Don’t Be Duped By De-Duplication…

by Administrator on August 17, 2015

Tomorrow at 2PM EDT, I will be moderating a webinar with Arcserve on the subject of de-duplication technology:  Don’t Be Duped by De-Duplication.  Registration is here.

While I acknowledge that a lot of folks are using de-duplication technology, I am still a bit concerned about implementing it universally — across all primary storage — and about adding another layer of stuff I need to do to my data backup if I want to return the data to a usable form.

Moreover, I remain perturbed by the BS that substitutes for a business case for the technology. Reduction ratios are still being exaggerated, nonsensical assertions are being made about how data transfers across a WAN will be sped up significantly by the technology, etc. I get to vent and ask for some clarification from one of the more modest evangelists for the technology, Bob Spurzem of Arcserve. Tune in, if you can spare 45 min or so.

See you tomorrow!


Migrating to Windows 10? Back It Up First!

by Administrator on August 17, 2015


If you are like me, your office life probably extends into your home, where you not only do some of your office work but also support the computing requirements of your children, spouse and pets.  So, while it is nice to get the occasional freebie from your software vendor – say, a free upgrade to the next generation operating system platform for all of your 20 or so PCs, laptops and tablets – it can also be a weekend killer if anything goes wrong.

In my case, moving to Windows 10 seemed like a no brainer.  Microsoft has enlisted a lot of fan boys to hype the benefits and made the price tag (free for users of Windows 7 and later) reasonable.  With so much going for it, I set aside my usual hesitation about deploying any “even-numbered release” from Redmond and plunged in.

The process doesn’t take that long, provided your systems are not too old for new drivers to exist for mainboard components and accessories.  If you receive the message that you need to wait to be “notified” when your upgrade is ready, this is likely because Microsoft has detected some unsupported hardware in your rig.  Some anonymous driver for some anonymous component from some anonymous vendor is required before things can proceed.  With the hand-me-down computers that some of my kids are using, getting drivers for old chipsets may take some time.

In the meantime, before doing any installs, the pessimist in me tells me to take a backup.  And, no, much as I like the convenience of it, using the built-in Windows image-based full system backup (using the so-called System Image Backup application) is not my preferred approach.  Here’s why.

First off, the instructions for using this function are extremely limited.  To do a good job, you need to do quite a bit of research in the tangled collection of websites, message boards and blogs.  You will learn that you can’t do incremental backups or schedule backup times – two pretty bad fails in the business context, especially for medium and larger enterprises where you may have a lot of systems to backup prior to upgrading.  Even in the case of my little home-based networks, it’s a pain to have to do another full backup because there is some other software update that needs to be downloaded and applied before you convert from Win7 to Win10.

Plus, when it comes right down to it, you are limited as to what you can backup and you have little granularity in terms of either backup sources and targets or restore priorities.  I can’t choose which disks to backup, for example. This becomes a bother in the case of one of my systems that has some external eSATA and USB enclosures attached to the motherboard.  Since these drives (actually small JBODs or RAID systems) have drive letters that make them look like part of my internal disk subsystem, they automatically get backed up together with my root drive increasing the size of the backup and the length of time it takes to do it.

The predictable response from my friends is to simply detach the eSATA and USB-connected drives.  But if you unplug them, there is a chance that they will not be easily reattached to the system when the upgrade is complete.  From past experience, I worry a lot about the readability of RAID systems if any change is made to their connection to the system mainboard or I/O software stack.

Conversely, I also have a lot of data on some network-attached storage shares.  These I might like to include in my system backup, but can’t.  Microsoft Windows System Image Backup doesn’t let you backup networked drives or folders.  Yet, external drives are the only acceptable targets for backup, you can’t use any internal drives or eSATA/USB rigs that may be regarded as internal drives by the software.

Besides logistics, there are a few other niggling restrictions that may or may not matter to others as much as they do to me.  For one, only the NTFS file system is supported by System Image Backup.  This can be problematic if you are running a dual boot system or if you simply use some storage to hold test dev stuff like those Android apps your kids think will make them the next Internet millionaire.

And, in my office setting at least, the lack of encryption for backups can be problematic.  Audit departments often set some pretty strident rules around the protection of financial and human resources data, even in the form of a backup.

