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2010

There is a ton of discussion, stories, articles, videos,  conferences and blogs about the benefits and value proposition of cloud  computing. Not to mention, discussion or debates about what is or  what is not a cloud or cloud product, service or architecture including some perspectives  and polls from me.

Life in the clouds

Now SANta does not really care about these and other  similar debates I have learned. However he is concerned with who has been naughty and nice as  well watching out for impersonators or members of his crew who misbehave.

Source ABC.net news
  Via ABC news

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/17/2774517.htm?section=justinhttp://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200912/r488187_2520416.jpgIn the spirit of the holidays, how about a quick  look at how SANta leverages cloud technologies to support his global operations.

Many in IT think that SANta bases his operations out of  the North Pole as it is convenient for him to cool all of his servers, storage,  networks and telecom equipment (which it is). However its also centrally  located (See chart) for the northern hemisphere (folks down under may get  serviced via SANtas secret Antarctica base of operations). Just like ANC (Anchorage International Airport) is a  popular cargo transient, transload and refueling base for cargo carriers, SANta  also leverages the north and South Pole regions to his advantage.

Great Circle Mapper
SANtas Global Reach via Great Circle Mapper

Now do not worry if you have never heard about SANta dual  redundant South Pole operations, its one of his better kept secrets. Many organizations  including SANtas partners such as Microsoft that have global mega IT operations  and logistics centers have followed SANtas lead of leveraging various locations  outside of the pacific northwest. Granted like some of his partners and managed service  providers, he does maintain a presence in Washington Columbia river basin which  provides a nice PR among other benefits.

Likewise, many in business as well as those in IT think  that SANta leverages cloud technologies for cost savings or avoidance which is  partially the case. However he also leverages cloud, hosting, managed service provider  (MSP), virtual data centers, virtual operations centers, Xaas, SaaS or SOA technologies,  services, protocols and products that are transparent and complimentary to his own in house resources addressing various business and service  requirement needs.

What this has to do with the holidays and clouds is that  you may not realize how Santa or St. Nick if you prefer (feel free to plug in  whoever you like if Santa or St. Nick does not turn your crank) extensively relies on  flexible and scalable resilient technologies for boosting productivity in a cost effective manner. Some of it is IT related, some of it is not. For example, from the GPS and Radar  along with recently added RNP and RNAV enhanced capabilities to his increasingly  high tech bio fueled powered sleigh, not to mention his information technology  (IT) that powers his global operations, old St Nick has got it together when it  comes to technology.

SANta Bio Fuel Powered Sliegh
SANtas Bio Fuel Powered Sleigh

The heart or brains of the SANta operation is his global  system operations center (SOC) or network operation center (NOC) that rivals  those seen at NASA among others with multiple data feeds. The SOC is a 24x365 operations function that  covers all aspects from transportation, logistics, distribution, assembly or  packaging, financials back office, CRM, IT and communications among other functions.

SOCs and NOCsSOCs and NOCs
SOCs and NOCs that enable SANta to get those SOCKs above fireplace filled!

Naturally, like the Apollo moon shots whose Grumman built  LEM Lunar lander had to have 100% availability in that to get off of the moon, their  engines only had to fire once, however it had to work 100% of the time! This  thought process is said to have had leveraged principles from SANtas operations  guide where he has one night a year to accomplish the impossible.
  http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/alsj-LMdocs.html

I should mention, while I cannot disclose (due to NDA) the  exact locations of the SOCs, data or logistics centers, not to mention the vendors  or the technology being used, I can tell you that they are all around you! The  fully redundant SOCs, data and call centers as well as logistics sites (including  staff, facilities, technology) leverage different time zones for efficiency.

SANtas staff have also found that the redundant SOCs,  part of an approach across Santa entire vast organization has helped to guard  against global epidemics and pandemics including SARs and H1N1 among others by  isolating workers while providing appropriate coverage and availability,  something many large  organizations have since followed.

Carrying through on the philosophy of redundant SOCs, all  other aspects of SANtas operations are distributed yet with centralized coordinated  management, leveraging real-time situation awareness, event and activity  correlation (what we used to call or refer to as AI), cross technology domain  management, proactive monitoring and planning yet with ability for on the spot decision  making.

What this means is that the various locations have ability  to make localized decisions on the spot. However coordinated with primary  operations or mission control to streamline global operations focus on  strategic activity along with exceptions handling to be more effective.  Thus it is not fully distributed nor fully centralized, rather a hybrid in  terms of management, technologies and the way they work.

