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Open note to Marc Farley

by Administrator on June 17, 2007

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I must respond to a post by Marc Farley on EqualLogic’s blog.  Tried to do so on his site, but it bailed when saving the comment. 

Here is what he wrote:

Jon Toigo, DrunkenData, posted on what he thought was unfair treatment on Zillaman’s blog, particularly the posting where Zillaman likened JT to SouthPark’s Eric Cartman character. JT apparently thinks this was inappropriate and that others (including me) were guilty of piling on. Hmmm….You can’t have it both ways Jon, seeing as part of your shtick has always been ridicule. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way, its just that you really ought to roll with the punches a little better.

My response was as follows (not exact wording because I didn’t make a copy before Marc’s blog comment engine abended).

Dear Marc,

In response to your post, I would like to say that I did not take umbrage with the comparison to a cartoon character in a popular cable TV series.  My only exception to the reference was that the character in question is a bigot and a racist, as anyone who has seen the show can attest.  He hates Jews, African Americans, and just about any other minority group that is brought into a storyline.  Personally, I find the character offensive, but that is just me and I just change the channel.  For the record, I don’t like this comparison, but I do not deny StorageZilla’s right to try his hand at humor. 

However, what pained me about the fun that everyone was having were the important questions that were going unanswered.  You are a smart guy, so you might get what I was asking, which came down to three questions.

First, I asked why I should be reading an EMC-paid-for paper from ESG about the Invista virtualization product.  I saw nothing in your post (or StorageZilla’s) addressing the value of vendor-commissioned advertorials coming from “independent” analysts.

Second, I observed that, unlike all of its competitors, the EMC Invista product does not support Copy on Write, the value of which a smart fellow like yourself should appreciate.  With copy on write, we can write mission critical data to two storage targets at once.  I once speculated that EMC did not have this functionality because they were seeking to perpetuate a strategy embedded in SRDF: Copy After Write.  Copy after Write occurs, as the name implies, after data is first written to one target.  Data is then replicated between two (usually three) EMC arrays in a multi-hop mirror.  All arrays must be EMC. 

With multi-hop EMC mirroring, customers spend $450K per array plus about $70K each in annual software licenses for SRDF.  Pretty expensive.  Couldn’t we reduce the cost by copying during the write and by being able to target disparate arrays from different manufacturers?

Your friend dismissed me out of hand and said that I obviously had no clue about what customers want in a virtualization product.  In my defense, apparently a sufficient number of EMC customers wanted Copy on Write to prompt Hopkinton to buy Kashya last year.  But now to get this Kaysha functionality, you need to buy another product in addition to Invista.  My simple question was (and is) “Why?”

Third, I made the general observation about all virtualization wares that (a) there were no standards and that (b) striping across LUNs exposed by arrays produced by different manufacturers would likely produce unstable volumes.  So, the holy grail of virtualization, espoused in just about every marketing slick from every virtualization vendor out there, of any-to-any LUN aggregation remains complete and utter bullshit.  This led me to ask why a consumer would want to layer on Invista at all, unless they were a purely EMC shop?

Marc, I think these were all valid questions and worthy of reflection by my readers.  Pity that StorageZilla, an EMC employee, saw fit to reduce the discussion into an ad hominem attack.  Pity that you chimed in, not only on his post, but with another post of your own.  It casts a shadow over both EMC and now EqualLogic that you aren’t interested in addressing real questions.  It is also why you are not linked to my blog roll.

Marc, you are a smart guy, as I said above.  I have read your book and its pretty good.  That said, why are you getting involved in (coming to the defense of) an EMC hatchetman? 

Your characterization of my work as ridicule is interesting.  There are only a couple of instances I can recall when I ridiculed a person, but I have criticized — sometimes harshly — the bad architectural ideas I have seen, and the triumph of marketecture over architecture that is the bane of all IT consumers seeking actionable information about their product options.  That is my “shtick,” as you call it. 

What’s your’s, now that you work for a vendor?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

marcfarley June 18, 2007 at 4:22 am

JT, I have no vested interest in supporting EMC, a company that my employer, EqualLogic, competes with. That said, I like reading Storagezilla’s blog. He’s obviously insanely biased, but he has a wicked, creative sense of humor that I enjoy. Storage bloggers tend to lack humor and Zillaman stands out as an exception. FWIW, I wasn’t on your blog roll, was I? Did I just get kicked off?

