Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gigantic Banana over Texas Sky

This is funny! A project to put geostationary banana over Texas. Why didn't they pick a place in Canada? The project leader, Cesar Saez, is based in Montreal, Quebec.


I wasn't impressed with their reasons for picking Texas. They are just making mockery of an experiment that could have been great scientific and engineering adventure in addition to artistic expression.

IMO, the political undertone may alienate people from scientific community.

Success Factors for GridNetworks … closure

Wrapping up my thoughts on prospects of GridNetworks. Continuation from previous post.

The second method, more likely to work for GridNetworks, is to pre-install or embed the player in to as many devices as possible, preferably the type of devices that are almost always on, almost always connected and publicly available to participate in content distribution without compromising owner-user experience.

One of the biggest challenge in my opinion is to get people to install a P2P based player on their computers. I personally started the installation process several times and backed out. The main concern was the impact of a P2P player on my work machine, both performance and security aspects. Pre-installed player and embedded appliances are a good method to overcome such concerns.

Another challenge is to have as many nodes public and participatory in content delivery as possible. Most computing nodes where users install GN player are more likely to be located behind a firewall/broadband router whether in the office or at home. This may result in a disproportionately higher number of nodes acting as freeriders without aiding delivery to others.

Newell claimed that their player is successfully running on Xbox. Embedding in Game consoles is definitely a step in the right direction. Some of the other devices, they may want to consider for embedding are:
  • Network routers - The ones normally used with broadband connections at home from companies such as Linksys and D-Link.
  • TV Set-top boxes - Comcast provided me a Motorola HD cable box with Ethernet port. May be GridNetworks can help set-top box manufacturers utilize this port for some meaningful purpose.
  • Helping NSLU open source community to install player on Linksys NSLU2 storage device.
  • Develop, partner and market NAS and Media PC devices with embedded player for consumer markets.
They need to focus on embedding their player in to any device that has storage capacity and a network port. This may be the differentiation GN needs to stand-out in overcrowded P2P based online video streaming market.

Good luck to Newell and his team at GridNetworks.


Communication using hand/body gestures at dinner table in Hokkaido, Japan. I knew no Japanese and others knew very little English.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Asempra Hiring while Others Firing!

Last week, Eric Herzog sent me an email mentioning that he is looking for Systems Engineer, based in Sunnyvale and NYC, for Asempra. He is also searching for Director of Business Development and Alliances, Senior Technical Support Manager and Director of Product Marketing and Channel Marketing, all based in California. In his words,
All MUST have very, very SOLID storage subsystems knowledge but who know software as well as hardware.
If you are interested in these opportunities, apply through Asempra Career section. Don't forget to mention you came to know of these opportunities through this blog.

Please DON'T email me your resume unless you can write me a note explaining how your resume can make Eric dance in front of Asempra logo and send his dancing picture for me to post!
Excerpts from provided SE position overview:

The Regional SE position is the focal point of technical responsibility within the Sales organization for all pre-sales customer and partner engagements. The Systems Engineer is responsible for opportunity qualification, product demonstrations, technical presentations, on-site product installation, training, and, coordination with support and post-sales resources. Heavy regional travel is required - up to 70% on-site work with customers and partners.

The successful candidate will have a proven track record of working with and directing technical sales teams; The ability to influence and educate prospective customers and partners via demonstrations, technical resources or other methods to more effectively sell technical solutions; a deep understanding of the role of a systems engineer; strong analytical capabilities; a creative problem solver; work well in a dynamic team environment.

Ideal background would include expertise within Windows and Linux Environments, SQL, DR and Recovery Management, Storage Management; and the data protection market (backup, replication, CDP, volume management).
If you didn't like recent Steve's Rant and like Storagezilla wished Steve lump of coal, you may be a good candidate for Asempra.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Success Factors for GridNetworks ... contd.

Continuing my thoughts on success factors for a video distribution infrastructure play like GridNetworks from previous post ...

As Michael Gersh commented in previous post, high quality video distribution will be viewer paid.

Who is going to collect payment from viewers? Will it be a content distribution infrastructure owner like Comcast or content distributor/aggregator like Netflix? Why is it important? IMO, it is the company in value chain that has most viewers captive benefits the most. And this is shown very clearly from some back of the envelope calculations for iTunes and Akamai.

Assuming weekly revenue of $10 million from analyst download estimates of $18.5 million songs per week, annual revenue of iTunes store, a content aggregator/distributor, is over $500 million+. Akamai, a distribution infrastructure provider to iTunes and with near monopoly in CDN, total revenues are barely in $400 million range.

With the success of iTunes, it is assumed that content aggregators/distributors are the ones who will be collecting payment from viewers. Distribution infrastructure owners like Akamai will be a service provider to iTunes for a fee.

Cost-side Success Factor

As GridNetworks (GN) will likely be paid by content distributors, it's profit-side success factor depend on number of content distributors using its delivery infrastructure and the revenue generated from each content distributor.

To attract paying content distributors and be a preferred delivery method, GridNetworks need to have the most expansive hybrid CDN P2P infrastructure. So the cost-side success factor for GN comes down to how quickly they can build 40 million quality nodes contributing to their delivery infrastructure and at what cost.

One method to achieve this goal is to freely distribute software for media sharing and playback. Once there are sufficient nodes established, harness those nodes and the brand recognition to make deals with content developers, owners and distributors. BBC deal with Azureus [pdf] will fall in to this category.

There are already enough high quality video content delivery startups trying to follow this route. Most with very little value differentiation originating primarily from the high profile and visible content deals. The success will belong to the ones with market/brand recognition, deep pockets and influence to make high-profile visible content deals.

Should GN follow the same path or there is another way to succeed? Chime in if you have any thoughts.

To be continued later ...

Housekeeping Notes

Recently, I noticed in Google Analytics stats that some traffic to my blog is coming from penny stock forums where link and text of my entries were posted. A caution note for readers from these forums: My posts are nothing more than personal rants and shouldn't be considered thoroughly researched analysis on prospects of any company, its stock, industry or market. Believe in my rants on your own perils.


This picture of a Pachinko in Tokyo seems quite appropriate after the above housekeeping note.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Success Factors for GridNetworks

Note: For background information on my interest in GridNetworks, please read my previous posts:
Challenges of High Quality Video Delivery

GridNetworks, what's my Interest? Part one.

GridNetworks, what's my interest? Part two
Based on my observations of startup universe, I believe that every startup needs to have at minimum two success factors, one on profit side and one on cost side, to succeed.

Profit-side Success Factor

For GridNetworks (GN), the profit-side success factor is dependent on the number of distributors of high-quality content willing to pay for using GN infrastructure, irrespective of whether they are well-known content distributors with large content library like Disney or niche distributors leveraging long tail phenomena like Reeltime.

Some might argue advertising may be a viable option. I seriously doubt viability of an infrastructure intensive play like distributing high quality video solely based on advertising. Capturing $10 in advertising while paying $28 for delivery doesn't look like a viable business proposition to me. See, Comment on A-List Blog may result in high traffic and Internet Video Business Challenges.

A subscription based viewer model may become viable option for predictable delivery quality once the delivery infrastructure has achieved a critical mass of viewers, content, participatory nodes and content distributors. Most probably, only to be realized in next phase of GN.

To be continued ...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Honorable 'Whatis' Mention

My blog is one of the seven blogs mentioned in Storage section of Our Favorite Technology Blogs at Whatis site of Techtarget. Thank you guys (and, gals!) of Techtarget for including this blog in to your list of favorite technology blogs. The others listed are Who's who of storage!

Dave Hitz
Jon Toigo
Hu Yoshida
Mark Lewis
Marc Farley
Robin Harris

The complete list of technology blogs published by Whatis provides wealth of information on regular basis. I just wish they had an OPML file of RSS feeds for these blogs. With OPML file, it will be a breeze for everyone to import all feeds in to Google Reader and Firefox Live Bookmarks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Patent Search through Google - How Convenient!

