Incredible Times in the IT Industry

March 13, 2011

Hi, thanks for stopping by and obligatory apologies for not having posted in almost 3 months. I’ve still been quite active on Twitter, sharing on Google Reader (also goes to my other Twitter account), and writing about IT for work. Here’s a quick update on some of the things I’ve been involved with lately.

Incredible Beings by Hugh Macleod (shared via CC)

Earlier this month, I was interviewed by Countdown to Storage Expo (a UK-based marketing group), here’s the link: Storage Networking & Social Media Maven: Q&A with @Stu Miniman, Principal Research Contributor at Wikibon. After doing the interview, I found out that I will be attending my first SNW next month.

It’s an exciting time in the IT industry and I’m lucky to be able to cover a lot of different topics as an analyst. Here are some links to some of my favorite articles that I’ve written lately:

Big Data is a nascent trend which is at the intersection of analytics, mashups, cloud computing and some really smart data scientists. After watching the O’Reilly Strata, I wrote a blog post explaining some of the basics of this trend.

Cloud computing is a huge portion of the IT landscape. My angle has traditionally been from the enterprise perspective, since I was working on “private cloud” solutions back when we simply called them next-generation or virtual data center solutions. As with most technologies, enterprises must balance existing legacy equipment an processes with the desire to take advantage of newer cost and operational models. I wrote a piece on hybrid clouds discussing solutions that look at bridging private and public clouds.

Server virtualization has seen strong adoption from companies of all sizes and desktop virtualization is seen as one of the next significant areas of growth for virtualization. While there are plenty of success stories across many verticals that are adopting virtualization, the overall solution set is still fragmented. I posted a research piece discussing the journey that the ecosystem needs to undertake to mature VDI.

Of course, I still keep a close eye on the networking space, especially storage networking technologies like iSCSI and FCoE. My most recent article on the topic discusses unified/flex ports which have the capability of switching between Ethernet or FC, giving customers flexibility and investment protection.

In addition to SNW, I will also be attending EMC World in May and likely a few other conferences in the upcoming months. If you’ll be at one of the shows, I’m always happy to chat about the various technology spaces or social media. Conferences usually give me lots of ideas and plane time to write, so I hope to update this blog more often in the coming months.


Stuart Miniman


Seth Godin: Creating Tribes to Drive Change

June 9, 2010

Seth Godin, a prolific marketing blogger and author, spoke to the World Innovation Forum about innovation.  Much of his material was from his two most recent books – Tribes and Lynchpin.

Innovation is stuff that’s impossible, because otherwise someone else would have done it

Tribes is about leading the groups that already exist.  Communities in the past were formed around politics, religion or sports, now they can be for anything that can get people passionate.  As people get emotionally engaged, they can overcome fear of change by charging to the new way with a group of like-minded people.

In the IT world, convergence, virtualization and cloud are innovative trends that have the potential for companies to fundamentally alter the way that they do business.  Like any new idea, there is inertia and resistance to making this change.  For a couple of years, there have been thought leaders (including bloggers) that have been trying to lead this revolution.  This top-down messaging was a good start to allow people to become familiar with technology.  We are now starting to see field organizations from vendors adjust their structure to support cross-disciplinary offerings.  The prime example of this are vSpecialists from the VCE coalition – where there are employees from VMware, Cisco and EMC who are cross-trained on the full storage, network and server virtualization stack.  Enterprise IT organizations will also need to adjust to realize the operational efficiencies of the new solutions.  Nick Lippis had reported that some customers are creating a Chief Data Center Officer (CDO) for merging various disciplines.  J Michel Metz (Cisco) recently put a proposal out for a new SLAM (Storage and Local Area Management) Administrator to help with the bottom-up adoption of convergence.

Are you comfortable with the state of things today, or are you willing to help lead change?  I’ll leave with with a couple more words of wisdom from Seth Godin:

If you’re working for a big company, start with small changes, such as writing a blog or changing a meeting and these can grow into larger innovations.  Ask yourself, am I doing what I should be to make a difference or should I give my chair to someone else.

Go make something happen!

Stuart Miniman


EMC World Cubed – Here’s all the Video

May 14, 2010

I’ve returned (but not recovered) from EMC World.  Did you watch the live video from SiliconANGLE? The over 5600 Tweets on #emcworld? Well, just in case you missed something, here are some videos and links.

First of all, on the blogger front – Len “the mayor” Devanna pulled off another fantastic blogger’s lounge – click on my “Blogger Photos” tab above for the group photo which links to Flickr where I have all of the names and Twitter handles listed.


