Wednesday Nov 04, 2009

A Time Capsule for the Enterprise?

On Halloween I upgraded the desk side PC from Windows XP to Windows 7.  Between multiple reboots, application installs, recovery of email, print server configuration, etc. my wife asked "Why does it have to be so hard?"  As she said this I was looking at the Apple Time Capsule sitting on top of a small cabinet in our home basement. The only item coming out of the Time Capsule was the power cord connected to the power outlet.  I run the Time Capsule as a wireless client in our home network for data backup.  The data consists of many pictures, video clips, songs, the kids homework and basically many various files (some of which are important).

My home (LAN) network has grown over the years from a few PCs connected via an old 802.11b router to a dual band (802.11g/802.11n) router connecting a multitude of wireless clients. These include a XBox, iTouch, PrintServer, OpenSolaris, Ubuntu, Mac, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 devices.  Basically a heterogeneous environment.  Will the older Window versions be phased out at home eventually?  Yes.  The Unix/Linux clients will remain out of necessity as well as for hobby.  It's difficult to currently beat the Mac experience.  Adding a Time capsule into my existing home network was relatively easy.  The Airport setup updated the Time Capsule firmware and configured the device in straight forward steps.  It wasn't as "fun" for a "techie" as say CLI commands, but simple is defined as "fun" for most consumers. The Windows XP to Windows 7 full upgrade was painfull but I have to admit the network configuration experience was much improved.  I was pleasantly surprised freeware Bonjour discovery services just worked and the W7 system configured the Time Capsule as a usable share.

One could imply a similar situation in the enterprise space.  For an enterprise business "fun" is defined as high margin dollars on a growing revenue stream.  This usually means your costs are contained, you implement continuous improvements on efficiency and you simplify.  Vendors in the technology industry are all trying to provide a truly "Enterprise Time Capsule" or Appliance.  There has been a large amount of innovation over the past 20 years.  However today's innovation is tomorrow's PDP-11Minicomputers were appliances that Mainframes couldn't be.  The evolution has continued over the years in every technology segment.

Enterprise customers want it simple as do consumers.  While the stakes are much higher in the enterprise, the bar is significantly raised for "just working" each and every time.  It doesn't matter if you are playing catchup, you are the incumbent or you are the new thought leader-- the winners will be the set of vendors who provide the tool that "just works" each and every time in the harshest and most complex environments. 

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Tuesday Jun 10, 2008

OpenStorage blather... maybe not

There has been much talk about open source storage software in the past several months.  It seems that it is generating more interest than open source software in general.  The debates have aligned around 2 basic camps of nonsense and practicality.  One observation is starting to become clear.  It speaks relevance to certain folks.  Usually if something is mere hype people will ignore it.  I've watched something that was previously irrelevant become a lightening rod as of late.  Just as we are aligning for a presidential election here in the U.S. we have alignment around proprietary versus open sourced storage software.  More than mere startups are interested and able to design, build and offer a solution using software that is built from software that is open sourced. Heck you can even build your product on an open sourced code base and charge for it too.  It goes against the traditional grain of what is considered the norm for storage.  There is lots of proprietary storage software out there that comes from open sourced code-- e.g. embedded controllers.   Systems companies who have the knowledge of software, integration, sheer collaboration and understanding their customers are capable of creating a similar picture to the above.  It does go beyond DIY.

In fact if you have the expertise to lead in design trends you may be able to do better.  Take the so called blather around SSDs.  Some argue replacing a spinning drive with a FLASH drive using the traditional disk I/O interface is not worth it.  Maybe they are right.  However if your software was designed to use that SSD as a tertiary cache between the disk and the computational engine that would be different.  Yes maybe even altering as was the case when very large memories (VLM) were introduced in the mid-90s.  VLMs enabled the killer application database because working sets became much bigger.  The semiconductor folks do something similar and refer to the concept as pipelining.  Yes old concepts that get reapplied with newer technologies producing significant results.

So it is merely not just a do it yourself thing.  Click on the picture above an scroll through what the product offers.  An offering from a company who leads rather than follows.  It is probably true too if your company has all the capability of using open source software, hardware design and system integration.  Big companies too... not only startups.  Interesting times...


The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.


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