Alright we all know that we have a ton of data and its growing and growing. And maybe you are sick of hearing about it. But you should really listen. I liken the growth of data in business to the growth of the human body taking on too much weight. The result is that we may be able to function for a long time but eventually there will be serious ramifications if we don't do the right things to become healthy. There is an interesting IDC report that was published in 2007 - a bit old but has some compelling information and insight. Let's break down some of it: "In 2006, the amount of digital information created, captured, and replicated 161 exabytes or 161 billion gigabytes. This is about 3 million times the information in all the books ever written. Between 2006 and 2010, the information added annually to the digital universe will increase more than six fold from 161 exabytes to 988 exabytes." My observation: This numbers illustrate the sheer volume of digital data that has being created and further - tells you that we ain't seen nothing yet. "IDC predicts that by 2010, while nearly 70% of the digital universe will be created by individuals, organizations (businesses of all sizes, agencies, governments, associations, etc.) will be responsible for the security, privacy, reliability, and compliance of at least 85% of that same digital universe." My observation: The importance of this is that organizations will have to manage data created by their customers and employees - which will have a real business impact. And IDC left a few things out - accessing the data and protecting it. "The cost of not responding to the avalanche of information can add up, yet not be immediately visible to CEOs and CFOs" My observation: This goes back to my unhealthy body analogy - you may not know what vital organ or system is going to collapse - it may be more than one - and you won't know until something bad happens. "In surveys of U.S. companies, we have found that information workers spend 14.5 hours per week reading and answering email, 13.3 hours creating documents, 9.6 hours searching for information, and 9.5 hours analyzing information." "We estimate that an organization employing 1,000 knowledge workers loses $5.7 million annually just in time wasted having to reformat information as they move among applications. Not finding information costs that same organization an additional $5.3 million a year." My observation: IDC is saying that poor data management can cost you $11 million annually just based on your users wasting time. That doesn't take into account other costs - such as outside audits, e-Discovery, litigation, etc. You've just been told you have a severe case of diabetes and need to do something about it. We need greater levels of integration between applications, storage systems and data management tools to turn data into information and then to get us the right information when we need it. Okay? Go make it happen ;) Certainly this is easier said than done. But the ecosystem - customers and the various vendors - must all move towards this objective. We already have better tools to accomplish these tasks but we have a long way to go before reaching information utopia. The first step is to recognize that there is an issue - a problem - and make it a priority to research and begin to address the unhealthiness and the short and long term ramifications.
For years there has been a dialog about turning data into information and the usual reaction is the slight tilt of the head and a glassy gaze from the listener that is akin to a dog's reaction to a high-pitched whistle. We then go into the definitions of data and information discussing the differences between the two. EMC is one of the leading storage vendors and they have a smart and pithy tagline - "Where Information Lives". Information does live within storage systems and they house information, protect it and make it accessible to users and applications. However, storage systems do not make the information useful to the front-line businesses that own them. Many storage system folks will respond, "That isn't true. We have CAS and NAS solutions that make use of information." This might be true on a limited basis but overall we have failed to bridge the gap between storage infrastructure and information. Once we had high hopes that this would occur but it is yet to be realized on a mass scale. The reason we have not achieved this is because it is the job of applications to deal with the use of information. Therefore, information lives on storage systems but the greater use of that information is via applications. The problem with applications is that there are so many of them and they each generate information that is proprietary. There is no correlation of information. There is no single pool of information. All of our information is stovepiped. As such, we limit the use because our information is bounded and boxed. I submit that we need information applications that have a universal or federated view of all the information within a company. The information application (IA) would provide users the ability to access data regardless of what application created it. At the heart of the IA would be search and indexing - consider it middleware or the engine - that sits between the IA and the company's storage. The IA would allow for analysis and cross correlation of information. The IA would provide tools to re-use of data. Search already is an application providing tools and use of information. However, I am also talking about using search and indexing for deeper integration within existing applications and as an engine for new applications. There will be applications that use the concept of IA as a component and pure IA applications. This is a new idea and like so many new ideas it will be met with some misunderstanding (we can already do that), with lots of questions (how much will this cost and whose budget does it come out of?), and with hopefully inspiration to take it further (we can build it). Information applications will turn the Information Age into the Useful Information Age.