All of the videos from “The Cube” can be found at

The videos include Joe Tucci, Michael Capellas, Pat Gelsinger, Howard Elias, Jeremy Burton, Jeff Nick, Steve Herrod, Chad Sakac, Chuck Hollis, Frank Hauck w/ the cover story customer from ON Magazine, the Women’s Executive Power Lunch with Polly Pearson, Kathrin Winkler and Gina Minks, the social media rockstar panel with Len, John Troyer, Stephen Foskett and John Furrier, and so many more that you should just take off next week to watch them all.

I too stepped into the Cube for my first live video experience.  I had three segments discussing the Converged Network announcement that EMC made on Monday.  The first segment (hosted here) was with Greg Schulz and Scott Lowe.  All three of us cover networking in our blogs regularly, so it was an easy first assignment to cover with bright, articulate guys where I know their material.

The second segment (hosted here) was with Doug Ingraham and Charles Hood of Brocade.  A good mix of the long EMC partnership, dynamics in the marketplace and what we’re seeing in the field.

The third segment (hosted here) was with Rajeev Bhardwj of Cisco discussing from how using 10Gb Ethernet and Converged Networks ties into the Journey to the Private Cloud to how EMC offering the Nexus 2000, 5000, 7000 expands the partnership.  I shot another video with Cisco which should be showing up on their EMC World microsite soon.

EMC’s video team grabbed me to discuss a variety of topics and they’ve posted this one on social media at the conference.

So much goes on behind the scenes to pull of an event, as a friend of mine has on his email “I only make this look easy!“. Feedback and comments are always welcome.

Stuart Miniman


EMC is Your Sherpa on the Journey to Converged Networks

May 10, 2010

I’ve spoken often on this blog about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) as a great option for Converged Network technology.  There have been a lot of discussions on the technical maturation of standards and products for FCoE, there has been less discussion of how the operational and organizational changes of deploying a converged network will be dealt with.  To help customers work through these changes, EMC will leverage over a decade of expertise in storage networking to deliver world-class services and products for Ethernet-based storage products.  The services and products cover multiple 10Gb Ethernet solutions including FCoE, Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), iSCSI and NAS.

EMC has travelled this path before

Learning new technologies, interoperability, best practices, trouble shooting… EMC has walked these paths many times. They understand both the pitfalls and the shortcuts, and know how to guide you even in places where vision can be blurred by lack of oxygen.  The E-Lab organization even publishes free “maps” including interoperability guides and best practices (including a full Tech Book on Ethernet and FCoE).

Confidence in choosing the right path

Even with a good map and guide, the goals of your journey can change over time, so the services and products that EMC provides are designed to allow for flexibility and growth.  The services provide you all of the tools to deploy a reliable and secure data center.  EMC isn’t on this trip alone, there is a full stack of partners to travel with you including VMware, Microsoft, Cisco and Brocade.  Wherever you are along the spectrum of upgrading to 10Gb Ethernet, deploying FCoE or rolling out a full private cloud environment, EMC can help.

Photos: (top) Grand Canyon taken by me; (middle) actual cables from E-Lab

Below are the slides of my EMC World session.  In addition to presenting the session live twice at EMC World, there is a recording of the session that attendees can get from the EMC World website.  My EMC FCoE whitepaper has also been updated and can be found here.  You can watch live streaming internet TV from EMC World discussing Converged Networks with EMC, Brocade and Cisco at 3:30pm on Wednesday, May 12th.

Stuart Miniman


VPLEX: Redefining the Boundaries of the Data Center

May 10, 2010

In March, Pat Gelsinger introduced EMC’s vision for Virtual Storage (my blog post is here). Today, EMC announced the VPLEX family of products—the first new products that deliver on the vision.  VPLEX is a Distributed Federation solution, which means that we can enable a single copy of data to be shared, accessed and relocated over distance.  When new technologies are introduced into the marketplace, people are most comfortable in making comparisons to things that they already know.  In this post, I’ll compare traditional replication solutions with VPLEX Distributed Federation.

Federation Instead of Separation

In a traditional replication solution, there is a primary site and a secondary site for failover or recovery of data.  In contrast, with VPLEX, the data is active at both sites at the same time.  Rather than putting together complex failover scenarios, having the flexibility to have active data between sites will allow for maintenance without downtime and workload balancing across multiple data sites.  Instead of thinking of “site A” and “site B” separated by policies and distance, we can start to think of our pool of federated resources that spans multiple physical data centers.  VPLEX can change how you think about deploying data centers; rather than a disaster recovery site, deploy data centers to achieve additional efficiencies (such as taking advantage of low cost energy) and performance (optimizing locations to be close to clients).

Near Today, Far Tomorrow

The network between the locations is critical for any solution to work.  Similar to replication solutions, we can consider whether a solution is synchronous or asynchronous and how the network fits into a customer’s existing environment.  Enterprise customers will typically have network connectivity between locations that are close to each other.  When these existing links have the appropriate bandwidth and other network characteristics–such as those required for replication solutions–the same links can also be used for VPLEX.  Synchronous solutions of 100km are available with VPLEX Metro today.  Longer distance (asynchronous) solutions require special links. Asynchronous solutions will be available with VPLEX Geo in 2011.

