Entries tagged with “StorMagic”.


I’m a big believer in the value of in-the-field observation. What people do is more important than what people say. What some investors, analysts and IT professionals have been saying recently is, “Nobody wants on-premise IT. Everything is moving to the cloud.” The first part might be true, but the second part is utter nonsense, and ignores what is easily observable. Let me describe a recent purchase to illustrate.

We’ve had a cold winter in New England with plenty of snow. Almost 2 feet of snow had accumulated on the northern side of my roof. I have experience with ice dams and knew that if I didn’t get the snow off the roof, I would be facing water damage, as the ice made its way into the attic, melted, and dripped onto the ceiling. The tool of choice is a roof rake, of which I had none. I called the local Home Depot, which is about 6 miles from my house, but found that roof rakes were out of stock. No big surprise. I then went online to HomeDepot.com, and found that there were about 50 at a store only 20 minutes away. I quickly placed an on-line order and requested in-store pickup. I also selected the option that directed the store to text me when my order was ready for pickup, since I didn’t want to drive the round trip unless the order was ready. My order was confirmed, and a few minutes later, I received a text saying my roof rake was available for pickup at the service desk. An hour later, I was pulling mountains of snow off my roof and onto my head, and after a couple of hours chilling work, I successfully avoided thousands of dollars in potential water damage. For me, it was another happy Home Depot buying experience.

Now, imagine for a moment if all of Home Depot’s IT was centralized to the cloud. If “the cloud” went down, would I have been able to order anything online? If the communications link between the store and “the cloud” failed, would I have been able to know the actual inventory in the store? If I placed the order on line, but the link to  the store then went down, would the store have been able to fulfill my order? Would they have been able to notify me that the order was ready for pickup? Would they have been able to avoid a scenario where I ordered on line, but the store sold it to someone else?

Retailers are increasingly combining on-line retail with in-store shopping. This extends to everything from order entry, fulfillment, and payment processing, to returns processing and customer  loyalty programs. Some functions can and should reside in the cloud (or core data center). But for an optimal customer experience, some IT functions will need to remain in the store. And at the edge, retailers need an infrastructure that is both highly available and affordable.

In the interest of disclosure, I am a board member of StorMagic, an enabler of affordable, high-availability infrastructure at the enterprise edge.

 

A meeting this week with Amy O’Connor, Senior Director of Analytics at Nokia and author of the Im AmyO blog, has led me down an interesting path at the end of the year. Normally, I might spend the last day of the year in self-reflection: Am I happy with how I spent the past year? Do I feel good about the results? What will I resolve to do differently next year? This year, however, instead of self-reflection, I’ve decided to end the year in a little self analysis. What’s the difference between reflection and analysis? Data.

To help me with that, I’m re-reading “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning,” written by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris and published by Harvard Business School Press back in 2007. The first thing that became abundantly clear was that I didn’t have enough data on myself, my activities, and the results of those activities.  So, I decided to collect some. As a starting point, I decided to analyze my activity publishing content on Wikibon.

I posted my first article, “StorMagic Announces SvSAN and Offers Free Download,” on Wikibon on February 19, 2009. It’s the only article I published that year, and it was an experiment. It was also, admittedly, a little self serving, since I’m a non-investor director on the board of StorMagic. Upon analysis, the results of the posting were pretty good. It’s been viewed over 3000 times and received a community rating of 4 out of a possible 5. Perhaps it was ranked a little lower, because the article was a little self serving, though defensibly 100% accurate. Given the results, you’d think I might have published more, but I didn’t.

In 2010, I posted 18 articles on Wikibon, and I posted another 6 in 2011, despite an amazing amount of disruptions, which I won’t go into here. So over the almost three years, I’ve posted a total of 25 documents. The total views across all of my documents is almost 48,000, the average number of views is a respectable 1900+ and the average community rating is 4.8+, despite my lower starting point. I guess I’ve improved with age.

The documents were all relatively short (at an average of 525 words, a very quick read) and designed to be actionable. Personally, I think articles are best, when they spark a dialogue or provoke a comment, and I’m sorry to say that the average number of comments per post was just over .7 and more than half had no comments.  That’s something  that’s worth figuring out how to improve.