Many storage system vendors use a performance measurement known as I/O's Per Second and the acronym is IOPS. However, many people mistakenly represent it as IOPs. For some reason they make everything else caps except for the "S". The "S" actually stands for seconds and is not a pluralization of IOP - which would stand for I/O's Per - and that makes no sense. Just a pet peeve of mine :)
Besides being the longest palindrome in storage, iSCSI has had an uphill climb over the years to get where it has. I remember when the naysayers said that iSCSI would lose data and never be viable. I remember when people also thought that iSCSI wouldn't perform well and they were proven wrong. Today there are tens of thousands of iSCSI implementations and every major storage vendor has an iSCSI solution. Dell recently announced its earnings and the shining star was its EqualLogic storage which grew 71% from last year. Not too shabby. HP bought LeftHand last year for about $360 million. I think LeftHand has one of the best SAN solutions out there in terms of ease of management, scalability and functionality. NetApp was the leading big storage vendor that embraced iSCSI first and I find that their unified storage approach to be very interesting combining NAS and SAN. NFS is arguably the easiest protocol to work with VMware but not every application is going to run on VMware - that is why its important to support multiple protocols - matching use case and applications with what makes sense whether its iSCSI, FC, NFS or CIFS. EMC, HDS and IBM all have iSCSI storage in their portfolios but I am not sure it is relatively a big deal for any of them at this point. However, recently QLogic announced a 10 GbE iSCSI router that is part of the EMC Select program and is integrated with the CLARiiON. Yes, the CLARiiON does support native iSCSI but for those customers that have only FC connectivity this is a way to implement iSCSI using your existing storage systems. This is a smart move but they should also support the Symmetrix since there are probably thousands of stranded servers in large Enterprise customers that could take advantage of a 10 GbE iSCSI to FC router that are big Symm shops. I was just at an HDS Financial Forum in NYC and I asked a number of IT professionals how many of them were using iSCSI and not one of them raised their hands. Now keep in mind that they all worked for large companies in the financial sector but I thought at least one of them would have implemented iSCSI. However, each of them was keeping an eye on FCoE. On some level this is understandable since they have made such a large investment in FC. But in the end the storage vendors have still failed to educate large Enterprises how they can leverage iSCSI to their advantage. If they fail to do so in this economy then they never probably never will. Speaking of education - here is a great blog on using iSCSI with VMware. On the other side of the spectrum - in the world of single server connectivity - Data Robotics came out with the new DroboPro that supports iSCSI to connect to a single server. It isn't meant to hook up to a network and be shared by multiple servers but as a fast performance interconnect for a single server. I am a big proponent of the Drobo - it reinvents RAID and is a highly virtualized storage system. iSCSI isn't getting the attention it once did. Perhaps because it is far more mature and the debates of viability are over. However, I do think there is more education required on how it can be used as an alternative and/or complement to FC. In the end iSCSI is just a protocol and as I have said for years that it is more important to consider the storage system itself. However, iSCSI is something that customers have to decide to deploy and that is why the education is important. The overall score for iSCSI is a B minus in my opinion. It has been successful in spite of all of the debate and misunderstandings but it still has not reached the level of adoption that it could. And now with FCoE slowly beginning its adoption curve and NFS being an excellent protocol for VMware - the journey for iSCSI will continue to have some uphill climbs.
Hey All, My wife and I are participating in the Avon Walk to Fight Breast Cancer this weekend. It is a two day walk - the first day is 26 miles and the second day is 13.3 miles. I was able to reach my goal of $5,000 - I've raised $5,195 at the writing of this blog entry. However, I am still hoping to raise more donations before I go into the weekend. I would appreciate any contributions (see the link at below). I have always been a workaholic - spending the lion's share of my time driving business forward. This year my wife, Sue inspired me to break that cycle and dedicate some of my time to helping others in real need. The idea of spending several hours training seemed like a huge time commitment - especially since I started my own business. But it has been more than worth it. Unfortunately it seemed fitting this year to join the fight against breast cancer. My wife's cousin Stephanie passed away after a 13 year battle with breast cancer. Our good friend Lesa has been fighting breast cancer for the last two years. It has been sad for me to discover as I embarked on this "mission" that so many of you have been hit by similar trials and experiences. We all have our own personal struggles and challenges in our day-to-day lives. Our humanity is the common ground that ties us all together. I like the idea of walking as a way to fight this disease. We were built to walk. It is core to our humanity. There is a graceful simplicity to the very notion of it. So I will walk a long, long way - with my wife and friends and thousands of others - to fight this disease. It is greatly appreciated if you could donate - any amount is better than zero. It could be five, ten, twenty dollars - whatever works for you. I apologize for using my business blog to reach out to you - many of whom I do not know - but this cause is worth it. And fair warning to you all - I will write a follow up blog about the walk next week. Here is the link: Tony's Donation Page for the Walk To Fight Breast Cancer Thank you - Tony Asaro