In football, the “red zone” is the area inside the 20-yard line. Getting into it is a good thing. In IT, what I’m calling the red zone has a different connotation, one that would be more akin to the red line in motor sports. It’s the theoretical point beyond which the system is not designed to be run, ideally. This can be the area outside of best practices that we push gear because we don’t have the resources, time, expertise, etc., to upgrade or implement a system more appropriate for the situation. But, like driving a car past the date for scheduled maintenance, entering the IT red zone doesn’t always mean disaster, at least not right away. Continued »
The simple elegance that Steve Jobs championed extends beyond clean, aesthetic designs and intuitive operation. Users expect electronics to just work, like Apple’s products generally do. The iPod got consumers used to the idea that having all your music available wherever you went was a reasonable expectation. iTunes allowed you to add to your collection at any time and only the songs you wanted. Although most consumers probably have an email account in the cloud, or several, iTunes was an entrée to cloud applications for many users, to some extent.
The iPhone unleashed mobile computing and allowed users who care to work on a small screen to do a lot of what they used to need a laptop for. The iPad completed this transition and has helped incorporate handheld compute devices into the workflow at thousands of organizations. FedEx pioneered the real use of mobile computing devices by spending millions to develop its own package tracking handhelds for drivers and processing center workers. Now, I’ll bet the company is porting much of this functionality to off-the-shelf tablets. Continued »
This week, I’m continuing my end-of-the-(fiscal)-year product review. As mentioned last time, at Storage Switzerland we take a few hundred product briefings each year. Rather than wait until January to look at products we’ve reviewed, I decided to start now. Also, instead of trying to figure out a top-10 list, I’m calling these the “top 10 percent.” Continued »
Rather than wait until January to do a “top 10”’ piece on storage products and technologies, I’m starting now. Let’s just call it an end-of-the-(fiscal)-year product review. Also, rather than trying to put these products in any kind of order (too subjective, and why limit it to 10?) I thought I would call this the “Top 10 (percent) list.” At Storage Switzerland, we take upward of a dozen technology reviews each week; that’s 200 to 300 each year. The ones presented in this blog and subsequent entries (we’ll spread these out through the fourth quarter) all deserve a look. They’re storage-related, they have compelling approaches to common problems and they’re all available to VARs. But most importantly, these products may help complete a solution you’re working on—or get you into a new account. Continued »
One of the primary value propositions that VARs provide is completing the solution. For example, by providing software, hardware and integration services in a backup system implementation, a VAR increases the solution’s value to the customer. Customers rely on VARs to show them related products and technologies that make other solutions easier to use, more powerful or more cost-effective. As another example, storage management software can improve the efficiency of a storage system, and flash SSDs can be added to a storage array or a server to improve application performance.
Showing customers how related products can improve their existing systems is probably a mainstay of your go-to-market strategy. It can get you a meeting at an account that doesn’t buy anything from you and give you a chance to demonstrate your value to a new potential customer.
But most of these related-products scenarios involve traditional IT infrastructure such as storage, servers and networking. What about cloud-based solutions: How do you add value to a cloud service that a customer has started using? Continued »
Every VAR has heard the hard drive cost question: “Why does adding storage to my disk array cost so much when I can buy a 2 TB disk drive for less than $100?” The answer is some combination of “You’re not just buying the drive; you’re buying the storage system,” “You’re getting enterprise-class storage, not dime-store RAID,” “You’re not just buying a disk drive; you’re buying the company behind it” or the VAR’s favorite, “You’re also getting me with that storage capacity.” Customers know why capacity for even a lower-end RAID array costs more, but the question still comes up.
Now VARs may have a really different answer to give these customers: “You’re right; you shouldn’t have to pay minibar prices for generic storage capacity. Let me show you a way to put that cheap disk drive into your storage infrastructure and use it.” And, they get to say the cloud may actually be the reason. Continued »
There are lots of cloud products that your customers can buy, most of which are available for VARs to sell. The cloud is everywhere, and marketers have latched on to it as some kind of a miracle tonic. I can hear the pitch: “The cloud is good for what ails you; what did you say was wrong?” The truth is that the cloud is only a delivery mechanism, not a product.
Unfortunately, customers don’t always spend enough time in the data gathering and discussion phases when they have a problem to solve. Continued »
For users, cloud storage offers a number of potential benefits, one of the primary ones being scalability. They can buy the capacity they need, when they need it and unhook themselves from the complexity of adding storage systems and the costs of underutilizing that storage. But the cloud can also bring bandwidth issues, especially if users are expecting a “plug replacement” for their local NAS box.
Flash-based solid-state storage devices are becoming a more common solution to application performance issues, but implementation questions remain to be answered. One of the most pressing is data placement. The high cost of flash storage means the vast majority of implementations will contain a small amount of flash. The trick is to “place” the most active data onto the solid-state storage and keep it there for as long as possible, or until it’s no longer active.
The old standby, storage tiering, is certainly one way to do this, and most major storage systems allow users to create a “Tier 0” for SSDs. But this method may not be able to keep up with how quickly data access requirements change, resulting in underutilized SSD investments and disappointed users. SSD caching may provide the answer. Continued »
In this blog we’ve talked about RDX a few times. It’s an interesting technology that’s been used primarily in the backup space, to marry the benefits of disk backup with the removability of tape. RDX is a disk drive in a cartridge that allows companies to take backed-up data off-site easily, either as a target for traditional backup software or simply disk capacity that’s more portable than a USB drive.
RDX has another application that’s plugging a hole in cloud storage for users. Continued »