Google makes patent searching easy with Google Patent Search. See Google Launches Patent Search Beta, a TechNewsWorld article for more information.

Results for Avamar through Google Patent Search. Convenient and nifty! Hopefully, one day it will expand to include patents from other countries also instead of U.S. only.


View of Tokyo from Hotel room window

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

GridNetworks, what’s my interest? Part two

Click here for the first part.

Third, GridNetworks piqued my interest with the use of word “Grid” in the company name. Grid is a powerful concept for utilizing idle resources and addressing infrastructure scalability. GridNetworks provides the extra scalability through P2P to fixed infrastructure of content delivery networks for superior user experience at the end of the last mile of Internet.

Few years ago, I researched a company for a client, Bycast and its StorageGRID product. During last bubble, Bycast was positioned as online video streaming startup. With its underlying technology, Bycast was successful in navigating turbulent times by repositioning in healthcare storage. Even though, Newell was quick to shoot down my comparison of GridNetworks with Bycast, I felt that the underlying technology of GridNetworks will find its ways in to other areas and applications too, not discounting its application in storage either.

Fourth, GridNetworks website listed Sujal Patel on its Advisory Board. Sujal is co-founder of Isilon Systems, a storage startup, soon to be public, and a veteran of RealNetworks. This piqued my interest to find out what connection Isilon or storage may have with GridNetworks.

In the end, it turned out to be nothing more than ex-RealNetwork links. Sujal is now acting more like angel investor. So, he doesn’t seem to be a good proxy anymore to find ties with Isilon or storage.

Fifth, the hints of P2P implementation in PowerGrid End User License Agreement piqued my interest as I saw a way to accomplish Distributed Storage Aggregation (DSA). And if you like me scan IEEE and ACM publications regularly, P2P way to utilize unused storage distributed across enterprise has started to become interesting.

Newell claimed about 50,000 nodes currently contributing on, average, 1GB of storage and 200kbps of bandwidth per node. His users are contributing almost 50TB of storage and 10Gbps bandwidth to deliver high quality video. When his vision of 40 million nodes comes to fruition, he may have access to 40 PB of storage without shelling out a single penny to any storage vendor.

The above reasons may explain what encouraged me to initiate contact with GridNetworks. One day, I expect to see the same technology being implemented with in the enterprise for distributed storage aggregation.
Excerpts from PowerGrid EULA:

"Segment" means a small block of encrypted Content data, typically under one megabyte.

Encrypted, managed peer-to-peer "grid" network architecture.

The Content Segments stored on your computer may be portions of files you have viewed, or may be copied to your computer by GridNetworks host systems for later sharing with other GridNetworks authorized users.

The Segments contained therein are only accessible through the GridNetworks PowerGrid application and cannot be individually viewed, altered or deleted through your computer's file management tools.

These Content Segments are periodically removed and replaced with other segments and shall never exceed the maximum capacity of the Data Store, established by you.
City view from Tokyo TV Tower. Mount Fuji is barely visible in the background.

Monday, December 11, 2006

GridNetworks, what’s my Interest? Part one.

As I mentioned in my post, Challenges of High Quality Video Delivery, last week, I spent an hour with Newell Edmond, Co-founder and Amy, Project Manager talking about GridNetworks, its technology and business.

Contrary to what few readers thought and queried, neither I met them for a job nor they rented me to blog about them. I discovered GridNetworks through John Cook’s blog post Getting 'Goodfellas' on the grid. It piqued my interest for several reasons.

First, I have been thinking of ways to highlight startups working on interesting infrastructure solutions. Consumer Internet and Web 2.0 startups are topic of discussion by bunch of bloggers. But the infrastructure startups that enable them are largely ignored.

There was nothing better than a local infrastructure startup to initiate my coverage. Expose your infrastructure startup, you know whom to contact and how!

Second, even though my initial impression was that it is yet another startup trying online video delivery. Further research showed their aspirations are more substantial than just becoming a video destination.

And after meeting with Newell, I am convinced that they are actually a video delivery infrastructure play, combining content delivery network and peer to peer network technologies, than just a torrent player. And this is also confirmed by Michael Gersh, a VP at Reeltime, a GridNetworks customer, in his email.
We are currently using Grid's tools as part of our end-to-end solution that is streaming DVD quality video over the web, to customers all over the world.
Second part coming soon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Challenges of High Quality Video Delivery

Since Google acquired YouTube, online video sharing and delivery segment has been hot topic of discussion. A good overview of online video viewing is presented by Scott Kirsner in As online viewing booms, the amateurs give way to big media. As more and more big media content coming online, a new technology challenge is emerging for content distributors.
How to deliver a high quality full-length video instantly to multiple viewers on their big screen simultaneously and securely?
Sneakernet

The file size for 90 minute full length HD quality video can range from 2 to 6 GB. And it may be easier, convenient and hassle-free for viewer to get it delivered via next day Sneakernet than to wait 3 to 18 hours in downloading it online. There is nothing instant about downloading full-length high quality video.

Streaming

The next best online alternative is to stream video to viewers in real-time. For smooth playback, video streaming needs to have some buffering and a 12 second buffering of HD quality video requires a 5 to 15 MB of video that need to be always available to user. And, if streaming video is originating from a centralized distribution infrastructure, the number of viewers are first limited by the processing capacity of central system and then available bandwidth.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

To address the central system processing capacity limitation, the option is to have multiple delivery nodes. And, to address bandwidth limitation, these content delivery nodes should be located as close to the viewer as possible. This is the model used by CDN providers who share the processing capacity of these nodes and available bandwidth among multiple content distributors to maximize utilization of their edge nodes.

Content delivery nodes work great as most viewers reside on the last mile that extends beyond the Internet spiderweb and as long as nodes are not overloaded by too many viewers trying to download and watch the latest video simultaneously.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) Networking

P2P networking is one scalable alternative proposed to deliver high quality video and bring the viewers in to the Internet spiderweb. Among it's other vices, from delivery perspective, P2P is infested with freeriders. You know the ones who want to download content but don't want to allow their system to be used to deliver content to others. And, the whole P2P premise fails if there are not enough P2P nodes participating in content distribution.

GridNetworks – New Kid on the Block

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Newell Edmond, co-founder and the technical brain behind a local startup in online delivery of high quality video, GridNetworks. Newell and his team worked hard for last two years to develop a hybrid solution combining the best of Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Peer-to-Peer Networking (P2P) for delivery of high quality video.

More about it next time.

P.S. This is my first effort to reach out and highlight early stage startups in Seattle area working on innovative infrastructure solutions. If you are one of them, get in touch.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rent - A - Blogger

Last week, NetGear announced contest for a guest blogger who want to blog for them at CES. Contest detail links at Jeremy Toeman blog.

After reviewing the official rules, my impression is that a journalist/media writer who is accustomed to deadlines for articles or someone who blogs often during the day will fit their requirements better. Most probably, NetGear will provide product briefings as their expectation is to blog how they fit in to the other stuff showcased at CES.

Why go outside the company to look for a guest blogger? Other than the marketing buzz about contest announcement, what value does he or she provide? You are unlikely to bag a high profile blogger, like Robert Scoble, with such gimmicks.

Guest blogger gigs can be a good avenue for niche bloggers like me who like to attend few relevant industry events but typically don't get sponsorship by their own organization. I was thinking of attending USENIX Conference of File and Storage Technologies (FAST) San Jose, CA in February. May be I should rent myself out as guest blogger for the event? Anyone interested?

You got any thoughts about guest-blogging and sponsorship, chime in.

