Tiger Technology Brings the Cloud to You

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 19. My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event. Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

The first presentation of Storage Field Day 19 was Tiger Technology. They are a data management company that has been around since 2004, mainly providing solutions primarily for the media and entertainment industry.

This industry is interesting to modern storage because of their application requirements, in particular video. These applications are usually mission critical, and require high bandwidth and low latency. Because these applications are so diverse, there really isn’t a standard. One requirement they do all have in common is that they are intolerant of data loss. Think of video games suffering lag, or a live sporting event dropping frames or even pixels – these are just not acceptable performance in this industry.

The Tiger Technology team took us on the journey of how they built their new Tiger Bridge offering. Tiger Bridge is a cloud tiering solution for Windows (they are working on Linux) that brings cloud storage to current (and legacy) workflows in a way that is invisible to your workers.

Tiger Technology’s Journey to the Tiger Bridge

The customer problem that took them on their journey to create Tiger Bridge was surveillance for an airport. The airport wanted to upgrade their surveillance systems. They had 300 HD cameras with a retention time of 2 weeks and wanted to scale within 3 years to 10,000 4K cameras that would have a retention of 6 months. Tiger Technology computed that the capacity for this project would be ongoing at 15 petabytes of data.

Tackling this problem using standard file systems would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention that it wasn’t even possible to get Windows to that capacity at the time they started.  They knew object storage would work better. Because of the security implications, other requirements were no latency or BW impact, no tamper point, software only, and scalable.

If you think about surveillance cameras, you need a way to keep the data on-site for a while, then you need to send the data someplace that doesn’t cost as much to store it. But you need to be able to bring that data back with fidelity if you need to check the videos for something. These customer challenges are how they came up with the idea for Tiger Bridge.

What is Tiger Bridge?

Tiger Bridge is a hierarchical storage management (HSM) system. It installs in less than five minutes on a server. The agent installed on the servers is a Microsoft Filter Driver and sits between the application reads and writes and target storage.  Since it is integrated with the file system as a filter driver it also falls under Active Directory control, which is great for existing workloads and policies.

With Tiger Bridge, files are replicated and tiered automatically based on policies set on last access time and/or volume capacity. The agent does the tiering work in the background, so sending or retrieving the file from the cloud, even cold cloud storage, is transparent to the user.

Via the TigerBridge website

The team focused on providing this seamless experience to applications that are hosted on the Windows platform. Since they wanted this to also work for legacy apps, one thing they had to figure out is how to use all the commands that are common in a file system that aren’t replicated in the cloud, things like lock, move, rename, etc. They also wanted to support all the cloud storage features like versioning, soft delete, and global replication, since applications written for the cloud require these features.

The example they gave of bridging cloud and file system features was rename. You can rename any Windows file, no problem. But rename isn’t available on public cloud systems, you have to do a copy. For a couple of files, that’s probably no big deal. But if you rename a folder with lots of files in it, that could be a huge rename job. It may take time, and it will probably get expensive.

Their solution keeps track of where the files are, and any changes that have been made. This solves the problem of data being rendered useless because it’s no longer associated with its original application, a common issue that brings on lock-in anxiety. Files under the Tiger Bridge control maintain a link with the file system on premises and the public cloud. Users never know if they are hitting the data on premises or in the cloud.

Check out the demo from a user perspective:

What does Tiger Technology do for users?

What this means is that a user on their laptop can use the Windows file system they are familiar with, and the agent handles where the file actually is in the background.  Administrators can make rules that tier the data that make sense to the business. It allows organizations to use the cloud as an extension of their data storage.

Other use cases are disaster recovery. Having a location like the cloud so you can have a backup of your data in a different location without having to manage another site or tapes is a very attractive use case. Since it is so easy to bring files back from the cloud, Tiger Bridge is able to handle this use case as well.

Real Talk about Tiger Technology

 I think this is the year we’re going to see a lot more solutions bubble up that truly bridge on-premises and the cloud, and I think we’ll seem them from older companies like Tiger Technology. These companies understand application requirements and the technical debt that companies are battling with, and they are finding ways to make the cloud model fit into the reality of their customers’ current realities.

The Tiger Technology presentation reminded me of something we used to say at EMC: a disk, is a disk, is a disk. Users, and applications, don’t really care where the disk they are writing to is located, who manages it, and what it costs. They care about their application being easy to use, low latency, and security. Tiger Technology has figured out how to make that old storage saying work for public cloud and legacy applications.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Please follow and like us:
error0

Should You Use Influencer Lists?