For example, to handle the diverse applications, there  are some primary large processing and data retention facilities that backup,  replicate information to other peer sites as well as smaller regional remote  office branch offices close to where information services are needed. To say  the environment is highly virtualized would be an understatement.

Likewise, optimization is key not just to keep costs low  or avoid overheating some of SANtas facilities that are located in the Arctic  and Antarctic regions that could melt the ice cap; they are also optimized to  keep response time as low as possible while boosting productivity.

Thus, SANta has to rely on very robust and diverse communications  networking leveraging LAN, SAN, MAN, WAN, POTS and PANs among other technologies.  For example, his communications portfolio is said to involves landlines (copper  and optical), RF including microwave and other radio based commutations supporting  or using 3G, 4G, MPLS, SONET/SCH, xWDM, Microwave and Free space optics among  others.

SANtas networking and communications elves are also said  to be working with 5G and 100GbE multiplexed on 256 lambda WDM trunk circuits  in non core trunk applications. Of course given the airborne operations, satellite  and ACARS are a must to avoid over flying a destination while remaining in  positive control during low visibility. Note that Santa routinely makes more  CAT 3+ low visibility landings than most of the worlds airlines, air freight companies  combined.

 

SANtas Sliegh Navigation and GUI Displays
SANtas has GUI and Management Displays in his Sleigh

My sources also tell me that SANta has virtual desktop capability  leveraging PCoIP and other optimizations on his primary and backup sleighs  enabling rapid reconfiguration for changing workload conditions. He also is  fully equipped with onboard social media capabilities for updates via twitter,  Face book and Linked In among others designed by his chief social networking elf.

Consequently, given the vast amount of information needed  to support his operations from CRM, shipping, tracking not to mention  historical and profiling needs, transactional volumes both on the data as well  as voice and social media networks dwarf the stock market trading volume.
  http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=251

Feeding SANtas vast organizations are online highly available  robust databases for transactions purposes, reference unstructured data  material including videos, websites and more. Some of which look hauntingly familiar  given those that are part of SANtas eWorld Helpers initiative including: SearsAmazon, NetFlix, Target, Albertsons, Staples, EMC, Wall mart, Overstock, RadioShackLandsend, Dell, HP, eBay, Lowes, Publix, emusic, Riteaid and Supervalu among others (Im just sayin...).

The actual size of SANta information repository is a  closely regarded secret as is the exact topology, schema and content structure. However it is understood that on peak days SANtas highly distributed high performance, low latency data  warehouse sees upwards of 1,225PBytes of data added, one that is rumored  to make Larry Ellison gush with excitement over its growth possibilities.

How does SANta pull this all off is by leveraging virtualization,  automation, efficient and enabling technologies that allow him and elves (excuse  me, associates or team members) to be more productivity in their areas of focus  that is the envy of the universe.

Some of their efficiency is measured in terms of:

  • How many packages can be processed per elf with minimum  or no mistakes
  • Number of calls, requests, inquiries per day per  elf in a friendly and understandable manner
  • Knowing who has been naughty or nice in the blink  of an eye including historical profiles
  • Virtual machines (VM) or physical machine (PM)  servers managed per team member
  • Databases and applications, local and remote,  logical and physical per team member
  • Storage in terms of PByte and Exabyte managed to  given service level per team member
  • Network circuits and bandwidth with fewest  dropped packets (or packages) per member
  • Fewest misdirected packages as well as aborted  landings per crew
  • Fewest pounds gained from consumption of most  milk and cookies per crew

From how many packages can be processed per hour, to the number  of virtual servers per person, PBytes of data managed per person, network  connections and circuits per person, databases and applications per person to  takes and landings (SANta has the top of the list for this one), they are all  highly efficient and effective.

Likewise, SANta leverages the partners in his SANtas  eWORLD Helpers initiative network to help out where of course he looks for value;  however value is not just lowest price per VM, lowest cost per TByte or cost  per bandwidth. For SANta it is also very focused on performance, availability,  capacity and economic efficiency not to mention quality with an environmentally  friendly green supply chain.

By having a green supply chain, SANta leverages from a responsible,  global approach that also makes economic sense on where to manufacture and  produce or procure products. Contrary to growing popular belief, locally  produced may not always be the most environmentally as well as economically  favorable approach. For example (read more here), instead of growing flowers  and plans in western Europe where they are consumed, a process that would  require more energy for heat, lights, not to mention water and other resources.  SANta has bucked the trend instead relying on the economics and environmental  benefit of leveraging flowers and plants grown in warmer, sunnier climates.

Granted and rest assured, SANta still has an army of elves  busily putting things together in his own factories along with managing IT  related activities in a economically positive manner.