Everybody who saw this picture, asked me what it is? I captured this image near Poplar Avenue at Hokkaido University. What is it?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Comment on A-List Blog may result in high traffic

Like most other bloggers, I also keep track of the traffic on my blog. I credit Jeremiah, ex-Hitachi web honcho, for suggesting to keep traffic stats using Google Analytics. I noticed in stats for my blog, that almost half of traffic on Oct 24th came from one source, Scobliezer, an A-List blog by Robert Scoble. No, I am not one of those lucky ones that were mentioned by Scoble.

Most of the traffic originated from his blog entry Internet video business challenges. One of the point, he made in his post was about the high distribution cost with delivering high quality video. He mentioned that he is going to collect $10 in advertising to pay $28 in bandwidth cost.

In my opinion, development cost is one time cost for creating one high quality video but bandwidth cost is proportional to number of times that video is downloaded from fully-owned single distribution point. And there is no easy practical way to reduce the delivery cost without deploying a multi-owned multi-point distribution network. So, I wrote this in comment section (#32) of his blog entry.
Robert,

Mark Cuban is right on target. I will take his idea little further.

Why not allow users who download your video to share and transfer it to other users? This way, you will not need to purchase more bandwidth to txfr video to more users.

Figure out a way to manage digital rights so that even though video can be transferred from user to user but it can’t be played without a digital license. And the license is only distributed from your site.

Combine the digital license with new relevant ads that get embedded with video.
Google (someone else info, my ad) + peer-to-peer bulk data transfer (Napster, only legal) = Ad revenue + Infrastructure cost saving.

Anil
And, this is what Scoble wrote in his comment (#34) as a response to point I raised:
Anil: using BitTorrent or other P2P distribution schemes (RedSwoosh) is very interesting to me. I’m definitely looking into those.
Time to time, though not often, I do write comments on other blogs including A-list blogs typically resulting in little or no impact on traffic to my blog.

So, what was different this time that resulted in higher traffic?

I can only guess two possibilities that caused people to click on my name and check out who I am, the idea mentioned in my comment or validation by Scoble to consider it as an interesting alternative.

Now it raises another question. When making comments on blogs, what is more important - quality, quantity, or frequency? I prefer quality over the other two.

And, hopefully this post will give a pause to someone to rethink his strategy of making irrelevant comments on blogs to promote his storage job blog.


A toilet/restroom in Hokkaido constructed using marble. It also comes with a Yamaha piano, playing on its own, to entertain you while you go about your *smelly* business!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Impressions of Storage and Service in Japan

Most of the time, I was a tourist in Japan. But once in a while I also had serious discussion with whoever spoke better English than my Japanese or put up with an interpreter who only translated selectively! Some discussions were about population trends, storage market and opportunities and service nuances. Whether it was Sapporo, Kyoto or Tokyo, I was surprised and impressed that most Japanese, I talked to, considered issues with worldwide perspective instead of what is good for Japan unlike some other places.

Storage professionals seem to be as much in demand in Japan and APAC as in North America. I wish I had some Japanese language skills, I would have easily skipped my return flight. ;-)

I also heard similar sentiments about Hitachi storage as I hear in North America about its mindshare and footprint. Main difference being that most comments in Japan were directed not at HDS but at Hitachi's disk drive unit. HGST may be the better known entity in Japan than HDS. Where is storage on its list of priorities at Hitachi? Chime in if you desire. And, what's up with everyone wanting to discuss HDS with me?

I was particularly impressed with the level of service extended to customers in Japan. I don't think I have experienced such service dedication anywhere else. One individual from auto industry put it nicely "Here you get better service because it is ingrained culturally. In US, you get good service because people get paid for it." Just makes me wonder why HDS is generally thought of as "great hardware, ok software, poor service" company.


Promotional display for ASUS-Lamborghini Golden Edition laptop in Akihabara area of Tokyo. If you are in the area, try visiting Yodobashi Camera, a huge discount electronic store. I haven't seen anything like it on this side of Pacific.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving in Kyoto

I hope my readers had wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I spent my thanksgiving in Kyoto enjoying fall colors at Kiyomizudera temple and eating Puffer fish, a Japanese delicacy, for dinner.

I enjoyed my visit to wonderful Japan. It was also a nice break from laptop, cell phone, Internet, email and blog.

Now it is time to get back to storage.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Be Generous

Busy preparing for the trip to Japan. Already in holiday spirit. Need to catchup on storage stuff.


Medina House of an Hungarian guy. He reportedly received one percent stake to leave IBM and work for a startup, now we know as Microsoft.

Got photo blog inspiration from Andy Gray's Japan Photo Blog.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Last few weeks, I spent some time exploring life and work of Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988), a winner of Nobel Prize in Physics, inventor of Feynman diagram for quantum field theory calculations, a member of the investigating panel on Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and a professor at Caltech.

Why did I want to know more about Richard Feynman? He was brought to my attention by my boss. For a while, he has been commenting that I remind him of his Physics professor at Caltech. Now, I am sure not for my beautiful mind but for my eccentricities like speaking my mind and questioning status quo.

In the end, learning about Richard Feynman and his work gave me a new perspective on feedback received from others irrespective of whether it is about my blog or the ways I approach and discuss issues.

Thank you all for your opinions and feedbacks and keep them coming! And, no I am not growing up and I have no plans to quit blogging.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Data De-duplication crossing the Chasm

For last couple of days, storage blogosphere and media has been buzzing about EMC acquisition of Avamar, a data de-duplication vendor (See related entries below for the extent of coverage). It wasn't a best kept secret as rumors were circulating for a while that Avamar is being courted by EMC.

Recently, I have been studying Avamar data de-duplication technology after writing several times about data de-duplication and Data Domain. Few weeks ago, they were kind enough to send me promptly marketing and technical material. Don't know if that had to do with me being storage blogger or their openness to anyone interested.

Congratulations to Avamar for a very attractive exit. In exchange, EMC is getting a strong technology platform in real-time data de-duplication and handling both data-at-rest and data-in-transit. And it has potential to take EMC's backup, archive, replication and, contrary to popular thinking, array products to the next level.

Acquisition of Avamar by EMC, Rocksoft by ADIC, rumored IPO plans of Data Domain, and total segment revenue potentially reaching $100+ million, it appears that data de-duplication finally has crossed the chasm.

Related Entries:

Jeff Boles, Tony Asaro, Storagezilla, Storagezilla again, Mark Lewis, Byte & Switch, Dave Raffo, Beth Pariseau, Sharon Fisher, Raj Bala, Joseph Kovar, Tim Stammers

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Preserving Wynton Marsalis in Digital World

Last weekend, I saw Wynton Marsalis perform at Paramount Theatre. During the performance, I started to think about how legacy of Wynton Marsalis would be preserved in digital world.

Long time ago, the primary way to preserve music was to write on music sheets. Overtime, some of these sheets were physically destroyed or ink faded. One way or the other, some of the music was lost. Also, different people interpreted the written music differently (A debatable point as I am no expert on this topic ... treat it as view from the outside) as there was no audio or video archive of the original performance. The main challenge in that era was physical preservation of music sheets.

Things in music world have changed dramatically since the introduction of audio and video technology. Now, music is primarily preserved using audio, video or both. This shift has allowed more and exact information about a particular music to be preserved like the interpretation of the music by the original artist and his or her original performance. With digitization, even the making of a particular piece of music can be archived for future generation. This change also has brought new challenges in preservation of music.

Will we still have access to the music of original artists, hundred or even twenty years from now? The answer is no longer as simple as physical preservation of music sheets. The digitization of music along with its benefits has brought new challenges in long term preservation of music.
  • Survivability of the audio and video file formats.

  • Capability of the application to play original audio and video file formats.

  • Availability of original digital rights management process if DRM was applied to the file.

  • Availability of original encryption key management system if file was encrypted.

  • Capability of the operating system to be able to host application and support media and system.

  • Physical survivability of the media on which audio and video are recorded.