You’ve seen them before, influencer lists promising to deliver the names of the 100 Top Influencers for <insert trending new tech term here>. As a marketer, what are the best ways to use influencer lists? As an influencer, what does it really mean to be included on these lists?

Before I start, let me clarify that this post will focus on a B2B marketing perspective, and in particular B2B marketing for enterprise tech. Other marketing forms may not apply here.

This post got pretty long, but it’s important. TL;DR: What’s the history of influencer lists, who is making these lists, how are they compiled, a warning for influencers on these lists, and strategies for marketers when using these lists.

Why Do Influencer Lists Exist?

About thirteen years ago, social media really started to take off. People who really understood different technologies started blogging, creating videos online, and tweeting. Eventually, this labor finally started to be acknowledged as valuable by PR and traditional marketing (around 2010 or so).

The question for these traditonal keepers of the corporate message and reputation became: with all of these people creating content, who should we pay attention to? Should we brief these people? Can we ignore the annoying ones? Who is worthy of our time and attention? This last part is important because time and attention always come at a price.

In the very beginning people shared their RSS feeds on their blogs. If you really liked someone’s blog, you checked out their RSS feed. If that person was awesome, obviously who they liked to read was awesome as well. Sometimes it worked, sometimes you just ended up reading what the awesome person’s friends wrote.

By the time PR and traditional marketing decided to trust social media as a real information souce, no one was using RSS feeds anymore. So you had the perfect storm of internal organizations needing help to understand who was an influencer that they should trust, and having budget and initiatives to use social media to amplify their brands.

Who Publishes These Lists?

In the beginning, lists were driven by the influencers. This made the lists have an obvious credibility issue.

To get the answer on who publishes influencer lists these days, let’s go back to the history of social media in big companies. As PR and traditional marketing organizations started to get their arms around protecting their brands on social media, it quickly became apparent that they were going to need a platform to keep up with their brands across all types of social media. There was just too much data being created for one or two people to keep up with! An industry was born, and social media monitoring platforms were created to help firms keep an eye on what people were saying about their brands.

Since all the tweets, facebook posts, reddit tirades, and blog posts were being collected by these platforms, it was pretty easy to create methodologies to determine who was talking the most about any given subject. These tools assign different weights to things like affinity and sentiment, and when combined with frequency and a search term, lists of influencers can be created. This isn’t AI, it is pattern matching and sorting with human created weights. It’s math.

These days, the tools have evolved beyond monitoring tools. There are influencer marketing platforms to help PR and marketing organizations with their influencer marketing initiatives. If you see a “top 100 influencers in ….” list, there is a good chance that the company sharing the list is trying to sell a marketing team their influencer marketing program.

How Are These Lists Compiled?

Let’s take an Onalytica, a company that sells an influencer marketing platform (and training). I’m using them as an example because they are the most recent company with a big campaign to announce a Top 100 Cloud Influencers list. Those who made the 2020 list were more than happy to share Onalytica’s announcement tweet, which had a tracking code to the announcement page. To see the entire list you had to give up your information to Onalytica . Fair disclosure: folks who made this list are definitly cloud influencers.

There were obvious problems with the list. Many well-known influencers were missing. There were 9 women, and very few people of color. How was the list compiled?

According to the Onalytica announcement, their priority influence metric is what they call Topical Authority (reference). They come up with this by taking the amount and quality via influencer’s social engagement on Twitter. The quality portion of this weight is subjective and I didn’t see a definition for it. Next, they add in if the person has been referenced with the cloud terms used in the search other social platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Forums, Blogs, News and Tumblr content. More commentary on this below.

Search for Definitions

Here is Onalytica’s formula for determining the top influencers (as stated in the announcement blog post). Notice that critical definitions for qualitative parameters were not given.

  1. Resonance: Topical engagement
    It is not stated explicitly, but I believe this is related to reference. If so, this is how much an influencer posts and engages about “cloud” on Twitter.
  2. Relevance: Number of posts on topic, and % relevance – the proportion of their social content on the topic.
    The number of posts on the topic is quantitative. I have to wonder – does this include paid posts? The % relevance is problematic as well. If an influencers talks 75% about security, or devops, or programimng, and 25% cloud, then they would rank lower than other influencers, even if they are core to the community discussion.
  3. Reach: Number of followers
    This is a quantitative weight. This is problematic as well, it narrows the field and eliminates many real influencers.