SANta has also leveraged this thinking to his data and information  and communications networks leveraging sites such as in the arctic where solar  power can be used during summer months along with cooling economizers to offset the impact of batteries, workload is shifted around the world as  needed. This approach is rumored to be the envy of the US EPA Energy Star for  Server, Storage and Data Center crew not to mention their followers.

How does SANta make sure all of the data and information  is protected and available? Its a combination of best practices, techniques, technologies including hardware, software, data protection management tools, disk, dedupe, compression,  tape and cloud among others.
    http://backupcentral.com
Rest assured, if it is in the technology buzzword bingo  book, it is a good bet that it has been tested in one of SANtas facilities, or,  partner sites long before you hear about it even under a strict NDA discussion  with one of his elves (opps, I mean supplier partners).

When asked of the importance of his information and data  networks, resources and cloud enabled highly virtualized efficient operations SANta  responded with a simple:

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good  night!

As you sit back and relax, reflect, recreate, recoup or  recharge, or whatever it is that you do this time of the year, take a moment to  think about and thank all of SANtas helpers. They are the ones that work behind  the scenes in SANtas facilities as well as his partners or suppliers, some in  the clouds, some on or underground to make the worlds largest single event day  (excuse me, night) possible! Or, is this SANta and cloud thing all just one big  fantasy?

Happy and safe holidays or whatever you want to refer to  it as, best wishes and thanks!

BTW: FTC disclosure information can be found here!

Greg on Break
Me on a break during tour SANta site tour

Cheers and seasons greetings gs

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
twitter @storageio

Its been a few months since my last post (read it here) about Hybrid Hard Disk Drive (HHDD) such as the Seagate Momentus XT that I have been using.

 

The Momentus XT HHDD I have been using is a 500GB 7,200RPM 2.5 inch SATA Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with 4GB of embedded FLASH (aka SSD) and 32MB of DRAM memory for buffering hence the hybrid name.

 

 

I have been using the XT HHDD mainly for transferring large multi GByte size files between computers and for doing some disk to disk (D2D) backups while becoming more comfortable with it. While not as fast as my 64GB all flash SSD, the XT HHDD is as fast as my 7,200RPM 160GB Momentus HDD and in some cases faster on burst reads or writes. The notion of having a 500GB HDD that was affordable to support D2D was attractive however the ability to get some performance boost now and then via the embedded 4GB FLASH opens many different possibilities particularly when combined with compression.

 

 

Recently I switched the role of the Momentus XT HHDD from that of being a utility drive to becoming the main disk in one of my laptops. Despite many forums or bulletin boards touting issues or problems with the Seagate Momentus XT causing system hangs or Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSoD), I continued on with the next phase of testing.

 

 

Making the switch to XT HHDD as a primary disk

 

 

I took a few precaution including eating some of my own dog food that I routinely talk about. For example, I made sure that the Lenovo T61 where the Momentus XT was going to be installed was backed up. In addition, I synced my traveling laptop so that it was the primary so that I could continue working during the conversion not to mention having an extra copy in addition to normal on and offsite backups.

 

 

Ok, lets get back to the conversion or migration from a regular HDD to the HHDD.

 

 

Once I knew I had a good backup, I used the Seagate Discwizard (e.g. Acronis based) tool for imaging the existing T61 HDD to the Momentus XT HHDD. Using Discwizard (you could use other tools as well) I configured it to initialize the HHDD which was attached via a Seagate Goflex USB to SATA cable kit as well as image or copy the contents of the T61 HDD partitions to the Momentus XT. During the several hours it took to copy and create a new bootable disk image on the HHDD I continued working on my travel or standby laptop.

 

 

After the image copy was completed and verified, it was time to reboot and see how Windows (XP SP3) liked the HHDD which all seemed to be normal. There were some parts of the boot that seemed a bit faster, however not 100 percent conclusive. The next step was to shutdown the laptop and physically swap the old internal HDD with the HHDD and reboot. The subsequent boot did seem faster and programs accessing large files also seemed to run a bit faster.

 

 

Keep in mind that the HHDD is still a spinning 7,200RPM disk drive so comparisons to a full time SSD would be apples to oranges as would the cost capacity difference between those devices. However, for what I wanted to see and use, the limited 4GB of flash does seem to provide a performance boost and if I needed full time super fast performance, I could buy a larger capacity SSD and install it. Im going to hold off on buying any more larger capacity flash SSD for the time being however.

 

 

Do I see HHDD appearing in SMB, SME or enterprise storage systems anytime soon? Probably not, at least not in primary storage systems. However perhaps in some D2D backup, archive or dedupe and VTL devices or other appliances.