All in all, the Windows System Image Backup is a rather awkward fit for both the casual/home user, whose needs may be simple, but who will find the product too complex and confusing to use, and for the enterprise user, who may confront different kinds of data, different versions of Windows, and different configurations of internal and external storage that simply go beyond the functionality set of the Microsoft utility.  When it comes to backup, System Image Backup is neither fish nor fowl – but sort of a hybrid product waiting to be usurped by the backup-in-the-cloud meme that Microsoft, with its Azure platform, has begun evangelizing.

That said, I am not anti-Microsoft.  I am, however, very concerned about my ability to recover effectively and fully from a botched Windows 10 upgrade.  If I can’t back out of the process on one of my business machines, it costs me money and reputation.  (I have after all written four books on disaster recovery.)  If I can’t restore one of my kid’s machines following some misstep, it will more than likely cost me my sanity.

My solution is to use a dedicated backup and data protection product to provide me with the flexibility and security that I need before I accept the Terms of Agreement and launch, with fingers tightly crossed, the Windows 10 upgrade process.  In this case, I opted for the Acronis True Image 2016 product, which has worked well.  In fact, once the backup was taken and the upgrade was made to Windows 10, I was glad that I took another post-install backup.  When I started testing the new look and feel of my system, post-upgrade, I inadvertently clicked on an email link that launched the new web browser, Edge, and delivered me into the hands of a malware attack that hijacked my Edge home page and gave me a phone number to call to ransom back control of my browser.  (Similar to the pic below.)



I restored the new Win10 image, updated my antivirus and malware software and told myself not to click on unfamiliar links anymore.  Try telling that to my kids though:  looks like the Acronis True Image Backup software will become part of our standard kit going forward.

win main recovery as is


C’mon Gartner! Cut It Out Already.

by Administrator on August 14, 2015

JWTwhynotI don’t know about you, but I wonder a lot these days whether there are any analysts left who are worth my time to read.  That’s my Friday rant for this week, brought on by a article I read on Storage Newsletter abstracting a Gartner report.  Entitled 2015 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup Software and Integrated Appliances — Gartner, the piece did the normal Gartner kudos for paying customers of its services (the winners in the Magic Quadrant) and also ran status for non-paying players who must sell enough product that they simply cannot be ignored.

Personally, I could give a rat’s butt how Gartner ranks anything.  However, it really annoyed me to see the comments at the end of the intro to the abstract — a sort of crystal ball look-see into the future of backup and data protection.  I quote…

Gartner states that by 2016, 20% of organizations, up from 12% today, will employ only snapshot and replication techniques, abandoning traditional backup/recovery for the majority of their data; by 2018 50% of organizations will have augmented with additional products or have replaced their current backup application compared to what they employed in 2014; and by 2019, there will be a 60% increase in the number of large enterprises opting to eliminate tape for operational recovery.

Wow, this is really a race to the bottom, if true.  Endless snapshots and mindless write replication to replace backup?  The elimination of tape for operational recovery?  Clearly, some analysts over at Gartner do not exist in the real world.  Or maybe the IQs of those who they survey in the business world have dropped significantly over the past couple of years?

Snapshots done internally (inside the storage array) or even between two arrays on the same floor might have sufficient temporal proximity (despite their obvious asynchronicity) to afford some sort of continuity of operations.  Push them out over a wire to traverse a separation of sufficient distance adequate to protect operations against interruption events with a broader geographical footprint and you have a recipe for a disaster within a disaster.  Even if you are successful in sending snaps or replicated data over distance to another stand of silicon or disk, how will you access this data if a Big D disaster happens?  Frankly, smart folk insist that their cloud-based DRaaS (DR as a service, or the new HOT SITE) have tape as an alternative way to retrieve their data in a disaster.  Without it, you might just as well put your data into AWS Glacier since you can obviously wait for its return for however long it takes for Amazon to find it and thaw it out.

It is this kind of BS, when left unchecked, that becomes a meme.  Gartner denies it today, but in the late 1990s, they declared tape dead — claiming that 1 in 10 tapes fails on restore.  That too was crappola when they said it.

