Posts tagged ‘IT’

flash momentum

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas!
But it’s all right.  I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash,
It’s a Gas!  Gas!  Gas!

Those familiar with Moore’s Law have seen the disparity between disk and CPU performance increase. Today’s CPUs can easily out-process the data provided to them by even the fastest disk. Why is that?

There is a physical limitation on the rate at which we can spin platters. Our ability to engineer mechanical devices to spin highly unstable platters close to moving heads which are microns away from the surface are limited. Material science, stresses, quality of the bearings – all require tolerances that are approaching our physical limitations. Yet, we seem to be always finding new approaches to managing silicon fabrication.

The end of the mechanical age is near.

Enter flash. Freeing us from our mechanical limitations, flash enables the development of ‘silicon drives’ with speeds approaching those of their silicon CPU partners. With prices declining, these drives are fast becoming more affordable. Yet with still a significant price disparity to their slower, yet higher capacity mechanical cousins, what is the alternative?

Hybrid storage. Take the performance advantage of silicon flash, with the mechanical capacity of drives. Balance these devices for the workload, and you get unmatched price-performance. There is a whole class of devices emerging that support this philosophy. The question is, do systems engineers have the tools to understand their applications sufficiently to tune configurations to optimize this opportunity.

It’s nascent. More education than marketing is required.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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April 22, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

every house needs a san

I know the fear you hold inside
I know what’s weighing on your mind
There’s nothing you can do
So stand up, get up, back up.

Ever notice how much digital stuff you accumulate? Notice how you have copies of copies floating around in different directories, on different machines? How much of it is important?

I’m not going to preach about backups… we all know what we need to do.

I can honestly say that I do it, and it has been a part of my life for many years. It saved me about two years ago when my laptop got stolen. Simply bought a replacement a I was fully operational within hours. It is just like insurance. You hate paying the price, but when the promise is made good, you feel it has all been worthwhile.

What would you do if you lost a movie? These days most people would kiss their DVD goodbye and use the misfortune to upgrade to a Blue-ray version. What if you lost an entire digital library? Maybe a little hard to imagine just yet, after all, how many people have digital movie libraries on their home network?

But what if the same thing applied to all of those great digital photos? Your MP3 library?

Is this why I’ve started to see SANs and Mirror drives starting to become a consumer category? Not too many at your local big box electronics store just yet, but certainly a whole range on-line for the serious hobbyist consumer.

Will it ever hit the mainstream? Or will the general digital consuming populace opt for consuming ‘long-form content’ on-line? Pipes into the home are now sufficiently affordable to support streaming, and those Blue-ray players, Xboxes, PS2s, Wiis, TVs and PCs etc. support some type of commercial streaming service (like a Netflix, Blockbuster etc.)

I have seen my children lose files. Having grown up with computers, they accept it as a normal thing and source another copy from the web immediately – even though they can get the backup quite easily. So it leads me to a conclusion that the consumer of tomorrow is more likely to see the ‘cloud in the web’ as their information/data/content repository and not really be bothered with a SAN in the basement. I, on the other hand, will continue to indulge myself and keep a copy… just in case.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 1, 2010 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

the business edge

I walk along a thin line darling
Dark shadows follow me
Here’s where life’s dream lies disillusioned
The edge of reality

Over the past decade or so, ever since the cost of streaming from a video server became just as, or more affordable than, playing content from tape, asset management has come to the fore.

I’ve covered asset management before in a few posts, most notably in digital asset management, but I sense two new paradigms emerging.

Indulge me.

Paradigm shift #1 – archive everything – and worry about it later… this is problematic, simply delaying the inevitable. A problem awaiting solution.

One of the first directives in moving to a digital world, is the management of ingest – the digitization of content and capturing its metadata. The emphasis is on transformation. Very quickly follows the stewardship and protection of the content and metadata, followed by utilization and transformation to other formats.

Unsurprisingly, this leads to a proliferation of content. And correspondingly, the need to develop efficient usage strategies employing the disciplines of IT economics as encompassed by the time, space, bandwidth tradeoff. Just like analog magnetic signals need rusty ribbon, bits require spinning rust, or rusty ribbon. But bits can be compressed…

Now comes the paradox. What do you keep, what do you toss? What has value today, what could have value tomorrow? How do you know?