 

 

Momentus XT Speed Bumps

 

 

Now, to be fair, there have been some bumps in the road!

 

 

The first couple of days were smooth sailing other than hearing the mystery chirp the HHDD makes a couple of times a day. Low and behold after a couple of days, just as many forums had indicated, a mystery system hang occurred (and no, not like Windows might normally do so for those Microsoft cynics). Other than the inconvenience of a reboot, no data was lost as files being updated were saved or had been backed up not to mention after the reboot, everything was intact anyway. So far just an inconvenience or so I thought.

 

 

Almost 24 hours later, same thing except this time I got to see the BSoD which candidly, I very rarely see despite hearing stories from others. Ok, this was annoying, however as long as I did not lose any data, other than lost time from a reboot, lets chalk this up to a learning experience and see where it goes. Now guess what, about 12 hours later, once again, the system froze up and this time I was in the middle of a document edit. This time I did lose about 8 minutes of typing data that had not been auto saved (I have since changed my auto save from 10 minutes to 5 minutes).

 

 

With this BSoD incident, I took some notes and using the X61s, started checking some web sites and verified the BIOS firmware on the T61 which was up to date. However I noticed that the Seagate Momentus XT HHDD was at firmware 22 while there was a 23 version available. Reading through some web sites and forums, I was on the fence on trying firmware 23 given that it appears a newer firmware version for the HHDD is in the works. Deciding to forge forward with the experiment, after all, no real data loss had occurred, and I still had the X61s not to mention the original T61 HDD to fall back to worse case.

 

 

Going to the Seagate web site, I downloaded the firmware 23 install kit and ran it to their instructions which was a breeze and then did the reboot.

 

 

It has not been quite a week yet, however knocking on wood, while I keep expecting to see one, no BSoD or system freezes have occurred. However having said that and knocking on wood, Im also making sure things are backed up protected and ready if needed. Likewise, if I start to see a rash of BSoD, my plan is to fall back to the original T61 HDD, bring it up to date and use it until a newer HHDD firmware version is available to resume testing.

 

 

What is next for my Seagate Momentus XT HHDD?

 

 

Im going to wait to see if the BSoD and mystery system hangs disappear as well as for the arrival of the new firmware followed by some more testing. However, when Im confident with it, the next step is to put the XT HHDD into the X61s which is used primarily for travel purpose.

 

 

Why wait? Simple, while I can tolerate a reboot or crash or data loss or disruption while in the office given access to copies as well as standby or backup systems to work from, when traveling options are more limited. Sure if there is data loss, I can go to my cloud provider and rapidly recall a file or multiple ones as needed or for critical data, recover from a portable encrypted USB device. Consequently I want more confidence in the XT HHDD before deploying it for travel mode which it is probably safe to do as of now, however I want to see how stable it is in the office before taking it on the road.

 

 

What does this all mean?

 

 

  • Simple, have a backup of your data and systems

  • Test and verify those backups or standby systems periodically

  • Have a fall back plan for when trying new things

  • Keep productivity in mind, at some point you may have to fall back

  • If something is important enough to protect, have multiple copies

  • Be ready to eat your own dog food or what you talk about

  • Do not be scared, however be prepared, look before you leap

 

How about you are you using a HHDD yet and if so, what are your experiences? I am curious to hear if anyone has tried using a HHDD in their VMware lab environments yet in place of a regular HDD or before spending a boat load of money for a similar sized SSD.

 

Nuff said for now

 

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

 

twitter @storageio

 

 

 

This is part of an ongoing series of short industry trends and perspectives (ITP) blog posts briefs based on what I am seeing and hearing in my conversations with IT professionals on a global basis.

blog posts briefs

 

 

These short posts compliment other longer posts along with traditional industry trends and perspective white papers, research reports, videos, podcasts, webcasts as well as solution brief content found a http://www.storageio.com/reportsand www.storageio.com/articles.

 

 

If you recall from previous posts including here, here or here among others, Data Footprint Reduction (DFR) is a collection of tools, technologies and best practices for addressing growing data storage management and cost impacts.

 

 

DFR encompasses many different tools, techniques and technologies across various applications ranging from active or primary storage to secondary and inactive along with backup and archive.

 

 

Some of the technologies techniques and technologies include archiving, backup modernization, compression, data management, dedupe, space saving snapshots and thin provisioning among others.

 

 

Following are some links to various articles and commentary pertaining to DFR:

 

 

In the spirit of DFR, that is doing more with less, nuff said (for now).

