Product development


One of the sessions I attended at the New England Area VMware User Group meeting in Newport, Rhode Island last week included a discussion on how to take the internal storage of a VMware ESX host and turn it into a virtualized iSCSI storage appliance.  I happen to believe that the approach has great merit for many smaller IT shops and for remote office environments.  The internal storage of an ESX server, if totally useable and accessible to the ESX host and other ESX servers on the network, is probably the cheapest storage you will ever buy.  What I found particularly interesting about this session, however, was the fact that the presenter downplayed the approach as good enough to experiment with the storage virtualization software, but not good enough to run production applications.  In order to encourage companies to try the software, the developer offers a free 30-day trial, the expiration of which then renders the server unuseable, unless you purchase a permanent license.  While I believe the company has good software, I don’t understand the approach to the market. (more…)

I attended the New England Area VMware User Group meeting in Newport, Rhode Island last week.  It was a great opportunity to see what challenges IT managers are facing, what solutions they are adopting, and what problems remain to be solved.  It was also a good opportunity for me to revisit what I learned many years ago in studying the research of  Clayton Christensen and his concept of Disruptive Innovation.  Two of my clients have what I consider disruptive technologies.  I’ll write about Tek-Tools in this post, and then cover  StorMagic in a subsequent post. 

Tek-Tools offers the Profiler Suite of monitoring, reporting, and forecasting tools for servers, storage, applications, files, and, yes, VMware.  Why is it disruptive? Tek-Tools’ Profiler is easy to install, easy to afford, and easy to use, and it’s “good enough” for the bulk of today’s customers.  It does not overshoot current market requirements.  It gives quick answers to important questions like: How much storage do I have installed? How fast is it growing?  How much is allocated? How much is used? When will I need more storage? Where is my performance bottleneck? How old is my data? Who is violating data retention policies? Which virtual machines are using which storage? Which virtual machines are no longer in use? Which physical machines could I consolidate onto a  VMware ESX host, without encountering performance issues? Where is my orphaned storage? (That’s a technical term that means I deleted the virtual machine, but forgot to return the allocated storage to the storage pool.)  

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I recently had the pleasure of reading a draft of Dave Hitz’ new book (title intentionally withheld, so as not to play the spoiler).  Dave is one of the co-founders of NetApp (nee’ Network Appliance), and he wrote the book, at least in part, to give current NetApp employees a view into the early days of the company.  At recent growth rates, I suspect that substantially more than half of the employees have been with the company fewer than five years and missed not only the startup days, but the turnaround days, post-2001. (more…)


I spent an hour today with an Onaro customer and through the conversation learned a little bit about how different companies handle the separation of duties in IT processing.  I met with the customer to better understand the critical decision criteria that were behind his choice of Onaro, what features were most valued and what alternatives were considered.  Turns out, at the time of his decision several years ago, he didn’t see many alternatives.  Onaro, which was an independent software supplier at the time, was recently acquired by NetApp, a storage systems company.

This customer originally licensed Onaro’s SANscreen offering to ensure that the company’s IT change-control process was being followed in the storage network.  SANscreen maps the entire data path from the host bus adapter (HBA) in the server, through the cables and switches, ultimately to the storage array.  Anytime someone makes a change to the configuration of his fibre channel storage area network (FC-SAN), he gets a notification.  If the change hasn’t been authorized through the change-control process, he investigates.  As we were talking he showed me several alerts, that he had just received on his Blackberry, regarding changes that had not been authorized. (more…)

I did a couple of customer-satisfaction interviews today.  I won’t tell you the company or describe the product.  It’s not important to the discussion, but in case you are wondering, it’s not one of the companies or products I represent.  It is important to note that both individuals that I interviewed want the product and the company to succeed.

In the first survey, I got a lot of feedback.  Almost an hour’s worth.  There was some very positive feedback about certain components of the offering, but I heard many more negative comments, such as:

  • They are barely keeping up with free alternatives.
  • The leadership was great for a startup, but needs to step aside if they are to get to the next level.
  • They are not listening to their customers.
  • They treat everyone the same, and don’t listen to the different needs of different customers.
  • No one thinks their product or their service is adequate.
  • I have to go to a third party to fix the problems they aren’t addressing, and I know other customers who are doing the same thing.
  • I shouldn’t have to pay someone else to do the job that they should be doing. (more…)

My recent blog post on Skype and Logitech inspired one of Skype’s bloggers, Villu Arak, to locate this history of picture phones.   If you look through the history, you’ll notice several different jobs that were being proposed for the picture phones: business communication, grandparents staying connected with grandchildren, soldiers calling home.  While AT&T’s initial implementations failed, the jobs still needed to be done.

This post by Villu confirms that fact, as he writes about some of the ways that Skype is being used today:

Distant lovers enjoying dinner — and each other’s company — over a free video call.

Local-government officials replacing meetings with multichats.

Homesick soldiers keeping a line open with their families. (more…)

I got a call today from a solutions specialist at one of IBM’s larger resellers.  He had what he thinks is the perfect first opportunity for our client, Tek-Tools. The opportunity was at a relatively small shop – 2 VMware ESX servers and one IBM N-Series filer.  The issue was that the person responsible for managing the environment was having performance problems and the environment was growing rather quickly.  Maybe too quickly.  So he needed some visibility into the source of the problems and the growth. I had shown him Tek-Tools Profiler for VMware and Profiler for NetApp, about a month ago. Sorry, I can’t give you the reseller’s name, because you never know how the parents might react, if you know what I mean.

Some have described Tek-Tools’ Profiler Suite as a bit of a Swiss Army Knife.  It provides reporting and monitoring on almost everything.

Swiss Army Knife

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RyanAir is in a lot of businesses, but they are definitely not in the airline business.  The airplanes they fly are simply the delivery mechanism for a lot of other services.  And since the airplane is the method of delivery, RyanAir has done everything they can possible do to reduce their per-plane cost. For example, they have

  • Maximized seat density, making it impossible for anyone with an inseam greater than 32″ to slouch in the seat.
  • Eliminated the removable safety-instructions card and replaced them with laminated labels on each seatback.
  • Eliminated the seat-back pockets so passengers won’t put trash in them, thus reducing the time to clean a plane.
  • Boarded and deplaned from both the front and the rear of the plane, thus reducing the airport turnaround time to about 25 minutes.
  • Standardized on a single style plane, the Boeing 737-800, to reduce pilot and crew costs.
  • Arranged for landing rights and terminal gates in the lowest-cost locations in Europe.

You may be asking, “If RyanAir’s not in the airline business, then what business are they in?”  Well, here’s a hint… (more…)

It’s been just over a year, since I left IDC to form Walden Technology Partners, Inc. with David Burmon.  While I didn’t expect to continue spending so much time in the storage and data management industry, that is how things have worked out initially.  All of our current clients are involved, at least in part, in some aspect of information protection, storage, or management.  And with the continued growth in information and content, a growth that is relatively immune to the effects of economic conditions, it should not have been a surprise to me. 

Note that I said that the growth of content is relatively immune to economic conditions.  The market for storage hardware and information management software has been proven many times to be highly affected by economic conditions.

Problems in information management have been around forever, and will persist far into the future, as this YouTube video documents.  You’ve got to watch it.  Really.  And it’s not a product pitch.  (more…)

My goal when I started this blog almost a year ago was to:

  1. Create a resource for entrepreneurs and inventors
  2. Have a conversation with those entrepreneurs (or entrepreneur wannabes) on strategies, tactics, and best practices.  

On the second goal, I feel like I’ve fallen short.  There’s not enough dialogue.  (more…)

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