How to Win at Non-Trivial Pursuit

If you are reading this blog, it’s already too late for me, but you still have a chance to save yourself. I’ve fallen in with the wrong crowd, and find myself surrounded by an armada of analysts, a ream of researchers, and a cabal of client segment coordinators. There is a door marked “Lab” which emits strange clanking and whimpering sounds, but absolutely no light. Run, whilst you have the chance, you’ve been warned….

Still here? Ok, then. Let’s talk data.

Topics: Data Platforms, Analytics, & AI

Large Organizations Need Open Security Intelligence Standards and Technologies

A few years ago, Trend Micro announced that it would enhance its on-site AV products with cloud-based intelligence it called the “Smart Protection Network” (SPN). I’m not sure if Trend was the first, but it certainly wasn’t the last vendor to embrace this type of architecture. In fact, just about everyone now has a toe in the cloud-based security intelligence pool. For example, Blue Coat promotes its WebPulse security intelligence, Cisco champions its Security Intelligence Operations (SIO), and Symantec trumpets DeepSight. Security intelligence sharing initiatives (like CISPA) are also a big part of the Federal government’s cybersecurity initiatives.

What does cloud-based security intelligence entail? In many cases, it takes advantage of the proverbial “network effect” (sometimes referred to as Metcalfe’s law and attributed to Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe). According to Wikipedia: Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). Each instance of the vendor’s product acts as a sensor for security intelligence (i.e., malware detection, rogue URL detection, rogue application detection, etc.). The vendor then implements a cloud repository to publish, analyze, and distribute this information to all other customer nodes around the network.

Topics: Cybersecurity

Big Blue is Betting on More than Just Cloudy Technology

The past few days were spent engaged with IBM and their annual Software Analyst event. The meetings started out with Steve Mills talking about their overarching strategy and their shift in how they design products (you have to check out their new design studio in Austin) and how the enterprise is driven by internal and external customers.

Topics: Internet of Things Data Platforms, Analytics, & AI Enterprise Mobility Cloud Services & Orchestration

NetApp – Not Up Much, But That Masks Notable Growth Where it Matters

Last week NetApp announced its Q2’13 earnings, and in isolation one might not find them overly compelling: revenue was up just 1% from Q2’12 with good cost control keeping margins healthy. However perspective and context is everything – and these results are indeed compelling for a couple of reasons.

  • Versus the general competition in the market, aside from some specialists in the red-hot flash component/media world, the batch of recent quarterly results from traditional storage vendors has been underwhelming in general. The only two vendors to drive small actual revenue increases have been NetApp and EMC, whose single-digit improvements look good by comparison to the others.
  • There are plenty of signs of good progress in NetApp’s attested areas of strategic-focus; the vendor talks about concentrating on delivering “cloud-integrated” (which includes convergence) and “flash-accelerated” (which includes multiple implementations) offerings… and it is doing pretty well in both endeavors.

We all know that there are abundant and aggressive changes taking place in the IT and storage worlds. For whatever reason (although maybe – and not necessarily positively - it has something to do with NetApp’s seemingly constant appearance in the top rankings of ‘Best Places to Work’!?), NetApp doesn’t always get the recognition it should for its moves to play hard and successful in this new world. Who knew, for instance, that it has shipped over 60PB of flash storage? Moreover nearly a third of that has been in all-flash arrays, an arena where NetApp’s detractors will have you believe it is a day late and a dollar short. Well, you don’t sell PB of all-flash by mistake to unwary buyers, so it must have done something right with the EF540! (indeed, in Q2 it increased its customer base for this by 40% and shipped over 200 units, and – this week – announced a new E550 version).

Clustered Data ONTAP is key to NetApp’s future, designed to act as the hybrid manager across multiple storage types. Yeah, the full-functioning product took longer than desired to come to market, but now it is making impressive strides: for instance NetApp counts over 40 of the Fortune 100 and over 100 of the Fortune 500 as Clustered Data ONTAP users. The expanding and expanded use-cases for the product are demonstrated by the facts that over 11% of the buyers are net-new NetApp users, while already 13% are repeat buyers of the product.

Clustered Data ONTAP also figures prominently in another key growth area for NetApp: 45% of FlexPod shipments (NetApp’s converged system offering, with a base of some 3300 users) are running on it. This is interesting because private cloud implementations invariably demand a non-stop architecture – and NetApp’s AutoSupport [real world data] shows that the install base of Clustered Data ONTAP is achieving six nines of uptime. My colleague, Mark Bowker, wrote early this month about the value that the three horsemen of FlexPod – NetApp, Cisco, and Citrix – bring to, and see in, their co-operative approach. You can read his blog here: the-power-of-3-citrix-cisco-and-netapp-deliver-data-center-to-the-desktop/index.html" target="_blank">The Power of 3: Citrix, Cisco, and NetApp Deliver Data Center to the Desktop. Of course, as mentioned, we live in a complex IT world that is full of flux – and so NetApp is also working collaboratively with the likes of VMware, Oracle, and Amazon. This approach is crucial for many vendors, and never-more-so than for a best-of-breed-emphasis company such as NetApp.