  • Physical survivability of the system capable of using the original media.
Come to think of, the long term preservation challenges are not exclusive to music, they also apply to all other information that need to be preserved for the future generations. And, these issues become lot more complex to address once the file, application, keys (DRM, encryption), OS, media, system, and storage are physically separated.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Google Custom Search for Data Storage

There has been a lot of talk in blogosphere about Google Custom Search. See Google Co-op Launched, Google Custom Search engine - with ads, Google's new personalized search engine talk of town, Roll your own Google Search.

Using Google Custom Search, I created a custom search for data storage information. The Google custom search box for data storage information is displayed just below the title block on my blog.

Data Storage Specialized Search




The data storage specialized search is started with 154 links and 3 categories: Bloggers, Media, and Vendors. Incorporating relevant storage links in to this search engine is a continuing effort and your help is greatly appreciated.
  • Would you like to include your storage links and categories? Email me with your suggestions for relevant storage links and categories.

  • Would you like to include data storage specialized search on your web page? Email me a request for the code.

  • Would you like to be active contributor? Email me with your contact information - email address, phone number, location and affiliation. You will be added as a contributor volunteer to data storage specialized search. The contact information is only requested to filter out suspicious requests.
Join this effort and let's make this search engine for all things storage.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Funny Side of Storage

A colleague gave me this amusing bumper sticker from Data Domain. Who said storage is boring?

Have you come across anything from funny side of storage? Share it!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trip to Japan

Continuing with the theme of reasons for light blog activity. Last few weeks, we were working out the details of visit to Japan next month.

Here are details of our trip,

Nov. 19 - 21 Tomakomai, Sapporo.
Nov. 22 - 23 Kyoto, Osaka.
Nov 24 - 26 Tokyo.

Even though, most visitors to my blog are based in US, there are some visitors from Japan too. If you are one of those readers from Japan, ping me. And if you are located in any of the cities on our list, we will be happy to say hello in person, time permitting.

I get the impression from a recent Wall Street Journal article How Demon Wife Became a Media Star And Other Tales of the 'Blook' in Japan that blogging is huge in Japan.
Blogs are even more popular in Japan than in the U.S. ... An estimated 25 million Japanese -- more than a fifth of the population -- are believed to read blogs.
It will be great to build some connections in Japanese blogging world. The Pleasures of Finding Things Out! And meeting readers in person all over world.

Note: If earlier you noticed a Google Map Test post, I was trying to include Google Map in my blog post. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it work. And after fiddling with the API for few hours, it wasn't worth wasting my time anymore.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Surely You're Joking …

You write in your previous post Evolution of Data De-duplication similar to FC SAN,
Data de-duplication is the single most important innovation in data storage since FC SAN.
If you believe in the potential of data de-duplication then why are you not working in this area?
This was the question, I asked myself after finishing The Final Frontier for Data De-duplication. Surely, there must be lot of situations where data de-duplication can be applied for it to become a pervasive technology. Some I described in Where are you being De-duped?.

Answer to this question "I should be working in data de-duplication" along with putting together a plan to realize it, is one of the three reasons for my light blog activity last few weeks (Other two in future posts). I am spending significant time researching and analyzing different data de-duplication techniques, opportunities and current products. I am sure results from some of this work will also show up on the blog in near future.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tales of Two Data De-Dupers

Avamar Announces Record Third Quarter
Revenue in the third quarter grew over 165% from the same period in 2005, and 22% from the second quarter.
Data Domain Posts Record Sales in Q3
Third quarter sales for the company were up 40% compared to the previous quarter and up 260% compared to the same quarter in 2005.
These two de-dupers are getting excellent market traction with data de-duplication for data protection. How are the two other de-dupers, Asigra and Diligent, doing?

Such results from the first wave of de-dupers are just indicative of the exceptional return on differentiating innovation, something Geoffrey Moore wrote in his latest book Dealing With Darwin, a fascinating book. I can't wait to see second wave of de-dupers to make a comparison of their returns from what book termed as neutralizing innovations!

Will Data Domain be next to file for IPO?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where are you being De-duped?

As I wrote previously (See, Evolution of Data De-duplication similar to FC SAN), presently data de-duplication is making a name for itself in backup and recovery area.

In my opinion, data de-duplication will ultimately be incorporated in to data storage infrastructure for three reasons:
  1. The growth in volume of information that need to be stored is several times that of the growth in capacity of data storage media, irrespective of media type (See, The Final Frontier for Data De-duplication).

  2. Data de-duplication doesn't require the information context of data to eliminate the repeating patterns. It can also eliminate the repeating patterns beyond a single information container.

  3. There is no reason that data de-duplication should only be applied to reduce the data-at-rest footprint. It can as effectively reduce the traffic volume by eliminating the repeating patterns in data being transferred. iSCSI aficionados take note.
Some of the near-term applications are going to be in the area of backup, archive, wide area data transfer, data caching, primary storage and enterprise data storage grids. In the end, data de-duplication can be applied anywhere where cost of resources freed by eliminating repeating patterns exceed the cost of resources required to remove repeating patterns.

Do you or someone you know applying data de-duplication to solve unique problems? I like to hear about it. This is your chance to reach out to my unique and focused readers.

Share your vision and thoughts on data de-duplication with me. I will share it with my readers and give appropriate credit to you.



BTW, you are seeing Microsoft OneNote and Tablet PC in action with above doodle. Let me know when it gets annoying!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Final Frontier for Data De-duplication

Bruce asked important questions in his blog entry What happens on the last day?
How many doublings does it take before the cost of storage exceeds the company's annual revenue? I've yet to have anyone give me their plan for 5 years out. What's yours?
Established storage vendors will like customers to keep purchasing storage at the current pace. But, it is only wishful thinking. In my opinion, nothing available currently is the answer or plan, customers want.

I am currently reading an interesting book Dealing with Darwin by Geoffrey Moore. The answer to cost of storage exceeding annual revenue and the 5 year plan lie in this statement from the book.
Competition for the scarce resources of customer purchases creates hunger that stimulates innovation
So, it will be the innovations that will give the solution and the five year plan to storing information without breaking the bank. And in my opinion, the underlying technology to store more with less will be data de-duplication.

It is matter of time before data de-duplication becomes a pervasive technology with in data storage infrastructure and ultimately becoming a key enabler technology in primary storage to store more data in smaller footprint.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Evolution of Data De-duplication similar to FC SAN

In my previous blog entries, I wrote about data de-duplication (See, Pitch something worth talking about!, Coolest Product, Episode 2: Technology). I believe data de-duplication will have similar impact on the way we store, transfer, protect and manage the data, as Fibre Channel Storage Area Network (FC SAN) did. Data de-duplication is the single most important innovation in data storage since FC-SAN.

It is no coincidence that both technologies initially targeted backup & recovery and then expanded in to other areas. Backup & Recovery continues to be an important function but a very expensive proposition for the businesses.

FC-SAN helped consolidate the backup footprint by enabling sharing of expensive backup devices. It also improved backup performance by separating backup traffic from client network. The volume of stored information is increasing at a rapid pace, and the need to reduce the backup footprint and performance further has risen again.

Virtual Tape Libraries (VTL) and Disk to Disk (D2D) backups already have shown significant promise in increasing backup performance. Now, data de-duplication is helping solve these problems with excellent data reduction, reportedly anywhere from 20 - 50:1, in backup savesets size and the reduced transfer size for offsite copy.

So what's next for data de-duplication?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What two storage bloggers talk over lunch?

Obviously, blogs and storage! And today my lunch with fellow blogger Josh Maher at Coho Cafe was no exception. I had great time talking to Josh about blogging and storage industry. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

He is a messaging and storage expert at EMC and maintains an active personal blog Messaging ... Technology ... Life .... Now I know whom to ping next time I have an Exchange or DMX question.

I am surprised that companies don't involve in-house bloggers before starting a company blog. I guess it's a case of "ghar ki murgi dal barabar." [an Indian saying meaning "things at home are rarely appreciated"]

We talked about the Puget Sound Storage Networking User Group (PSNUG). I used to be a regular at Toronto SNUG. I hope to see PSNUG becoming as active as TSNUG. But, it is very difficult to have an active user group without vendor support.

