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!

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.

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.

Storage Field Day 19: Getting Back to My Roots

storage field day

I’m excited that I have been invited to be a delegate at Storage Field Day 19. This is a little different than the Tech Field Day I attended in 2019, because the focus of all the presentations at this event is data storage.

I am looking forward to this because I am a storage person. My career started as a Technical Trainer at EMC, I was a storage admin for a pharma company. I went back to EMC to develop technical training, I then went to work for Dell Storage, and then Inktank (a startup that provided services and support for Ceph). I guess you could say storage is in my blood, so Storage Field Day should be lots of fun.

What to expect at Storage Field Day

Here are the companies we’ll be visiting (in the order they will be presenting), and what I’m looking forward to hearing about from them. Remember, you can join in on this event too by watching the livestream and participating in the twitter conversation using the hastag #SFD19.  You can @ me during the livestream and I can ask a question for you.

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

Tiger Technology

The first presentation we hear will be from Tiger Technology. Just looking at the website, they claim to do lots of stuff. When I look at their About page, they’ve been around since 2004 “developing software and designing high-performance, secure, data management solutions for companies in Enterprise IT, Surveillance, Media and Entertainment, and SMB/SME markets”. They are headquartered in Bulgaria and Alpharetta, and since my mom was born and raised in Alpharetta, they get extra points.

Skipping to their News page, it looks like they have a new solution that tiers data in the cloud. I’m looking forward to hearing how they do that!

NetApp

NetApp talked with us at TFD20 (my blog review of that presentation). They talked to us then a bit about their flavor of Kubernetes, and the work they are doing to make it easy for their customers to have data where they want it to be. Hoping they do a deeper dive on CVS and ANF, their PaaS offerings for the current public cloud offerings.

Western Digital

Western Digital has presented at previous Tech Field Day events, and have acquired many companies who are Tech Field Day presenting alums. The last time they presented back in February 2019 they talked about NVMe, and I love that topic.

One thing I think that doesn’t get enough attention is the incredible innovation that has happened over the last several years in storage hardware. The software is now catching up, and apps will follow. So there is cool tech stuff happening on prem too, not just in the public cloud domain.

I peeped their twitter account, and they have interesting things they are showing this week at CES. Like this 8TB prototype that looks like a cell phone battery bank.  That would be a pretty sweet piece of swag! 😊

Infrascale

This will be Infrascale’s first appearance at Storage Field Day. Their website says what they do right up front: they have a DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service) solution that fails to a second site, booting from an appliance or the cloud.

After storage, the biggest time I’ve spent in my career has been with data protection and disaster recovery, so I’ll be looking forward to this presentation as well. Really looking forward to hear about how this solution can included in an architecture.

Dell EMC

Since I’ve worked in storage at Dell and EMC, and I’m just coming off a tour at VMware, of course I’m excited to sit in on presentations from my Dell Technologies federation homies! There will be presentations on Isilon and PowerOne, but the one I’m most curious about is one on DevOps.

Komprise

Komprise has presented at Storage Field Day before (in 2018). They are a data management and tiering solution. At AWS re:invent they unveiled a cloud data growth analytics solution. I hope we hear about that.

WekaIO

WekaIO’s  has presented at Tech Field Day a couple of times before. They have a distributed storage system for ML/AI, it looks like they directly access NVMe flash drives. It looks like they also have a solution on AWS. So this should be an interesting conversation. I’m just hoping we don’t have to listen to a “what is AI story” before they get to the good stuff.

Minio

This will be Minio’s first presentation at Tech Field Day. Minio sells high performance object storage. One of the other Tech Field day delegates, Chin-Fah Heoh, has already written a blog post about how Mineo is in a different class than other object storage providers. I’m really looking forward to this presentation.

Can Small World Theory Explain Polarization? #blogredux

small world

This week in Blog Redux: can small world theory explain polarization? This week I’m reviving an old post from blog.ginaminks.com from July 10, 2010. The post was titled How information needs and small world signatures are related to affinity and relevance. Ahh the good ole days when we didn’t have to worry about SEO and we could just write to communicate!