Influencer Lists Are Made From Statistics

Y’all, this is plain ole math. These weights are determined by what the company has deemed influential and important to the definition of an influencer. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a place to start. But you need to figure out the math behind the process.

In the case of the Onalytica top 100 cloud influencers list, if someone isn’t active on Twitter they won’t make the top 100. Likewise if they aren’t being referenced from other social platforms, although it is not clear how this referencing is defined. Is it mentions? Is it links to their content out from others’ posts? Is it likes on their posts on these platforms? If you’re a marketer relying on tools like this, these are good questions to ask.

There is more info this report, which is behind another Onalytica lead gen form, and there are two calls to action (stuff they want you to do to be convinced to buy their tool) in the report itself. Here is how they describe the strategy they used for the top 100 cloud influencers (emphasis mine):

Onalytica sourced and analyzed over 200 Billion Posts from Twitter, Blogs, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn in order to identify key influencers such as journalists, subject matter experts, thought leaders, authors, academics and politicians that are influential on specific topics.
Influencers were then ranked by REACH, RESONANCE, RELEVANCE, REFERENCE to analyze which influencers are most relevant for brands to engage with. Using this methodology we identified 1,000 influencers relevant to the global market and segmented influencers into categories relevant to the cloud sector.
A network map was created identifying the top 100 engaged influencers across the topic of cloud. Through the network map we were able to analyze the scale of a brand’s reach into the influencer community through the number of interactions it had with influencers over the past year.

If you’re an influencer, you should understand this report is a marketing tool. If you’re a marketing professional, you should understand that these influencer lists are marketing tools that may or may not have relevance for your mission.

Strategies for Using Influencer Lists

So are these lists bad? No, they’re not, as long as you recognize them for what they are, and try to understand the math behind the results. Should you use an influencer list created by one of these influencer marketing platforms? It depends. If you are a small team, and you need to get your arms around a market for the first time, or you are prepping for a big launch into a new market, these lists can give you a head start. They aren’t bad, but they require evaluation.

You should know your market enough to ask some hard questions, especially what search terms are being used, and the math used to come up with results. Once you know that, it is also important pay particular attention to influencers that land on the list.

Seperate the Influencers into Different Categories

Are there employees on the list? They can help you vet the rest of the list. When I was doing this circa 2011, the lists always contained our biggest competitors, or influencers of those competitors. That wasn’t obvious to marketers who weren’t active in our community, but we knew immediately.

You also should be giving your internal influencers as much love as you give your external influencers. Community building starts in-house, you cannot build a strong external community if you don’t have a strong internal community.

Are competitors on the list? Don’t cater to them, obviously. But be sure to keep tabs on what they are saying, and to whom they are connected. Remember, competitors’ influencers are your influencers too.

Are partners on the list? Show them love! That is a sure way to stregnthen your ties, promote the work that is important to them.

Who is missing from the list? It is unacceptable to use one of these tools and accept a list that is not diverse. There are so many documented reasons that people will not be picked up on the basis of an algorithyms definiton of rach, resonance, relevance, or reference. These tools reinforce stereotypical echo chambers.

Question who is missing if everyone on the list looks the same. We all have an obligation to build a future that represents everyone.

This is Ultimately About Community

Finding your influencers is a community building excercise. These lists are a great way to take a temperature of who is talking about the topics your organization is working on, but you still need to be protective of how you choose to engage in these conversations.

You will miss your best influencers if you rely on these algorythms. A solid feedback loop from your biggest influencers really will make a better product, but you have to put in the work to find the right list for your product.

Finaly, you must to tend that list, sometimes water it, sometimes weed it, sometimes cut it back. Don’t just accept an influencer list, do the work to build real community.

Please follow and like us:
error0

Is storage still relevant?

storage field day

Disclosure: I was invited by GestaltIT as a delegate to their Storage Field Day 19 event from Jan 22-24, 2020 in the Silicon Valley CA. My expenses, travel, accommodation and conference fees were covered by GestaltIT, the organizer. I was not obligated to blog or promote the vendors’ technologies. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views.

Is storage still relevant in today’s cloud and serverless environments? At Storage Field Day 19 we spent several hours with Western Digital, and heard from ten different presenters. Did they show us that storage is still relevant?

Hardware Must Innovate for Software to Innovate

I think the industry often forgets that software innovation is impossible without hardware innovation. We’ve seen some pretty amazing hardware innovations over the last decade or so, and hardware companies are still at it.

You may be asking: how is an old hardware company able to keep up, let alone still be innovating? Well, Western Digital has 50 years of storage experience, and they are still innovating. Their heritage is highlighted in this slide.

