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Storage Awareness: Minimize the economic impact of your business applications

July 27th, 2010

Eight years ago my career collided with reality.  By way of serendipity–following an unplanned career change–I discovered I had been living the last decade in a product development bubble. Two thousand and two was the year I had transitioned from building information management systems to managing a small storage industry analyst firm.

Up until 2002 I thought, perhaps arrogantly, that I thoroughly understood information management. After all, I had spent countless hours helping companies of all types implement systems to manage their digital information assets. I had no idea how little I understood until I began to learn more about storage infrastructure. All those years I had worked with other developers to build different types of business applications (e.g. enterprise content management systems and digital classrooms) with little regard for the applications’ impact on storage, mostly because I was not aware of their actual impact on storage. After all, storage was someone else’s problem we reasoned–a “black box” in which we stored our data.  There was no reason for us to truly understand how it all worked as long as we had enough space for our applications and files, right? Our customers could simply install our applications and databases, fire them up and begin collecting, aggregating, managing, manipulating and saving gigabyte upon gigabyte of data to their hearts’ content…or so we thought.

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ILM is alive and well

October 14th, 2009

I have always enjoyed speaking with David West. He’s one of the relatively few people within the storage industry’s sell-side who genuinely seeks to understand information management – the industry from which I leapt into storage.

After I read David’s recent blog post ILM: What’s Old is New Again, in which he wrote about the return of ILM, I responded with the following comment:

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Information Management – Hell no, not the CIO

July 29th, 2009

In his recent Wikibon post following a July 28 Peer Incite: Prevent Unstructured Data from Fueling Business Risk, Dave Vallente warns CIOs of what he calls the “data management trap”.  Thankfully, Dave provided an overview for those of us who were unable to participate.

I agree with Dave that “the starting point for an information management strategy should not be the technology implementation”.  However, I would add that a CIO is not the appropriate person for the job.

In response to Dave’s post I wrote:

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Massachusetts and Nevada data protection laws, and you

July 23rd, 2009

I’m all for data protection, and I believe we can all agree that the protection of personal information is extremely important. However, if our government wishes to enact laws to protect our data, then it should do a better job of crafting unambiguous wording. Ambiguity is an attorney’s best friend. With the number of attorneys-turned-legislators in government one would think they should know better.

I was inspired by a recent post on Stephen Foskett’s Enterprise Storage Strategies Blog titled “Massachusetts Says Encrypt It All!” Stephen raised an interesting issue about tape encryption in the context of MA and NV data protection laws. His post compelled me to take a closer look at the wording of the laws. For your reference, the laws are:

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More on non-competes

July 21st, 2009

Earlier this year I weighed in on the Donatelli/EMC non-compete drama with a brief post about the nature of non-competes.

Since then I have read several new articles and opinions about the topic of non-competes. I am currently following two: Boston.com’s Clause for Concern, and Bijan’s Revised non-compete legislation doesn’t go far enough.

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Will CEOs really learn any lessons from the failures of their peers?

July 21st, 2009

I’m doubtful, but hopeful.

Bob Hill over at www.BusinessBrief.com crafted a list of 10 lessons every CEO can learn from Fortune 500’s biggest losers.

I agree with Bob. There are lessons to be learned. However, I added:

And what, perhaps, is the biggest lesson of all? If you are F500 don’t worry about all of the above. If you screw things up royally, rest assured that (one way or another) Uncle Sam will bail you out.

Bob, I wish I could believe that CEOs will actually learn from the mistakes of their peers, but history has proven this to be largely untrue. And with a Federal government so willing to prop up institutions in our faux free market economy, what, precisely, is the incentive to genuinely succeed? Companies such as AIG and CITI have demonstrated that even catastrophic failure is rewarded handsomely.

Until the penalties outweigh the incentives, we are unlikely to see genuine change in any industry.

Take, for example, finance, health care and pharmaceuticals. What is the incentive to do the right thing for investors/patients/consumers when the penalties pale in comparison to the anticipated profits? The answer is: none.

Still, Bob’s list is worth reading for those of you who care. Join the conversation over at www.BusinessBrief.com.

De-duplication as part of efficient information and storage management

July 9th, 2009

Tim over at Storage Monkeys wanted to know, “Is de-duplication a strategy or a finger in the dike?

I wrote:

“In response to the title of Tim’s post, and [as he requested] in the context of backups alone, the concept of de-duplication is an extremely important consideration for any data protection strategy. We can all agree that we’d like to store as little as possible, preferably in the least amount of space, and still meet or beat our day-to-day operational requirements. De-duplication is all about keeping the physical amount of stored data to a minimum. And, faced with a future filled with mind-boggling amounts of new data, de-duplication is a good thing.

What is important to understand is that de-duplication (which appears to be a term born in the storage industry in the past decade) goes by many names and is best visualized as a spectrum of solutions designed to take the redundancy out of data. At one end of the spectrum we find file formats such as JPG, GIF, MP3, MPG, GZIP, TAR and SIT. These are examples of intra-file data reduction (a.k.a. file compression).

Further along the spectrum we find single instance storage, a method of inter-file data reduction that has existed in many business applications since at least the early-to-mid 90s, possibly earlier. It’s a simple implementation that identifies whole [byte for byte] duplicate files and stores a single copy. A lightweight system of pointers or stubs ensures that applications are unaware of the underlying data reduction.

As we continue to move along the spectrum we encounter even more efficient methods of data reduction such as data chunking (at the block or sub-file level) and delta encoding. And storage vendors have, in recent years, added a new wrinkle to de-duplication: timing. Should we de-duplicate before or after moving our data over the network from point A to point B?

Commercial implementations of de-duplication typically combine multiple methods, and all of them make trade-offs between complexity, efficiency and performance. There is no single universally superior method or commercial implementation of de-duplication. You guessed it – it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

And, it really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about primary or secondary storage, old backup technology or new, near-line, off-line, local, remote, backup or archival storage. They can all benefit from de-duplication whether it’s embedded or bolted-on.

De-duplication isn’t a patch, it’s an integral part of efficient information and storage management.”

Do you have an opinion about the role of de-duplication in your organization? Join the conversation over at Storage Monkeys.

And now for something a little different…

July 9th, 2009

Frankly, I simply do not like managing a blog as you can tell by how infrequently I publish.  I much prefer to contribute insight to the blogs and columns of others than to publish my own beyond Data Mobility Group’s usual research.  In fact, I’m quite active in that regard, and my comments can be found on forums of all types from politics and education to transportation and information technology.

In the months ahead, you can expect to find the complete text of a select subset of my comments – past and present – published here with links to the original questions and conversations located elsewhere on the Internet. I encourage you to follow the links and join the conversations.

Cheers,

Joe Martins
Managing Director
Data Mobility Group, LLC.
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