February 23, 2006
Cleversafe, Inc. has announced the launch of the Cleversafe Dispersed Storage Provider (DSP) Foundation Partner Program, that aims to bring together multiple hosting and access providers to build what is dubbed a test global Storage Internet. Members of the Cleversafe DSP Foundation Partner Program will each contribute storage servers and bandwidth to build a worldwide test grid of Dispersed Storage. In addition, program members will be directly involved in the testing, management, and optimization of the test Storage Internet. The stated goals of the DSP Foundation Partner Program include identifying initial target applications and uses for Dispersed Storage, and determining capacity, data integrity, and bandwidth measures for a global Dispersed Storage grid. The Foundation Partners also aim to comprise the go-to-market group of DSPs, upon commercial launch. Eleven hosting providers across North America, South America, Africa, and Australia have joined the program including EasyStreet Online Services, FiberLink, Harbour MSP, Hostway, Intercity, OnShore, Pocket iNet, PointClick, Softlayer, The Planet Internet Services, and ViUX.
One inevitability of storage is that no matter how much an organization has, it will need more soon. Building out the data center has been a classic approach to addressing this problem, but concerns for business continuity have also dictated the need for multiple storage sites as well as their effective and secure interconnection. For many organizations, this is a very rational approach; one that offers the flexibility of multiple storage tiers and a graceful failover mechanism to deliver business continuity. However, for some organizations, especially those who would be considered SMB or start up, the capital and human wherewithal to deploy and operate such a solution often seems beyond reach. For these, the notion of a secured storage service that is scalable and does not require a large up-front facility or Cap Ex expenditure could prove intriguing.
The decreased local footprint to support storage is an easy selling point. However, convincing an organization to trust that its data will always be available, and secured from attack, when the storage cannot be seen and touched in the physical realm, will require a little more effort. The dispersed nature of Cleversafe’s approach whereby slices as distributed are meaningless by themselves, but contain all necessary data with a simple majority of the slices, offers a compartmentalized security approach that would withstand more than a single point of failure or network congestion. This would seem to address many of the continuity and security issues that organizations would most likely raise. But the performance tradeoffs inherent with multiple remote locations would seem to make this approach more ideal as a replication, backup, or archival tool as opposed to a realtime production environment or realtime failover implementation. However, to our way of thinking, this still represents a significant opportunity for improved efficiency and operational cost.
A well oiled data center is going to have multiple tiers of data storage, and production environments will continuously be honed to maintain the lightest possible footprint to enhance performance and manageability. Effective archiving as well as systematic backup can reduce Tier I storage requirements substantially. While there is undoubtedly more than one point of view as to whether dispersed storage approach would be appropriate for a Tier II solution, for the lowest tier it could provide the necessary functionality but without the deployment and operational costs of an inhouse solution. This is where we believe there is the low-hanging fruit. A successful organization could retire much of its tertiary storage apparatus, focus its future Cap Ex expenditure on Tier I and II storage in house, and convert its archival and backup tier to the utility model, at potentially lower cost, but with the assurance of security and continuity. Further, this continues the philosophical movement afoot that is increasingly viewing all resources, whether they are servers, storage, applications, or whatnot simply as resources that are available on the network to be called upon on demand and in a secured, controlled, and policy-driven fashion. Overall, while Cleversafe dispersed storage is still at the testing stage, we look forward to the commercial availability in the future and will watch to see just how the marketplace responds to what could prove to be a very interesting approach to improve storage efficiency further.
Pickle, a video and photo sharing service, today unveiled Pickle Channels, allowing users to broadcast media directly from their mobile phones to virtually any website.