Of course, you also have to keep the lights on while growing these new areas. Thus, there are still plenty of FAS systems leaving the dock, and this week also saw a new aggressive price/performance E Series family member for the ROBO and SMB markets (the E2700 SAN) and significant updates to the E5500.

So, when we see any vendors’ results out of context, we can easily get the wrong end of the stick. NetApp not up much? Hmmm….it is actually up to plenty, and its relative results are not-too-shabby either!

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure Cloud Services & Orchestration

Soonr Makes Moves to Appeal to Security Conscious Organizations

Online file sharing and collaboration vendor Soonr impressed us one year ago when ESG ran its test drive of 13 OFS vendors. Though lesser known than some of the other solutions tested, Soonr had an intuitive interface and was one of the first to offer good native preview, document annotation, and editing. IT found it easy to provision and loved that it was one of the few vendors that offered backup capability. But product release cycles average anywhere from 2-4 weeks in this crowded market and just because you’re on top one minute doesn’t mean you will be the next. Vendors understand this and, over the last year, have been racing to develop functionality beyond sync and share to alleviate IT concerns around data control and security, and to make their solution is as sticky as possible for end-users.

Earlier this year, Soonr announced file locking, document scanning, and mobile device control features, and its latest announcement goes even further to compete for more security conscious seats:

  • More granular sharing permissions. With OFS usage expected to expand throughout businesses and across organizational boundaries, DLP functionality is becoming more in demand as IT contends with keeping data secure and ensuring the right people have the right permissions. The new settings will offer more flexibility and thus accuracy around user or document permission levels.
  • Project owner reassignment. Projects can now be reassigned to new owners, securing company assets and making it easier for business units to operate continuously in the event an employee changes roles or leaves the company.
  • Enterprise reports. Offers canned or custom IT reports/audit trails for more visibility into activity around accounts, devices, projects, or files.
  • Control over backup settings and compatibility for Linux users.
Topics: Storage Cybersecurity IT Infrastructure

The Security Industry Remains Strong with Computer Science but Weak on IT

Last week, I was in Silicon Valley meeting with a parade of CISOs and security vendors. Business travel is no “day at the beach,” but these trips really help me keep up with the latest enterprise security challenges and potential technology solutions.

It was also nice to spend time in the Valley and re-charge my batteries toward the security industry. There was a lot of excitement out there as a result of business growth, VC investment, and the wildly successful FireEye IPO.

Topics: Cybersecurity

Simplivity Changing the Way IT Runs

If you are having any doubts about the IT infrastructure consumption model changing, Simplivity’s series C of $58 million should catch the attention of a lot of IT vendors and IT consumers. Consuming infrastructure piece parts that all perform a specific function and then spending an enormous amount of time integrating, troubleshooting, and supporting IT infrastructure, while fun and challenging for many IT professionals, is not the most efficient use of time nor investment dollars. Consuming a simplified infrastructure architecture that is turnkey, performs on par with or better than the existing hardware platform, AND includes features and functionality that are unattainable for many is where IT is headed.

Simplivity is right in the mix of the market and its timing is well suited to where IT shops are today with virtualization at all tiers and turning the corner towards cloud consumption models. Whether it is a hardware refresh, scaling the virtualized environment, or spanning resources to a public cloud provider, Simplivity is well matched to help in all situations. The fact that Simplivity collapses IT infrastructure is important, but it is everything else Simplivty can do out of the box that really matters. This includes data architecture features that deduplicate, compress, and optimize data locally in a cluster and extend the value with replication and WAN acceleration features, enabling IT to manage a globally distributed platform as a single system.

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure Networking Cloud Services & Orchestration

An Enterprising Amazon or an Amazon’d Enterprise?

I just wrapped up a week out here in Last Vegas at the Amazon Web Services conference re:Invent with some 9000 of my friends. You might think this was just another big tech conference full of nerds (well yeah – I am in pretty good company), but there are some striking differences here.

The first one is Amazon itself – this is a company that has taken tremendous pains to deliver all the services the enterprise wants. They talked a good bit about what they do under the covers with their specialized hardware – but more importantly they really have figured out how to build out a very rich set of services that appeal to expert and novice software developers alike.

Topics: Cloud Services & Orchestration

XtremIO: Truly Xciting or Just As Xpected?

Yesterday’s official launch and declaration of General Availability for EMC’s XtremIO purpose-built all-flash array was notable in a number of ways….few of them, frankly, much to do with the product. The furor of comments and range of opinions was up there with the release of a Miley Cyrus video….and pop culture was indeed woven into the launch event itself, with a band of rent-a-[presumably EMC]-crowd enthusiasts whooping and hollering between the various presentations. I loved the ‘Top Gear’ style studio and the multiple presentation styles, places and media….but please lose the Xcruciating crowd….unless of course, this was really Oprah or Ellen and their unadulterated enthusiasm was because they were all getting to take an XtremIO home!? [It would make a perfect Xmas gift! – sorry, couldn’t resist!]

