Archives for October 2012

Why does StorSimple Matter?

Today is one of those spotlight days when people who don’t know much about StorSimple will want to find out more.

In a nutshell, we have been developing what we believe is the best cloud data management technology that allows our customers to use cloud storage services to manage their enterprise data and storage.

We don’t make the cloud look like a disk drive or tape drive, we make the cloud available as a place to manage data. Our technology segments data that is stored in our systems into small pieces and we track each and every one of those segments wherever it happens to be – whether it is in SSD storage, on hard disks or in the cloud.  As the data is updated, we track all those changes too.

Why?  Because it makes things like recovery from the cloud a whole lot faster than pretending to be a tape drive and it creates a system where data portability between the enterprise data center and the cloud is possible. If you are going to move data between earth and sky, you need to keep track of it somehow and keep up with the changes.  We have a system for doing that.  The various segments of a volume can be anywhere within reach – such as in the cloud – and customers can mount the volume. We assemble all the segments and serve them to applications as they are needed. That’s why disaster recovery is so fast with StorSimple. Customers mount the volume – in the cloud – and have access to everything in it – but only download the data they need to get up and running again.

For those readers who are not into enterprise storage, the technology has similarities to both Data Domain and 3PAR.  All the data in the system is deduplicated like Data Domain systems do, and all the small pieces of the data are presented as live online data the way 3PAR does.  It’s small grained storage virtualization that includes both deduplication and cloud storage.

There is no special hardware required to do this. StorSimple has built systems that have a certain blend of SSDs and hard disks in order to meet certain performance expectations. While there are many exciting opportunities to further leverage our technology in the days ahead, for now we are enjoying the news and looking forward to the excitement of suddenly becoming much more visible and important to a lot of potential customers.

My Ubuntu epiphany – that old Dell lives again

I’ve always been a Windows user. I’ve never had problems finding the apps I needed to get the job done – and that includes audio and video production, so I’ve stuck with it and Windows has treated me well in return. FWIW, I’m definitely looking forward to Windows 8, although I probably won’t be an early adopter, preferring to wait for the first round of gotchas to get ironed out.

But in the last couple days I had a situation come up that drove me off Windows for a solution. A family member is having problems with their aging Mac and asked what they should do. My technology-tired spouse unit piped up: “Ask Marc, he has a bunch of machines lying around, he should be able to help you out”.  And of course, like a moron, I said I did and I would as long as they could use a Windows system. They were desperate and finally caved.

So I pulled the door open to the closet from hell and extracted a Dell bag from the bottom containing an old corporate system (Dell D630). I was supposed to have turned it in at work some years ago, but it had been a good friend and it looked so sad sitting there – I couldn’t have just given it to the grim reaper of corporate transition. Besides it had a bunch of source files on it from various ongoing blog concepts that I thought might be useful. Of course, once it hit the closet, it was never seen again.

All I needed to do was fire it up, clear out the old data and give it away.  As if.

CTRL+ALT+DEL  and the prompt for credentials appeared. 15 minutes later I could see this was going nowhere and so I turned to the Internet having seen references years ago for recovering XP passwords. There’s nothing quite like getting your hopes up with an Internet search to find that everything written is an insult to your intelligence. “Here’s a great tip – try logging in as Administrator!” Uhhh, yeah, I did  already as well as trying as guest, admin, petrock and several other favorites. I finally tried Ophcrack which involves downloading an ISO file on another system, burning the a CD and  booting the locked system. At this point I was in geek heaven, but it turns out that Ophcrack didn’t reveal anything on the first pass and I didn’t want to take 5 hours figuring out which hash tables I needed. It was becoming clear to me that this would cost me money if I had to replace the hard drive and buy another Windows OS license. Spending $$ was never a part of my good-family plan.

Then it hit me. Linux. Reinstall over XP and get it over with. The only problem was that I never really worked with the stuff. The last time I tried, I got it installed but never really did anything with it. The learning curve seemed too steep for something I didn’t need.  FWIW, it was experiences like that had me questioning my geek status. Anyway, I had enough awareness to know that Ubuntu had some popularity, so after verifying that with Google, I downloaded an ISO for Ubuntu, made the CD, booted it and started the installation.

OMG – was this ever the easiest installation for anything, or what?  It went flawlessly and quickly. It found all my hardware like my wireless card and gave me a list of networks to use.  I had to adjust my touchpad settings to my liking, but that was all I had to do. Damn! The distribution came with Firefox and software called LibreOffice for word processing, spreadsheets and presentation. I haven’t tried them, but they look reasonable – especially for somebody who doesn’t need them for  work.

It also came with an app called the Ubuntu Software Center, which is like an app store, but a lot of the apps in it are open source freeware apps and utilities.  There is a ton of stuff in there and after 30 minutes or so of dorking around, I figured out how it was organized and could search it with some effectiveness.

In short order I had a basic working system that looks good, performs well and does a lot of things a lot of people need a system to do. And it didn’t cost me anything except for the time it took – most of which was wrapped up in futile Windows password cracking attempts.

A pleasant surprise this morning happened when my wife mentioned she was up early and saw some stars that she wondered about. I fired up an application called Stellarium (Linux is great for scientific and educational software) that allowed me to get a picture of the night sky from any time. Amazing! A screencap from Stellarium is below.

Of course it looks better on a full screen, you can get the idea by clicking it.  Ultra-coolness.

So it turns out that this machine is suddenly fun again and I’m liking it too much to give it up to somebody that can’t possibly appreciate it. It will be back to the closet for me to find another orphaned system. FWIW, This blog post was written on my new/old Ubuntu machine. I couldn’t really tell the difference from my Windows 7 system while doing this (working in Firefox).