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March, 2016:

Technology Live and a Little More…

Last week, I was at A3 Communications’ Technology Live event;  it’s a smaller event where a group of journalists, bloggers and analysts are briefed by three or four companies. Good fun, a chance for awkward questions to be asked and generally good-humoured banter. 

It is a chance for some of the smaller and lesser known companies; some just pretty much unveiling from stealth to get their message across without some of the hype and hyperbole of the larger events you sometimes associate with the business. 

Companies like Scale Computing and their converged platform probably deserve to be much better known; targeted at the SMB and smaller user whose IT department is one person who actually has another proper job, quietly get on with things without press releases about yet further funding rounds and a gazillion dollar valuations. It is one of the few times when I’ve had a converged platform demonstrated where I’ve thought ‘well that makes sense for their target market’ as opposed to ‘shiny lights…but where’s the substance’. 

DDN are much larger and better known that Scale Computing but probably not as well-known as they should be; their HPC roots are allowing them to play in the scale-out and big data space. They’ve taken massive strides in hiding some of the complexity of their products; what was really a bit of an engineer’s product, now has some polish that really lends itself to the Enterprise.  If you are looking at tiering from primary storage to a secondary storage object tier; I think that you must have a look. 

Tarmin have been around for ages with their Gridbank Data-Defined Storage; it’s a really interesting concept but it’s one that I still struggle to find the use-case that will really drive it forward. A Swiss-Army knife of a product that might be lacking that one blade that would make it compelling; I feel that it’ll just need too much work to integrate into most application environments and I also have concerns about how easy it is to get out of if you decided that it was no longer the platform for you.

We also had OpenIO who are another Object Storage vendor in what is an increasingly crowded space; new to the game and building on-top of an open-source product. You pay for the support and not the product; obviously, it’s model that has worked well for some in the past but I feel that you really need some critical mass before it becomes viable. And there’s many alternatives out there now but it did look nice; hexagons instead of circles. It is also really easy to get up and running quickly; install vagrant if you haven’t already and then a couple of commands, you can quickly have an object store up and running. With Swift and S3 compatibility; it could be a nice entry point for developers to play with.

Earlier in the month, I was at BVE for my day job. I chatted to a few vendors but I really want to call out what I think is a perfect example of a company who are successfully building a business out of doing something extremely well in a well-defined niche. Object Matrix who are based in Wales do Object-Storage for media applications; they have spent a lot of time integrating with products like Avid and GrassValley, really understanding the business that they are in and building a successful company without mega-investments. And they are really nice people….who unfortunately support one of the weaker sides in the Six Nations ;-). 

There are many companies like some of the aforementioned who are doing great jobs for their customers who aren’t getting the recognition because they don’t play in the ‘glamour’ end of the market but I suspect some of them will still be around years after the Unicorns have turned out to be pit-ponies…

Perhaps you work for one; if so…get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. 


Skating with Cerberus

I imagine there was a sharp intake of breathe as Microsoft announced SQL Server for Linux and then a checking of dates. And yet it makes perfect sense, a very sensible strategic move for Microsoft.

My question and I know I’m not the only person asking this is; what is the future of Windows in the data-centre? If SQL Server runs well on Linux; there are a vanishing small number of workloads that I would want to run on Windows Server in a data-centre. Yes there are alot of third party applicatons that run on Windows and this is going to continue for many years but I do really wonder if Microsoft’s heart is really in the Windows Server business.

Microsoft appear to have decided that their future is in Cloud; not the Enterprise DC. I mean it’s always been questionable whether anyone sane would run Exchange and now you don’t have to; Office 365 takes care of that for you.

A lot of people like Azure and sure Microsoft would prefer you to run your cloud apps in Azure but if you want to run them elsewhere; they would like to still make money out of you. SQL Server on Linux will remove some of the friction for deployment in the Cloud.

SQL Server running on Linux also allows them to compete with Oracle in those data-centres that Windows is simply a grudging presence; there are certainly those who will have you believe that SQL Server is not Enterprise but many of those comments have been driven by the stigma of Windows. I work with DBAs who do both; for most workloads, SQL Server and Oracle are equally good.

So what’s left for Microsoft to do?

Well, if Microsoft announce AD Services running on Linux; you’ll really know that their heart is no longer in the Windows Data-centre.

Something’s missing?

Yes, I know…I’m getting very lazy about blogging; I’m still not sure if the industry is boring me or simply exasperating me so much that I cannot be bothered to vent my spleen any more. I suspect that it is a bit of both! This should be an interesting year for the industry with the mergers, takeovers and companies simply thrashing around trying to reinvent themselves. So apart from life still being somewhat stressful, I amuse myself trying to get my home-office perfectly set-up. I might even put up pictures once I have done so!!

Anyway the recent announcements from companies large and small around All Flash Arrays has temporarily pricked me awake; hopefully at some point soon, the All Flash Array Announcment will no longer be a thing, it’ll just be another array announcement. Flash will eventually subsume rotational rust as the primary storage medium of choice for all workloads; well until the next big thing comes along. Opinion as to when this is does vary from pundit to purveyeor but it is going to happen.

That time is not here though and perhaps it is still worth considering the best use of our storage capacity and how to get the most from it. And it seems that some vendors don’t really want to help us poor customers in this space.

If you ship an AFA variant of existing array and you either add new features that aren’t supported on the exisiting variant across all tiers of storage be it flash or rotational rust or vice versa; I want good architectural reasons as to why you can’t do so. Compression for example works very well on both traditional disk and flash; in-line deduplication is harder, so you might get a pass on the latter but not the former. If you want to try to convince me that your expensive Flash tier is actually as cheap as the traditional tier you also ship; you are going to have work extra hard to do so when competing with vendors who can actually enable features across all of their tiers.

I shall leave it to the reader’s imagination as to which vendor might be attempting to play this game.