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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!


In my youth, I played a fair amount of chess to a reasonable club standard and there was often discussion about gaining a tempo. Gaining tempo was the sign of a good and clever player; one who could achieve desired position fewer moves than normally expected or at least forcing the opponent into making moves and hence wasting them. There was always a certain amount of debate about what tempo was worth and whether a sacrifice was worth making in order to gain tempo; the answer was ‘it depends’. A very good player can often make tempo pay off where as a less good player would probably be better sticking to a more conventional position.

I am beginning to look at Cloud as a way of businesses gaining tempo; public clouds can allow new start-ups gain tempo early on in their development, this speed of deployment can allow position to be developed which in a conventional infrastructure deployment would take much longer. It allows experimentation and flexibility which is not a usually available but there is a risk that you can manoeuvre yourself into a position that is hard to get out of longer term. You still need to develop a strategy and just like chess, you need to look at the moves ahead.

More established companies can use the public cloud in a similar way to start-ups but also with an established infrastructure and organisational structures; private Cloud may be a way to build flexibility and agility into the organisation but often at the sacrifice of some budget.

Either way, once you have built your Cloud infrastructure; you will almost certainly gain tempo both over your competitors but also your own internal customers.

But tempo is pointless without some kind of idea where it takes you.  I think that is probably the biggest risk of all; if Cloud changes nothing then you might have been better sticking to a conventional strategy.

If we are talking chess, think Karpov and Kasparov.

And So(NAS) the Silliness Continues

I had a horrible feeling that it was all going to go this way this year, like boy racers proving their manliness, the vendors have decided to drag-race their various devices around the SpecFS track.

EMC and IBM loading up their systems with nitro and blasting down a straight-track which has little to do with reality. NetApp standing on the side-lines and pointing that someone is cheating. Is it IBM, is it EMC? Do we care?

Obviously the vendors do….I do wonder if it’s not time to come up with a new benchmark; I’m thinking like a Top Gear challenge.

1) Arbitrary budget set; let’s say £100,000

2) A number of challenges to be set such as

  • how fast it takes to rack, stack and configure?
  • how fast can you make it go?
  • how much data can you store now you’ve configured it for performance?
  • how quickly can a non-storage person add shares etc?

You know realistic things?

3) And then we get a pair of cranes and play conkers by hanging the devices off them and smashing them into one another!

Achievement Unlocked

One of the books that I am currently reading is 'Reality is Broken' by Jane McGonigal; in it there is a startling fact; by the age of 21, the average young person in the UK will have spent 10,000 hours gaming. That's a boggling figure and yet one which doesn't really surprise me; the question is how do we draw on this wealth of experience and how do we draw on the power of games for more than just entertainment. This led me to musing on what a games oriented Storage Management system would look like and how the various gaming cultures may manifest themselves. 

Storage Management does actually lend itself well to a gaming paradigm; it is often a case of learning a task and repeating it ad infinitum; as you get better, you can move on to more complex tasks and indeed, you may even find shortcuts and hidden tricks to enable you to skip through the more tedious tasks. Storage Management often relies on the ability to plan, recognise patterns both simple and complex but most importantly, it requires the ability to convince one's self that a repeatative, tedious task is indeed fun!

I imagine that Hitachi could partner with Nintendo in the production of their new games oriented Storage Management system; a variety of power-ups would be available to you as you zone, mask and carve up LUNs. The successful completion of a task would result in the graphical representation of the disk turning into a giant fruit of some sort with your avatar doing a little dance perhaps after the collection of ten of these. 

Perhaps a variation of Pac-man could represent the act of de-allocation and returning the disk to a main-pool; the ghosts representing the avaricious users chasing the poor little storage admin around the maze trying to prevent him reclaiming the disk? Or perhaps, Pac-man could represent the act of deleting un-necessary files and the power-pills in the corner could represent some illicit file that the users should not be storing and the consumption of this temporarily causes the users to scury and deny knowledge of the file allowing the admin to delete files at will?

I could see IBM's Storage Management tool being text-based and along the lines of Crowther and Wood's Colossal Cave Adventure; 'you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike'! Obscure commands such as Plover, XYZZY and Plugh will do magical things and make your life a lot easier. Very old-school, full of in-jokes and only really comprehensible to those of a certain age! Or perhaps a version of Space War?

EMC's Storage Management tool would be in the form of MMORPG; it would need a huge server farm to run and it takes ages to do anything until you had progressed to a certain level. At that point, you could purchase items which would enable you to do your job more efficiently; there would of course be no end to this and when-ever you believed that the game was beat, they would announce a new feature which would cost you yet more money and time to master. There would also be regular outages to upgrade the required hardware and data-centre to run the tool.