This blog post was based on my undergrad degree, in particular the work of Elfreda Chatman. Unfortunately she passed away very unexpectedly soon after I graduated. I wish she were around to know how much she impacted my work, and so I could work with her now.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2020.

How information needs and small world signatures are related to affinity and relevance

Last week I wrote a post asking if anyone knew a technical term for truthiness.

No takers on that so that request. So now this is my reflective post to work my way through the idea that unscrupulous information impostors will be able to figure out how to use social media to control information networks. How can that happen? Think about information.

Thoughts from 2020: I wrote that post as I was working out my presentation for Bitnorth. That presentation was on the digital divide, and how can normal people compete with media that intend to manipulate videos and stories to get their message across. Spoiler: the bad guy was Andrew Breitbart.

Information Needs

We talk alot about the digital explosion of data at EMC, but how is data different than information? Information has more depth than data because information responds to a need. There may be a need for the information, but if that need is never expressed the information seeking process never begins.

Thoughts from 2020: this point about information is really important. We are overrun with data, even more so 20 years later. The data we pay attention to is the data that responds to a need. That’s what marketers do, look for (or create) an information need, and convince you that only their product can fill your needs. That’s also how propaganda works.

The way that people process information is dependent on the small worlds (or communities, or tribes…) to which they belong. The roles we play in our small worlds also impact if we are able to express a need for information.

Thoughts from 2020: I went along with the social media craze of talking about our “tribes”, mostly because it felt pointless to fight it. But ten years later, we have native twitter, and seriously great posts from citizens of native nations explaining why saying tribes is appropriation and actually has a negative impact on native people today. Follow some native people, learn more, and stop encouraging people to “find their tribe”!

Small world signatures

Once you belong to small world, you have to conform to that group’s signature (or style) to remain a member of the world. The signature defines how a group will handle events, topics that can be discussed (or must be excluded), the form of interaction, and the level of meaning of events.

The style also instructs group members how to deal with outsiders. Usually, if a stranger enters a small world they present enough raw information about their world to allow members of the group to see a worldview beyond their own. If the stranger understands the rules the group has for information exchange, the stranger can continue to share his alternative world view. But if the stranger forgets to stay within the group’s signature, the members of the small group won’t communicate freely anymore.

Think about Windows admins vs UNIX admins. Think about very technical people and marketers. Think about women in technology. Think about teenagers and parents. Think about yankees and southerners.

Thoughts from 2020: Think about our current political climate. All sides have these small world signatures, and it is interesting to see how some of the political groups define the signature (hats, catch phrases, how to interact).

Also think about what happens when an outsider tries to interact. If the outsider says or does certain things, the communication channel is abruptly closed.

How this relates to social media

Relevance and affinity are two goal posts companies are driving toward with their social media programs. Its the place companies want to get after all of their investments in listening and building reach. The idea is to build real relationships with customers, not to just market at them.

Here’s my idea:

Relevance is being able to meet an information need. If a company has done their homework, they know how to be relevant and end up in one of their customer’s searches for information.

Affinity is being able to know a small world’s rules for exchanging information, and being able to copy the pattern so that information exchange is possible. Its understanding your target community, connecting on their terms, talking their language.

Thoughts from 2020: I believe these definitions of relevance and affinity have held up. From a corporate marketing standpoint, this is very hard work. I feel like for the most part this was abandoned when community was ditched for pure digital marketing.

If we think about the current political climate, and how digital and social media marketing tools have been used to sway elections, the implications are more sinister.

Here’s what scares me

Information imposters can have play this game too. They can study small worlds, make themselves relevant to information searches of their target population, and build affinity. If they are able to do all of these things they should be able to infiltrate a small world. Will they be able to change the group’s signature? Will they be able to change the rules so that people no longer have a need to search for information?

And now this post is getting too long — so I have more reflecting to do. What do you think? Am I on to something here?

Thoughts from 2020: Ten years later, and my predictions were correct. And frankly, that terrifies me. The question now is: how do we fight this? How do we take back social tools to unite us, instead of divide us?

All of this came from a paper I wrote in my undergrad days, the material was from class notes in my Information Needs and Preferences course which was taught by Elfreda Chatman.

