Friday, March 28, 2008

VM varoooomm...!

Was happy to see that Autotrader is switching over from iSCSI to NFS for its VMware storage layer. Good to see that Main Street is catching on.

Remember Kirby’s Law?

Simply stated – the proper location for virtualization is in the layer immediately above the resources to be virtualized.

You want to virtualize a bunch of servers, do it in the network connecting the servers.

You want to virtualize a bunch of processor cycles, do it in the software running on the processors.

You want to virtualize a bunch of storage arrays, do it in the network connecting the storage arrays.

You want to virtualize a bunch of disks, do in the controller connecting the disks to the network.

I am getting a kick out of xen-vm-ness being so screaming hot – saves $5k per instance per year, green green green – gotta do, do, do it, hot, hot, hot…

ya ok…go nuts…have fun

This ain’t rocket science – we’ve been virtualizing stuff since the sixties. You would think the vm-zen-whippersnappers invented it – hell, I was writing about why virtualization made so much sense before most of those little sh*ts got their first Gulfstreams.

Now – fair warning. There are a lot of nefarious speaker-posters who for various self-serving reasons are going to tell you that virtualization of one particular resource should be done several layers above it, in it, or below it – server virtualization software should be used to virtualize disks or some such hoowee.

Nonsense. You still doing disk mirroring on your host servers, are ya?

Kirby’s law always applies. Virtualize your storage in the layer right above it – not in it, not two levels above it.

If you are smart enough to understand that files are the smallest manageable logical storage entity to have business context, then you may already know the right place to virtualize storage today is in the network connecting the file servers to the application servers. If not, you soon will – as soon as you realize how limiting 16TB really becomes in a virtual server environment, for instance.

If you are virtualizing processor power with some sort of vm-zen-ness – good for you. However, before you go down the path of connecting virtualized servers to virtualized raw disk, consider that doing so means that you are ultimately going to be reliant on server virtualization to virtualize the raw disk two or three layers below.

This abrogates Kirby’s Law, is probably dumb, and will ultimately lead you down an ugly dark dead end path inhabited by proprietary ghosts and prohibitively expensive goblins.

If I am right, in a few years, the world will realize that using iSCSI or FC SAN with vm-zen-ness is stoopid.

Are you still hard-coding access control into your COBOL applications? No Duh…

Was I right about Flash? Yup…

If you are virtualizing your server environment – use NFS as your storage protocol. It’s better, period, end of story. Don't beleive me, ask Nick Triantos at NetApp. If you are ok with limited storage capacity, let a NAS storage controller virtualize your disk and present NFS to your virtual servers. If you want to protect yourself from lock-in and the pain of provisioning beyond a single NAS controller, do your virtualization in the network connecting your storage arrays to your virtualized servers.

People this is simple stuff – do not let the vendor obfustication blind you to the light.

Obey the law.

If you think I am wrong, see previous posts. I am not wrong.

My only question is how do I put my money where my mouth is this time?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where the demons dwell and they do live well!

Howard Marks writing for Information Week about Netapp's rebranding today called it "a stunning demonstration of branding over substance"

Wow - that's wrong. Here's why. And, I cannot for the life of me beleive I am going to defend these guys - but coming from me, especially, this oozes cred..

The reason for the rebranding isn't about the brand its about redefining the market - and, yeah, the n logo stinks. Did anyone see the re-runs of Spinal Tap on TBS this weekend? You can't look at the n and not think Nigel Tuffnell. BTW - does a Netapp filer go to 11? oops... I digress....

The point of the exercise is to reposition the company as a player in a larger market. Netapp is currently the dominant player in a finite market - their johnny-one-note tune is getting a little tired - and they need to move beyond selling storage (beyond NAS actually) and be viewed by customers as capable of solving problems in a larger market context.

After a while, even market leaders start running out of market. So as you reach the limits of stealing marketshare, you have to redefine yourself to enable customers to think of you when they have problems outside your previous niche.

Maturing markets don't often endure challenges to the market leader - so it's not a great surprise that customers don't seriously consider Netapp for block storage. EMC owns that space in the market's phrenology. Likewise NAS - Netapp owns that bump of market brainmap that responds when a customer thinks NAS.

EMC attempting to sell NAS, or Netapp attempting to sell block is a fool's errand. Both have to redefine themselves as offering solutions for a new larger market. In so doing, they have an opportunity to establish the definition of the future market in their own terms.

EMC was able to establish a foundation for moving beyond storage without a major rebranding - EMC as a brand element is a relatively empty vessel - it has no context other than that given to it by EMC itself. So it was easy to add the tagline, "where information lives" without rebranding the entire company - and poof, they went from a company that sold devices "where data is stored" to a company selling solutions "where information lives" - now their market includes all form of information management services, tools, devices, etc.

Network Appliance had a bigger challenge. Appliances have a definition in the mind of the market. They are boxes. So to support a larger future market that should include all forms of solution delivery - at least well beyond NAS and block boxes - they needed to establish a more loosely defined brand - but couldn't abandon their heritage either. So Netapp makes sense.

