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#storagebeers – 17th March

All, please note due to Cloud Camp also being on the 17th March; I have decided to move the venue of #storagebeers to somewhere closer to the Cloud Camp venue. Also note, it means that I will get to #storagebeers fashionably late!

Pretty much the closest pub to Cloud Camp is The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green. This historic pub has played host to such luminaries as Lenin and Stalin.

There will also be an Infosmack event on 24th March where such eminent members of the Storagati as Marc Farley and Greg Knieriemen will be gracing themselves with their presence. Venue has yet to be announced as Greg appears to require a PA system which has many of us concerned…perhaps him and Farley are going to sing!

#storagebeers – London March 17th

I've been a bit remiss in organsing #storagebeers recently; so this is early warning of the next #storagebeers in London (although there might be another one between now and then). There is an EMC event in London on March 17th and that being St Patrick's Day when everyone who has heard a U2 record claims some kind of Oirish roots; it seems to be too good a chance to ignore. 

However this being #storagebeers; it must be entirely vendor neutral, all are welcome and indeed encouraged to attend. So after the EMC event, I suggest that all interested make their way to the Two Brewers  and anyone else who wants to attend to turn up whenever; probably sometime after six! 

Well that is the current plan anyway….but I'd love to see as many of you as possible there. And hopefully some non-EMCers for some bare-knuckle brawling later ;-) 

Reading the Ruins

So 2010 is nearly done and I must say that 2010 in storage went pretty much as I expected. 3Par, Isilon and Compellent being gobbled up by bigger companies; no special surprises there. New hardware from HDS, NetApp and IBM; no special surprises there either. And more Cloud-washing from everyone; from Public-Cloud to Private-Cloud, everyone wants a piece of the action. I've taken to calling my test-environment at home a Pico-Cloud. 

So what will 2011 bring us? These are some of my guesses and thoughts.

Even More Cloud?

 I expect EMC to continue painting just about everything they do with Cloud-wash and adding a layer of virtual tarnish to the Cloud. Despite all of this, I think EMC are going to be interesting as always.
It's no secret that we should expect some kind of NetApp killer in the coming together of Clariion and Celerra; with the much maligned Celerra-brand to die and it all to come together under some Unified Storage brand. We should also be expecting very tight integration with VMware; I think EMC still feel very hurt that NetApp have managed to do a better integration job with VMware, whether perception or reality. EMC are going to focus some serious attention on NetApp and believe that technically they can now compete; expect the war of words to escalate.

However, having built a NetApp-like Unified Storage platform; EMC have muddied the water again by buying Isilon and yet again have a standalone NAS product. An internal battle brewing within EMC? If they've learnt the lessons from the DG and Clariion; one would hope not but history does have a habit of repeating itself. At the very least, expect some serious marketing spin to try to differentiate the capabilities. Don't believe it for one minute; if the future of most storage is predominantly file with a ever diminishing proportion of block; Isilon become extremely important very quickly to EMC with the new Unified Storage Platform getting squeezed between Isilon and Symmetrix. Granted not a 2011 problem, more a 2013 issue but something worth thinking about when planning investments.

A side question on Isilon, how quickly do EMC try to move Isilon from its BSD roots to their more preferred internal Linux platform? Now, that's a holy-war brewing!

Huge Portfolio?

HP have far too many storage lines and this has left many of their user-base confused and more importantly, I suspect many of their user-base are feeling reluctant to invest more heavily in an HP strategy. 

David Scott is going to have to be ruthless over the next six months and he will have to move fast to get his charges all pointing in the same direction and singing from the same hymn-book. The future of EVA will need to be clarified very quickly; letting the market decide seems to be pretty rash at this point and is adding to the confusion. I'm expecting a statement of direction from them by the middle of the year allowing customers to put together an investment strategy.

HP's problem is how they scale 3PAR's technology both up and down; I'd expect announcements from them on this. Or are they going to have to look at Lefthand for this.