Western Digital’s 50 year heritage via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqw3_HgiA9o

Western Digital is looking at how to solve the data storage challenges for emerging workloads. They already have tons of experience, so they know that the data must be stored, and that more data is being created now than ever before.

More data is being created today than ever before, and it all needs to be stored so it is available to have compute applied to it. Compute is what turns the data is turned into actionable information. But there is so much data now – how should it get stored? How will it be accessed? It’s becoming pretty obvious that the old ways of doing this will not be performant, or maybe not even scalable enough.

One workload they talked about throughout many of the presentations was video. Just think about what kinds of devices that now create streams of video. IoT devices, survellance cameras, cars, the general public, etc. Much of the new types of streaming video is being created at the edge. The edge cases are so diverse that even our understanding of “edge” may be antiquated.

So is storage still relevant? Maybe not the type I came up on – SANs and NASs. But the next evolution of storage has never been more relevant than now.

Composable Infrastructure

Western Digital also discussed composable infrastructure, and how technologies such as NVMe over Fabric make composable infrastructure possible. Don’t worry if you have no idea what I’m talking about – the standards for NVMe over Fabric weren’t pulled together until 2014, and the standard became real in 2016. Also, hardware standard boards are so peculiar – they don’t use the NVMe acronym, they use “NVM Express”. This makes it hard to find primary source information, so keep that in mind when you’re googling.

What can NVMe over Fabric do for composable infrastructure? First, let’s answer why would you need composable infrastructure?

Western Digital’s Scott Hamiliton walked us through this. First of all, new types of applications like machine learning and deep learning need the data to be close to where the compute is happening. Even after considering tradeoffs that must be made because of data gravity, traditional architecture slows things down because resources are locked in that traditional stack.

Composable infrastructure takes the resources trapped in traditional infrastructure, breaks them up and disaggregates them. After that’s done, the resources can be recreated into the leanest combination possible for a workload, virtually composed, creating a new type of logical server. The beauty is this can then be modified based on the dynamics of a workload.

According to Hamiliton, Western Digital believes NVMe will the foundation of next-gen infrastructures, and that eventually ethernet will be the universal backplane. It was an interesting session, check it out for yourself below.

Western Digital at Tech Field Day via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuRI1TlBJgA

Zoned Storage

Western Digital is also championing the Zoned Storage initiative. This will be part of the NVMe standard. Zoned Storage creates an address space on disk (HDD or SSD) that is divided into zones. Data must be written sequentially to a zone, and can’t be overwritten sequentially. Here’s Western Digital’s explanation:

[Zoned Storage] involves the ability to store and retrieve information using shingled magnetic recording (SMR) in hard disk drives (HDDs) to increase the storage density and its companion technology called Zoned Name Spaces in solid state drives (SSDs).

via https://www.westerndigital.com/company/innovations/zoned-storage

Why does the industry need this? According to Swapna Yasarapu, Sr. Director of Product Marketing for Western Digital’s Data Center Business Unit, we’re moving into an era where large portions of unstructured data are being created. All of this data can’t be stored via traditional methods. Additionally, unstructured streams come from IoT edge devices, video, smart video, telemetry, and various other end devices. Many of these streams must be written sequentially to unlock the information the data contains.

Finally, this is an open source initiative that will help write this data in a more practical way for these types of data streams to HDDs and SSDs.

Watch the entire presentation here:

Acronyms as an innovation indicator

One way I can tell when there is innovation is when I come across acronyms I don’t know. After 3 years focusing on virtualization hardware, I found myself having a hard time keeping up with the acronyms thrown at us during the presentations.

The good news is that some of these technologies are brand new. So much for storage being old school! Plus, can you imagine what apps are waiting to be written on these new architectures that have yet to be built?

Here are the acronyms I didn’t know. How many can you define?

  • TMR: tunneling magnetoresistance
  • TPI: Track Per Inch (disk density)
  • PZT: Piezoelectric actuator (see this earlier Storage Field Day post)
  • VCM: Voice Coil Motor (see this video )
  • SMR: Shingled Magnetic Recording
  • SSA: Solid State Array
  • ZBC: SCSI Zoned Block Commands
  • ZAC: Zoned ATA Commands
  • ZNS: Zoned Named Storage

Is Storage Still Relevant? Final thoughts

I think you know my answer on the questions is storage still relevant: of course! We are just beginning to create the standards that will issue in the real digital transformation, so there is plenty of time to catch up.

Please follow and like us:
error0