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2011 – A Vendor Retrospective….

So, we’re winding down to Christmas and looking forward to spending time with our families, so I guess it’s time for me to do a couple of Christmas blog entries. It’s been a funny year really, a lot has happened in the world of technology but nothing really has changed in my opinion; there’s certainly some interesting tremors and fore-shadowing though.

HP started the year in a mess and finish the year in a mess; they got themselves into a bigger mess in the middle of the year but appear to have pulled themselves from the brink of the abyss. I can still hear the pebbles bouncing of the walls of the abyss as HP scramble but I think they’ll be okay. 3Par is going to turn into a huge win for them.

EMC started the year with a Big Bang of nothing announcements and some fairly childish marketing but their ‘Big Data’ meme appears to be building up a head of steam. Isilon appears to be doing great for them and although EMC still don’t appear to understand some of the verticals that they play in now, they seem to understand that they don’t and are generally letting the Isilon guys get on with it. Yes, they’ve lost a few people but that’s always the case. Their JV with Cisco; I hear mixed reviews, I think that they are doing well in the Service Provider space but less well in the other verticals; still, they are certainly marketing well to partner organisations.

HDS still struggle around message but they seem to be getting a better selling stuff and are going aggressively after business. Much of this seems to be by ‘ripping the arse’ out of prices but a newly hungry and aggressive HDS is not such a bad thing. I still think that they are not quite sure how to sell outside of their comfort zone but some of the arrogance has gone.

IBM; Incoherent Basic Marketing. There’s a huge opportunity for IBM and yet they seem to be confused. They do have a vision and they do have technology but they do seem to struggle with the bit in the middle.  And they never seem to finish a product; so much feels half-done.

NetApp bought Engenio; a great buy but have they confused themselves? Revenues appear to be plateauing and from my anecdotal evidence, adoption of OnTap 8 is slow. I think in hindsight that some within NetApp may agree that OnTap 8 shipped too early and it was a ‘release anything’ type move; OnTap 8.1 is really OnTap 8.

Oracle ‘bought’ Pillar and still have no storage story. Larry should bite the bullet and buy NetApp; much as that might upset some of  my friends at NetApp.

I started the year with great hopes for Dell and I finish the year with some great hopes for Dell but they need to move fast with a sober HP on the horizon. HP could shut them out.

Elsewhere in the industry, pure-play SSD start-ups seem to be hot and there’s a lot of new players in that space. There’s going to be more in that space as people start to treat SSDs as a new class of storage as opposed to simply faster spinning rust. I do worry at the focus on VMware by some of these start-ups and their exposure to VMware doing something which impacts the start-up’s model and technology. Design with virtualisation in mind but ensure that you are agile enough to dodge the slings and arrows of misfortune.

One thing which has saddened me over the past eighteen months is the fall off in blog entries by some of the more notable bloggers. I know you are busy guys but is an entry every other week or so too much to ask? I miss reading some of you!! Hey, I even miss some of the heated spats in the comments.


Let the Campaign Begin!

So Zilla has fired the starting pistol for the race for EMC’s new CEO.

I would like to start the campaign to get Zilla appointed as EMC’s new CEO; he is the obvious choice and on that I think that we can all agree.

An EMC with Zilla in charge would be aggressive, ambitious and above all, amusing for us all to watch. He would be the Bond villain of the Storage Industry…planning for world domination from his underground base or at least his games room of doom!

Make EMC’s Court Jester the King!

Make EMC stand for Evil Mark’s Company!

The Information Business

It strikes me that any industry/profession which is the business of providing information or access to information is currently in an incredible state of flux and change. My friend Phil Bradley who blogs ons where librarians and the internet meet and has written a number of books on Internet search and has been involved in information provision since he studied librarianship many years ago discusses this a lot on his blog and on his twitter feed. And although he claims to read my blog and not understand a word of it; I think that our two professions have much in common and could well become much closer over the coming years.

Librarians in the past have been the gatekeepers to knowledge and information; not only that they have curated and preserved much of the world's knowledge but as we have moved away from the physical representation of that knowledge and into storing that knowledge in the forms of bits and bytes, some of that responsibility has passed into the hands of the humble storagebod. Just look at SNIA's 100 Year Archive initiative; if that doesn't have aspects of the librarian as curator, I'm not sure what does.