HP's other problem is that they still don't have a really strong file story; they have stories but most of these have as much substance as a Dan Brown thriller. Could HP acquire again; if there were anyone left to buy, that would not surprise me but I don't see anyone who could fill this hole for them.

Net Apprehension

NetApp refreshed their hardware and released another version of Ontap 8; also announced a virtual appliance version of the filer and by all accounts, they've had a stonking 2010 sales-wise. They continue to out-grow their competitors and continue to gather plaudits; so what will 2011 bring?

Well NetApp aren't a company without problems as much as they like to claim and they appear to have got away with a lot; customers are still giving them a fair amount of slack but…

OnTap 8 needs to get tightened up and there needs to be a single mode; this is certainly NetApp's plan and there is some deserved embarrassment when you bring up the current situation. So expect this to be rectified at sometime in 2011 with OnTap 8 cluster-mode to be fully functionally equivalent to 7-mode with the advantage that it is cluster-able. EMC's acquisition of Isilon makes this all the more important and NetApp cannot afford this to be delayed much longer.

NetApp's teams are tired; I would say that the company is struggling to keep up with it's own growth. I've heard this from people inside and out; teams are stretched too thin and the company is going to have to grow the number of foot soldiers. NetApp are not the only company with this problem but they've always run very lean with no fat; admirable in start-up but NetApp can probably afford to grow some girth.

And finally, NetApp need to acquire someone relatively substantial and not only for the obvious reason but also to prove that they can do so successfully. I don't expect NetApp to stray too far from the storage beat with someone like CommVault in their sights but that will probably bring them into a bidding war with Dell.

Ring the Dell?

It appears that Dell want to be the storage game; getting involved in and loosing a very public auction for 3Par and then ending up the year by purchasing Compellent. If you had asked me at the beginning of 2011; I would have bet very heavily on 3Par going to HP and probably not so heavily on Compellent ending up with Dell but it seems a more logical fit than vice versa.

Dell have three interesting pieces of a storage jigsaw right now; Equalogic and Compellent, solid SME products and Exanet, a clustered NAS product. The latter needs some serious investment to turn it into more than an intellectual curiosity; it's market presence is somewhat less than zero and ever since Dell acquired it, it has been invisible. 

Somehow Dell have to turn all of this into a coherent strategy but Dell have a secret weapon; a couple of years ago, Dell bought a small British storage consultancy called The Networked Storage Company. They have continued to run this as an independent entity; TNWSC generally get involved with enterprise customers when they are looking to issue RFPs etc and you can hear the sighs of pain/irritation/annoyance when a vendor finds out that they are responding to a TNSWC tinged RFP. They also run birds of the feather type get-togethers for storage end-users and the agendas always look interesting even if for various reasons I've not managed to get to one yet. I like to think of them as a more sober #storagebeers. 

Dell by now should have a real insight into the problems that enterprise customers are trying to solve; turning this into a product is going to be more challenging but at least they've been listening.

Its Bazza Magic?

IBM's announcement of the v7000 based on SVC technology was one of the more stand-out storage announcements; not because of the technology, most of the industry had been expecting something like this for some time but because it wasn't strangled by the other interests in IBM. Even long-standing rivals were quietly pleased to see that IBM finally came to their senses and realise that the answer to many of their storage problems had been sitting in Hursley for sometime. 

The DS8000 also appears to the array that refuses to die; in a year dominated by zombie-tinged media, the DS8K is almost the zombie array; every-time someone thinks it's dead, up it rises. Unfortunately, like zombies; it will never be popular and people will keep trying to smash it with shovels and whatever else comes to hand.

Next year tho'; XIV should get its long awaited upgrades, time will tell whether these will be enough to see it become a strategic stand-alone product. Infiniband connectivity between the nodes should finally be with us; this was discussed at the IBM launch many moons ago; a 'flash cache' type enhancement to help XIV cope with more random workloads and give the SATA a boost; clustering to improve scalability and I am wondering if we could see 2.5" drives make an appearance to improve floor-space-to-byte density?

I am also expecting to see significant enhancements to v7000; with both some of the artificial limiters coming off but also Storwize making an appearance with block level compression. Obviously, feature enhancements will make an appearance in SVC as well.