I stand by what I said about the “R” word being part of your shtick. Like I said, its not necessarily a problem, but thicker skin wears better. Anyway, I missed on the analysis. Instead, its clear to me that you are a contrarian – and FWIW a pretty good one. If the industry creates a standard (SMI-S) – you say that its stupid. If the industry lacks a standard, you say that it needs one (replication). Its not easy pulling off these things but you have a talent for it – and for promoting yourself as a contrarian thinker.

That said, don’t expect me to agree with you about much of anything – including the definition of “real issues”. For instance I don’t think EMC’s lack of copy on write in Invista is a big deal, nor is the fact that ESG published an analysis of the product as a “work for hire”. I think people will figure out for themselves what’s important without us being blogging buddies.

Administrator June 18, 2007 at 7:57 am

Thanks for your answer, Marc, which underscores my very points. You read Storagezilla for a laugh. That’s cool. I am sure that some of my traffic comes from visitors seeking some entertainment value — but I am secretly hoping that they go away with a little useful information too.

You weren’t on my blogroll (most vendor reps aren’t, unless they have some technical insights to offer), so you weren’t removed. As for your other comments:

You say I am a contrarian. When common sense equals contrarianism, we are all screwed, Marc.

The contradiction you cite, between my stance against SMI-S and in favor of standards for things like replication, virtualization, etc., would be easy to understand if you read what I have written.

I am all in favor of storage management standards, but SNIA and the industry are incapable of developing one to fruition. I like some of SMI, I have merely observed that a very small fraction of products implement it and those that do do so unevenly. EMC implements a pretty good provider, HDS charges extra for theirs, which delivers less capability than their own API. What boggles my mind is how SNIA can say that SMI is a done deal when only about 500 products are instrumented with providers and nearly 15,000 new storage products were introduced last year alone.

I don’t expect you to agree with me on anything, Marc. You apparently aren’t talking with the same consumers that I am: the ones who want to know the difference between hype and reality, who are confused by claims in vendor marketing literature, who are misled by analysts and by sales droids.

Administrator June 18, 2007 at 9:05 am

BTW, is ridicule really the word you want to use? According to Merriam-Websters:

RIDICULE, DERIDE, MOCK, TAUNT mean to make an object of laughter of. RIDICULE implies a deliberate often malicious belittling (consistently ridiculed everything she said). DERIDE suggests contemptuous and often bitter ridicule (derided their efforts to start their own business). MOCK implies scorn often ironically expressed as by mimicry or sham deference (youngsters began to mock the helpless wino). TAUNT suggests jeeringly provoking insult or challenge (hometown fans taunted the visiting team).

While I do seek to expose some ideas as ridiculous, I see this less as malicious belittling than as a challenge intended to provoke a meaningful discussion or debate. Rarely to I ridicule a person.

jaded June 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Historically the only way a tech vendor (especially a startup or up and comer) could gain credibility was through analyst support, reports and analysis since we put these guys on an “expert” pedestal. After that of course, some prospective customers, prospective investors and journalists, use these experts to approve technology.

With the democratization of opinion-sharing available via blogs and other web vehicles, consumers have a choice, and they can get their information from multiple sources: vendor-supplied info or testimonials, industry associations, pay-to-play analyst reports, neutral analyst reports, unsolicited end-user testimonials, message boards and blogs.

Thanks for providing an alternate reality.

Administrator June 18, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Thank you, jaded, for getting it.

Once folks realize that the analyst game is institutionalized nonsense, maybe they will look elsewhere for info. Frankly, I would really like for people to be asking each other questions about the products they are using. What works? What doesn’t? Which one delivers the most value?

Years ago, that is what analysts did. Today, it is all pay per view.

Unlike Mr. Farley, I don’t think that it is enough to say that the consumer will sort it all out eventually. There is way too much background noise obfuscating signal.

This blog is an opportunity not just for me to rant, but for others to share their perspective — even if they think I am full of marshmallows.

Glad you chimed in. You made my day.

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