Web 2.0, its not just AJAX, let the storage folks have some fun too

Storage systems are rarely mentioned in the same sentence (and most often not even in the same conversation) as Web 2.0.  There could be quite a few reasons but, in the end, it seems like systems folks take storage for granted and storage folks take systems for granted.  On the other hand, storage could be perceived as just plain boring.

Still, one (I) could easily make an argument that storage is the single most important aspect of Web 2.0.  Let's go back to the Wikipedia definition for a moment, "The term Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online."

Now, I have to tell you, all of that information flying around the web is getting stored somewhere.  Storage sales continue to fly, and if you pay attention, Oracle isn't doing too bad either.  Where does all of that information and content go when folks aren't accessing it?  Its at rest on a platter, in flash memory, on a tape...its somewhere, just waiting to be accessed.

An obvious Web 2.0 need is efficient Information Lifecycle Management (ILM).  Think about something as simple as Instant Messaging.  Instant Messaging is about "now", I communicate...well...instantly.  Rarely do I go back to recall what I talked about, but on occasion, I go surfing through my old IMs to get URLs, recall important details, and more.  There is NO REASON that all of my IM conversations should be on high priced storage with immediate access yet, still, I would like timely access to my old IMs.  This is tiered storage, and Sun has a good story around this.  Further, with all of the government regulations in the industry about retaining information, the StorageTek acquisition looks very solid.  I used to work at Imation in Minnesota.  The execs were enamored with tape and diskettes, I was a young kid with software infrastructure on his mind and was largely dismissive of this tape thing.  I have to tell you, I look back at those execs with some amount of respect, tape is fundamentally important, especially in Web 2.0 if you couple it with a sound ILM strategy.  Look at the history of the Imation stock and where it goes after a major disaster.  Companies look at their disaster recovery plans and they basically say "I gotta get me some of that tape".

Ok, ILM, good, major player in Web 2.0, Sun, we have it covered.  A bit boring, but boring is important.  Quicken is boring too, as in, accountant boring, but just try to pry quicken from my fingers at tax time...

What about this grid thing that Sun is all over?  CPU grids are fun and exciting, but the relationship to storage is largely done with existing technologies (shared filesystems, SAN, and data movers).  Storage attachment to grid is often done by building one big fabric, maybe one big zone, and heavy use of LUN mapping/masking.  SMI-S can play a great role here.  Provisioning, changing access rights, carving capacity, shouldn't be different for every array, there is no differentiation here.  Information access and retrieval in a Web 2.0 world is the lifeline of a company.  Differentiate on quality of service, reliability, performance and other attributes that matter in a Web 2.0 world, then use a standard API so your storage can be plugged into grid management and system's management tools so your application's storage can follow the application and the demands that the grid understands.

Hmm, again, Sun's all over this area.  Shared filesystems, ZFS, SMI-S, all good.  Still pretty boring though.

What's interesting about all of the above is that storage is slaved in its traditional way to systems.  Filesystem access, block storage coupling, LUNs, SCSI targets, NFS, CIFS, and so on.  Web 2.0, though, is about semantically rich content, pictures, conversations, combining satellite maps with GPS signals (hmmm, what about Google maps and sounds so I could "hear" the location I'm looking at...that's creepy), micro payments, extending the Internet from a browser and into the very fabric of our existence...listening to a podcast on the Internet with my phone while I wait for a call from my boss...having my address book with me at all times no matter what device I have with me or where I am, or who's tablet I'm teaming on at Starbucks.  Doesn't it seem like a filesystem and blocks don't quite do this information rich world justice?

Rather than talking about CPUs and assuming you have to fit your data into a filesystem or database.  Why not bring storage and applications closer together and make all of those CPUs and blocks go away...virtualization you know?  Instead of creating a file format that contains metadata about a picture and tracks collaborations, then points to another file with a jpeg and an index that associates the two, why not build ONE storage API that you can extend with as much metadata as you want and you can retrieve the picture directly based on a query of metadata without having to traverse fragile networks of files or database tables?  Standardize that API...instead of serving filesystems, serve objects for a change. 

Now that would make storage exciting.  Then, don't tie it to my server.  Make it a remote API so as my grid adds CPU and my Web 2.0-AJAX-Whizz-bang-Collaborative-Photo-and-Movie sharing site attracts eyes, I don't have to do any crazy driver deployments and maintenance...I hate drivers...maybe just use a powerful, Java-based API that deploys to any platform...yeah, that would be the ticket.

Web 2.0 and storage.  If you think about it, it might be more fun than the servers if you just concentrate on it.  And please...stop with the AJAX, you just remind me of how dirty my house is...there is more to Web 2.0 than the AJAX...though, admittedly, AJAX is cool stuff...

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