NetApp's Storage Management tool would be very similar to EMC's; there would be an online relgious war as to whose was best. The main difference would that NetApp's tool would be free initially but would require in-tool purchases to do anything at all useful. But it would be very quick and easy to master; probably suited to the more casual storage admin whereas EMC's would appeal to the hardcore gamer. 

Both EMC and NetApp would have unlockable achievements; 'Master of the Zones', 'Lover of LUNs', 'NASty Boy/Girl' etc; all entitling the Admin to different badges etc to be tweeted Four-Square fashion and irritate everyone else!

Of course, we would all be waiting for the combined IBM/EMC tool; this would be called 'Super Barryo World'!

Elf Issue!

Dearest Storage Santas,

last year I took time to write to each of you individually and I must say that most of you appear to have taken note and have generally delivered what I wished for, so for that, thank-you very much. Unfortunately, this year I'm finding it hard to find time to write a letter to each of you; so perhaps a letter to you all as a group.

You have all been very busy acquiring companies and launching new products; your elves must be very tired and perhaps you should give them some time off over the festive period. A time for them to recharge and to launch themselves back into the fray.  And some of the new elves that you have acquired might need time to acclimatise to their new surroundings, I can see little Elf Farley blinking in the corner after his lucky escape after nearly getting caught by Mr Dell again. 

As you fly your sleighs across the cloudy skies; contemplate what the meaning of Cloud really is? Is it simply a way of selling more of stuff or indeed a way pressing your elves into servitude providing Cloud consultancy? Or is it more fundamental? It certainly has many aspects of the clouds that you are flying in; it can be a threat of a deluge or it can be the bringer of life; either drowning or nuturing. Too much Cloud is a bad thing; so think what are users trying to do and then how does Cloud enable them. Stop thinking Cloud can do this, how do we get customers to do it so that we can sell it to them. Don't look so perplexed Little Chuck-Elf; you're a clever chap, I'm sure you'll figure it out.

Now Christmas is time of goodwill to all men (and Elves) but surely we can do better than this; no more poking and prodding at each other all year, most of the time you miss and end up poking yourselves in the eye. You don't have to play nice but you don't have play nasty either; you can be competitive but it can be a bit friendlier. I don't want to have spend 2011 seperating you! 

Val-Elf stop kicking Elf-Zilla; yes, I can see him prodding you but you are big boy and you don't need to react. Yes, Zilla-Elf; I know Val-Elf gets a little self-important and proud of himself but we all do at times. And Calvin-Elf, 'Don't Do That!'; put him down, you don't know where he's been!

Anyway, Storage Santas; some of you appear to have far too many toys and don't seem to know what to play with. I think it's time to throw out the broken ones; yes, it might upset a few people but in the long run, it will probably do everyone a power of good. And then again, at least one of you needs some different toys; spread your horizons and take a few risks. 

Ahhh, look at Wee Barry-Elf; almost bursting with pride at his new invention! Yes Barry, we know that you worked very hard and the nasty Moshe-Elf tried to stamp on your new toy but he's gone away now, so time to make it really good. Storwize is a very good name by the way; did you think of that all by yourself? No? Big Blue Santa bought it for you? Well what a nice man he is!

Oh, look at Big Barry-Elf running around as FAST as he can; good for you; is the new version available yet? And you've been a bit quiet on the blog front; what have you been up to? Talk to Chad-Elf, he's got an army of pixie-helpers (have you met @Kiwi_Si, he's not big enough to be an Elf) and perhaps he could lend you one to help you write some more blogs. 

Och, there you are McElf; congratulations on the new role, looking forward to seeing you co-operate and trying your best to be nice to people!! You can do it, I know you can! 

All in all, it's been a good year for many of you. Let's hope 2011 is equally good to you all!

So Storage Santas, have a very merry Christmas and just remember, Clouds can hide Mountain-tops; don't crash those sleighs!

Merry Christmas,


The Joy of Cloud

Although I have may suggested that 'Cloud is the new ITIL' in my previous blog; there is an alternative view, 'Cloud is the new sex'!

People talk a lot about Cloud, but few people are doing it!

There are many Cloud Experts, most of them have never done it!

You probably wouldn't want to sleep with most Cloud Experts! 

The best people at Cloud are too busy doing it to talk about it!

There are mixed opinions as to whether Cloud is better in private or public!

Some people would simply prefer a nice cup of tea!

Many people worry if they are doing Cloud the right way!

Choose your partner carefully before doing Cloud!

Cloud can be expensive if done with the wrong people!

Cloud can be career-limiting if done with the wrong people!

There are many types of Cloud, some are just wrong and some are just personal preference!

Your attitude to Cloud may be influenced by your early experience of IT!

Older people may be better at Cloud than you expect!

