The State of the data nation – Howard Marks – Ep70

A couple of times a year I like to do a show that reviews the current state of the data market, the chance to take a check on the challenges facing both the makers and consumers of data technology, how they are been addressed, the technology changes and trends that decisions makers should consider and what the future holds for the industry.

I always think these shows are useful for those who are tasked with making strategic decisions and designing data platforms for their businesses, I know when I speak with people on these topics it’s always useful to understand current market thinking and the general direction that the technology vendors are taking.

Earlier this year I spoke with industry analyst Chris Evans as we looked ahead at what 2018 had in-store (you can find that episode here). For this half year review, I was very fortunate to get some time with renowned industry analyst Howard Marks.

Howard is founder and Chief Scientist at DeepStroage.net as well as co-host of the excellent Greybeards on storage podcast. With over 30 years’ experience as a consultant and writer on the storage industry he is very well placed to comment on the current state of the market and its direction.

In episode 70 of Tech Interviews, I chat with Howard about a range of topics. We discuss the current rate of change of the industry and is it the rate or amount of change that’s concerning us?

We look at the impact cloud is having and how much of a driver to change it is, Howard shares some thoughts on Software as a Service (SaaS) and its impact on traditional roles.

We examine in more detail changing roles, how storage admins need to be in charge of “data paranoia” and we ask if simplification is a good thing? and why cloud simplicity doesn’t sit well with organisational complexity.

We end our show looking ahead, what Howard would like to see the storage industry tackle, why a focus on data management will be key and the impact that storage class memory is going to have on both producers of and consumers of technology.

Howard shares some fantastic insights and left me with a lot of food for thought. I am sure he will you too.

To find out more about what Howard does, you can visit DeepStroage.net follow Howard on twitter @DeepStorageNet and if you deal with data and want to understand the data technology market then get the Greybeards podcast on your listening playlist, you’ll find it here.

Thanks for listening.

Don’t forget me and Mrs Techstringy are taking on the Prudential Ride London event for the Marie Curie charity in the UK to help support their work in delivering end of life care, if you can help and support us, it would be much appreciated, you can find our story here.

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Wrapping up VeeamON – Michael Cade – Ep 66

A couple of weeks ago in Chicago Veeam had their annual tech conference VeeamON, it was one of my favourite shows from last year, unfortunately I couldn’t make it out this time but did catch up remotely and shared my thoughts on some of the strategic messages that where covered in a recent blog post looking at Veeam’s evolving data management strategy ( Getting your VeeamON!).

That strategic Veeam message is an interesting one and their shift from031318_0833_Availabilit2.jpg “backup” company to one focused on intelligent data management across multiple repositories is, in my opinion, exactly the right move to be making. With that in mind, I wanted to take a final look at some of those messages as well as some of the other interesting announcements from the show and that is exactly what we do on this week’s podcast, as I’m joined by recurring Tech Interviews guest, Michael Cade, Global Technologist at Veeam.

Michael, who not only attended the show but also delivered some great sessions, joins me to discuss a range of topics. We start by taking a look at Veeam’s last 12 months and how they’ve started to deliver a wider range of capabilities which builds on their virtual platform heritage with support for more traditional enterprise platforms.

Michael shares some of the thinking behind Veeam’s goal to deliver an availability platform to meet the demands of modern business data infrastructures, be they on-prem, in the cloud, SaaS or service provider based. We also look at how this platform needs to offer more than just the ability to “back stuff up”

We discuss the development of Veeam’s 5 pillars of intelligent data management, a key strategic announcement from the show and how this can be used as a maturity model against which you can compare your own progress to a more intelligent way of managing your data.

We look at the importance of automation in our future data strategies and how this is not only important technically, but also commercially as businesses need to deploy and deliver much more quickly than before.

We finish up by investigating the value of data labs and how crucial the ability to get more value from your backup data is becoming, be it to carry out test, dev, data analytics or a whole range of other tasks without impacting your production platforms or wasting the valuable resource in your backup data sets.