Because the answers are not clear – the future never is – most is archived, just in case.

Paradigm shift #2 – manufacture and scaling – because content is digital I can provide my customers with whatever format they want… the computer does the work anyway.

Not quite. There comes a time when the cost of the infrastructure to create and maintain the content needs to be considered as a manufacturing process – creativity not withstanding. You see, once the creative process has developed the ‘master’, just as in a good design, the process hands over to the replication for monetization.

Correspondingly, one needs to start looking at the manufacturing plant, the place where the masters are stored, where the grid is located, its capabilities and how it is utilized, where the distribution points are located and the size of the transports leaving the factory etc. This starts to look very much like a process optimization and inventory management exercise, further complicated by consumer demand cycles and on-demand manufacturing and distribution.

Here’s the contention. Asset management used to be the nexus between business systems and the technical/operations infrastructure, because the currency was ‘digital content’. We’ve moved beyond asset management into a world where the currency is on-demand manufacture and delivery of content, and so the new tool is process orchestration and flexible infrastructure integration. What is that tool? Middleware. Media-enabled of course.

The edge of business influence in media operations has shifted closer to operations.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 25, 2010 at 1:00 am 1 comment

taking a break

Somebody’s after me, I can’t pretend to be
Something I know I’m not
And when they come for me – I’ll just let them be
‘Cause all that I need today, I need today

In the linearly scheduled TV world, in addition to pitching products and services, commercial breaks provided viewers time for a nature break, or other quick activities.

Recently, at a partner conference in Paris, it became painfully clear to me that mobile phones are the next really big target for advertising. Yes, I had intellectualized the acquisitions of AdMob etc. but what I heard, really internalized for me the importance of this very substantial media transition.

Media research has shown that though more new media platforms are created, there seems to be more time devoted to all of them. In fact, at this conference several things clicked:

  1. Integrated backoffice applications are evolving to integrate the distribution infrastructure with the revenue generating and management  aspects of the business.
  2. These applications have a very IT-centric approach, agnostic to medium underpinning, and they treat both content and transactional metadata as – data. All measurable, scalable and manageable over an IP network.
  3. The mobile device is a very personal, and personalizable appliance. It is with the user on average about 14 hours per day. A very captive, targetable audience.

So, do we need scheduled breaks from media? Or, are we destined to be personally targeted for interruption whenever nature, or the advertiser calls.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 18, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

the user

No praise or crowd
No sound of thunder
No hero’s tale
No sign or wonder
With all I’ve known
And left behind
I find my place
In serving You

Remember the IT user? Those people who the IT department initially served? Those subject matter experts within the business. Those people who usually know best what is needed to make their daily job, business functions and therefore, by extension, the business?

Whatever happened to them? Does anyone actually listen to them anymore?

Remember the constant tussle between in-house development and packaged software? I have no intention of re-litigating that debate, but I do think, that of late, the industry has increasingly paid more attention to ‘new trends’ and ‘new products’ than on the fundamentals.

We’ve gone top down. Big picture will ultimately solve the business problems? The focus is now on the company and shareholders, rather than the stakeholders whose knowledge and effort is the driving engine of the company. Is not a balanced approach far more sensible?

This is dangerously similar to the transformation of the accounting profession. Their constant focus on moving up the corporate food chain and becoming Financial Advisors, instead of Accountants. On telling the business how to grow beans, instead of counting the beans of the business.

And so it is with IT professionals. As we look across the business landscape with our ‘Technology Focus’ we are starting to move beyond advising the CEO how to leverage technology for better business, but have promoted the notion that good technology = good business. This might be true in a technology-centric business like media, or the technology business itself, but not in general.

The ‘Financial Advisors’ ran wild with growing beans and precipitated the global economic disaster… will our love affair with all things technical, promoting technology above business interests result in tears? I think it is time to get back to serving the business…

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

PS. How many IT shops out there are cost-centers vs the profit centers to which you would seem to aspire?

February 12, 2010 at 6:58 am Leave a comment


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