Thoughts from 2020: Are you interested in finding ways to fight the polarization in our world? Do you want to help link small worlds instead of fighting against each other? We are too. Please subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on LinkedIn if you’re interested in learning more.

Is Community Still a Bad Word? #blogredux

community

This week in Blog Redux: is community still a bad word? This week I’m reviving an old post from blog.ginaminks.com from February 2012 (almost 8 years ago!). The post was titled On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia. Don’t worry, the c-word is community.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2019: .

On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia

Pneumonia is a funny thing. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with pneumonia a week and a half ago. While I was at Cloud Connect. I can honestly say I’ve never been this sick in my entire life. It’s worse than the massive kidney infection I had when I was 8 months pregnant. Or the appendectomy that happened when I was six months pregnant. (Yes same kid. She obviously inherited tenacity from the get-go).

I’ve had to just lay in bed for 12 days now. This blog has been written and re-written several times in my head, but today is the first day I’ve had the energy to sit up and write it.

Thoughts from 2019: I was very sick. I didn’t even have the energy to read, which was a first for me. It was the first time I had slowed down in a very long time. The universe absolutely told me to have a seat. Hard IT burn-out lessons learned here.

One of the things I’ve been laying in bed thinking about is how social media tools are being used for marketing. I jumped to marketing from technical education because I wanted to blog and learn and talk about all of the cool new emerging technologies. I wanted to do more than maintain courses on legacy technologies  for a corporate training organization. And isn’t marketing really just educating people about what your company can offer?

Thoughts from 2019: I maintain that this is exactly what a product marketer does, based on research and collaboration.

Social media gives all of us the ability to find experts on all sorts of topics . Hell, you may be the expert – maybe you find a blog or a video or a message board that sparks innovation by giving you a different angle, a different definition. Then you share your innovative idea with others – and you banter and argue and everyone learns a ton.

Thoughts from 2019: I believe this is still true, but it may be harder to find. I mean, kids these days want to grow up to be influencers, not influence others with their unique insights and talents.

For businesses, harnessing the power of the experts inside and outside of your organization can be a very powerful thing. Unfortunately, that’s not what I’m seeing in the world of marketing. Lots of the traditional marketing viewpoints – reach, eyeballs on the pages, crafting and controlling the messages seem to be much more important than telling the company’s story from the viewpoint of external and internal experts.

You may have seen me talking about the “C-word” on Twitter. The c-word is Community. I started using the c-word after talking to some other social media folks who had also noticed in meetings about new social media plans, lots would be said about various social media tools, keywords, even metrics, but nothing was ever said about how this plan would impact and build the community. It’s almost like community is a dirty word!

I think the support groups in an organization – e.g. Education and Marketing – really need to step up and start changing the way they do business. We need to stop applying the old way of doing things to these new social media tools.  We are the teachers, the story tellers. Why aren’t we telling stories, teaching our communities? Why are we just making plans to tweet and blog and chatter? Let’s take advantage of the promise of the tools – and change how we do things!

Thoughts from 2019: Just coming out of a corporate product marketing role, I’m not sure this has gotten much better in the last 8 years. It is much easier to create video and blog content, and social media marketing is really part of digital marketing now. There are even efforts to do influencer marketing, but that too doesn’t try to knit ties between internal and external parties, let alone build internal or external communities. There is so much potential for marketers and educators here, surely we are better than nation states who use social media marketing tools to disrupt the social fabric of their enemies.

One of the few conversations I was able to have at Cloud Connect was with Brent Scotten of DreamHost. We mulled over the idea of what will happen if the whole devops movement really takes root in organizations.  The devops movement is about the operations and software development teams working together to create the best infrastructure possible in order to quickly develop and deploy software. If those teams work as a well-oiled team, and the company’s product is getting better faster because of it, marketing and education can’t be add-ons. These groups can’t continue to business like they did last century when the bread and butter of the business has moved on to doing things a new way.