Finally, we take a look at some of the things we can expect from Veeam in the upcoming months.

You can catch up on the event keynote on Veeam’s YouTube channel https://youtu.be/ozNndY1v-8g

You can also find more information on the announcements on Veeam’s website here www.veeam.com/veeamon/announcements

If you’d like to catch up with thoughts from the Veeam Vanguard team, you can find a list of them on twitter – https://twitter.com/k00laidIT/lists/veeam-vanguards-2018

You can follow Michael on twitter @MichaelCade1 and on his excellent blog https://vzilla.co.uk/

Thanks for listening.

NetApp Winning Awards, Whatever Next?

WP_20160518_07_53_57_Rich_LI.jpgIn the last couple of weeks I’ve seen NetApp pick up a couple of industry awards with the all flash A200 earing the prestigious Storage Review Editors Choice as well as CRN UK’s storage Vendor of the year 2017, this alongside commercial successes (How NetApp continue to defy the performance of the storage market) is part of a big turnaround in their fortunes over the last 3 years or so, but why? What is NetApp doing to garner such praise?

A bit of disclosure, as a Director at a long-term NetApp Partner, Gardner Systems, and a member of the NetApp A-Team advocacy programme, I could be biased, but having worked with NetApp for over 10 years, I still see them meeting our customers’ needs better than any other vendor, which in itself, also suggests NetApp are doing something right.

What is it they’re doing? In this post, I share some thoughts on what I believe are key parts of this recent success

Clear Strategy

If we wind the clock back 4 years, NetApp’s reputation was not at its best, tech industry analysts presented a bleak picture, the storage industry was changing, with public cloud storage and innovative start-ups offering to do more than those “legacy” platforms and in many cases, they could, NetApp were a dinosaur on the verge of extinction.

Enter the Data Fabric, first announced at NetApp’s technical conference, Insight, in 2014. Data Fabric was the beginning of NetApp’s move from a company focussed on storing data to a company focused on the data itself. This was significant as it coincided with a shift in how organisations viewed data, moving away from just thinking about storing data to managing, securing, analysing and gaining value from it.

NetApp’s vision for data fabric, closely aligned to the aims of more data focussed organisations and also changed the way they thought about their portfolio, less worried about speeds and feeds and flashing lights and more about how to build a strategy that was focussed on data in the way their customers were.

It is this data-driven approach that, in my opinion, has been fundamental in this change in NetApp’s fortunes.

Embrace the Cloud

A huge shift and something that is taking both customers and industry analysts by surprise is the way NetApp have embraced the cloud, not a cursory nod, but cloud as a fundamental part of the data fabric strategy and this goes way beyond “cloudifying” existing technology.

ONTAP Cloud seamlessly delivers the same data services and storage efficiencies into the public cloud as you get with its on-prem cousin, this provides a unique ability to maintain data policies and procedures across your on-prem and cloud estates.

But NetApp has gone beyond this, delivering native cloud services that don’t require any traditional NetApp technologies, Cloud Sync, allows the easy movement of data from on-prem NFS datastores into the AWS cloud. While Cloud Control provides a backup service for Office365 (and now Salesforce) bringing crucial data protection functionality that many SaaS vendors do not provide.

If that wasn’t enough there is the recently announced relationship with Microsoft, with NetApp now powering the Azure NFS service, yep that’s right, if you take the NFS service from the Azure marketplace this is delivered fully in the background by NetApp.

For a storage vendor, this cloud investment is unexpected, but a clear cloud strategy is also appealing to those making business technology decisions.

Getting the basics right

With these developments, it’s clear NetApp have a strategy and are expanding their portfolio into areas other storage vendors do not consider, but there is also no escaping that their main revenue generation continues to come from ONTAP and FAS (NetApp’s hardware platform).