By now (actually by months ago, since this has hardly been a closely guarded product secret), you either know all about the product, or can find out what it is from a thousand sources and read about why it’s apparently not as good as all that from a thousand more competitive ones. So, let me cover the product detail really succinctly: XtremIO is a highly capable, scale-out, all flash storage array that focuses on consistent very-high performance and requires very little management. It utilizes metadata, new data protection algorithms and deduplication to intelligently manage the balanced placement of an optimized amount of data across its multi-controller managed ‘X-Bricks.’ OK? It is, on balance, a very sound product offering; like any product it has its plus points and its missing elements.

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure

vBlog: You Too Can be a Data Protection Super Hero

The awesome folks in the ESG Video team recently let me sit down and record a few podcasts that I will be releasing over the next few weeks. In this one, I started thinking about the challenges of midsized organizations and ensuring adequate data protection and recovery.

Topics: Data Protection

Businesses Report Significant Use of Desktop Virtualization Technology

Desktop virtualization is an alternative PC delivery model in which applications, operating systems, user data, profiles, and/or entire end-user environments are encapsulated and delivered to or executed on a remote endpoint device. The various desktop virtualization delivery models allow for centralized management, hosting, and/or execution, as well as syncing capabilities that enable local execution on an endpoint device.

Topics: Enterprise Mobility Cloud Services & Orchestration

Careful, the Sleeping Storage Giants are Awakening

Last week I spent a nice day in Boston that happened to also to be Halloween for an event with EMC’s executives. There was a general sense of fun in the air because of the Boston Red Sox’s World Series victory the night before as well as the fact that it was Halloween. It was during the EMC event that the light bulb went on for me – that all these storage guys are definitely not asleep at the wheel when it comes to cloud.

This week is OpenStack’s conference in Hong Kong and next week is Amazon’s annual event re: Invent in Las Vegas. There is a lot going on with both of these events that I’ll cover in another blog – so in contrast to what everyone else is writing about, I thought I’d talk about the big storage companies and what they are doing in the cloud.

Topics: Cloud Services & Orchestration

Time to Stop Creating Aggregation Points. Everywhere.

I complained recently about how great it was that servers could scale out ad infinitum these days, but why was it that we still keep edging down and down until we are forced to traverse ONE single RAID controller in order to get to the 8000 disks with the data behind it? It makes no sense. Sooner or later, we need to scale RAID controllers linearly just like we do servers – after all, each is really the same thing running different applications.

The same holds true in networking. To get from point A to point B, we have to traverse a zillion ports until we get to a CORE (think RAID controller) to get back out to what it is we really want, which is on another port(s) somewhere else. Why not just have everything connected to everything and take a direct path?

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking

First Thoughts on Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure

The much anticipated Cisco ACI launch occurred today in the venerable Waldorf Astoria in NYC, just as John Chambers had predicted a little over a month ago at the Interop conference keynote. This launch was centered on the solutions created by the Insieme team (officially part of Cisco as of today).

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking

Apple’s iPhone 5s Touch ID: A Game Changer

We analysts are known for our bold predictions about the future. Well here’s one from me though I don’t really think it is the least bit audacious. In a few years, we will look back at the iPhone 5s as a milestone in terms of biometrics, strong authentication, and a wave of new types of trusted applications.

To be clear, this has very little to do with Apple, the iPhone, or Touch ID per se. As an analogy, few people (other than we industry history geeks) know about the Altair 8800, but many researchers believe that this microcomputer launched in 1975 unleashed the PC era and with it the introduction of Compaq, Dell, Intel, and Microsoft, and the associated changes they made to business and the world.

Topics: Cybersecurity Enterprise Mobility

Information Security versus “Shadow IT” (and mobility, cloud computing, BYOD, etc.)

We’ve all read the marketing hype about “shadow IT” where business managers make their own IT decisions without the CIO’s knowledge or approval. According to ESG research, this risk is actually overstated at most organizations, but there is no denying that IT is getting harder to manage as a result of BYOD, cloud computing, IT consumerization, and mobility.

As these trends perpetuate, CISOs find themselves in the proverbial hot seat – it’s difficult to secure applications, assets, network sessions, and transactions that you don’t own or control.

Topics: Cybersecurity

The Power of 3: Citrix, Cisco, and NetApp Deliver Data Center to the Desktop

The synergies, engineering efforts, and go to market execution of these three companies should not be underestimated in a time where IT organizations are looking for integrated solutions and businesses transform toward cloud computing. Businesses with ongoing efforts in desktop delivery, cloud adoption, and simplifying infrastructure should include the holistic value and simplification these companies can deliver. Each of these companies brings unique capabilities that when synced together are going to be a difficult force to reckon with. Commonalities include:

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure Networking Enterprise Mobility Cloud Services & Orchestration