Look, Gartner.  I understand that your stuff is manufactured to please your service-purchasing vendor clients.  I get that you are in this game to turn a profit.  But, please, just stick to your silly quadrants and leave the guidance to folks who have actually seen the inside of a data center.  Just askin’.


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A Study in Contrasts

by Administrator on August 10, 2015

tumblr_mjkep4opNl1s86k35o1_500I will probably forego VMworld this year.  I know, I know.  A lot of fan boys and hangers on say that this is the event of the year — a place to go, to see and be seen.  A lot of vendors have been contacting me to find out whether I can visit them at the show while I am there and have seemed somewhat surprised when I told them I probably wouldn’t be in attendance.   Frankly speaking, I don’t want to go to VMworld for a simple reason:  it depresses me — partly because I haven’t really cared about the announcements they have made at the show over the past few years, but also for a very deep seated philosophical reason that I will summarize here.

VMworld features a very large assemblage of vendor sponsors who are represented as part of the VMware ecosystem.  Mostly they are there to “draft” off the marketing spend of VMware, to reduce their spend on advertising and to reach the huge VMware fan boy base.  Even editors of publications and trade press analysts go to the show to drum up customers for advertising and/or service subscriptions.  The whole thing is very Capitalist.  I get that.

What I don’t really get into is the parasitic nature of the VMware ecosystem.  The last time I went to the show, I sat down with an assortment of the 190ish ecosystem “partners” in attendance to learn what they contribute to the wonderful world of VMware infrastructure.   To a one, they levitra buy australia told me that their product or service was designed to fix a problem created by VMware.  Imagine that:  an entire vendor ecosystem designed around the notion of shoring up the many flaws of a poorly designed core technology.

Yet, VMware says that the show, the large fan boy base and the vendor ecosystem is testimony to the idea that they are not a product, they are a movement!  (No kidding.  They really say that.  Like some religious cult that fleeces its flock by charging outrageous sums for clearing their IT infrastructure of all of that “reactive mind” stuff  so that the faithful can get “clear” — achieve some nirvanistic state of full virtualization.)

Well, bull-pucky.  There, I said it.

I prefer a show like IBM Edge, in which the vendor leading the event has some top notch core technology (say, z 13 mainframes) and invites all vendors to play in that playground to expand capabilities and enhance the overall value of the platform.  Heck, IBM encourages even those with competing products, services or visions to add to the catalog of features and functions that are already delivered by their products.  In short, IBM has enough guts to open up their platform to innovators and to acknowledge when their business partners find new ways to serve customers.  That is a very different thing from a parasitic ecosystem built on the destruction and decay created by the primary vendor’s core tech.

Case in point:  here are some video interviews I shot at IBM Edge 2015 with some IBM Business Partners.  Frankly, for all of the IBM folks that could have been shoved in front of my lens, I was pleasantly surprised that my IBM handlers drove me to schedule time with some of their Business Partners.  Talk about putting your Business Partner relationships front and center! (Late breaking addition:  Apparently, Business Partners love IBM too, per this article…)

Let’s begin with an interview I did with Catalogic CEO Ed Walsh.  I have known Ed through several senior management positions he has held with highly successful tech companies.  I was getting the impression that he was the guy that VCs would hire to go into a so-so company and spruce it up by getting it on a paying basis so that it would be an attractive acquisition target.  It appears in the case of Catalogic that he has no such exit strategy in mind.  He is about as enthusiastic for the functionality that Catalogic provides as I have ever seen him.  Check out the video to learn more about what Catalogic is doing and how it fits in your IBM infrastructure…



What I see in pushing forward a vendor like Catalogic is IBM giving some love to a partner that enhances the capabilities of their core offerings.  Companies do not need Catalogic to fix a problem created by IBM.  They need a tool to manage data better that just happens to be processed in an IBM infrastructure (as well as others).
Slightly different is the story with Tim Campbell, President of CenterGrid.  Tim is offering a cloud service for managed hosting and, more recently, providing some Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solutions.  You might think that IBM would see Tim as a competitor to their own hot site services, which are more and more becoming cloud enabled.  But, again, the “big tent” view of IBM enables it to see Time through the lens of merchantilism, rather than kammeralism.  (Don’t fret.  These aren’t some newfangled software defined terms that you missed during your Summer hiatus.  It took me a degree in Political Economy to understand what these “isms” mean — basically, the merchantilists viewed a market as an expanding set of opportunities with many winners, while kammeralists saw the market as a zero sum game in which vendor B’s success is vendor A’s loss.)