I love this point the Agile Admin makes in a post about the definition of dev-ops:

The point is that all the participants in creating a product or system should collaborate from the beginning – business folks of various stripes, developers of various stripes, and operations folks of various stripes, and all this includes security, network, and whoever else.  There’s a lot of different kinds of business and developer stakeholders as well; just because everyone doesn’t get a specific call-out….   The original agile development guys were mostly thinking about “biz + dev” collaboration, and DevOps is pointing out “dev + ops” collaboration, but the mature result of all this is “everyone collaborating”. (emphasis mine)

Thoughts from 2019: We are 8 years in, and I believe the dev-ops movement (although the intentions were good) and public cloud providers have actually widened the gap between developers and IT admins.

These days I’ve had to lay in bed have allowed me to really reflect on who I am. I’m a community builder, an educator, a story teller. My forced shut down reminded me how important those things are. Looking forward to getting my strength back and getting back to work to try and to help people see that community isn’t a bad word.

Thoughts from 2019: A strong product community can make a better product. We strayed from that original idea to chase likes and views. I think it’s time to revisit the promise of community.

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Does Literacy Matter in a Digital World?

literacy

Literacy. It is the foundation of American Public Schools, and an important arc in the story of democracy. But what does literacy really mean, especially in a modern, digital world?

Definitions

This is the Miriam Webster definition of literacy:

Being educated, cultured; able to read and write; versed in literature or creative writing; lucid, polished; having knowledge or competence.

But when you boil it down, the generic definition of literacy is the ability to read, write, and perform math so that you can function in your society. That’s why in the United States, children are required to attend school and obtain a high school diploma. Graduating from high school (or passing a GED [General Educational Development] test) is the measure to prove basic adult literacy.

But is literacy simply the ability to read, write, and do math? Do you just need to read the words that are put in front of you? Do you need to be able to regurgitate what you read into written words, or do you need to be able write your own thoughts?  And does this include the ability to evaluate the validity of the information that you consume?

Applications of Literacy

Literacy is important, as it seems to be an indicator for societal success. For example, this chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that you can earn more money the more education you have. This chart seems to reinforce that the true meaning of literacy is the ability to read, write, and perform math so that you can function in your society.

Literacy rates and earnings

But there’s a dark side. Literacy opens doors financial security and the ability to function as equals in a democratic society.  Literacy tests were used in the 1800s to prevent Irish immigrants from voting, and then again in the Jim Crowe era, denying black voters their right to vote. These citizens were given 10 minutes to take tests like this, and 1 wrong answer meant you wouldn’t be registered to vote. There are several ways to interpret each question, meaning if the voting registrar didn’t want you on the rolls, you weren’t going to be on the rolls. For interesting 1st person accounts of this, visit this site.

Media Literacy

As technology improved, there became more ways to consume information that reading printed words, and more ways to transmit information than writing words. There had to be different ways to describe proficiency with all types of media. This is how the National Association for Media Literacy defines media literacy:

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication. In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing. Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens (emphasis mine).

Part of the definition – being critical thinkers and makers – is important when it is easy to create persuasive content. How can you tell the information you’re consuming is real, that it’s not trying to trick you into believing something else? How can you be sure it’s not propaganda?

Media Evaluation: How to Tell If Content Is Useful or Propaganda?

The original meaning of the word propaganda came from a committee of cardinals established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV named Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, or congregation for propagating the faith”. The goal of this group was to promote Catholicism in non-Catholic countries. By 1790, propaganda meant “any movement to propagate some practice or ideology”. (via) But after WWI’s large-scale propaganda, the word took on a negative connotation.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was founded in 1937 to do something about the fascism propaganda that was beginning to be shared with new technologies (radio broadcasts, film, etc.), hoping to provide citizens the information they needed to avoid being duped by misinformation. They believed that education was the American way to deal with disinformation.

Digital Literacy

Now we come to the electronic age, and we need to update the literacy definition again to account for the new ways to consume and create information. The American Library Association defines digital literacy this way:

Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills (emphasis mine).

Evaluate takes on a more important meaning in this case. With media literacy, you know who gives you a pamphlet, or who placed a print ad in a newspaper. But how do you figure out how content is put into the feeds of applications you use? How do you know who is creating the information that you are consuming via algorithms in your feed, and how that information got there in the first place?