He also told me about Blog Business Summit in Seattle next month. I never attended a blogger conference before. But now I am wondering maybe I should attend one of these conferences. As I am interacting more with blog community, I am realizing that its time for me to start considering myself a storage blogger instead of storage professional who blogs. Nah! I am a cheap Indian so most probably I will chicken out in the end.

September is turning out to be "Meet Storage Bloggers" month for me, first Jeremiah and now Josh. It has been interesting shift - meeting fellow storage bloggers instead of non-blogging storage professionals, startup founders, managers and executives.

Open invitation to all bloggers in storage and IT infrastructure industry - whenever you are in Seattle, let's meet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

EMC steps in to Blogging Ring

It is great to see that finally EMC has stepped up to the plate and joined the blogging world by enabling half-hearted Mark Lewis to blog.
The Marketing folks wanted me to do it but, like many companies these days, I just figured this would fall into the legal abyss and never come out. ... Its not that I didn't want to Blog.
Someday, we will have battle of the blogs between storage vendors. Hopefully, Mark will show more commitment to blogging than Diane Greene at Vmware.
Tip #3: Put up a long-winded introductory post and then leave your blog alone - isn't it enough just to be able to brag that you have one?
It is interesting that both Dave Hitz at NetApp and Mark Lewis at EMC have comments disabled on their blogs. So far apart, but so alike. Why are they so afraid of having conversations in public with their blog readers?
Tip #1: Don't allow your visitors to leave feedback of any kind - after all, you wouldn't want them making fun of you; you had enough of that in high school!
Kudos to Hu Yoshida at HDS to embrace the blogging spirit of conversation by enabling comments.

As Mark doesn't allow comments on his blog, here is one question for him:
Is this a corporate Blog? NO. ... As my one disclaimer, I guess EMC does pay the monthly fee for the site (I hope I don't get taxed).
EMC is paying for your blog. You are going to write about EMC. Then, you are claiming it is not corporate blog. So what is your definition of corporate blog?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pitch something worth talking about!

While I was thinking and researching about pitching to bloggers, Eric Sink wrote an interesting post on similar topic, How to get people talking about your product. Here are some quotes from his post that resonate well with me.
Begging bloggers for links

In the last couple years, the most popular way of trying to generate word-of-mouth marketing is a two-part strategy that looks like this:

1. Make a list of all the top bloggers.
2. Send email to them and ask them to mention your product.

This won't work.
I agree with Eric statement. These tactics are very similar to bombarding journalists with press releases, how effective are they?
Instead, focus on a smaller group

The better approach is far less intuitive, but far more effective:

1. Find a Very Small Group of People that share common interests
2. Build a product that 100% of them will love

And most importantly, when your product does ship, you will have set the stage for buzz and word-of-mouth to happen. If your product is so perfectly designed to delight your customers, they will be dying to talk about it.
This may be the answer to my curiosity why am I being pitched (See, Why pitch to me?). I belong to a very small and niche group of data storage bloggers and readers demographic includes mostly people interested in data storage technology, products and services.
Build a product that is worth talking about

People don't talk about products because somebody asked them to. People talk about products because they're interesting. They talk about products they love.

The first step in getting people to talk about your product is to have a product that is worth talking about. Design something insanely great. Think about the folks in your Very Small Group of People, and build a product that they will love so much that they can't keep quiet about it.
This is the key to getting me to talk about you, your company, product, technology and idea. As a niche blogger, I am more likely to talk about something that will interest me irrespective of someone's relationship status with me. Relationship only guarantees you that I will read or listen to your pitch but only thing guarantees you coverage is whatever you are pitching is worth talking about.

You are more likely to succeed if what being pitched is innovative, at the cutting edge and pitched correctly. Asking me to highlight minute technical differences between you and others wouldn't get me out of bed to write a blog entry.

Hint: IMO, the best technology innovation to happen in data storage industry since SAN is Data De-duplication, and next in line, is Grid.

Final words from The 9 Most Important Words for Business Bloggers
A gifted product is mightier than a gifted pen.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Relationships generating blog content, huh?

Continuation from Why pitch me?

Initially, I was humbled that someone thought my opinion may be of value to someone else so they were pitching to me. But then the pitches started increasing in volume and repetition.

At that point, I figured it may be helpful to write a post on how I can be coaxed in to writing about you, your idea, your product or your company. But I wasn't sure how to approach this topic. So I decided to initiate email conversation about it with Jeremiah Owyang, someone better plugged in the blogging world. His initial response led me to research further:
I think common sense is the best way to do it, and remember that the bloggers are in charge. Not sure if a policy or rules of engagement are needed. Guy Kawasaki and Scoble have discussed at length 'how to pitch to a blogger.'
Jeremiah also mentioned in his follow up reply and blog entry about building relationship before pitching. From my research, it seem that most bloggers are advocating building relationship before pitching.

It appeared counter-intuitive to me. Relationship is typically required for trade media journalists and industry analysts so that they eat your pitch and regurgitate in their reports and articles. Am I being considered an industry analyst or trade media journalist? Hope not!

For me, blogging is a creative outlet and a way to building new relationships with like-minded industry professionals. I never thought of relationships (paid or unpaid) providing content for the blog like they do for analyst reports or trade articles.

Yes, relationship will get me to read your messages or listen to your pitch for few minutes, but it will not necessarily get you the coverage on my blog. BTW, I read all messages regularly irrespective of who sent me except messages on subscribed lists. So, if not relationship then what can get me excited to write about you, your idea, your technology, your product or your company? Now the cliffhanger, I will discuss this further in my follow-up post.

Relevant Links:

How to Suck Up to a Blogger

Don't Be a Bad Pitcher!

Tips for Pitching Blogs

Pitching to Bloggers: For 2.0 Involvees

How to Ruin Your Corporate Blog: 100 Tips by 10 Bloggers

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why pitch to me?

Recently, I started to get requests from technology vendors, PR reps and others asking me to pitch their company, products or ideas through my blog. Initially, I was surprised by these requests considering the narrow focus and few readers of my blog. I am just not sure what to make of such requests considering the limited reach of my blog compared to the blogs of high profile widely read bloggers like Guy Kawasaki or Robert Scoble or even those of well known and influential industry analysts and trade journalists like Mario Apicella or Steve Duplessie.

One person who pitched to me responded to my query about their objective of pitching:
A couple things - first, I'm hoping that you might see this ... as an area to write more about on your blog, given its importance to the .... Also, I wanted to bring your attention that there are issues with ... of these solutions that some vendors out there aren't being completely forthcoming about - for example ....

Again, just thought it might be a topic of interest to explore on your blog. If so, I'm happy to put you in touch with ... if you like.
I welcome your opinion and thoughts on this topic. How do you feel about reading 'pitched' stuff?

BTW, I had interesting conversation on this topic with Jeremiah during my visit to HDS HQ. I will discuss this further in my follow-up posts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

HDS Visit & Lunch 2.0

Last Friday, during my visit to Bay Area, I had the pleasure to meet Jeremiah Owyang. He was very gracious to host me at HDS Executive Briefing Center. I am sure lot of people, including myself, were half-expecting that HDS will even want to talk to me, let alone have me as guest on their premises.

Thank you Jeremiah for the great lunch and equally great discussion (more in later posts). I can only imagine the challenges and efforts required to encourage an organization in a conservative-to-the-fault technology sector to adopt progressive Web 2.0 tools and strategies like blogging, wiki and public forums. Hats off to you. My bad for considering you HDS Blog Manager. How does HDS Web 2.0 Evangelist sound?

After reading the coverage of HDS Lunch 2.0 by you and Robert Scoble, I feel I missed a great event, a chance to interact with fellow bloggers and learn the infrastructure challenges of Web 2.0 companies. Thank you for the Lunch 2.0 T-shirt and Hitachi poster.