 

 

Of course let me know what your thoughts and perspectives are on this and other related topics.

 

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

 

twitter @storageio

 

 

 

 

 

Have you heard or read the reports and speculation that VTLs (Virtual Tape Libraries) are dead?

 

It seems that in IT the all to popular trend is to declare something dead so that your new product or technology can have a chance of making it in to the market or perhaps seen in a better light.

 

 

Sometimes this approach works to temporary freeze the market until common sense and clarity returns to the market or until something else fun to talk about comes along and in other cases, the messages can fall on deft ears.

 

 

The approach of declaring something dead tends to play well for those who like shiny new toys (SNT) or new shiny toys (NST) and being on the popular, cool trendy bandwagon.

 

 

Not surprisingly, while some actual IT customers can fall into the SNT or NST syndrome, its often the broader industry including media, bloggers, analysts, consultants and other self proclaimed or anointed pundits as well as vendors who latch on to the declare it dead movement. After all, who wants to talk about something that is old, boring and already being sold to paying customers who are using it. Now this is not a bad thing as we need a balance of up and coming challengers to keep the status quo challenged, likewise we need a balance of the new to avoid death grips on the old and what is working.

 

 

Likewise, many IT customers particularly larger ones tend to be very risk averse and conservative with their budgets protecting their investments thus they may only go leading bleeding edge if there is a dual redundant blood bank with a backup on hot standby (thats some HA humor BTW).

 

 

Another reason that declaring items dead in support of SNT and NST is that while many of the commonly declared dead items are on the proverbial plateau of productivity for IT customers, that also can mean that they are on the plateau of profitability for the vendors.

 

 

However, not all good things last and at sometime, there is the need to transition from the old to the new and this is where things like virtualization including virtual tape libraries or virtual disk libraries or virtual storage library or what ever you want to call a VxL (more on what a VxL is in a moment) can come into play.

 

 

I realize that for some, particularly those who like to grasp on to SNT, NST and ride the dead pool bandwagons this will probably appear as snarky or cynical which is fine, after all, for some, you should be laughing to the bank and if not, you may in fact be missing out on an opportunity for playing in the dead pool marketing game.

 

 

Now back to VxL.

 

 

In the case of VTLs, for some it is the T word that bothers them, you know T as in Tape which is not a SNT or NST in an age where SSD has supposedly killed the disk drive which allegedly terminated tape (yeah right). Sure tape is not being used as much for backup as it has in the past with its role shifting to that of longer term retention, something that it is well suited for.

 

 

For tape fans (or cynics) you can read more here, here and here. However there is still a large amount of backup/restore along with other data protection or preservation (e.g. archiving) processing (software tools, processes, procedures, skill sets, management tools) that still expects to see tape.

 

 

Hence this is where VTLs or VxLs come into play leveraging virtualization in an Life Beyond Consolidation (and here) scenario providing abstraction, transparency, agility and emulation and IMHO are still very much alive and evolving.

 

 

Ok, for those who do not like or believe in or of its continued existence and evolving role, substitute the T (tape) with X and you get a VxL. That is, plug in what ever X word that makes you happy or marketable or a Shiny New TLA. For example Virtual Disk Library, Virtual Storage Library, Virtual Backup Library, Virtual Compression Library, Virtual Dedupe Library, Virtual ILM Library, Virtual Archive Library, Virtual Cloud Library and so forth. Granted some VxLs only emulate tape and hence are VTLs while others support NAS and other protocols (or personalities) not to mention functionality ranging from replication, DFR as well as automated policy management.

 

 

However, keep in mind that if your preference is VTL, VxL or what ever other buzzword bingo name that you want to use or come up with, look at how virtualization in the form of abstraction, transparency and emulation can bridge the gap between the new (disk based data protection) combined with DFR (Data Footprint Reduction) and the old (existing backup/restore, archive or other management tools and processes.

 

 

Here are some additional links pertaining to VTLs (excuse me, VxLs):

 

 

Nuff said about that for now.

 

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

 

twitter @storageio

 

 

 

 

 

[http://storageio.com/newsletter/Fall2010.html]

Fall 2010 Newsletter

Welcome to the Fall 2010 edition of the Server and StorageIO Group (StorageIO) newsletter. This follows the August 2010\ edition building on the great feedback received from recipients.

 

                 

 

 

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Enjoy this edition of the StorageIO newsletter, let me know your comments and feedback.

 

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Nuff said for now

 

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

 

twitter @storageio

 

 

 

http://www.copsplus.com/products/large/56101.jpg[http://www.copsplus.com/prodnum3066.php]

 

 

Is lockin caused via vendors, their partners or by customers?