And we have a common problem; our users want access to knowledge and information in a multitude of different ways, they want to consume information without the gatekeeper and instead of being the gatekeeper, we need to be the enabler. We are both no longer able to tell our users how they should consume information; we need to listen to them and provide it to them in the form that they want. Those forms are changing all the time; be it video, audio, XML data, printed word, web-portal; almost any form that you can imagine.

Also the nature of information is changing with some dramatic impacts; information is real-time, there is no real lag between creation and publication of the information. The data-sets behind the information change all the time; yet provenance becomes ever more important.

You can't simply replace a librarian with a search engine and let the world get on with it; lets take Wikipedia, it's not a bad source of information as long as you except that it can often be wrong and not only that, sometimes the information put on it is designed to be deliberately wrong. Yes it is peer-reviewed but after publication; if you were unfortunate enough to read an entry which had just been erroneously updated and without checking, you could well have just cited a load of the proverbial. 

Much academic publication is now done electronically on the web but how does the humble student determine which is good source and which is not; also citation (and just Wikipedia) is becoming very dangerous; information moves and vanishes all the time. A perfectly good citation could simply change URL and throw a premise into the realms of conjecture; how do you cite a particular version of website? 

The data-sets that our businesses run on are updated in real-time but too often business decisions are made utilising versions of the data-set which are disconnected from the source and could be months out of date. There are various reasons for this but sometimes it is because we simply make it too hard to take a real-time feed of the information the business requires. So decisions are made on information which could be basically hogwash. But yet, we need to ensure that the information provided is correct and not corrupted in some way; it is not enough to ensure that only the right people have access to the information but also ensure that only the right people can change that data. 

The provision of information in a timely manner and in the way that our users want is a challenge both for the librarian and the storagebod; perhaps at the end of the day, we are all just Information Professionals. I'm sure that we have much to learn from each other; they've been doing it for thousands of years.

#storagebeers – April 15th

I'm kind of struggling to come up with a venue for #storagebeers on 15th April! I'm trying to ensure that we drink in reasonably interesting pubs and not the normal chain pubs!!

At the moment, I'm favouring the Hoop and Grapes which is very close to Aldgate Station. This has the advantage of being reasonably close to Brick Lane and other eateries. So unless anyone has better suggestions, it'll be the Hoop and Grapes. 

The Hoop and Grapes has an interesting history and is the only surviving 17th Century timber-framed building in the City of London.  

Please come along but note there will also be a couple in May as well.

Father Christmas Letters – The Last One

Dear Father Christmas,

                                yes I
mean you, the real one who lives near the North Pole! I've got a few
requests for you; Christmas is a time for a giving and I've got some
ideas for some friends of mine

Chuck – A copy of December's Children by the Rolling Stones; you know the one, it's got a copy of 'Get Off of My Cloud' on it.

Val – I was thinking of something similar but sometimes I think he needs to lighten up, so I think a copy of this. He could join Charlie and Lola on a Cloud-hopping adventure.

Barry B – Perhaps a boxed set of The Fast Show or perhaps as a counter to his FAST aspirations, In Praise of Slow.

Barry W – Perhaps this would be good or considering he's a Master Inventor, this might be even better.

Mark – He could probably do with the afore mentioned In Praise of Slow but I know he'll never heed the advice; so as a media gadget head, this looks sweet.

– Can you hide his passport for the next six months or so; only let him
have it back for Le Mans and then hide it again. That and can you hire
him an assistant! Or just a case of this.

Chris – get him a Synology 509+ for his virtual lab. I don't think he's getting on too well with his Drobo.

Dan – well, he doesn't get anything as he keeps forgetting my Jelly Beans! Or perhaps a copy of this, I think he'll need it soon. Or at least a real version of this.

Stephen and all my other fellow authors at Gestaltit – MBPs all round but can you wait till the middle of the year for the next refresh.

Marc – for the master of StorageRap, just something to help hone his skills or perhaps this but most of all a big giant star for his door…he is our very own Storage Star.

Sunshine – well I'd get her this because I know she likes him. But perhaps this would be more appropriate.

for all my other friends, readers and twitters; a peaceful Christmas, a
prosperous New Year and general health and happiness!

Best Regards,