Anyway, IBM doesn’t concern itself with the competition represented by CenterGrid, but rather it values the complementarity of the partner’s offering to IBM’s own technology.  Most important to IBM, it seems, is the real benefit of its partner’s innovative technology or service to consumers.  That is what an ecosystem is supposed to be about.

CenterGrid, courtesy of some software developed by Thomas Bak’s company (another IBM Business Partner), FrontSafe, enables smaller and medium sized companies to have access to some best-of-breed “enterprise class” data protection software in the form of Spectrum Protect (formerly Tivoli Storage Manager).  Bak’s software puts an easy to use “cloud” front end on Spectrum Protect, enabling its delivery in a multi-tenant model by service providers like CenterGrid.  Here are Campbell and Bak talking about this great offering…




Special thanks to Tim and Thomas for allowing me to tape our interviews.

Bottom line:  I prefer a real vendor conference event, one that advances new ideas and helps me learn how best to apply their technology (and that of their business partners) to my business automation challenges, to a show in which the lead vendor fills the room with noise about being a movement and its ecosystem partners have a simple role:  fixing all of the things that the lead vendor breaks.  I especially prefer an event where the vendor doesn’t have an exclusionary and kammeralist mindset.  VMware is not such a company, from what I can see.  Whatever its original value as a technology for timesharing unicore processors among multiple virtual machines, it is not delivering virtually any of its original value case today.  Add to that an obvious desire (they make no bones about it) to impose its own sort of half-baked authoritarian order in the data center and VMware looks a lot like a less mature IBM circa 1977.  As was the case with IBM, VMware will eventually get their hat handed to them — perhaps sooner than anyone expects.  Until then, though, I will spend my conference-going budget on a useful show, like Edge, where I can talk to truly knowledgeable experts and expand my knowledge via the many innovative business partners that flock to that event.

For the record, I was compensated to attend the Edge event, mainly because I was teaching five sessions at TechEdge.  For participating in live tweets and other social media activities, I was given transport and lodging at the event and a pass to the show.


Let’s Talk Storage Economics

August 6, 2015

 Do you ever get the feeling — maybe as you sit down to work on your quarterly, semi-annual or yearly budget — that you are flushing your storage budget down the proverbial loo? Truth is that disk drives are not doing the same price-drop-by-50%-per-GB-every-12-months thing that they have done since the mid 1980s.  The flash […]

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Ruminating on Revolutions

August 6, 2015

I have been thinking a lot lately about revolutions.  Seems like every vendor on the planet wants to represent their wares as “revolutionary” — and believes that they must spend a lot of money on marketing and promotion to help the revolution along.  I wrote about this in my Infrastruggle column at Virtualization Review in the […]

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Software-Defined Battles Continue

August 5, 2015

The battle for the hearts and minds of storage consumers continues — though, with VMworld coming up, you might not be hearing the debate at full volume.  Everyone in the parasitic VMware ecosystem tends to tone down the contrarian rhetoric when the BIG show appears on the calendar.  For about a week, maybe a bit longer when you […]

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Sick of the “Commodity Storage” Moniker, Look at IBM’s DS8870

July 27, 2015

I, for one, am sick and tired of folks referring to all storage as commodity kit.  I am tired of hearing how all arrays are all the same, regardless of vendor, when you take away the value-add software that peddlers have elected to join at the hip to a proprietary controller.  That storage arrays are the devil, designed to […]

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Rain, Rain, Go Away…Maybe to California

July 27, 2015

Here in Tampa Bay, Florida, we are in the midst of a veritable monsoon.  Every day has seen an inundation by the wet stuff, flooding streets and discovering inroads to offices and homes that we all hoped didn’t exist. Fortunately, I had my roof replaced last year after it was partially taken off by a […]

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Z News is all Good for IBM

July 21, 2015

This is one of those cases when I am delighted to say, “I TOLD YOU SO.” The new mainframe from IBM that I have been tracking since January is putting up some solid sales numbers in today’s second quarter earnings report from Big Blue.  Business Insider has the stats and charts. I have been a […]

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