If I’m buying a hardware platform, what do I want from it? It should be robust with strong performance and a good investment that evolves with my business and if NetApp’s commercial success is anything to go by, they are delivering this.

The all-flash NetApp platforms (such as the award winning A200 mentioned earlier) are meeting this need, a robust enterprise-level platform, allowing organisations to build an always-on storage infrastructure that scales seamlessly with new business demands. 6-year flash drive warranties and the ability to refresh your controllers after 3 years also give excellent investment protection.

It is not just the hardware however, these platforms are driven by software, NetApp’s ONTAP operating systems is like any other modern software platform, with regular code drops (every 6 months) delivering new features and improved performance to existing hardware via a non-disruptive software upgrade, providing businesses with the ability to “sweat” their hardware investment over an extended period, which in today’s investment sensitive market is hugely appealing.

Have an interesting portfolio

NetApp for a long time was the FAS and ONTAP company, and while those things are still central in their plans, their portfolio is expanding quickly, we’ve discussed the cloud focussed services, there’s also Solidfire with its unique scale and QoS capabilities, Storage Grid a compelling object storage platform, Alta Vault provides a gateway to move backup and archive data into object storage on-prem or in the cloud.

Add to this the newly announced HCI platform you can see how NetApp can play a significant part in your next-generation datacenter plans.

For me the awards I mentioned at the beginning of this article are not because of one particular solution or innovation, it’s the data fabric, that strategy is allowing NetApp, its partners and customers to have a conversation that is data and not technology focussed and having a vendor who understands that is clearly resonating with customers, analysts and industry influencers alike.

NetApp’s continued evolution is fascinating to watch, and they have more to come, with no doubt more awards to follow, whatever next!

IT Avengers Assemble – Part One – Ep38

This weeks Tech Interviews is the first in a short series, where I bring together a selection of people from the IT community to try to gauge the current state of business IT and to gain some insight into the key day-to-day issues affecting those delivering technology to their organisations.

For this first episode i’m joined by three returning guests to the show.

Mich040317_0726_Availabilit1.jpgael Cade is a Technical Evangelist at Veeam. Michael spends his time working closely with both the IT community and Veeam’s business customers to understand the day-to-day challenges that they face from availability to cloud migration.

You can find Michael on twitter @MichaelCade1 and his blog at vzilla.co.uk 

mike andrews

Mike Andrews is a Technical Solutions Architect at storage vendor NetApp, specialising in NetApp’s cloud portfolio, today Mike works closely with NetApp’s wide range of customers to explore how to solve the most challenging of business issues.

You can find Mike on social media on twitter @TrekinTech and on his blog site trekintech.com

Mark CarltonMark Carlton is Group Technical Manager at Concorde IT Group, he has an extensive experience in the industry having worked in a number of different types of technology businesses, today Mark works closely with a range of customers helping them to use technology to solve business challenges.

Mark is on twitter @mcarlton1983 and at his fantastically titled justswitchitonandoff.com blog.

The panel discuss a range of issues, from availability to cloud migration, the importance of the basics and how understanding the why, rather than the how is a crucial part of getting your technology strategy right.

The team provide some excellent insights into a whole range of business IT challenges and I’m sure there’s some useful advice for everyone.

Next time I’m joined by four more IT avengers, as we look at some of the other key challenges facing business IT.

If you enjoyed the show and want to catch the next one, then please subscribe, links are below.

Thanks for listening.

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All Aboard the Data Train

The other night myself and Mrs Techstringy were discussing a work challenge. She works for a well-known charity and one of her roles is to book locations for fundraising activities, on this occasion the team were looking at booking places at railway stations and considering a number of locations, however all they really had to go on was a “gut feeling”.

As we discussed it we did a bit of searching and came across this website http://www.orr.gov.uk/statistics/published-stats/station-usage-estimates which contained information of footfall in every UK railway station over the last 20 years, this information was not only train geek heaven, it also allowed us to start to use the data available to make a more informed choice and to introduce possibilities that otherwise would not have been considered.