 

 

In my opinion it can be from either or all the above.

 

 

What is vendor lockin

 

 

Vendor lockin is a situation where a customer becomes dependent or locked in by choice or other circumstances to a particular supplier or technology.

 

 

What is the difference between vendor lockin, account control and stickiness?

 

 

Im sure some marketing wiz or sales type will be happy to explain the subtle differences. Generally speaking, lockin, stickiness and account control are essentially the same, or at least strive to obtain similar results. For example, vendor lockin too some has a negative stigma. However vendor stickiness may be a new term, perhaps even sounding cool thus it is not a concern. Remember the Mary Poppins song a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down? In other words sometimes changing and using a different term such as sticky vs vendor lockin helps make the situation taste better.

 

 

Is vendor lockin or stickiness a bad thing?

 

 

No, not necessarily, particularly if you the customer are aware and still in control of your environment.

 

 

I have had different views of vendor lockin over the years.

 

 

These have varied from when I was a customer working in IT organizations or being a vendor and later as an advisory analyst consultant. Even as a customer, I had different views of lockin which varied depending upon the situation. In some cases lockin was a result of upper management having their favorite vendor which meant when a change occurred further up the ranks, sometimes vendor lockin would shift as well. On the other hand, I also worked in IT environments where we had multiple vendors for different technologies to maintain competition across suppliers.

 

 

As a vendor, I was involved with customer sites that were best of breed while others were aligned around a single or few vendors. Some were aligned around technologies from the vendors I worked for and others were aligned with someone elses technology. In some cases as a vendor we were locked out of an account until there was a change of management or mandates at those sites. In other cases where lock out occurred, once our product was OEMd or resold by an incumbent vendor, the lockout ended.

 

 

Some vendors do a better job of establishing lockin, account management, account control or stickiness than compared to others. Some vendors may try to lock a customer in and thus there is perception that vendors lock customers in. Likewise, there is a perception that vendor lockin only occurs with the largest vendors however I have seen this also occur with smaller or niche vendors who gain control of their customers keeping larger or other vendors out.

 

 

http://store.suebee.com/images/honey_products.png[Mary Poppins song a spoon full of sugar|http://store.suebee.com/index.php?group=1]

 

Sweet, sticky Sue Bee Honey

 

 

Vendor lockin or stickiness is not always the result of the vendor, var, consultant or service provider pushing a particular technology, product or service. Customers can allow or enable vendor lockin as well, either by intent via alliances to drive some business initiative or accidentally by giving up account control management. Consequently vendor lockin is not a bad thing if it brings mutual benefit to the suppler and consumer.

 

 

On the other hand, if lockin causes hardship on the consumer while only benefiting the supplier, than it can be a bad thing for the customer.

 

 

Do some technologies lend themselves more to vendor lockin vs others?

 

 

Yes, some technologies lend themselves more to stickiness or lockin then others. For example, often big ticket or expensive hardware are seen as being vulnerable to vendor lockin along with other hardware items however software is where I have seen a lot of stickiness or lockin around.

 

 

However what about virtualization solutions after all the golden rule of virtualization is whoever controls the virtualization (hardware, software or services) controls the gold. This means that vendor lockin could be around a particular hypervisor or associated management tools.

 

 

How about bundled solutions or what are now called integrated vendor technology stacks including PODs (here or here) or vBlocks among others? How about databases, do they enable or facilitate vendor lockin? Perhaps, just like virtualization or operating systems or networking technology, storage system, data protection or other solutions, if you let the technology or vendor manage you, then you enable vendor lockin.

 

 

Where can vendor lockin or stickiness occur?

 

 

Application software, databases, data or information tools, messaging or collaboration, infrastructure resource management (IRM) tools ranging from security to backup to hypervisors and operating systems to email. Lets not forget about hardware which has become more interoperable from servers, storage and networks to integrated marketing or alliance stacks.

 

 

Another opportunity for lockin or stickiness can be in the form of drivers, agents or software shims where you become hooked on a feature functionality that then drives future decisions. In other words, lockin can occur in different locations both in traditional IT as well as via managed services, virtualization or cloud environments if you let it occur.