Whenever you or any blogger from data storage and IT infrastructure industry are in Seattle, please let me know. I will be happy to meet over lunch or coffee and discuss data storage, blogging and anything in between.

Included from comments:
Thanks, Jeremiah for the link to the Lunch 2.0 video.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Career move to Entrepreneurship - IEEE Webinar

Just received a note from a fellow IIT alum. An interesting and useful Career Accelerator Forum by IEEE and Webinar for those looking to make move to Entrepreneurship or Computer Science.
A Must-Attend Event for Career-Minded, Tech-Science Professionals!

Are you looking for a career move into entrepreneurship or computer science? At the Autumn 2006 Career Accelerator Forum from IEEE Spectrum Online, on October 12th, industry experts will tell you what employers are looking for, how to match your training and skills with the best jobs, and how to leverage work experience and credentials to your advantage. You will also be able to network with career specialists and higher educational institutions in our online forum. To register or learn more, please visit: http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/caf

Monday, August 28, 2006

Power - The Theme of Data Center Outages

As soon as I finished my last rant (See, Infrastructure Failure - Be Paranoid), a reader pointed out a similar incident close to home, at Fisher Plaza in Seattle.

Fisher Plaza is considered to be a premium data center housing numerous high profile clients and ten different telecom carriers bringing fiber to the buildings. I visit the facility time-to-time as several customers are co-located there.

It seems Fisher Plaza experienced an outage due to electrical power equipment failure few weeks ago knocking KOMO TV and KOMO 1000 News Radio stations offline (See, Unsinkable Data Center Crashes in Seattle). There were also several similar incidents reported in other cities (See, Data Center Outages Bring Headaches, Headlines and InterNAPPing?)

The moral of these incidents for customers are very simple:
  • When planning mission critical operations, look beyond just redundant power supplies, UPS and WAN connections. Facility is as important as your equipment in keeping your operations up. "Many data centers just can't handle new technologies coming out," Comment by a presenter at AFCOM Data Center World Conference (See, Five Predictions: Relocations and Outsourcing)
  • Perform due diligence not only on tenant happiness and satisfaction but also crisis handling and management.
  • Murphy's Law is alive and kicking even for well planned, thought out, mission critical activities.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Useful Free Tools & Information

WinMerge - An Open Source visual text file differencing and merging tool for Windows. A great tool for comparing log files.

RealVNC - A remote access tool for system administration and shared workspace.

Virtual CDROM for Windows XP - Store all your CD images on hard drive and use them with Virtual CD-ROM.

ISO Recorder - Create ISO images of data stored on your hard drive.

MSDN Library - Subscription free download of MSDN Library to your computer, a valuable resource for IT people developing and supporting Microsoft tools, products and technologies.

Disaster Recovery for Microsoft Exchange - Guidelines on developing and implementing a backup strategy for Microsoft Exchange Servers.

Books Online for Microsoft SQL Server - The primary documentation for SQL Server.

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer - Perform scans of Windows systems to identify common security holes.

Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator - Connect your server to iSCSI targets using regular Network Adapters.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Storage meets Web 2.0

Jeremiah is organizing a storage event for Web 2.0 companies at HDS HQ in Santa Clara, Sept 12 (See Lunch 2.0 Web Expo Blowout at Hitachi Data Systems and Lunch 2.0 Web Expo). With the popularity of Web 2.0 companies like Six Apart, YouTube and MySpace, their data storage requirements must be growing very fast.

I am going to miss this great event just by a day! as I will be in Bay Area from Sept. 7 through 11. I wish I knew about the event little earlier to extend my trip by a day.

Was the event organized at short notice? Most probably, Jeremiah would have mentioned it in our email exchanges while planning to meet during his visit to Seattle or my visit to Bay Area. BTW, anybody want to get together in Bay Area during my visit to chat about storage, blogs, startups and anything else, contact me.

Congratulations to HDS (specifically, Jeremiah and Hu) in taking the lead among SAN storage companies to target Web 2.0. SAN storage has been not that prevalent among the Web 2.0 infrastructure in my observation. I seem to find more NAS and Linux based commodity storage within Web 2.0 infrastructure.

I am sure HDS event will be a great success. Hopefully it will encourage them and other storage vendors to take such events on the road to meet "hot" Web 2.0 companies outside Bay Area. Here are two Web 2.0 lists for vendors who want to help them grow their infrastructure:

Seattle's Web 2.0 List

National Web 2.0 List

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Infrastructure Failure – Be Paranoid

Just after writing my previous blog post Data Center Power Consumption and Heat Generation, I came across an interesting blog post with 400+ comments. It details the failure of hosting infrastructure at DreamHost (See, Anatomy of a(n ongoing) Disaster..) In my opinion, it is a recommended reading for everyone who manages or designs IT infrastructure for living.

Here are excerpts from the post with my commentary and takeaways.
Ironically, all the recent disasters stem somewhat from us attempting to take some proactive steps to head off any sort of future power outages like the kind we experienced last year.
Instead of narrowly focus on preventing something from happening again, use the event as wake up call. Assess your environment for other potential risks and develop comprehensive plan to address them. Also, be aware of new problems that may arise while solving another problem. I like to use the Chess analogy - Further you anticipate moves, better your chances of prevailing.
We're now basically 95% of their data center.
Consider how important you are to your vendor and leverage your position to negotiate better deal.
The Garland Building is supposed to be an excellent place for data centers. There are more than a dozen in the building. Companies like iPowerWeb, Media Temple, BroadSpire, and even MySpace (now the most popular website in the whole US!) are in there.
Do your own due diligence even if you think vendor passed the due diligence by a larger well known company. Their failure may be critical to your business and a drop in the bucket for these "other"” companies. It is not uncommon for vendors to offer sweet deals to attract high profile companies.
Around last June though, the building informed all its data center tenants that they had essentially run out of power!
Don'’t wait for other shoe to fall before taking actions. Be paranoid.
After months of searching and negotiating with Alchemy, we still had to get Switch and Data to allow us to put a cross-connect in from their data center over to their competitors down the hall.
Finding an alternate data center down the hall may seem quick and easy fix to existing power problem. But such short-sighted and point solutions fail to address other lingering issues such as Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity. I guess the company plan is to wait until problem occurs before addressing them.

No incumbent makes competitor entry easy and painless. Get specific deliverables when you have the leverage. Be prepared to work alone and have a Plan B considering total non-cooperation from vendor.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Data Center Energy Consumption and Heat Generation

This morning, I read interesting news about LBNL, Sun and others demonstrating DC power distribution in data center as a way to reduce power consumption and heat generation (See, Engineers: DC Power Saves Data Center Dough). Six months ago, I did come across few data center people interested in ways to reduce power and space requirements and decrease heat generation (See, Happy New Year & Food for Your Brain).

It looks like technology industry has been making some efforts in this area. DC power sounds an interesting alternative. I wonder what are the drawbacks of using 380-volt DC power instead of AC. The eWEEK article focuses on the good side only. I am sure there is bad side to it too. Aren't there reasons for preference of AC over DC in power distribution? Can't recall exact details but something to do with distribution losses.

On facility wide basis, 15% reduction in energy consumption does sound significant. I am looking forward to reading the complete report when and if available. I expect that efforts focusing on reducing energy consumption at rack level may produce more significant results.

This area is expected to be pretty Hot "literally" in near future considering projections indicating cost of powering up and cooling down exceeding cost of equipment.