Channels are portable media galleries that can be displayed anywhere and updated from computers and mobile phones. A users can simply set up a channel, fill it with videos and photos, and then embed the entire channel of content on social network profiles, blogs, or any other site. Each channel has a unique email address allowing family and friends (and perhaps others) to easily add new items on the fly. With each contribution, the channel automatically updates everywhere it is posted… instantly. The company cited a number of examples such as sending shots straight to a blog or MySpace page from a phone; uploading a whole set of videos that play in a loop, effectively creating a TV station which can then post anywhere; and in a 21st-century variation of the disposable camera on every table at special events, the ability to play a channel in full screen on a big monitor or projector at a party, bar mitzvah, or wedding and then have guests send their creations to the screen by emailing to the channel from their phones. Pickle users display their channels on other websites via the Pickle Channel Player. Pickle also provides complete control over the privacy and security of each channel. Users can moderate incoming content as well as select who can view and who can contribute to each channel. Pickle's player, which appears to represent a significant advance over existing embeddable video and slideshow, has additional new features including support for both videos and photos, Full Screen Anywhere—the ability to play in regular or full-screen mode on any website—and allowing viewers to add their own content to the channel.
Lest you forget, in our Security Predictions for 2007 we noted that Photo Abuse such as Internet videos, whether of the latest movie, violent acts such as the hanging of Saddam Hussein, or candid shots taken at the workplace, can have almost instant global exposure. Litigious aggrieved employees and ex-employees may seek damages for embarrassing videos taken via mobile phone cameras at the workplace, arguing that employers have the duty to ensure the business nature of the workplace by publishing and enforcing policies intended to protect their employees.
Sageza believes that organizations have paid too little attention to the potential for misuse of mobile phone cameras in the work place. While there are some high-security organizations such as those within the Defense establishment that have prohibited the carrying of mobile phones into many of their facilities, it would appear that most organizations have not addressed the need for a policy covering the use of these devices at work. While some analysts consider the impending convergence of physical and information security to mean facility access and the like, we believe the cameraphone will emerge as a significant threat to employee privacy and perhaps a great tool to purloin intellectual property since one picture is indeed worth 1,000 (ore more) words. We are already seeing iPods being employed as a device of choice to remove large amounts of intellectual property from organizations; the Pickle announcement is yet one more step closer to our predicted photo abuse.
EMC has announced several new solutions targeted at mid-market enterprises seeking to more effectively consolidate, backup, archive, and protect their information. The new offerings include the EMC CLARiiON CX3-10 UltraScale networked storage system; new EMC RecoverPoint/SE software for mid-tier storage environments; and three solutions for mid-market organizations wishing to consolidate, back up, archive, and protect Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Exchange 2003, and Oracle RAC 10g environments. The EMC CLARiiON CX3-10 represents a new entry point into 4GB/s networked storage systems, can scale to 30TB, features Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity within the same array, and supports a mix of Fibre Channel and SATA disk drives. The new EMC RecoverPoint/SE software is designed for network-based replication between any two CLARiiON CX and/or CLARiiON CX3 UltraScale systems in Windows environments. Organizations can define policies to manage their recovery time objectives across a wide range of key business applications, including coordinated and consistent recovery of Windows applications such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. The EMC Reference Architectures and Assessment Services for Microsoft Exchange 2003, Microsoft SQL Server 2005, and Oracle RAC 10g provide EMC partners with documented blueprints and best practices for implementing consolidation, backup, and disaster recovery solutions for midsize customers. These EMC best practices also address how to incorporate important Microsoft or Oracle application functionality to complete the solution. The EMC CLARiiON CX3-10 system, EMC RecoverPoint/SE software, and the new EMC Reference Architectures and Assessment Services are available immediately.
During this past week there were several storage announcements, including these from EMC, as well as other small- to mid-market solutions from Coraid and Fujitsu Siemens. While each was offering a solution for the SMB space, each one was very different in its approach and capabilities, and the degree of strategic value offered varied widely. The CLARiiON CX3-10 is an excellent example of a product that, while more modest in scale than its larger siblings, still delivers a strategic solution for an organization that would benefit from a rich palette of storage functionality and flexibility without necessitating the purchase of what would be empty spindles. The ability to mix and match iSCSI and Fiber connectivity along with SATA and FC drives affords flexibility in cost as well as the opportunity to construct a multi-tiered environment within a single array. The richness of EMC supporting software such as Navisphere Suite, Navisphere Task Bar, Navisphere QoS Manager, and SAN Copy among others is a key differentiation the company is increasingly playing to its advantage. Moreover, this is not just in the high-end market, but also in the other market segments where plenty of potential customers are to be found.
