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Tech Field Day Posts

Woah… figures that when I get back home from Tech Field Day #5, I am completely slammed at work and home and I have barely found the time for the usual things, let alone blogging. So, while I have been away from the Virtual Bill blog, the other delegates from TFD5 have produces some amazing content based on their experiences during the presentations and the event in general. So, I am not going to re-invent the wheel… check out the links at the Tech Field Day 5 site and read away. However, I would like to take a couple minutes to comment on the various presenters:

Symantec – The first portion of the session covered the NetBackup product. While I agree that the product sounds great, I appreciate the level of detail that the presenters were able to offer. The second portion covered the BackupExec product. I am a little more familiar with this product as my day job fits perfectly in their target market. However, there was much more marketing talk in this presentation for our liking. We like details versus marketing.

Curtis Preston commented that the biggest mistake a backup admin can make is to rip and replace their backup solution. So, while I am not about to jump ship on what we have right now, I am going to consider making a jump to BackupExec or NetBackup when the time comes. I like what Symantec is bringing to the table and I can see why they are a/the major player in their field.

 

Drobo – Talk about a cool company… Drobo is just that… absolutely cool. Prior to the TFD presentation, Drobo made an announcement that they are presenting a new business oriented product, the 12-bay Drobo for Business. We were allowed to be the first group of people to see the insides of the SAN outside of Drobo employees. How cool is that! Plus, Mario is the next best thing to Billy Mays. Seriously, I think his presentation skills were great. Seeing people so enthused about their products makes the product that much more appealing.

I am concerned, though, about the feature set of the new line, though. I appreciate their identification of their place in the storage world. They are not trying to compete with EMC, NetApp, etc… in the corporate environment. They recognize that and target the smaller markets heavily. However, the functions and design decisions for the new business quality arrays are questionable. Making these decisions for small businesses with little/no IT staff makes some sense. However, trying to move into business areas with IT staff and no enterprise management available makes it difficult to penetrate into the environment. Plus, having single controllers with NICs built in to it makes it a difficult pill to swallow for enterprises.

Drobo is not going away with their existing market. But, I hope they are able to make some more business level changes to appeal to a larger business market.

 

Druva – Tech Field Day always seems to have surprises… and the introduction of a new company was great. Although, I must say that I question the “new-ness” of Druva seeing as they already have a large amount of customers in 26 countries (or so).

The laptop/mobile backup product they are peddling seems fairly compelling… especially the user empowerment to retrieve their own data without IT intervention. We were unable to see a proper demo of the product features as the limited network connectivity (via the MiFi) was hamstringing the demo. But, what we did see looks to be fairly cool. I really liked the thought they put into the client portion. Not only was the client deduplicating the data and sending the changes to the backup storage, but the ability to have a backup upon startup of the device was great. The startup function includes logic to wait until X amount of time after startup and for the load on the laptop to drop to a usable level. The last thing they wanted was for the backup service to start during startup and make the laptop experience horrible.

The ability to interact with the backup environment via an iPad is nice proof of concept. But, I did not get the sense of true functionality that the iPad provides. Until the iPad can be a backup source, I would stick to laptops.

Where I run into a problem is that this is a secondary tier backup environment and there needs to be a way to backup the backup. While Druva client backups are deduplicated on their server, the server files are such that makes the deduplication into a primary storage environment difficult.

I see the value in laptop backup and a product like Druva. But, I cannot justify the additional backup environment when many existing backup environments can handle laptop backups now. A Druva solution would be added for user convenience, but policies exist to ensure users save their data in locations that are accessible via the primary backup environment. If the Druva server died… meh.

 

Xangati – I am glad to see that Xangati was able to get involved with TFD! Their product is an amazing addition to the virtual admin utility belt. Seeing statistics with this much detail and history is extremely useful. Plus, being able to identify “events” and having the data available in a DVR style makes it super useful and intuitive. Not only are the events and DVR great, Xangati took the concept further and allow VDI users to create “events” when they feel the VDI environment is not working as expected. Now, the users can alert to performance issues that may become difficult to identify by the VDI admin!

Xangati looks like a great company for another company to pick up. My first reaction to seeing this was VMware’s acquisition of Integrien for monitoring and analysis. So, while this handles VMware well, VMware is not necessarily in the market to pick them up. I can see Citrix or Microsoft loving what they see and picking them up as a way to battle against VMware. If/when this happens, that company will have an amazing tool at their disposal.

 

NetEx (or HyperIP) – WAN acceleration is always something that intrigued me. Companies like Riverbed and Citrix (with WAN Scaler) make sense because they store copies of data on the device and, essentially, deduplicate the data so it is not sent across the WAN. So, the NetEx approach was interesting. In my network-light world, using UDP and aggregating the data into larger chunks is an interesting method.

NetEx used beer as an analogy for what they do. Normal networks send data in beer bottles. However, rather than send beer bottles around and track all of them, NetEx sends the beer in a keg and pushes the keg around the network. Then, once it reaches the destination network, HyperIP will break the kegs back into bottles. That made perfect sense to me! Plus, they left the beer for those drinkers in our group!

I am not entirely sure where this would fit in my everyday life. But, based on my simpleton reaction to their product and the network guys like of the product, I think there is definitely something to it.

Infoblox – This was the most difficult presentation for me to sit through… reason being that I really felt like they were creating FUD around what is a fairly simple issue… assigning IP addresses and DNS. Plus, it took forever to get to that point. However, once the fluff was pushed aside, the Infoblox product looks great. With a simple demo, the true value of their product really stepped forward and I began to see how it may fit in an environment like my everyday workplace.

 

HP – The HP presentations were very interesting. The first presentation dealt with HP’s commitment to standards and modularity to ensure convergence in the datacenter. However, that was short lived as the following presentations dealt with their new deduplication product which appeared to become a proprietary solution (not quite in line with their standards in the datacenter) and some proprietary networking.

Coming into Tech Field Day, I was really amped to hear what HP was going to present on… especially with our being on their corporate campus. I was a little let down with what I saw and that most of the speakers were in the Marketing department.

However, the datacenter tour at the end of the day was really valuable. I was able to ask some questions of the datacenter manager about different product lines. I must admit that I am not an active HP customer. So, I was a little naive as to what they offered.

 

Tech Field Day #5 was amazing. The group of delegates I was surrounded by were amazing and I walked away with so much information from them and because of them. I appreciate all of the presentations and the time/resources that the presenting companies provided to have us onsite. I cannot wait to see what happens to the companies and the products they presented!

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