 

 

Keep these thoughts in mind:

 

  • Customers need to manage their resources and suppliers

  • Technology and their providers should work for you the customer, not the other way around

  • Technology providers conversely need to get closer to influence customer thinking

  • There can be cost with single vendor or technology sourcing due to loss of competition

  • There can be a cost associated with best of breed or functioning as your own integrator

  • There is a cost switching from vendors and or their technology to keep in mind

  • Managing your vendors or suppliers may be easier than managing your upper management

  • Vendors sales remove barriers so they can sell and setting barriers for others

  • Virtualization and cloud can be both a source for lockin as well as a tool to help prevent it

  • As a customer, if lockin provides benefits than it can be a good thing for all involved

 

Closing thoughts for now:

 

 

Ultimately, its up to the customer to manage their environment and thus have a say if they will allow vendor lockin. Granted, upper management may be the source of the lockin and not surprisingly is where some vendors will want to focus their attention directly, or via influence of high level management consultants.

 

 

So while a vendors solution may appear to be a locked in solution, it does not become a lockin issue or problem until a customer lets or allows it to be a lockin or sticky situation.

 

 

What is your take on vendor lockin? Cast your vote and see results in the following polls.

 

 

Is vendor lockin a good or bad thing?

 

Is vendor lockin a good or bad thing? Lockin is a bad thing for customers

Lockin is a good thing for vendors

Its only bad if you let it be a problem

Lockin is a myth, it died with the mainframe

Vote[View Results|javascript:PD_vote4054391(1);]

 

Who is responsible for managing vendor lockin

 

Who is responsible for, or preventing vendor lockin Its not a problem, why worry about it

Customers are responsible for thier environment

Vendors are responsible for thier customers

VARs need to look out for thier customers and partners

Virtualization and cloud have eliminated lockin

Vote[View Results|javascript:PD_vote4054404(1);]

 

Where is most common form or concern of vendor lockin

 

Where is most common form or concern of vendor lockin Business application software

Database software and tools

Operating systems and Hypervisors

Servers, storage or networks

Integrated hardware and software stacks

Cloud or managed services

Vote[View Results|javascript:PD_vote4054420(1);]

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

 

twitter @storageio

 

 

 

Over in Eden Prairie (Minneapolis Minnesota suburb) where data storage vendor Compellent (CML) is based, they must be singing in the hallways today that it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

 

 

Sure we had another dusting of snow this morning here in the Minneapolis area and the temp is actually up in the balmy 20F temperature range (was around 0F yesterday) and holiday shopping is in full swing.

 

 

The other reason I think that the Compellent folks are thinking that it feels a lot like Christmas are the reports that Dell is in exclusive talks to buy them at about $29 per share or about $876 million USD.

 

 

Dell is no stranger to holiday or shopping sprees, check these posts out as examples:

 

 

Dell Will Buy Someone, However Not Brocade (At least for now)

 

 

Back to school shopping: Dude, Dell Digests 3PAR Disk storage (we now know Dell was out bid)

 

 

Data footprint reduction (Part 2): Dell, IBM, Ocarina and Storwize

 

 

Data footprint reduction (Part 1): Life beyond dedupe and changing data lifecycles

 

 

Post Holiday IT Shopping Bargains, Dell Buying Exanet?

 

 

Did someone forget to tell Dell that Tape is dead?

 

 

Now some Compellent fans are not going to be happy with only about $29 a share or about $876 million USD price given the recent stock run up into the $30 plus range. Likewise, some of the Compellent fans may be hoping for or expecting a bidding war to drive the stock back up into the $30 range however keep in mind that it was earlier this year when the stock adjusted itself down into the mid teens.

 

 

In the case of 3PAR and the HP Dell budding war, that was a different product and company focused in a different space than where Compellent has a good fit.

 

 

Sure both 3PAR and Compellent do Fibre Channel (FC) where Dells EqualLogic only does iSCSI, however a valuation based just on FC would be like saying Dell has all the storage capabilities they need with their MD3000 series that can do SAS, iSCSI and FC.

 

 

In other words, there are different storage products for different markets or price bands and customer application needs. Kind of like winter here in Minnesota, sure one type of shovel will work for moving snow or you can leverage different technologies and techniques (tiering) to get the job done effectively the same holds for storage solutions.

 

 

Compellent has a good Cadillac product that is a good fit for some SMB environments. However the SMB space is also where Dell has several storage products some of which they own (e.g. EqualLogic), some they OEM (MD3000 series and NX) as well as resell (e.g. EMC CLARiiON).

 

 

Can the Compellent product replace the lowered CLARiiON business that Dell has itself been shifting more to their flagship EqualLogic product?

 

 

Sure however at the risk of revenue cannibalization or worse, introduction of revenue prevention teams.

 

 

Can the Compellent product then be positioned lower down under the EqualLogic product?

 

 

Sure, however why hold it back not to mention force a higher priced product down into that market segment.