Also expect Storwize to make an appearance in the SONAS product range; expect IBM to launch a smaller version of SONAS to compete with their partner NetApp but also aimed at the smaller Isilon deployments. Finally, expect IBM's storage OEM agreements to become less important to them.

Highly Dependable Storage?

Finally, HDS have refreshed their USP platform with the VSP; feature-rich, enterprise-ready and very capable but is it really where the real growth is? I think this is HDS' real problem; how do they show real relevance to the problems that many storage managers are facing?  

I don't believe that they will but I'm expecting them to push very hard on the Hitachi Unified Compute Platform as a catalyst for IT transformation. I think HDS have a very rich seam to mine here in their traditional high-end market place especially with those customers who are very uncomfortable with putting all of their eggs into Cisco's basket

And just perhaps they will finally buy BlueArc? Perhaps we can convince Dell or HP to put in a bid, just to get things moving? 

And Storagebod?

Well, 2010 was the year when somebody finally allowed me to have storage in my job title again; which was nice as my nascent storage team went from having a few hundred terabytes under management from something closer to three petabytes with an ever steepening growth curve. 

Next year brings the challenges of render-farms, 3D HD editting stations, migrating most of our storage into a new building, building disaster recovery capabilities, multiple upgrades and lots more fun I hope.

Happy New Year!!



Work for Bod??

Despite what we like to say in IT; it is rare for what we do to have a transformational impact on the day-to-day working of a business, fortunately I am currently in the position of knowing what I do completely changes how the company I work for creates it's product. And even better, I am in the position of being able to recruit someone else to come and join our little band of storage specialists, it's not an army, more a crack(ed) squad.

Over the next twelve months, we will be ramping up the delivery of a file-based workflow for content production for broadcast and at the core of this, is the storage; it is probably no exageration to say that all the company's eggs are being placed in our basket. We will be migrating into our new Broadcast Centre which amongst many other new features will be completely free of video-tapes; when I point out that we currently have over a million video tapes, this should give you some idea of the magnitude of our task. 

And whilst we are delivering this; we will be delivering 3D edit capability, render-farms, core back-up solutions for the Broadcast systems and anything else the business cares to throw at us. The skills that I am looking for are listed in the job advert but core skills are:

  • Tivoli Storage Manager – Especially from an archive point of view
  • IBM's GPFS – Clustered file-systems are becoming the foundation of the storage we deliver to the business
  • NAS – NFS especially but also you need to be CIFS aware and an interest in pNFS would be helpful.
  • General Storage – realistically, I don't really care what arrays you've worked on as long as you are ready to take on new challenges and also willing to let go of anything you have done in the past. We are not here to debate EMC vs HDS vs IBM vs NetApp etc; we are here to deliver a function not navel gaze!

Although it is not obvious at first, pretty much everything we do can be applied to the Cloud; no we don't do VMware (yet) but what we do do is build out massively scalable storage solutions based around pretty much commodity hardware. 

We're a small team at present; there's only three of us at the moment and I've no intention of growing it massively. The plan is to keep it small and focussed on doing the right things from day one. You will get the chance to work closely with both the other infrastructure teams but also the business teams. 

If you are interested, please go here and search for position number 02979 or just searching for storage should it.

If you have any questions; you should be able to find how to contact me and I'll be at #storagebeers on Thursday 2nd December. 


Please SNIA but don’t Sneer!

I met with SNIA whilst at SNW and had an interesting discussion about SNIA in Europe and potential for future directions. But before I get into that; a couple of people mentioned that they prefer SNW Europe to SNW USA on the grounds that the attendance in Europe is more real and that there are more end-users as opposed to a bunch of industry insiders, an interesting observation.

Still back to SNIA; I'm hoping that all my readers are at least vaguely familiar with SNIA, although I have horrible suspicion that many aren't. And I think that is the main problem with SNIA; for example, the attendance at SNW Europe was 1764 delegates which is a record attendance; yet compare that to some of the larger industry events and it's a pretty poor. I wonder why this is? In theory, the audience for SNW should be as large if not larger than those events focused on a single technology. 