I think the IPA had it right. The only way to combat misinformation, propaganda, fake news, whatever you want to call it, is to educate ourselves on how it gets into our feeds, and how to distinguish it from non-propaganda. We need to become digitally literate, and we need to make sure are family and friends are digitally literate as well. That’s why I started Digital Sunshine Solutions.

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Cloud 2020 Summit – did our predictions materialize?

zoltar - fortune teller

The Cloud 2020 Summit was held May 19, 2013 at the Supernap in Las Vegas (which is now called Switch – I think). The event was pulled together by Krish Subramanian, Ben Kepes, and Mark Thiele. The purpose was to “look at the future of cloud infrastructure – it’s going to bring together pundits, vendors and enterprise buyers to postulate on where the industry is going“.

The website is no longer live, but you can see the agenda here. Thank goodness they invited bloggers! I’m not sure how I got invited, but I sure was happy to be there. I’d like to challenge anyone who attended the Cloud 2020 Summit and blogged about it to republish their blog, with added commentary now that we’re at the close of 2019.

Observations from 2019: Here is the post I wrote (original post is here). Looking back, I think it is pretty incredible what I took away from the event.

Cloud 2020, new economic models, and diversity

Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend Interop and the Cloud 2020 Summit. I have lots of thoughts and themes that are converging into a solid story, and this is the blog is the first of the themes that have come out of that event for me.

Observations from 2019: I started off pretty nice. 🙂

To set the stories up, I first have to talk about my passionate outburst during the #Cloud2020 session “The Economics and Use Case of Federated Clouds”. The goal of the session was to “make some sense in terms of economics of how it is going to play out and also discuss some use cases around the idea”. So they discussed cloud as a platform and the economic theories that could drive that. Mainly capitalism vs. communism. My suggestion is that we are leaving out older economic theories, mainly indigenous | substinence economic models.

During the panel, I questioned why the same old tired economic theories were being discussed. Why is it still a binary discussion, with no dissent or deviation, even when the plans we are discussing will impact every person on this earth. What are our responsibilities as we think of the economies of the cloud?

Observations from 2019: Looking back, I know that our visions for cloud 2020, and how new “web 2.0” applications were being implemented bothered me at this level: if we continued to ignore the people our new world was going to impact, we were going to get some scary results. And that’s exactly the path we’re on right now.

I say that it is vital that we have a healthy, vigorous dialogue that is truly diverse. One definition of diverse is where the environment is open enough that all the questions can be asked. I’m not sure we are there yet. (Yeah this is gonna be long, please read on!).

I told the panel there was a problem when all day none of the speakers had included women, multiple races, or representatives of different classes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: this is not an anti-man, they didn’t include us, blah blah blah post. I know the organizers. I know this is not how they think or operate, and indeed they invited women who had to back out because of other commitments. I also know I could have been/should be more participatory…the responsibility is not just with the men or the organizers.

Observations from 2019: I think we’ve started to make improvements with diversity. But we still have a long way to go. I still go to meetings, to events, where women and minorities are not present, and if they are they aren’t the ones on the stage. It is even more important than ever to have a diverse group of people deciding how infrastructures and applications are built, especially as we use people’s personal data to fuel these new apps.

I was approached afterward by someone who felt attacked by my words. I apologized for that, told him I was sincerely sorry and that wasn’t my intention.But he made sure to let me know that specifically had felt attacked because I called out the lack if women (even though my point was the lack of diversity). He then told me something that really has stuck with me.

He told me if I wanted to get ahead, I should stop pointing out that I’m a woman.

He entirely missed the  point I was making, probably because it made him uncomfortable. Whether he knows it or not, he went on to do what’s been done to reinforce the power system for centuries…he told me if I wanted to prosper in the capitalistic society we are ruled by that I needed to hush. Quit rocking the boat. Don’t call attention to the obvious gaps.

I know that’s not what he intended. But it was the net effect of his words. I know it’s because he felt threatened by my words and ideas. And I fell into the same role I’ve always assumed as that familiar scene played out.