As I hinted at in my previous post, the VPLEX solution ties into other development work from partners.  VPLEX will expand the solutions of VMware VMotion (see this great VPLEX/VMotion whitepaper) and Microsoft Live Migration, plus work with the latest networking technologies from Cisco (including leveraging OTV) and Brocade.  Virtualization of your servers, network and storage redefines the boundaries of the Data Center by creating a single pool or resources separated by distance.


Click on the graphic above to go to the VPLEX launch site which includes customer videos and whitepapers.  You can also hear more about VPLEX live on May 10th with streaming internet TV from EMC World: Pat Gelsinger at will be on at 3pm Eastern and Brian Gallagher at 4pm Eastern.

Stuart Miniman


Happy 30th IEEE 802!

March 16, 2010

Sometimes, standards are an obstacle to innovation. Sometimes innovations lead to chaos. The art is in knowing when standards will accelerate innovation

From The Day Dot-Coms Were Invented by Bob Metcalfe (Ethernet inventor)

Today is the 30th anniversary of IEEE 802 standards committee which has delivered Ethernet technologies (including wireless Ethernet) and the Data Center Bridging enhancements which enable FCoE.  I really liked Bob’s quote about innovation and standards.  It might be “easy” for a single vendor to try and tackle a new market, but customers rely on the standards bodies to give them some stability in the future of their investments and flexibility that they will not be stuck with a single vendor.  There is a complex dance that goes on between what vendors drive through the standards and what is delivered as value added functionality.

Virtual Storage, not just another V-word

March 11, 2010

In the realm of storage, I have spent most of my time outside of the storage box, especially how storage networking, servers and operating systems (OS) impact storage.  I began working with Cisco and VMware long before the VCE initiative.  Some of the broad industry trends that we have seen across the OS and network stacks are also applicable to the storage layer.  Pat Gelsinger, EMC’s President and Chief Operating Officer of Information Infrastructure Products, spoke today with a group of analysts to lay out a vision for Virtual Storage.  The audio and slides of Pat’s presentation can be seen here (may request your email address to view).

This strategy relates to Private Cloud. If you look at the diagram below, virtual storage lives in the virtual information infrastructure layer.

To understand the trends, let’s look at the OS and network layers of this stack.

Server Virtualization is much more than hypervisors

The first thing that most people think about when they look at server virtualization is how it can help consolidate resources, which leads to a reduction in hardware and therefore to savings in power and space.  When I think back to my first interactions with VMware in 2003 (when I was in EMC’s E-Lab), it was actually the abstraction/isolation of an environment that was so useful.  Old operating systems (Windows NT) or “odd” environments (FreeBSD) could be put in a VM and EMC’s storage could then support the configuration.  In addition to extending the life of an existing configuration, VMware is tremendously valuable for test and development environments.  Around the time that we were first working with VMware, they came out with a product that everyone thought was magic when they first saw it – VMotion:  Live Migration of a virtual machine.  The liberation gained with this feature turned a useful/interesting product into a game changer.  Individual server resources could be turned into a pool of resources.  With the addition of VMware Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS), VMotion becomes automated.  As a final note here, take a look at some of the plans around extending VMotion over distance that were discussed at VMworld last year.

Convergence and Cloud Internetworking

As with server virtualization, the first step towards network virtualization is consolidation of resources.  With the adoption of 10Gb Ethernet and storage protocols such as Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI and NAS, we reach a single network for LAN and SAN traffic: a building block of the private cloud.  In particular, FCoE allows existing infrastructures built on FC to move towards a unified environment.  Another enabler of cloud internetworking is Cisco’s Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) which they unveiled last month.  OTV allows for mobility of resources across datacenters or with a compatible service provider.  OTV leads networking down the same path of automation and mobility that we have taken with server virtualization.

Virtual Storage, not just another V-word

As my mainframe friends have told me, virtualization is not a new idea, and storage virtualization has been available from EMC and competitors for many years.  Similar to what is happening in the OS and networking stack, Virtual Storage goes beyond the basic functionality prevalent in the market today  by adding flexibility and automation.  The goal is to transform individual storage resources to a pool using Federation.  As defined on the Wikibon site, Federated Storage enables a “loosely coupled set of storage resource nodes to act unilaterally and still be managed centrally, organizations can create networks of virtually limitless capacities and eliminate disruptive migrations”.  While many vendors may be working on federation, Pat Gelsinger discussed EMC’s vision, in which an enabling Distributed Cache Coherence technology allows for Global Federation.   In a recent Forbes interview, Pat discussed the value of leveraging federation over distance:

“I want to flexibly move those across shared infrastructure, which can drive up the utilization dramatically. I also can get load balancing across data centers, do mainframe-like high-availability and failover. I also can build a cloud-like architecture that’s private and then federate from my private cloud to my external environment, where I can have spillover.”