Cloud was invented in the sixties! You only think you're the first person to do it!

Your first experience of Cloud may be underwhelming!

Cloud can be messy!

How you do Cloud is probably more important than the tools!

Take your time when doing Cloud! 

Cloud can be complicated but it doesn't have to be!

Cloud with multiple partners can take careful scheduling and planning!

Only exhibitionists do Cloud in front of Windows! This does not make it wrong but it might amuse some observers.

Without protection, Cloud can lead to unintended consequences and virii.

I'm sure you can think of your own….

NetApp Reveal Cisco’s Storage Incompetence

Peter Perrault, a NetApp marketing tweeted this link to some NetApp marketing fluff about about Cisco's use of NetApp storage; there is a very scarey statement in the PDF which if true makes me wonder about Cisco as a credible partner in the world of storage.

From the article;

"A few years ago, faulty disk drives on the development team’s underlying enterprise storage systems were a nuisance for Cisco IT, as Storage Domain Design Architect Rich Harper recalled. But, it wasn’t insurmountable until double-disk drive failures in the same parity stripe occurred twice in six months, resulting in the loss of hundreds of days of development work. While Harper readily acknowledged the drive issues were an industry problem that all vendors were experiencing, he admitted, “The experience still left a bad taste in our mouths.” "

Can anyone else see how scarey this is? A double-disk failure caused the loss of hundeds of days of development work? Have these people not heard of back-ups? Are Cisco still relying on parity to protect against data loss? Or is this just pure marketing hyperbole?

Look guys, RAID is not a substitute for back-ups! Snaps, clones and whatever else are not substitutes for back-ups. You need to get the data off the primary storage to another physical location/device. BackUp is not exciting but you need to do it.

Post Your Favourite FUD!!

Okay, let's get all the FUD out of our systems! What piece of FUD are you either

  • Most proud of! What scurrilous piece of FUD have you manufactured to smear another vendor?
  • Most amused by? What patently stupid thing has a vendor said to smear another vendor?
  • Most shocked by?
  • What piece of FUD actually turned out to be true?

This doesn't have to be storage specific but obviously I would prefer it to be so!

Storagebod’s Performance Check

Every now and then I see a press release which really irritates me; all vendors have done it and often it is when they have a dig at a competitor! The only person who is allowed to have digs at vendors is me (okay and other users). This time, Pillar got on my nerves with an email which pointed me to this; you see EMC have decided not to take part in SPC for whatever reason and NetApp decided that they were going to go ahead and benchmark the Clariion anyway. I thought it was wrong at the time and if I'd been blogging, I'd have said so. And it's even more wrong now for Pillar to be using those figures now; especially since the CX3 is 'old technology'.

Obviously, the solution is for EMC to simply take part in SPC…wrong! The solution is for the other vendors to criticise and even suggest that EMC are hiding something; that's fair game! But to benchmark EMC kit and somehow suggest those figures are fair is cheap!

So, I have a suggestion; on an annual basis, a council of users chaired by myself will sit in a pub and fortified with several pints of Old Peculiar, we shall come up with a performance benchmark. It will change every year and will have the beauty that it reflects today's infrastructure and application design process. We will then calculate a budget; this will be decided by throwing three darts in the general vicinity of a dart boad; trying to multiply them together in our addled brains and probably sticking a few zeroes on the end for good measure.

The vendors will then have the task of specifying an array for the budget stated to perform the benchmark. After the council has sobered up, we will follow the best practise guide-lines to configure the arrays. The benchmark will then be run and the winner will be declared 'King of the Hill' for the next twelve months. This will give them the right to be mean to all other array vendors!

This was my idea!! But I have no patent and I won’t sue!!

We've been talking at work about how to do SAN to NAS conversions; it's a pain and time-consuming. At the moment, we're just copying at the host level. But I've had an idea and you are all going to tell me that I'm nuts!!

As a great number of the NAS heads out there are either bastardised Linux or BSD; why not simply allow the NAS heads to natively mount the file-systems and then present them out as a share; in the background, copy them across to the NAS' native disk format. I'm sure you could get a NetApp head to run Veritas for example as some sort of guest-filesystems. I reckon if you were really, really clever; you could take snap of the SAN disk; mount the snap on the head, do the copy leaving the primary disk running and then do a reconciliation of the files which have changed once the bulk of the copying has been done.

This way you keep the migration traffic mostly off the network and at the SAN level.

Okay, it's a bit Heath Robinson and there needs to be some programming done but surely this could
work. I really need a SAN/NAS migration appliance; someone please build
one? Pretty please?

p.s And if someone has already patented this or done it!!? I'm really sorry!!

p.p.s And if someone tries it and looses all their data! Well I'm really, really, sorry!!