I didn’t mean to make him feel threatened. But that’s his issue to deal with, not mine. I didn’t say anything wrong by calling out the obvious. It should be obvious to everyone that when we talk about he future of IT, we are talking about something that will impact all of humanity. We should understand that there will be unintended consequences that may impact disenfranchised societies. It’s our responsibility as the creators of these new ways to manipulate information to insist that all the questions be asked before we settle on the new normal for communications. We need to insist on a truly diverse conversation about these issues.

Observations from 2019: Reading this almost 7 years later, I’m mad at myself. I can still remember that interaction, and he had no business talking to me the way he did. He wanted to intimidate me into silence. Of course I still wrote about it, but look at this language I used.

He sure didn’t care about how I felt when he threatened me. I was working at Dell at the time, and at the time I took it as a threat. And especially when we look at what is happening because we don’t have diversity creating new apps and new architectures, he could have taken a breath and took away a different perspective.

I can say without a doubt that the Cloud 2020 summit is one of the best events I’ve attended in ages. It gave me an opportunity to connect and think and talk about some important issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m very grateful I walked away from the experience and event feeling so empowered. I think that says alot about that event, and about that community.

Observations from 2019: This was a great event. I think they should should host #cloud2030!

So, with that out of the way, in my next post I want to start talking about the concept of the social economy – one used by indigenous and subsistence societies.

Observations from 2019: I never wrote this post, but I’ve been talking again indigenous ways of knowing. That was the point of contention with this talk – he spoke about using the cloud to give salmon fishers a bigger market. I brought out – maybe they don’t want that. Maybe they don’t want to over fish. The speaker said they could switch to genetically modified fishing, and I said “I don’t want no existentially modified salmon”. That line is still hilarious. 🙂

NetApp Goes to the Cloud #TFD20

man releases paper airplanes from a window

This post – NetApp Goes to the Cloud – is my review of materials presented at #TFD20.

NetApp’s 1st presentation at #TFD20 was about NetApp’s cloud strategy. I was very excited to see Nick Howell (aka @DatacenterDude), NetApp’s Global Field CTO for Cloud Data Services, there to greet us and kick things off.  I’ve always known him to be knowledgeable, visionary, and a bit controversial. All of my favorite things! And I was psyched to see how he was going to frame his conversation.

Infrastructure Admin’s Journey to the Cloud

Nicks’ presentation was titled “OK, Now What?” An Infrastructure Admin’s Journey to the cloud.

He set up the history of things for datacenter admins, and how quickly they need use their existing skills to pivot if they’re going to support cloud. I liked this slide highlighting historical design patterns for datacenters.

Cloud Native Strategy, via NetApp

He gave a great overview of the struggles IT Ops folks will need to go through in order to support their organization’s move to the cloud: new training, new certs, etc. It will take effort to get up to speed from a technical perspective.

NetApp Goes to the Cloud

Of course, the message was how easy NetApp makes it for their customers to get to “the cloud” using NetApp Cloud Data Services. He brought in the Google Cloud Partner of the Year award that NetApp was awarded this year’s at Google Next. To me, that makes it obvious they are doing the hard integration work to enable hybrid cloud with NetApp storage.

They’ve been at this for a few years after hiring an exec to run a cloud business in 2017, and acquiring cloud startups (Greenqloud 2017, StackPointCloud 2018). Two years later, NetApp has built a suite of cloud products that are delivered in the cloud, as-a-Service, by NetApp.

They have an IaaS offering called CVO (Cloud Volumes ONTAP), which is a virtual version of ONTAP in the cloud which allows customers to do everything they would do with ONTAP on prem plus more in the three major public cloud services. They have a free trial if you’re interested in kicking the tires. There are also two PaaS offerings called CVS (AWS Cloud Volumes, Google Cloud Volumes) and ANF (Azure NetApp Files).

NetApp goes to the cloud

They are building a control plane, that Nick compared to vCenter, called Fabric Orchestrator. It will give a global view of all data, no matter where the data resides. You’ll have oversight and management control from this control plan. This is set to launch in 2020.

NetApp Kubernetes Service

While this is great work to provide the services to make NetApp hybrid architectures possible, what can you *do* with it? Data capacity exists to host applications, and the way to orchestrate modern applications is Kubernetes.