Last year, Luiz Andre Barraso of Google also published an interesting article on the same topic in ACM Queue (See The Price of Performance) where he described cost trends of large IT infrastructure such as Google's with couple of interesting graphs. Some of the key points mentioned are:
  • Every gain in performance has been accompanied by a proportional inflation in overall platform power consumption. The result of these trends is that power related costs are an increasing fraction of the TCO.
  • The energy costs of that system today would already be more than 40 percent of the hardware costs. (The system is a x86 server worth $3,000 consuming 200 watts on average).
  • If performance per watt is to remain constant over the next few years, power costs could easily overtake hardware costs, possibly by a large margin.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Storage Strategy for Digitized Medical Films

Last week, I received a phone call from Thomas looking for some help in figuring out the optimum storage strategy for his environment. Thomas is IT Director for a Texas based medical imaging group. The phone discussion took place 5:30AM so details are little bit hazy.

Recently, he installed a turnkey PACS solution encompassing Sun servers and EMC SAN and NAS storage for storing medical imaging studies (CT, X-ray, MRI, ...). He also has lot of archived medical films that he intend to digitize and store online ... 50TB+ if I remember correctly. He is concerned about storing this data on his expensive storage purchased as part of turnkey PACS solution!

He is looking for someone to advise him on the best strategy for storing this data. Unfortunately due to my added responsibilities and increased workload at ADIC, I am not able to help him actively. So if you have previous strategy experience in the medical imaging vertical and storage of digitized data, I will be happy to hook you up with Thomas.

Despite my hectic work schedule, I hope to continue being a sounding board for Thomas and people like him in healthcare segment.

Monday, July 31, 2006

SGI: A Case Study for The Innovator's Dilemma

Jason Stamper wrote an interesting blog entry on SGI wondering if it will become next Data General (see, Will SGI Become the Next Data General?). Some takeaways from his post are:
  • Great technology ultimately failed to capitalize.
  • CEO stressing that SGI not looking for exit strategy. Yeah, right!
  • Botched and failed acquisitions. Focus on perceived core, missed opportunities elsewhere. Cultural heritage hurdles!
  • Made irrelevant by commodity, PC and open source. Going the way Data General, DEC and Sequent went.
  • Is it all over for SGI? Most likely!
What I read on Jason's blog and know of SGI, I wonder if SGI will become another case study in favor of the theories elaborated in The Innovator's Dilemma.

Based on the mentioned strategy of "Going Downstream", I am certain SGI is heading in the same direction as every company mentioned in The Innovator's Dilemma who tried this after getting beat by smaller rivals/technologies. This strategy along with reorganization and cost cutting measures may create a smaller leaner SGI ready to be plucked by a rival but it is not going to make SGI an innovative top-tier leader again.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Aperi Community Teleconference & Proposal

Received this message from Phil Mills, SNIA Secretary, detailing Aperi teleconference. The proposal, available at Eclipse website, looks plain vanilla. I still don't get Aperi's value proposition above and beyond WBEM, CIM, and SMI-S.
All SNIA Members,

SNIA and the Aperi Community have agreed to collaborate to advance the SNIA's SMI-S Architecture. The details of this formal alliance are currently being developed in the SNIA Strategic Alliances Committee. The Aperi Community has scheduled a teleconference to explain their program to interested SNIA members and provide pertinent information on how to participate. A slide deck is being created for this teleconference and will be made available to SNIA members prior to the call.

The following is the invitation from Aperi.

Phil Mills, Secretary of SNIA

You are invited to attend an session to learn more about the Aperi open source storage management project.

Aperi information session

Date: Wednesday Aug 2nd 11:00 am PT/2:00 pm ET

Call-In Info:

TollFree: 866-803-2141
International +1-203-607-0460
Passcode: 2295944

In this call we will discuss:

* The mission and benefits of the Aperi open source project
* Relationship of the Aperi open source project to SNIA's SMI
* The Eclipse open source community
* How to participate in the Aperi project

Members of the Aperi community will be on the call to share this information and answer your questions. You can read the Aperi Project proposal at: http://www.eclipse.org/proposals/aperi/

Regards,
The Aperi Community

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Psst … Pricing without talking to storage vendor

Do you want access to price list of storage vendors without having to listen to vendors pitch?

Robin Harris has been doing great job culling up price lists from various sources and posting them online. He already posted price list of Xiotech, Texas Memory, StoreAge, StorageTek, Seagate, Riverbed, Quantum, Qlogic, Pillar, Panasas, Network Appliance, Nexsan, McData, Lefthand, Isilon, IBM, HP, Hitachi, Finisar, Falconstor, EqualLogic, EMC, Dell, Data Domain, CreekPath, Brocade, Avamar, ADIC, and 3PAR.

A great new pricing resource for getting started on developing budget for your next storage project, pricing comparison and negotiation leverage.

In the past, I used GSA pricing and price lists obtained from Internet/ vendor/ channel/ end-user for developing business cases and preliminary budget for the storage projects. Robin Harris work offers one more price reference point for next price-based analysis.

Now, can someone figure out ways to harvest and make available all the vendor documentation currently available only with proper credentials?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Storage TCO Elements

Recently, David Merrill, HDS posted his list of 30 types of storage TCO elements. At ANDIROG, I used his white papers, Storage Economics and ROI and Business Case Support for SAN, extensively in business case developments. In my opinion, his list misses the costs associated with replacement, migration, and disposal activities.

Instead of listing TCO elements arbitrarily, I like to divide them in to a grid similar to the picture we used at ANDIROG to explain our focus. Listing infrastructure components and how each one is impacted by infrastructure activities related to customer data highlighting one or two elements from each category with most impact.

It is particularly useful when talking to different IT groups with in an organization or helping one group in selling their projects to other groups.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What I am doing in Seattle?

Since I wrote about my move to Seattle (See Transition to Seattle), some readers inquired about what I am doing in Seattle.

Here is quick and short response. I am working as Systems Engineer in Northwest Field Services group at ADIC. I am still a storage practitioner at heart so don't hold against me for working with a storage vendor.

Here are some clarifications and disclaimers. ADIC didn't hire me to be their blog evangelist. This is my personal blog, not an ADIC blog. ADIC has no editorial oversight over my personal blog (Except this blog entry, as I wanted to make sure that all bases are covered from disclosure perspective). I am at the bottom of the totem pole at ADIC so don't expect any juicy gossips or future product strategies on this blog.

The views expressed in this blog are mine alone and definitely do not represent the views of anyone else including my employer, colleagues, friends and family.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Creative storage licensing practices

While reviewing my blog feeds today, I came across a blog entry The Greed in Software Licensing. In this post, Snig mentioned his frustration with licensing policy of HDS Tiered Storage Manager (TSM) product and offered an alternate solution to his licensed storage issue.

In my experience, all storage software vendors, one way or another, employ such creative licensing strategies to maximize revenue per customer while keeping the entry fee low enough to lure new end users. What licensing strategies have you experienced from storage vendors?

Such incidents highlight the importance of due diligence by end-users and independent advisors before considering any new product or technology. I am sure HDS sales would have bent backwards to accommodate Snig's license request if it was part of initial sale.

Such business tactics surprise me. Most business educators preach that it is more expensive to get new customers than to keep current ones. Then why, in reality, most businesses treat their current customers worse than new customers?

Kudos to Hu Yoshida for responding quickly to concerns raised in Snig's post. Hopefully, his initiatives will bring structural changes in licensing practices instead of just a license handout to Snig.

This incident also goes to show the power of corporate blogging. How times have changed! Since Hu started blogging, my impression of HDS has shifted from a "closely guarded" company to company that want to converse with the market. Even though, the HDS storage was the first SAN attached storage I worked with, I never got involved further just because I found them difficult to communicate with!

Three type of people, I miss most!

Three type of fellows, I am not meeting yet in Seattle area:

Storage professionals. Most probably, there are active storage organizations and events in Seattle area. I just haven't found information on where storage professionals get together in Seattle area. Do you know any local storage meetings? Send me an email.

Budding entrepreneurs. Last month, I attended TiE meeting in Bellevue. This was my first opportunity to interact with budding entrepreneurs in Seattle area. I look forward to further getting involved with such initiatives and building some relationships for the 'future'.

