of throughput to a single sequential file. We don't need anything like that throughput yet.

And of course it meets those enterprise requirements such as the ability to add and remove nodes, disks, networks etc on the fly. Upgrades are allegedly non-disruptive, I say allegedly because we've not done one yet.

It also has a number of features which lead me to feel that GPFS is almost Cloud storage like in nature; it's not quite but it's very close and could well become so.

More in Part 2….

Not a Cloud Post!

Currently I have a whole bunch of blog posts half-written but at the moment inspiration seems to have gone a bit south. So I thought I would post on something completely different although it'll probably mutate into something familiar.

Now anyone who watches my twitter feed will probably have seen a few tweets on Spotify, the streaming music service available in some countries in Europe and coming soon I believe to the States. Although not the only streaming service available; it is in my opinion one of the best, it has a great selection of music covering all genres (I recently discovered that it has a growing classical selection) and it has great clients available for Mac and Windows but no Linux at the moment.

It also has two great mobile clients, one for Android and one for iPhone. If you want to use the mobile client, you must pay for the premium service but if you are happy with your music being interupted by adverts every now and then, the desktop version is free.

Now Spotify and services like it in many ways embody what to me is the real beauty of the Cloud model; a service which can be accessed anywhere from many devices but at the end of the day, the end product is the same, music streamed to my ears.

But this post isn't about Cloud, it came about after a brief MSN chat with a good friend of mine who specialises in all things Web 2.0 and especially getting useful information from the Internet; he's been training librarians and all kinds of other people how to use the Internet for years. And he mentioned that he had recently given a talk on how things like Spotify change things; it breaks the link between the physical instantention of the artifact and moves it completely into a virtual world and in doing so, it changes certain value assumptions.

Spotify for example has millions of tracks, now they are all searchable and I can just search for an artist and play their content; certainly, that's often how I use it but it also has the concept of playlists and publically shareable play-lists and it is these which will become more and more treasured and valuable.

Of course, it would be really useful if I could take Spotify playlist and then point it at another service such as Sky Songs and if playlists were portable. Or even take my iTunes database and point that at Spotify. I guess what we are talking about is portable metadata formats or at least gateways between services, in the Cloud or perhaps just stored locally.

Oh heck, this was a Cloud post anyway! We need to ensure that when we are building services or consuming services that in order to truly leverage the power of the Cloud, that we think about portability and flexiliblity. My playlists are currently locked into Spotify (and iTunes) but I am actively thinking about how I get round this and build a truly portable store; we need to think about this in our work lives as well.

Set the Wide Stripes Free

There have been a couple of articles recently on the HDS blogs about HDP; Hitachi Dynamic Provisioning is HDS' thin provisioning offering and like all of the thin-provisioning, it also offers wide-striping. I am not going to get into whether HDS' offering is chubby, skinny or just slightly overweight but what I am going to ask is…
if wide-striping is so foundational and so important to the storage industry and especially to improving my TCO as a end–user, why do I have to pay extra for it?

HDS and EMC are both extremely guilty in this regard, both Virtual Provisioning and Dynamic Provisioning cost me extra as an end-user to license. But this is the technology upon which all future block-based storage arrays will be built. If you guys want to improve the TCO and show that you are serious about reducing the complexity to manage your arrays, you will license for free. You will encourage the end-user to break free from the shackles of complexity and you will improve the image of Tier-1 storage in the enterprise.

I understand that you feel that you have to maintain the legacy architectures and designs that you have inflicted upon us in the past but it is time that you stopped enabling our mashochistic tendencies and it is time that you encouraged us to move away from the pain of the past. You can do this by removing the licensing costs for wide-striping; keeping the cost for thin-provisioning is just about acceptable but charging for this key simplifying technology is not!

And if one of you does it first; it's okay to copy! Really it is!! I can feel that we're going to be friends.

A Good Use of Storage…

Another indulgent end of year blog I'm afraid; I've got a few ideas for storage blogs for next year but at the moment, I'm still doing my 'best of…'

I've bought more music this year than I have done for many years; maybe it's guilt catching up with me after a few years when I downloaded an awful lot or maybe that this is just a bumper year for good music and there is more that I'm willing to pay for. From John Tavener's 'The Protecting Veil' to Fleet Foxes debut to Kylie's 'X' (which I know was last year); I seem to have pretty much all bases covered this year.

Jools Holland's 'Later…' has as always been a fantastic show to find new music and to rediscover old favourites; if you can manage to get hold of copies of his shows, I can strongly recommend that you do as he has a wonderfully catholic taste in music.

The stand-out album this year by miles is The Last Shadow Puppets 'Age of Understatement'; this Scott Walker/early Bowie influenced album seals Alex Turner's position as the song-writing giant of his generation. He manages to eclipse the two previous Artic Monkeys' albums with this collaboration with Miles Kane; a fine achievement for someone so young. The production at times is completely over the top and breathless but who cares; it just leaves you with a smile and who can ask for more?

And talking about smiles, how the hell did the next band ever happen? How did a preppie-looking band from NYC end up creating a Soukous-tinged album which just makes you grin. Should never have happened and it certainly shouldn't have worked! But hey, Vampire Weekend's eponymous debut is just the thing to lighten up the bus-ride to work.

Elbow's 'Seldom Seen Kid' deserves to be on the list for the beginning to 'Grounds for Divorce' alone but the whole album is equally good. A well-deserved Mercury award for one of most-underated British bands around.

But there's so much other good stuff around from the guilty pleasure of Katy Perry's 'I Kissed A Girl', The Streets' 'Everything is Borrowed', Kings of Leon's 'Only By the Night' (oh the joys of explaining what he is singing about to 7 year old…Sex on Fire indeed), Seasick Steve's 'I Started Out With Nothing' and even a good Oasis album.

And much, much more…..