If you are interested in the Drobo family of products you will probably read a bunch of articles about the new Drobo Elite. They will all talk about the speeds and feeds of the product. While this is important stuff it misses what I think is the very essence of what makes the Drobo and the growing product family important to the market. Interestingly, the people that are least excited about Drobo are usually storage people. They just don't get what makes the Drobo such a cool and valuable product. I have been in meetings where dyed-in-the-wool storage people scratch their heads and can't figure out how Drobo Beyond RAID is that different or better than legacy RAID. One such person looked at me after the meeting and said - "You can do all the things with regular RAID that the Drobo does." It is sort of like trying to explain to someone that has used command lines their entire careers the value of a GUI. They just look at you funny. And it is also like saying you can do all the things with a physical server that you can with a virtual server. Which gets me to my market analogy: What VMware has done for processors - Drobo has done for disk drives. Think about the implications of that! Drobo has truly virtualized disk drives and thereby transcends their physical limitations. Let's take this comparison a bit further - VMware enables you to have multiple servers running on a single processor. The implementation is simple, elegant and transparent to the users and applications. Additionally, virtual servers are not tethered to the processors but rather can be easily moved as needed. Storage and subsequently disk drives present a different challenge than processors and servers. With storage you actually want to have multiple disk drives appear as one big disk drive. Drobo does this transparently, easily and elegantly. The key is that Drobo is not tethered to the disk drives. You can start out with any number of disk drives - one, two, three, etc and then add as you go. You can use disk drives of different sizes and without penalties. As disk drive get bigger and bigger you can just keep replacing them perpetually for more capacity. I just added a 2 TB disk drive to my Drobo while it was online and it was literally easier than loading a DVD in my DVD player. Drobo and its BeyondRAID simplifies storage so much that it requires no skill to operate the device. If that sounds familiar it is because that is how Alexander Graham Bell explained why the telephone was so successful - "It requires no skill to operate the device". And that is the Drobo's key value proposition. Another poignant quote from a storage architect when contemplating where network storage needs to go: "We need to get storage to reach consumer levels of ease of use". That is what Drobo has realized. What is the downside of this story? I think getting in the SAN business will make life a bit tougher for Data Robotics. And they need to consider more complex go-to-market strategies and building a viable and healthy channel. Additionally, they will be compared to other iSCSI SAN solutions and may be pulled into the feature-creep race - which can be costly and distracting. They will also start to get more competition from major storage vendors that will use whatever leverage they can against them. Drobo isn't perfect. But neither is VMware and they did pretty well ;) The Drobo Elite enables Data Robotics to go after a new and untapped market in the SAN storage arena. Data Robotics have created for themselves a blue ocean market in storage. The Drobo Elite is a true SMB SAN storage system that is easier and more cost effective than anything else out there in the market with fundamentally no competition. Small companies, very small companies, departmental servers, remote offices, budget conscious IT folks, testing labs, and new users of SAN storage will emerge to buy Drobo Elite because its so easy and cost effective. And over the last two years Data Robotics has built a brand, a company and a ton of momentum. That is why Drobo Elite matters.
If Green IT isn't a priority - I highly recommend that you make it one! Btw - it sounds like I say irregardless but I actually do say regardless.
We just launched our new site - Voices of IT. The first phase of this site includes interviews that the INI Group (my company) conducted with different IT professionals about specific products. Included in this list are solutions from 3PAR, BlueArc, Data Domain, FalconStor, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, Verdiem and VMware. You can hear the interviews via mp3 podcasts, read the interviews via PDF reports or listen to the individual answers to the various questions. Voices of IT will evolve over time and we are already working on phase two and three of our site and services. The main goal is to get closer to IT professionals and get their voices (literally in this case) out there and heard. These are real customers that have invested real time and resource into implementing these solutions. In my travels, I hear time and time again that IT professionals want to hear about what their peers are doing - thus Voices of IT. We welcome IT professionals that want to be participate to contact us - send an email to IT.Professionals@theinigroup.com.
Some of you may remember the big buzz around Information Life-cycle Management or ILM. EMC pushed the concept of ILM a few years back and many of their competitors followed them down this winding road. You know that marketing campaigns are working when customers talk about ILM strategies using some of the same language as their vendors. I witnessed this fairly extensively with ILM but the reality never matched the rhetoric. On some measure ILM has been successful. A number of customers went to a multi-tier storage environment. Some never moved data but actually became smarter about where they placed it to begin with. Others would actually move data at either the volume level or if they were using file systems - at the file or file system level. During this time a number of technologies and vendors came and went and when the dust settled there was modest levels of ILM but nowhere near the promise of the hype. The term ILM is rarely used these days and it is not going to open any doors for you. However, just because we never reached the nirvana of ILM doesn't mean that there wasn't real value in the concept. In my view, the goal of ILM was to move data transparently to the appropriate storage tier balancing performance, protection and cost. And the end result of implementing ILM included significant cost reductions and better utilization of your expensive IT infrastructure. But the mega-hype around ILM actually over-complicated it and created confusion. There was and is no magic application or technology that could just make it all happen with a push of a button. However, with the combination of people, process and technology there are great strides that can be made. In fact, I know of IT professionals that have saved tons of money by implementing some form of ILM. I submit that some level of ILM - regardless of what you call it - should be a requisite part of every data center. In fact, it should be as fundamental a part of the data center as disaster recovery.
Patternicity - defined by Michael Shermer - a writer for Scientific American - is the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. When I read this article on Pattnernicity I immediately related it to the challenges we face with information access. Patternicity deals with false positives and we have a compartive with search tools - too many responses that may or may not be what we are looking for. Human Patternicity is meant to err on the side of caution because as Shermer points out - "the cost of believing that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind is relatively low compared with the opposite. Thus, there would have been a beneficial selection for believing that most patterns are real." Digital Patternicity is also meant to err on the side of caution because the cost of believing that the keyword matches your intentions is relatively low compared with returning a false negative. Therefore returning a false positive is better than returning a false negative. The problem in both Human and Digital Patternicity is that the algorithms are limited and have stopped evolving because they don't need to improve. Human beings are very successful and don't require more sophisticated methods for returning fewer false positives. Likewise, search companies like Google are very successful and have built a huge business in spite of the number of false positives they return. However, increasingly within the world of business - where information equates to revenue, competitive advantage and market growth - there is a big price to pay with false positives and a shift in the evolution of Digital Patternicity must occur. There will always be a place for acceptable false positives in the mass market - but when you get to specialization, when the stakes become too high, when survival is at risk - then evolution aggressively adapts.