For some reason, SNIA appear to be struggling to find a real role in what is still a huge growth IT area; take the SNIA certifications. How many people are aware that SNIA offer vendor-neutral certifications? How many people would even look for them on a CV (Resume)? I'm certainly aware of their existence but it has ever occured to me to look for it when I'm recruiting? Nope, never! 

However, a vendor-neutral certification should be pretty important when looking for designers, architects etc; it should show that the person can think beyond what their most recent vendor told them. I gather that it has more value and recognition in the US but in the UK? It's really a non-factor; I wonder whether it would be possible to turn the SNIA certifications which have a level of recognition akin to that of the CISSP? That's one of the challenges that I think SNIA need to take on.

End-user engagement; getting end-users involved somehow in their standard's initiatives might bring a healthy dose of reality to them. But we are all busy people and getting time away from the day job to do this sort of work is hard but maybe SNIA can engage with a good social media strategy; Twitter, Blogs (their own but also commenting and engaging in debate on the existing blogs), turning up to #storagebeers and generally getting more visibility. 

Fortunately, SNIA seem to understand all this and certainly have ambitions to do many of these things; let's all of us encourage them! Face it without the end-users, there is no Storage Networking Industry and hence no need for an Association. I think that we need to be telling these guys what we want to ensure that they stay relevant to us.

Go to the Academy events; if you don't get anything of value from them, collar the organisers and explain (politely) what would make them better. Go to SNW if you can and do the same. And the SNIA guys, come along to #storagebeers; if you aren't engaging with the sort of people who attend #storagebeers, you are missing out on a whole bunch of end-user enthusiasts who could do you a lot of good. 

SNWE #storagebeers

There will be #storagebeers at SNW Europe this coming week and for once, I'll be in attendance for beers outside of the UK. 

These will at the Champions Bar at the Marriott opposite the Congress Centre where SNW Europe is taking place in Frankfurt starting from about 7:30 on Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th October. I'm looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible either at #storagebeers or at the actual event. 

I should thank the team at SNW Europe for making my attendance at the event possible as they are picking up my flights and my hotel bill. 

We are also talking about arranging UK #storagebeers to celebrate the festive season later in the year; keep a look-out here and on twitter for news on these. 

And next year, we hope to do rather more with #storagebeers and perhaps do some more 'formal events'.

#storagebeers schedule – Autumn 2010

Although due to work commitments, I am not attending 360IT; I am intending to journey up to Earls Court after work to hopefully meet up with the inestimable Chris Evans and the indomitable Alex MacDonald tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd September 2010). If you are attending the show or are about generally, you are welcome to join us.

At present there is no agreed venue, so keep an eye on Twitter for venue.

As for more #storagebeers.

I am attending SNW Europe, so I very much suspect that there will be a meet-up there.

I will also be at IP Expo, so expect an announcement of #storagebeers there.

There are a couple of other events/announcements which hopefully I'll be attending, so watch Twitter for announcements!!

Beer, beer….we want more #storagebeer!

Yet another #storagebeers to be held on Tuesday after the SNIA Academy. This is an important one as we hopefully have not one but two special guests from the blogosphere. There will be other bloggers there and I'm not saying that you aren't special, you all are but these two are travelling some way to be with us!

Firstly, we have Alex MacDonald of NetApp; hopefully Alex will be joining us from the frozen North; okay Scotland but it's been so cold recently, I think it counts as the frozen North. 

And secondly, we have another NetApp blogger in the form of Val Bercovici who will be joining from warmer climes! 

So if you want an informal and hopefully wide-ranging discussion from these two members of the Storage Blogosphere; please come along! 

We shall be meeting in the Chesire Cheese which is close to the SNIA venue and also to Tower Hill tube. Please note, not the more famous Ye Olde Chesire Cheese on Fleet Street! 

p.s to make #storagebeers entries easier to find, I have added a #storagebeers category!