Somebody we should all know a lot more about: Claude Shannon

claudeshannonEvery now and then you find something out that seems almost impossible that you didn’t know it previously.  A few months ago I stumbled across one of those things when speaking with Nick Bellinger. It seemed like a small thing – I mentioned that I had once lived in Petoskey Michigan and he responded that I must know about Claude Shannon. When I said no, he gave me one of those incredulous looks that let me know instantly that I had missed badly. Thankfully, Nick went on to inform me that Mr. Shannon had invented information theory and further that I could read about it in a fascinating book called “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” by Jon Gertner.

I listened with rapt attention to the audio book as it told story after story of Bell Labs and the people who worked there discovering and inventing much of the stuff that the information age is based on. I highly recommend it for the sections on Claude Shannon that portray the finest and quirkiest aspects of human creativity that most of us can only look at in amazement and wonder. Stories of his seemingly ridiculous and fascinating inventions – such as the robotic machine whose only function is to turn itself off – are both wildly humorous and stimulating. Individuals like Shannon are often disregarded as lone wolves who don’t play well with others, but Shannon’s story is a testament to how much we can all benefit enormously from their solitary accomplishments.

Shannon invented Information Theory on his own, without direction or suggestion or, from what anyone can tell, conversation with others about what he was doing. It wasn’t just that he invented the idea of the digital bit and the foundations of digital information transmission – he went on to prove mathematically that information could be transmitted without loss over an arbitrarily noisy network given a sufficient number of bits to do the job. Everything we understand about digital data, error correction, compression, encryption and deduplication is rooted in his work. In short, everything connected to a network – which will soon be almost everything with an on/off switch – uses the theories Shannon invented all by himself. He is truly a towering figure and he is also virtually unknown. Shannon never wanted fame, but it’s just not right that we should be ignorant of his work.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of his birth and you can find articles about him online and find out about events that have taken place in his honor, such as this “Extra Ordinary Event” recently at MIT. I think you’ll get the best picture of Shannon from the Idea Factory, where he was held in the highest esteem by the finest engineering and research team ever assembled.

Living the California Dream – featuring In and Out Burger

Life in Northern California is pretty sweet – the location, the weather and proximity to In and Out Burgers. We are living the dream.

VMworld 2015 Back2theFuture Steering Wheel Cam!

This was a pretty crazy ride. There were several cars on the show floor at VMworld 2015, including the Audi A7 in our booth at Tegile and the Delorean Back to the Future mobile in Rubrik’s booth. Curtis and I visited several of them and took a spin in the Time Machine. OMG!

The Man, the Meme, the Storage Legend

I had a little fun fun making a fake YouTube ad from the most recent Dos Equis ad – the one that includes the one-liner – “He skips the first date”.  FWIW, the voice overs came from software called NaturalReader.

The Return of the Steering Wheel Camera Society of America

Yes!  It’s back – The Steering Wheel Camera (LG 3) is now bungee-corded to the rearview mirror of my Infinity G37 instead of the wheel of my Ford Fusion. It’s a good setup that provides minimal distractions from the pot holes and fender bending of daily driving.

It’s been a great week, starting my new job at Tegile and with the wonderful support from storage and beer-loving cronies. Look for more of these SWCSA videos throughout the summer as we explore the new realities of bay area motoring (diamond lane cheating) and the storage wilderness. Speaking of storage, I want to say congrats to Chris Wahl who just accepted a job with Rubrik – may the wind be at your back, Chris. Congrats also to my new Tegilean homies who earned Visionary status from Gartner for our all-flash arrays  in the latest MQ for Solid State Arrays. If you don’t know what an MQ is, don’t worry, you don’t need to – just don’t get trapped in the diamond lane between a Smart Car and a Tesla when you aren’t supposed to be there.

See you on 880!



Starting up at Quaddra Software

mountain-bike-jumpThere’s something about working for a startup that gets my motor running. There’s more at stake (more thrills) and more freedom to do things that don’t fly in large, organizations. So here I am, back at a startup, Quaddra Software, after a year and half with Microsoft.  Microsoft was a good place to be an employee, but I’m a “journey-guy” and am more interested in overcoming new obstacles than repeating old ones.

Quaddra is developing highly-scalable, high-performance file analytics software that leverages open source software with a pluggable architecture for adding new functionalality. I really like the potential of this technology because its value comes from creating intelligence from opaque data and creative customers always find interesting new ways to use intelligence.

Timing mattersthings have changed

Beyond the concerted efforts of talented people working together, two of the most important elements to a startup’s success are luck and timing. Startups always need as much luck as possible and should do all it can to create its own. Timing is one of those cruel things that a startup can’t do much about. If it’s too early, the company has to create a market by itself without an ecosystem to support it and the odds are very good that the company will run out of money and go out of business. On the other hand, if the startup is too late, other companies’ products get the best opportunities and the startup suffers from slow growth and lower margins – a slower path to going out of business or becoming one of those zombie companies that is not really alive, but not yet dead either.

The best scenario for a startup is to have technology siblings that compete and grow together,  increasing awareness of the solution set and expanding the market much faster than they can on their own. It’s that old strange math where 1+1=3.  10062010_catalina1 (2)This go round, it appears Quaddra will be sharing a room with a company populated by friends from my EqualLogic days Data Gravity. From reading their blog and with their public announcement today in the Wall Street Journal, it appears we are on very similar vectors. I have a lot of admiration for Paula Long, John Joseph and the rest and I hope they are wildly successful and that Quaddra competes with them in the file analytics business for a long time.

Applications for Quaddra Software’s

IT teams that know a lot more about their company’s unstructured data can control it, manage it and generate reports about it.

Control – Quaddra’s software scans and searches unstructured data in-place where it resides and builds independent indices where system administrators search, identify and tag files for various actions. For instance, certain media file types that are not be part of the normal corporate work streams could be identified as non-work files and removed from corporate storage. Likewise files with sensitive data could be found in locations where they might pose a risk for loss or leakage.

Manage– Quaddra’s software can copy, migrate and archive data from it’s current location to to virtually any secondary store, including cloud object storage. Files can be identified using many different criteria and acted on according to management policies that safely store historical files and make free space available on primary storage.

Report – The results of searches can be used to generate reports to analyze and share with managers and co-workers to make informed decisions. For instance files can be analyzed by their access data and correlated with the amount of capacity they consume to determine candidates for migrating to archival storage.

age analysisIf you want to talk to us about developing intelligence for your opaque, unstructured data, please send an email to: