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The Taneja Syndrome

by Administrator on January 27, 2008

Perusing the January issue of InfoStor, for whom I will shortly be columnizing (maybe not, after this post), I came across a piece by Christine Taylor of Taneja Group entitled “Software is the Key to ‘Green’ Storage.”  I was intrigued by the title because, as regular readers of this blog know, I agree wholeheartedly that data hygiene, archive and SRM — judiciously applied — could buy back as much as 70 percent of space on every spindle you currently deploy and make a real dent in your rate of new capacity deployment. 

I was hoping against hope that the smart folk at Taneja Group would have reached this same conclusion.

Unfortunately, as I read the piece I was beset by what was once called “Fatal Hilarity” (well, near fatal in this case, I guess). 

Fatal Hilarity is real and has claimed the lives of many prominent folks in history and probably a lot of storage administrators as well.  According to Wikipedia, which we all know to be a completely factual source of empirical wisdom,

Fatal hilarity is death as a result of laughter. The phrase was first recorded in 1596. Death is usually brought about by asphyxiation from which the thoracic diaphragm can’t expand or contract fully thus causing the inability to breathe correctly or heart failure/heart attack/cardiac arrest due to constant straining on the heart, ultimately preventing blood flow.

In history

  • According to some traditions, the mythological Greek prophet Calchas died of laughter when the day that was to be his death day arrived and the prediction didn’t seem to materialise.
  • In the third century B.C. the Greek stoic philosopher Chrysippus died of laughter after giving his ass wine, then seeing it attempt to feed on figs.
  • Martin I of Aragon died from a lethal combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughing in 1410.
  • Pietro Aretino “is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much.”
  • It is cited that the Burmese king Nanda Bayin, in 1599 “laughed to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that Venice was a free state without a king.”
  • In 1660, the Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of Rabelais into English, Thomas Urquhart, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.
  • The phenomenon is also recorded in the book Crazy History where a Celtic soothsayer was able to predict the hour of his demise. As with the death of Calchas, when the time arrived and the soothsayer found himself still alive, he purportedly laughed hysterically, eventually killing himself through either heart attack or asphyxiation.

In modern times

  • On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King’s Lynn, England, died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies, featuring a Scotsman in a kilt battling a vicious black pudding with his bagpipes. After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell’s final moments so pleasant.
  • In 1989 a Danish audiologist, Ole Bentzen, died watching A Fish Called Wanda. His heart was estimated to have beat at between 250 and 500 beats per minute, before he succumbed to cardiac arrest.
  • In 2003 Damnoen Saen-um, a Thai ice cream salesman, is reported to have died while laughing in his sleep at the age of 52. His wife tried to wake him up but couldn’t, and he stopped breathing after two minutes of continuous laughter. It is believed that he died either of heart failure or asphyxiation.

Monty Python did a sketch that trivialized this serious threat in which the funniest joke ever invented (by a fellow named Ernest Scribbler) resulted in the author’s death, his mother’s death, then was turned over to the British military who translated it into German and used it effectively as a secret weapon against the Nazis in Europe.  You can see the sketch here, but be careful.  I do not want to be responsible for your demise.

That should have also been on Taylor’s mind when she wrote the piece in InfoStor. Basically, Taneja’s Ernest Scribbler took the party line(s) from a number of storage vendors (paying clients?) regarding green storage — de-duplicate, compress, virtualize and provision thinly — and turned them into a fluff piece full of what she called “best practices” — concluding that these “innovative software technologies will have an imediate impact on the bottom line.” 

I laughed til I cried.

What these technologies are, at best, are mechanisms to delay and distract the storage admin from getting serious about data management.  They may defer the rate of capacity growth (though I doubt it) for a brief while, but the problem of the storage junk drawer persists and only becomes worse. 

Why not tell people to start addressing the root cause of capacity sprawl:  lack of hardware management and lack of data management? I know the reason, of course:  such talk would make the Taneja Group unpopular with its paying vendor clients and probably with storage admins, as well. Business is business.

But, at least, the analysts could spare us the risk of fatal hilarity, which I am now calling The Taneja Syndrome.  

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jhutchins January 28, 2008 at 2:45 am


You wrote a very long piece here and only have one statement about what was wrong with the article:

“Why not tell people to start addressing the root cause of capacity sprawl: lack of hardware management and lack of data management?”

I’m not disagreeing with you, but you have to offer more than this to make your case (even a link to another post or article you wrote would be helpful).

jhutchins January 28, 2008 at 10:01 am

From the InfoStor article:

“One main distinction revolves around the optimum location for the de-duplication process, which can be at the server level where the backup stream begins, inline to intercept the backup stream between server and storage, or post-processing at the storage level.”


You points aside Jon, this is an incredibly weak statement from an analyst and it’s clear that she really would rather kiss vendor ass than to provide some real freakin analysis.

(note: my belief is that VTL’s are a waste, there are better ways of protecting data BUT I will go along with it because the culture in most IT departments is to keep their backup methods intact, no matter how bad or wasteful they are)

If she had any credibility (or backbone) she would inform the end-user that putting an appliance in the path of the backup for VTL is counter-intuitive to the reasons why end-users buy VTL’s which is to speed up and accelerate backups. Putting De-dupe in the path of the backup will cause your backup to take longer (unless of course you were stupid enough to buy a data domain VTL appliance to which your salesperson will gladly sell you 3 or 4 to get the performance right). Data Domain is a de-dupe application that is trying to make itself useful in the backup process in a VTL.

If you are hell bent on maintaining your old backup technologies, for god’s sake use some common sense and don’t put anything in the path of your backup.

Administrator January 28, 2008 at 10:09 am

Fair enough, here are a few links both within this blog and elsewhere to my thinking and research on the (in)efficacy of the technologies espoused by Taneja. (all writing there is mine)

On this blog…

jhutchins January 28, 2008 at 11:22 am


Just read through your articles and I agree with you 100%… in a perfect world. I disagree that the problem is 100% on the vendor side and believe the problem is probably equal between end-users and vendors.

Take the VTL example I used above. In a perfect world with today’s technology, IT departments would get rid of backup applications. They won’t (and I don’t think they ever will) because IT departments are inherently lazy and will choose the path of least resistence every chance they get. They have invested in a 20+ year-old technology and they run their backups on a schedule because that is what they have always done. Their objective is to complete a task (in this case backup) and tell everyone up the food chain that the task is done. They are neither incented nor driven to deliver value to their organization which plays right into the hands of vendors who understand the psychology of end users. It’s also these lazy IT departments that proudly claim to be an “ABC Shop” and “no one ever got fired for buying ABC storage” mentality. Unless the corporate culture changes and encourages their IT departments to drive value within their department, your storage nirvana will never be.

This goes directly to your logic on green initiatives. Unless they are mandated by their bean-counters, IT departments will do what they have always done.

dvellante April 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm

As my good friend Fred Moore taught me years ago. Backup is one thing, recovery is everything.

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