 

 

Can the Compellent product be taken up market to compete above the EqualLogic head to head with the larger CLARiiON systems from EMC or comparable solutions from other vendors?

 

 

Sure, however I can hear choruses of its sounding a lot like Christmas from New England, the bay area and Tucson among others.

 

 

Does this mean that Dell is being overly generous and that this is not a good deal?

 

 

No, not at all.

 

 

Sure it is the holiday season and Dell has several billion dollars of cash laying around however that in itself does not guarantee a large handout or government sized bailout (excuse me, infusion). At $30 or more, that would be overly generous simply based on where the technology fits as well as aligns to the market realities. Consequently, at $29, this is a great deal for Compellent and also for Dell.

 

 

Why is it a good deal for Dell?

 

 

I think that it is as much about Dell getting a good deal (ok, paying a premium) to acquire a competitor that they can use to fill some product gaps where they have common VARs. However I also think that this is very much about the channel and the VAR as much if not more than it is just about a storage product. Servers are part of the game here which in turn supports storage, networking, management tools, backup/recovery, archiving and services.

 

 

Sure Dell can maybe take some cost out of the Compellent solution by replacing the Supermicro PCs that are the hardware platform for their storage controllers with Dell servers. However the bigger play is around further developing its channel and VAR ecosystems, some of whom were with EqualLogic before Dell bought them. This can also be seen as a means of Dell getting that partner ecosystem to sell overall, more dell products and solutions instead of those from Apple, EMC, Futjisu, HP, IBM, Oracle and many others.

 

 

Likewise, I doubt that Mr. Dell is paying a premium simply to make the Compellent shareholders and fans happy to create monetary velocity to stimulate holiday shopping and economic stimulus. However, for the fans, sure, while drowning your sorrows in egg nogg of holiday cheer that you are not getting $30 or higher, instead buy a round for your mates and toast Dell for your holiday gift.

 

 

The real reason I think this is a good reason for Dell is that from a business and financial perspective, assuming they stick to the $29 range, it is a good bargain for both parties. Dell gets a company who has been competing with their EqualLogic product in some cases with the same VARs or resellers. Sure it gets a Fibre Channel based product however Dell already has that with the MD3000 series which I realize is less function laden then Compellent or EqualLogic; however it is also more affordable for a different market.

 

 

If Dell can close on the deal sticking to its offer which they have the upper hand on, execute including rolling out a strategy as well as product positioning plan. Then educate their own teams as well as VARs and customers of what products fit where and when in such a manner that does not cause revenue prevention (e.g. one product or team blocking the other) or cannibalization instead expanding markets, they can do well.

 

 

While Compellent gets a huge price multiple based on their revenue (about $125M USD), if Dell can get the product revenue up from the $125 to $150 million plateau to around $250 to $300 million without cannibalizing other Dell products, the deal pays for itself in many ways.

 

 

Keep in mind that a large pile of cash sitting in the bank these days is not exactly yielding the best returns on investment.

 

 

For the Compellent fans and shareholders, congratulations!

 

 

You have gotten or perhaps are about to get a good holiday gift so knock of the complaining that you should be getting more. The option is that instead of $28 per share, you could be getting 28 lumps of coal in your Christmas stocking.

 

 

For the Dell folks, assuming the deal is done on their terms and that they can quickly rationalize the product overlap, convey and then execute on a strategy while keeping the revenue prevention teams on the sidelines you too have a holiday gift to work with (some assembly will be required however). This also is good for Dell outside of storage which may turn out to be one of the gems of the deal in keeping or expanding VARs selling Dell based servers and associated technologies.

 

 

For EMC who was slapped in the face earlier this year when Dell took a run at 3PAR, sure there will be more erosion on the lower end CLARiiOn as has been occurring with the EqualLogic. However Dell still needs a solution to effectively compete with EMC and others at the higher end of the SMB or lower end of the enterprise market.

 

 

Sure the EqualLogic or Compellent products could be deployed into such scenarios; however those solutions are then playing on a different field and out of their market sweet spots.

 

 

Lets see what happens shall we.

 

 

In the meantime, what say you?

 

 

Is this a good deal for Dell, who is the deal good for assuming it goes through and at the terms mentioned, what is your take?

 

 

Who benefits from this proposed deal?

 

 

Click on the follow link to see the post with links to related material as well as a poll where you can provide your thoughts on who this deal would be good for.

 

 

http://storageioblog.com/?p=1639

 

 

Note that in the holiday gift giving spirit, Chicago style voting or polling will be enabled.

 

 

Ok, nuf said for now.

 

 

Cheers gs

 

 

Greg Schulz - Author The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

 

twitter @storageio