This effort is not at all without substance. It is a critical step in order for Netapp to move beyond the confines of the storage array market and become viewed in the mind's-eye of the customer as capable of offering solutions for more than storing data.

It will be interesting to see how Netapp defines that future market - one hopes it will be in a very broad context supporting vastly larger revenue streams, and not just another tortured umbrella excuse for continued shilling of sheet metal and spinning disks.

In any event - it was good enough to get Jay out of the OSG doghouse.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I am whimping out and taking Jay off the hall of shame.

To be fair, he has earned back his OSG priviledges. The rebranding, remessaging, repositioning exercise was well done (yeah, the logo is terrible, but who really cares?). He's done a fine job in a short time as CMO and I'm impressed with the results.

gawd that hurt...

Hot Stuff

As many of you know – and my waistline unfortunately shows – I have a penchant for Indian food. Pammy does not share my enthusiasm for this bi-directional heat flow, so I usually limit my indulgence for Indian exoticity to road trips.

Over the years, I have scoped out the temperature of Chicken Vindaloo from Houston to Honolulu. I have tested the nuances of Naan from Cheswick to what is left of Czechoslovakia. I have a file somewhere in the basement with take-out menus from some of the best curry shops around the world. One of these days, I’ll write a guide to global Indian eating.

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Seattle. By now, I’ve spent enough time out there that my friends and colleagues who live there have learned that I am really not that interesting…they have their own more interesting lives to lead outside of work, and don’t feel like sporting me around town anymore. So, I now find myself eating alone quite a bit when I am out there.

I personally like the rundown, out of the way, local greasy Samosa’s just as well, or even more than the ornate elegance of the Bombay Bicycle Club’s of the world. Over that past few months, I’ve found several of these Indian velvet Elvis spots that offer a welcoming meal to a lone diner, and I am thankful to all of them.

I tripped into a good one, Laadla, near my hotel in South Lake Union. I appreciate the family effort involved in creating and running humble spots like this – I love kitsch, and these places have India-kitsch down to a science - Nauga-hyde booths, and paint on velvet Indian art tacked up on the walls, and music that makes your teeth hurt even before the chili’s. Mom brings a candle to your table with water and roti, son takes the orders, and Dad or Uncle is tending the clay tandoor oven in the back. The dishes are what you would expect they serve guests in their home, and they are so happy to have you join them for dinner that you are almost embarrassed to be invading their space. Sure the chicken is dark meat and a little grisly, the pakora is a little oily – but it all tastes so good its hard to stop. I imagine this is how foreign tourist must feel about eating in an American diner…a cultural crossover - you are getting honest, local, proud, working class food.

And if you are lucky, like I was at Laadla, the food is so freaking hot it makes the bottoms of your feet sweat. I love these places. When you travel as much as I do – and you find yourself eating alone as much as I do – they are a friendly oasis in almost any town in virtually any country.

Every once in a few years of my Indian indigestion, I’ve run across a different sort of Indian themed restaurant. Simla Pink’s in Manchester (England…England – beyond the Atlantic Sea – there is a special OSG inspired tee-shirt headed to the first respondent who knows where that line comes from…) is one – omigod, I need an excuse to go back there. These folks took cool urban hip and infused it into curry. The result is tapas meets tika. One of the best ever. No velvet, no bollywood music, just awesome food. Please doesn’t somebody in Manchester need a visit from an OSG? Ah, but I digress…

My point in sharing all this nonsense is that I just tripped over another standout spot so good it warrants this much ink. Chutney’s Grill on 15th Avenue in Capital Hill of Seattle slams heat into Northwest/California cool. Lots of glass, ferns, brass, and no squeally anti-tonal Indi-musak. No dark meat. No grease. Just great food. Clean, lite, delicious non-gruelly. The Naan is butter free – toasty, fluffy, light and delicious. Vegetable samosas are hand-made, sweet, with a strong potato flavor. No greasy stain on the plate, no oil build up on the doily.

I almost always order Chicken Vindaloo in an Indian – creature of habit, I guess – but this time my new friend, Chutney owner Geogy Chacko recommended Tika Marsala instead (east coasters might know this as butter chicken). I was surprised to find chunks of roast, boneless, gristle-less, white meat swimming in a soft and delicious orange colored cream sauce. Hot, yeah, but so much more complex - with sweet, tomato, and vinegary-sour fighting for tongue-time. Delicious spooned on the light, fluffy, and colorfully spiced basmati – and I am embarrassed to say, just as good drenched on the left over Naan, and perhaps just as wonderful in licking the bowl if I had been in a slightly less visible table.

Don’t be fooled though – there are several Chutney’s in Seattle, Geogy and his partners built for our five before going their separate ways. Only Chutney’s Grill on the Hill is still owned and managed by Geogy and his family – I cannot speak for the rest of the now broken-up chain. But I can tell you that the folks at Chutney’s Grill have taken Indian food to a higher level – this is not the typical Indian equivalent of a ham and egger – it is an Indian spiced owner-chef fusion experience – yet it somehow maintains the unaffected home cooked personality that makes a hungry, lonely traveler look forward to returning.

Don’t tell Pam…but I can’t wait for my next trip…