Another illustration of this is the new RecoverPoint/SE offering. Mid-market and smaller organizations rarely if ever have the luxury of storage specialists on call, let alone inhouse. The IT professionals more often than not are generalists who are conversant in the Microsoft world of operating systems and procedures. Nevertheless, the value proposition of consolidate, backup, archive, and protect is very straightforward, even for the IT generalist. The familiar environment delivered by RecoverPoint/SE is likely to be well received by said organizations and their IT staff as each endeavor to meet the needs of their business operations. Further, organizations that are searching for an upgrade or refresh of their existing storage solution may find the Reference Architectures and Assessment Services for SQL Server, Exchange, and RAC 10g improve the whole purchase decision and customer experience. Any new installation is risk-prone, and SMBs are among the most risk-adverse customers. Nevertheless, the need for technological reliability remains unabated, so anything that assuages the fear of IT professionals and their management is typically a good thing. The tried, tested, and true approach of blue prints and best practices not only reduce the risk of deployment, but can shorten the time involved as the business partner and the customer are working from a tested base of knowledge and technology that was designed from the onset to work together.
Given the prevalence of SQL Server, Exchange Server, or Oracle RAC 10g in SMBs, we believe the focus on these platforms was a wise move on the part of EMC as it offers its channel partners more armament in their quest to develop the burgeoning SMB opportunity. Overall, we are pleased to see EMC’s continued efforts in delivering rich storage solutions that not only scale to the peaks of the IT mountain, but also deliver cost-effective value to those who may thrive in the lower scale of storage spectrum.
Microsoft and Best Buy have announced a partnership to meet the needs of small-business customers who would like to establish a Web presence but are reluctant to create sites on their own. Best Buy for Business will enable small businesses to purchase subscription cards for Microsoft Office Live services—designed to help businesses get online easily and affordably—at select Best Buy locations, online, and over the phone. Customers can receive a discount on the Microsoft Office Live monthly subscription fee, getting three months for the price of one. Best Buy for Business technology professionals, who are Microsoft- certified, will also work closely with small-business customers to determine which of the collaboration tools and solutions best fit their business. The Geek Squad 24-Hour Computer Support Task Force is available for business- grade technology support and can help Microsoft Office Live customers hit the ground running. Microsoft Office Live, available in three editions, is a comprehensive and affordable set of easy-to-use, Internet-based software and services. The product aims to serve small businesses with their sales and marketing needs, including Microsoft Office Live adManager beta, integration with Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007 and Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007, enhanced Web design tools and templates, more storage space, additional company-branded email accounts and calendars, and the ability for customers and colleagues to use their own company domain name with Windows Live Messenger. Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager, a tool to help small companies manage business relationships in an organized and effective way, is available now in subscription-based Microsoft Office Live offerings.
Few could deny that establishing and marketing a business online is no longer considered a luxury because it appears that consumers are increasingly turning to the Web to research products and services. According to Best Buy, most consumers spend nearly fourteen hours a week online; the same amount of time they spend watching TV. The Microsoft Office Live partnership appears to have made it easy for small-business owners to create, maintain and market their Web sites.
This partnership and the implication that small-business owners and others can actually sit down with human beings to deal with setting up the online aspects of their business rather than wrestle with the complexities of self-service ecommerce may be more profound that it appears at first glance. We are reminded of a story told at an early RSA Conference at the Sofitel Hotel in Redwood City. The speaker, who we believe was Lynn McNulty, talked about the construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System. He postulated that no one could have predicted the effect on the economy and the growth of jobs to service those highways: gas stations, hotels, etc. The implication was that it would be difficult to predict the growth of businesses around the burgeoning Internet economy.
We believe that small-business resistance to online commerce can be overcome with personal, reasonably priced, and highly available support services. Points of purchase like Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, Wal-Mart and others can offer attractive platforms for these services. In effect the mass retailer and office supply store becomes a VAR for the masses. However, it remains to be seen whether the partnership can attract a critical mass of customers. If it does Sageza believes that others, like those we’ve named above, can be expected to enter the market as well. Overall, we think greater availability of support will lower the dollar commitment small businesses in particular will need to take advantage of their Internet and its potential.