Similar to what we’ve seen in the OS and networking stack, virtual storage will allow the use of both old and new resources, regardless of location – providing an onramp to adoption of a Private Cloud model.  As Chuck Hollis has said: “And maybe we can start thinking entirely differently about that age-old catch phrase of “IT delivered as a service”.”

Comments are always welcome.  You can be sure that we’ll be talking a lot more about this at EMC World, May 10-13 in Boston.  I will be presenting Converged Data Center: FCoE, iSCSI, and the Future of Storage Networking.  Any bloggers that are attending should sign up for the Blogger’s Lounge.  Hope to see you there.

Stuart Miniman


40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet status and outlook

March 5, 2010

I had the pleasure of attending the Ethernet Technology Summit last week in San Jose.  In addition to presenting as part of the FCoE track, I was able to spend a day getting updated on 40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet from the people and vendors involved in creating the standards which are both expected to be ratified in June 2010.  While most enterprise customers are only now starting to deploy 10Gb Ethernet, the completion of the higher speeds are very important developments.  Traditionally, the higher speeds allow for greater utilization of the previous generation; we have seen that 10Gb is first deployed at the backbone for environments that have deployed 1Gb at the server.  There are 2 significant changes that I’ll highlight about the next instantiation of Ethernet:

  1. There are new speeds – 40Gb and 100Gb
  2. There is expected to be a shift in cabling from a copper to optical

Why we need both 40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet

Ethernet has always moved in 10x increments from 10Mb > 100Mb > 1Gb > 1oGb.  Below is a 2007 IEEE forecast of server adoption of Ethernet Connections.  While the standard for 10Gb Ethernet was ratified in 2002, it wasn’t until 2007 until server adoption began and it was 2009/2010 before we saw significant customer deployments in their datacenters and servers.

The presenters at the conference made a compelling case that server IO doubled every 24 months, while core networking doubled every 18 months.  Server bus architectures must also mature to take advantage of the high bandwidth interconnect.  This led to the idea to create 100Gb for the core (between switches) and 40Gb for the distribution/aggregation (pedestal/rack/blade servers to switches).  As for the uses for these speeds, it is the next generation of servers which are characterized by dense computing and high utilization through virtualization which will use 40Gb and 100Gb will enable the success of 10Gb servers.

Is it finally the end of copper?

When 10Gb Ethernet was first ratified as a standard, optical was the only option that was available.  The idea of creating 10GBase-T (using RJ45 connected cables such as CAT6/6a) was around in 2002, became a standard in 2006 and just last month, Cisco announced their first product supporting this option.  With the ratification of 40Gb and 100Gb coming in only a few months, we once again find that the options for cabling are optical and a short-distance copper (no UTP).  A note on cabling:

10Gb Ethernet currently supports optical (300m support w/ OM3 multimode fibre), Twinax (SFP+DA copper w/ lengths varying by vendor, but < 10m) and 10GBase-T (CAT6 at 55m; CAT6a at 100m; note that today there are no FCoE solutions supporting 10GBase-T).

Both 40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet will have a copper option up to 7m (QSFP connector – this is what is used in InfiniBand today, not what is used for 10Gb) and multimode optical up to 100m (and singlemode up to 10km).

The official position of the Ethernet Alliance is that the adoption of 40/100 will see us shift from UTP to optical.  With 1Gb Ethernet and earlier generations, over 99% of all cabling deployments were UTP/RJ45.  The price, power requirements, distance limitations and other technical hurdles have been more and more difficult to overcome with each generation.  Storage customers using Fibre Channel are already using optical cabling, so for some customers that are converging the SAN and LAN into a single network with 10Gb Ethernet, the migration to an all optical configuration is easy.  For the legacy of customers with billions of ports of existing cabling infrastructure, it will be an analysis of whether they can reuse their existing environment.  In new datacenter builds, there will need to be a determination as to how UTP and optical cabling options match the expected maturing of technology over the lifetime of a deployment (typically 5-10 years).


Adoption of Ethernet speeds may take many years, but the availability of the next speeds provide investment protection and a path for continued growth.  Ethernet may be ubiquitous, but there as practitioners roll-out 10Gb Ethernet, they should become familiar with the 40Gb and 100Gb to understand how decisions that they make today may allow for adoption of future technologies.

Comments and clarifications are welcome.  If you’re new to this site, please consider subscribing to this blog.

Stuart Miniman

Are you on Google Buzz?  Find me at