NetApp has their own Kubernetes service that they call NKS. It is a pure upstream Kubernetes play, and they support the latest release within a week. It has been built to provision, maintain, and do lifecycle management no mater the cloud on which it runs.

Real talk

From everything we were shown, if you’re a NetApp customer you have lots of opportunity on which cloud to use as you build a hybrid and/or multi-cloud strategy. You have a a cloud organization that understands your fears and pains, and they are working to make cloud as easy as possible for you.

NetApp seems to have the right team and attitude to make multi-cloud a reality for their customers. They’ve built a cloud team from cloud native veterans to drive this strategy. They seem to be very intent on shepherding traditional operations teams into the new cloud native era. Will this be enough to span the digital transformation gap? Only time will tell.

Tech Field Day from the Other Side

Last month I accomplished my dream of becoming a Tech Field Day delegate for #TFD20. Because I left my job at VMware in order to launch Digital Sunshine Solutions, I finally no longer work for a vendor and I qualify to be a delegate! This post is a reflection on the differences between being at a vendor and hosting Tech Field day and being a delegate.

Tech Field Day history

For those of you who don’t know, Tech Field Day is a roving event run by Stephen Foskett. 10 years ago, when we were all figuring out what blogging and podcasting meant to big tech companies, he had the vision to take influencers who were talking technically and strategically about products on their personal blogs and podcasts right to the vendors. This gave vendors the opportunity to explain the products and processes, as well as meet this new type of advocate/influencer. Stephen paved the way for enthusiastic, independent influencers the same recognition as analysts and press have always received. Smart vendors welcomed his travelling crewe into their inner circle.

My first time as a delegate

The reason I’ve never participated before: I’ve always worked at a vendor! You can see from my Tech Field Day Delegate page that I’ve participated as a vendor and blogger since the beginning of Tech Field Day. I’ve been responsible for organizing and hosting as a vendor and let me tell you that was no small accomplishment at the time!

Experiencing Tech Field Day as a delegate was exponentially more challenging than following or even hosting as a vendor. Most days we needed to be downstairs before 7. So I was up early to go to the gym and put on makeup. I hate wearing makeup, but my good friend Polly has been playing with a YouTube channel and let me know that if you’re on camera, you need makeup. She is probably right.

We traveled to several vendors a day, hearing their current pitches. Some were amazing, some could have been better. Everyone was very nice though, and treated us like VIPs. After a full day of presentations (we went from 7 – past 5 every day), there were dinner and socialization activities.

My view from the Tech Field Day delegate table

I have known most of the other delegates for a long time (decade even). Talking about the technical and business challenges brought up by the vendors really did bring us together in a community for the week.

What’s in it for vendors

Since I’ve worked for a vendor, I know how hard it can be to secure the funding to bring Tech Field Day to your company. In case you had any reservations, let me put your mind at ease: every single delegate is very keen to hear, understand, and discuss what you’re presenting. There was so much experience in our set of delegates that we had some very vigorous discussions about what you presented. I’m just now getting around to writing blog posts, because I needed the time to reflect and research a bit before I put pen to paper.

The food and swag all were nice, but we were honestly most interested in what your speakers had to say. A couple of the presentations were a little rough, and we found out later that the folks presenting were tapped at the last minute. This is no disrespect to those presenters, but vendors you really want to ensure that you have your guru in the room. Even if they are a little rough, just coach them on what not to say. Let them get up there and geek out. Having folks present that are super safe because not as comfortable with material as they would have liked, or worse sticking to a script is very frustrating, I know this can happen when someone is asked to cover at the last minute. It just leaves you with this feeling that the really good stuff is missing.

The Tech Field day event has always been such a good blend – mixing curious, experienced techies with the product people who want feedback and input to their product strategy. If you have a new message or launch you would like to test, Tech Field Day is a great vehicle for that.

Participate in the Tech Field Day Community

There are so many ways to participate in the Tech Field Day community! To start with, you can watch all of the events live online from the Tech Field Day website. If you’re a vendor, you can become a sponsor and have the delegates live at your location. If you’re an independent techie, maybe one day you can also live the dream.