Reporting on minimums, maximums, totals, and central-tendency are interesting first steps. But they are just that: Reporting. The key now is to get to the next level, and evaluate the impact of article length, keywords, topics and themes on views.  If anyone can suggest an open-source text-analytics tool, I would be very grateful.

Over the next year, I have resolved to write more, measure more, and analyze more. Expect to see more articles published by me on Wikibon, because I like the team, and it’s an easy platform to use. I enjoy the exposure to end-users that Wikibon affords me, and I like the fact that when I publish content there, I know how much it’s being read. I also enjoy the opportunity to have an occasional conversation with an IT industry executive, with whom I have no current business relationship. I’m a curious and rather social guy, so it doesn’t have to all be about my business and potential business opportunities.

I also plan to learn more about the rapidly developing field of data analytics, currently promoted under the term “Big Data,” which is either a subset or super-set of analytics, depending on your point of view.  I’ve always enjoyed mathematics and analysis, but back when I was a math major (along with majors in Physics, Education, and Psychology), about the only opportunity for a B.S. graduate in Mathematics, outside of academia or education, was to become an actuary at an insurance company. Frankly, I didn’t want to spend my life figuring out morbidity rates. But the life of a data scientist, especially when that skill can be applied to making better products and creating more jobs, is significantly more interesting.

Finally, Amy O’Connor tells me that Nokia plans to re-invigorate a local Big Data user group that has been meeting at the Microsoft offices in Waltham. So you can expect to find me there. I’ll post details as soon as I get them. I hope to see you there.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Last summer I spent an enormous amount of money when I purchased the Torque game engine, so that my oldest son could try his hand at game development. In order to maximize my son’s success and seeing that there were many in-depth books available to learn how to use Torque, I offered to buy him a book as well.  But my son assured me that it was unnecessary, since he already knew how to program in Torque. That seemed odd to me, given that he had never had the software before, but turns out, he learned how to program in Torque by reading websites and watching videos on line. Increasingly, that’s how the latest generation learns. And thanks to a growing library of videos stored at sites such as YouTube, and contributors such as Khan Academy, you can learn how to do almost anything, including most of the math you will need to graduate high school and pass the first year of college.

Videos are also becoming an important medium for companies to get the word out, to explain, and clarify. So as an example, after a 2-day planning meeting with one of my clients, StorMagic, where I serve as a member of the board, I asked my son to record five short videos of StorMagic’s CEO, Hans O’Sullivan, answering simple, direct questions. Each video is less than a minute long and answers one or two questions on topics such as the background of the management team, the strategic focus of the company, the impact of recent announcements, and the company’s relationship with one of its partners.

Videos seem to be all the rage.  I don’t know what will come after videos, but it seems to me that for the next few years, at least, video will be of strategic importance in getting the word out about your company.

Hope you enjoy these.

StorMagic’s CEO Discusses Multi-Site Installations of SvSAN for VMware

StorMagic CEO Discusses the StorMagic Team and Recent Growth

More videos regarding StorMagic can be found on YouTube by searching StorMagic. You can even learn how to install and manage an SvSAN just by watching a video.

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…)

One of the things we used to discuss, when I was running the storage research practice at IDC, was “When will a market disappear and just become a feature of some larger market?”  Examples are numerous.  Remember when there was a market for browser software? And, while NetApp is going strong, both Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are trying to make NAS a feature of the operating system.

One of the reasons I joined the board of StorMagic was that I saw the potential for the company to be a market disruptor.  Today, StorMagic announced SvSAN software, which, when installed on a VMware ESX server, converts the internal storage of the ESX server into an iSCSI SAN.  VMware leverages the fact that most single applications don’t need all the computing power of today’s servers.  SvSAN leverages that same fact to provide the storage management function within the ESX server, and also takes advantage of the fact that the internal storage capacity of an ESX server, perhaps the least expensive storage you will ever purchase, is more than enough capacity for a large number of VMware ESX server-hosted applications.  (more…)