Terrible golfers. I am pretty terrible golf player. So it has been challenging to find a fellow golf partner with similar skill level to have fun on the golf course. If you know your handicap, you are too advanced to be my golf partner. Everyone else, I will be up for a round of golf.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Encryption: Am I missing something?

Today, I came across Deni Connor's blog entry Bush catches onto data security mentioning that Office of Management and Budget issued security guidelines (PDF version). As with everyone else in the media, it seems OMB is also recommending encryption for data-at-rest as a way of securing data.

Six months ago, I also posed a question to Hu Yoshida at HDS (See Waiting for my Marriott Letter) about his comfort level with encrypted versus unencrypted state of lost data. To which, he responded:
My vote would be for encrypted and not lost. But since it is lost, it would make me feel more comfortable if the data were encrypted. (See More Comfortable, encrypted and lost?)
I am sure most IT people have some awareness of technical issues with encrypting data-at-rest like key management and encrypt/decrypt performance, etc. I am not a cryptography expert and my concern is very simple and non-technical:
Can anyone assure me that current encryption level used for data-at-rest will not be cracked in the future?
I prefer immediate feedback instead of delayed gratification so I rather see the impact of my personal data loss immediately instead of five or seven years down the road. At least if my data is compromised tomorrow and proper disclosures were made, I know where and how my data was lost, who is responsible and what corrective actions needed to prevent further misuse.

But if the same data is compromised five years later, I have no information on the source of data that was compromised, recourse and leverage with organizations responsible for it. Most organizations may not even accept legal responsibility claiming that they offered credit monitoring for limited period in return for individual waiving any future claims.
With encryption of data-at-rest, are we trading peace of mind today for getting screwed tomorrow?
With the current disclosure practices and lack of fraud detection methods, I feel that encryption is going to create an underground "futures" market for trading lost data.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Be like G.....

This evening, while reviewing my blog feeds, I came across this interesting statement in Xooglers blog entry Brilliant! Love it! Now, could you change it all around?
Having free-flowing, unregulated communication within a company can be distracting, annoying and damaging to one’s ego, but it lets you know pretty quickly when you’ve stepped across a line you shouldn’t have crossed.
I wish storage companies can encourage such free-flow conversation within their organizations. Most probably, just a wishful thinking. Who in the right mind within storage company management will take such a risk?

Today, I had a great discussion over lunch with a founder of seed stage storage startup in Denver. More about it over weekend from Vancouver.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Only two storage companies on B2 100

The latest issue of Business 2.0 listed their annual ranking of technology businesses with really booming business. Two things stood out on the list:
  1. Only two storage companies on the list: Western Digital at #48 and Network Appliance at #98. This was surprising. I expected to see more storage companies considering most market watchers keep harping about the exponential growth in data storage requirements.
  2. Sixteen out of 100 companies focused on healthcare market.
#48 Western Digital - Why It's Hot

The No. 2 maker of hard drives (in Dell PCs, TiVo's DVR, and Microsoft Xbox) is gaining market share as rivals Seagate and Maxtor merge.

#98 Network Appliance - Why It's Hot

Increasing demand for data storage boosted server sales by 30 percent in the quarter ending in January, and the share price has since rallied.
From SeaGator - A puzzled vision, "In short term, SeaGator loss will be gain for Western Digital, ...." I am glad to see that I wasn't way off in my analysis of Seagate Maxtor merger.

I don't agree with Business 2.0 reason for why NetApp is hot. In my opinion, credit for NetApp success goes to its sales people who are pounding the pavements like never before. I can't recall any situation recently where NetApp name didn't come up.

I am not surprised to see the booming business being performed by healthcare technology companies. Being personally involved in projects with combined installed storage capacity of 4PB+, in my opinion, healthcare industry is becoming a major consumer of storage. Congratulations to my friends at Merge Healthcare for making the list at #37!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Transition to Seattle

Some of you inquired about my whereabouts after noticing location changes on my blog. And you guessed correctly, I decided to relocate to Seattle from Toronto few months ago. The reasons behind my relocation are wide ranging from personal to professional - cold weather and risk-averse society in Toronto stands out prominently.

Recent essay from Paul Graham (See Why Startups Condense In America) pretty much sums up my thinking and experience about the startup environment in Toronto versus West Coast. As any entrepreneur will tell you, they may have not succeeded this time but they will try again one day and most likely that will be true for me too.

The contact phone number and email address listed at ANDIROG will continue to be the best way to reach me. And if you are in Seattle area or anyplace I am visiting (Hot 99F Denver this week), I will be happy to chat about storage, blogging, startup and anything else over a beer!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Parallel SCSI devices get a new life ...

Earlier this week, I received a message from Maggi Brown at Paralan Corporation mentioning family of Bridges to support parallel SCSI to iSCSI. I don't have any experience with this product. But if it works as proclaimed and reasonably priced, we can dust off our old parallel SCSI storage and tape devices and reuse them again.

As I wrote before (See WinTarget Alternative), I was very impressed with WinTarget that gave users capability to turn any Windows Server with excess internal storage in to an external storage array for other servers that need more storage. I believe this Paralan product falls in to similar category allowing the use of obsolete parallel SCSI external devices without the hassle of bulky cables hanging from the servers. Those cables were at the root of most problems in parallel SCSI world.

One potential application of this device may be with obsolete parallel SCSI disk storage in the area of storing personal non-business data of users.

Most IT practices recommend to discourage users from storing personal music and video files on network drives by active monitoring, notification and deletion of such files. I don't subscribe to such methodologies as I believe in human creativity that will figure out circumventing such measures, sooner or later. Instead, I believe in giving what users want and then managing storage of such data by delivering different levels of user experience through quality of service.

With Paralan bridge, the parallel SCSI storage devices can be installed at a central location. With file migration techniques, these obsolete devices can be used as primary storage for non-essential user data like music and videos.

This is just one of the many applications, I can think of, for this bridge product.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fibre Channel Information Tool (fcinfo)

Have you encountered situations where you needed to check FC connectivity information on a production host? And no HBA utilities like SANturfer or HBAnowhere are installed on any SAN host. Couple of times, I ran in to such situations. Most customers are not excited about installing programs or utilities on a production host. Without HBA utility, SAN troubleshooting becomes little bit more challenging.

I was glad to read in Matt's blog entry Solaris fibre channel management that Solaris 10u1 base OS now includes a fcinfo command to view HBA and connectivity information. BTW, Matt's blog is pretty cool for all things Solaris.
From Solaris 10 - man pages section 1M: System Administration Commands 816-5166 document,

fcinfo – Fibre Channel HBA Port Command Line Interface

fcinfo hba-port [-l] [HBA_port_WWNÂ…]

fcinfo remote-port [-ls] [-p HBA_port_WWN] [REMOTE_port_WWNÂ…]

fcinfo [-V]


fcinfo [-?]


fcinfo is a command line interface that collects administrative information on fibre channel host bus adapter (HBA) ports on a host. It also collects data on any fibre channel targets that may be connected to those ports in a Storage Area Network (SAN).

The following subcommands are supported:

hba-port
Lists information for the HBA port referenced by the specified HBA_port_WWN. If HBA_port_WWN is not specified, all fibre channel HBA ports on the host will be listed.

remote-port
Lists the remote-port information for those remote ports that are specified. If no REMOTE_port_WWN is specified, all remote ports that are visible through HBA_port_WWN are listed.


SUN is not generally considered to be at the forefront of storage innovation. And sure enough, Microsoft also has fcinfo utility (Download) for Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 systems. The cool feature is that you don't need to install it on the host.

Microsoft also mentions that fcinfo utility is based on the SNIA HBA API for management of Fibre Channel Host Bust Adapters and discovery of SAN resources. There is also an open source project The Fibre Channel HBA API Project on Sourceforge with more information.

SNIA is good for something finally!