Thursday, April 24, 2008

Speaking of virtualization

The kids in my High-Tech Marketing class at Babson got me thinking about the impact of Second-Life like technologies on how we communicate with the market.

We were discussing a case dated way back in 2002 – before 25 million people created an alternative persona and started wandering around the virtual desert – back when it was pretty cool that you could buy a program that would let you build a simulated dollhouse or roller-coaster.

They pointed out that since Pong went on sale 34 years ago, the public has shown an insatiable appetite for improved interfaces, richer gaming experiences that move inexorably closer to simulating every bit of our sense and sensibility. Remember when Doom was cool?

There is a chilling snippet on YouTube for the PS-9 – a multi-sensory gaming experience best described as a handheld Holo-Deck – that puts this melding of mind and machine in perspective. Take a look.

It’s easy to dismiss Second Life as a bunch – ok, a huge bunch - of losers in first life looking for something virtually better in another try at the wheel. The story of the guy in NY who dumped his real wife for his V-wife is pretty sickening on the surface, but it’s no different than women falling in love with prison pen-pals and abandoning their families to pursue jailhouse marriage – which has been going on decades. It’s not the medium that makes nuts act nutty.

The recent CSI show about Second Life stalkers becoming First Life murderers was a great story, but it's unfortunate that millions of viewers who had never heard of SL were exposed to it as a dangerous playground for nut jobs and assassins – and as an aside I found it annoying that the writers twisted and abused the actual technology and interfaces for dramatic effect, but I digress.

I have a different perspective on where this is all headed. We’ve had chat rooms, Notes, and bulletin boards for-virtual-ever. Stripped of the gaming aspect (primarily economic competition) virtual lifespaces are simply a better way of interfacing, albeit much, much, much more useful and interesting.

The opportunity to communicate in this medium is becoming irresistible to marketers – me included. I want to hold all my tradeshows in SL – giving away virtual tee shirts at my massive and brightly colored virtual booth. I want every sales call to be made online. I want prospects to come into my SL store and demo my products (and please buy them in 1st life, thank you).

Already schools like Babson are holding classes in SL. Why not do our product training in SL? Virtual installs, including virtual screwdrivers…today we need to ship a truckload of gear to teach an onsite class…

Remember ‘Brickbats and Bouquets’? Live sessions at user group meetings like DECUS where customers ganged up on the vendor to tell them all the things they were doing wrong and a few of the things they were doing right…

Imagine how much richer the experience would be if we held online SL virtual vendor stonings…

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The end of the world as we know it...

Here’s a fun read on the end of storage as we know it:

There's no drought in storage perfect storm

The technology solid state memory technology IBM is calling Racetrack Memory uses ‘magnetic moments’ to represent 0/1’s. According to IBM research, these magnetic moments are created by manipulating and detecting spin-polarized electrical current on a nano-thin wire. Taking us full-circle to wire spool audio recording, which dates back to 1878, when Oberlin Smith first recorded telephone signals onto steel piano wire.

The difference of course is that spintronics offers the promise of allowing all the data ever created to be stored on a fingernail…

Pretty much wipes out the storage industry.

Hopefully, I make it to the beach before then

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Right Again...Wrong Again....

As we have previous stipulated, my timing stinks.

At Storability, my collegues and I refined and evangelized the idea of managed storage services. Hell, we invented it. The folks at Storage Networks notwithstanding, the idea of managing storage, rather than renting it, was ours. If not for a few economic meltdowns – both internal and external – we’d still be doing it today. The idea was and is sound, and a few folks like my buddies at Arsenal made it work long enough to hit escape velocity.

SNW this spring was a déjà vu experience. A new generation of soon to be OSGs yapped endlessly about managed storage, storage depots, and storage virtualization and used words like disruptive and innovation – gag me – I wrote the book on this stuff in 1999.

But, there is something very new happening that will and arguably is revitalizing managed storage – finally making somebody (not me, again) bazillions. What is now clear, that was very fuzzy in 1999, is the demarcation of static and transient data.

When we were mucking around offering managed storage services in 1999, data was live, valuable, mission-critical, potent stuff. No enterprise in their right mind was going to let us host their core application data on our equipment. No way. No how.

Back then, the demarcation point between static and transient was backup. When we ran a backup, we created a static copy of the transient (mission-critical data). While the data itself was invaluable, the static copy wasn't. The copy was important, but not vital. Management of a static copy of the data was outsourceable. Managed service providers offering backup services made sense.

Today, we got ourselves a new ballgame. Sure, sure mission critical transient data is still important, and still isn’t outsourced…and won’t be…ever. But, now we got a different kind of computing going on. Now static data isn’t necessarily created by a backup. It isn’t even created by the enterprise itself, static data isn’t owned by the enterprise, and it is now accessed by external users that don’t pay a dime to have their photos hosted or to download someone else’s grainy home-made porn.

Static data is now created and uploaded by people who don’t work for the enterprise.

Static data is now relatively worthless. Wow, that’s a switch. Worthless data.

Well, ok, it’s not worthless to the owner maybe, but essentially worthless to the enterprise storing it.

If Walgreens loses your vacation pictures, they lose the few pennies they might have charged you to print them, but what the hey – losing your files ain’t gonna crash the fed wire money funds transfer application, if you get my drift.

If loses your…well, your whatever…what are you going to do, sue them? Oh, wouldn’t that make you a big hit at the next PTO meeting…

In the new world of ‘cloud computing’ web 2.0, SOA, virtual world of virtualness, IT models – individual static data files have little or no intrinsic value. The collective might and metadata extracted from the collective might, but your personally uploaded MP3 of Cartman singing ‘Sail Away’…un uh.

IDC called it ‘depot storage’, some people call it ‘Google storage’, whatever you call it, it’s going to be huge. Picture legions of pie-eyed, ipod-ensconsed, gen-z’ers pushing shopping carts full of disk drives, skateboarding up and down oceans of racks, stuffing drives into slots as fast as they can.

Backup? Ha, right. This stuff is static. It doesn’t change. Its worthless. You don’t back it up, you let it virally copy itself onto two, or three separate locations and hope for the best.

The whole model is perfect for managed storage.

In fact, I heard a rumor that Iceland plans to build massive geothermal powered and cooled datacenters to house all the world’s static files. Good for them – depending who wins in November a good number of US citizens will likely be sneaking across their borders to become illegal alien IT workers. Cold vodka, hot babes, big what's not to like about Iceland?

A boatload of old and new names is emerging to play in this new MSP bubble – err, revolution. Ooo, I know, let’s call it MSP 2.0… Equipment manufacturers, integrators, Telco and cable…it’s starting to look like 1998 ISP mania redux.

I can almost hear ghosts of executives past screaming, “We’ve got to start executing in Internet Time!”

I think I still have the original venture capital pitch deck from Storability saved on a floppy somewhere in the basement. I wonder if it’s time to dust it off and start making some calls…