This little family exercise was an interesting reminder of the power of data and how with the right analysis we can make better decisions.

Using data to make better decisions is hardly news, with the ever-increasing amounts of data we are collecting and the greater access to powerful analytics, machine learning and AI engines, all of us are already riding the data train taking us to a world of revolutionary ideas, aren’t we?

The reality is, that most of us are not, but why?

For many, especially with data sets gathered over many years, it’s hard, hard to package our data in such a way that we can easily present it to analytics engines and get something useful from it.

But don’t let it stop you, there is potentially huge advantage to be had from using our data effectively, all we need is a little help to get there.

So what kind of steps can we take so we too can grab our ticket and board the data train?

Understand our data

The first thing may seem obvious, understand our data, we need to know, where is it? what is it? is it still relevant?

Without knowing these basics, it is going to be almost impossible to identify and package up the “useful” data.

The reality of data analytics is we just can’t throw everything at it, remember the old adage garbage in, garbage out, it’s not changed, if we feed our data analytics elephant a lot of rubbish, we aren’t going to like what comes out the other end!

Triage that data

Once we’ve identified it, we need to make sure we don’t feed our analytics engine a load of nonsense, it’s important to triage, throw out the stuff that no one ever looks at, the endless replication, the stuff of no business value, we all store rubbish in our data sets, things that shouldn’t be there in the first place, so weed it out, otherwise at best we are going to process irrelevant information, at worst we are going to skew the answers and make them worthless.

Make it usable

This is perhaps the biggest challenge of all, how do we make our massive onsite datasets useful to an analytics engine.

Well we could deploy an on-prem analytics suite, but for most of us this is unfeasible and the reality is, why bother? Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM to name but a few have fantastic analytics services ready and waiting for your data, however the trick is how to get it there.

man-lifting-heavy-boxThe problem with data is it has weight, gravity, it’s the thing in a cloud led world that is still difficult to move around, it’s not only its size that makes it tricky, but there is our need to maintain control, meet security requirements, maintain compliance, these things can make moving our data into cloud analytics engines difficult.

This is where building an appropriate data strategy is important, we need to have a way to ensure our data is in the right place, at the right time, while maintaining control, security and compliance.

When looking to build a strategy that allows us to take advantage of cloud analytics tools, we have two basic options;

Take our data to the cloud

Taking our data to the cloud is more than just moving it there, it can’t just be a one off copy, ideally in this kind of setup, we need to move our data in, keep it synchronised with changing on-prem data stores and then move our analysed data back when we are finished, all of this with the minimum of intervention.

Bring the cloud to our data

Using cloud data services doesn’t have to mean moving our data to the cloud, we can bring the cloud to our data, services like Express Route into Azure or Direct Connect into AWS means that we can get all the bandwidth we need between our data and cloud analytics services, while our data stays exactly where we want it, in our datacentre, under our control and without the heavy lifting required for moving it into a public cloud data store.

Maybe it’s even a mix of the two, dependent on requirement, size and type of dataset, what’s important is that we have a strategy, a strategy that gives us the flexibility to do either.

All aboard

Once we have our strategy in place and have the technology to enable it, we are good to go, well almost, finding the right analytics tools and of course what to do with the results when we have them, are all part of the solution, but having our data ready is a good start.

That journey does have to start somewhere, so first get to know your data, understand what’s important and get a way to ensure you can present it to the right tools for the job.

Once you have that, step aboard and take your journey on the data train.

If you want to know more on this subject and are in or around Liverpool on July 5th, why not join me and a team of industry experts as we discuss getting the very best from your data assets at our North West Data Forum.

And for more information on getting your data ready to move to the cloud, check out a recent podcast episode I did with Cloud Architect Kirk Ryan of NetApp as we discuss the why’s and how’s of ensuring our data is cloud ready.

New fangled magic cloud buckets – Kirk Ryan – Ep32