iPad mania

Get this: Digitimes reckons Apple is having 2.3 to 2.5 million iPads manufactured per month. Apple recently announced it had sold 3 million iPads in 80 days. DailyTech speculates that Apple could sell 16 – 18 million iPads by the end of this year.

The Jobs-led ability to espy and exploit a new IT form factor is devastating, and no other supplier even comes close to challenging Apple yet. All the major IT hardware system suppliers have been wrong-footed by this. Not one of them earnestly listening to their customers detected a market need for such a product, not one. They have been shown to be dullards, bereft of inspiration.

Apple is expanding its geographic coverage in terms of iPad sales and the per-month sales totals look set to rise. It is a phenomenon. Can Microsoft, HP, Dell, Acer, whoever catch up? They are chasing a moving target as whatever they bring out will face iPad gen 2 next year.

This is like Apple inventing the Mac with no PC competition at all, none, just a field littered with third-rate withdrawn crappy devices like the earlier Windows tablet effort. Apple is streaking ahead of a competing pack that has not even left the starting blocks yet.

Consumers want easy-to-use, neat-looking tablets. It’s becoming a no-brainer. We are eventually going to see a whole slew of competing devices come onto the market. The prospects for flash memory demand must be humungous. The prospects for increased data transmission by WiFi and mobile phone networks equally humungous.

My intuition says netbook sales could start to be adversely affected by iPad-led tablet sales. That will constrain Apple’s nascent tablet competitors, the ones with netbooks, as they try to develop differentiate marketing positions for tablets and netbooks. We’ll see.

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iPad, Cius and then….

Let’s go over the top and assume the Cius is a killer tablet like the iPad. Will the top four PC companies now rush out NAND flash-filled tablets? My guess is yes, because Cisco’s Cius is the sexiest new business user client device in a very long time.

With its phone capability, keyboard and mouse, and video-conferencing talents, the thing looks like a fabulous combination of thin client and all-in-one mobile device. Businesses could lap this thing up in the millions and sweep away their PC help desk pain, their Windows licensing pain, their anti-virus pain, their PC maintenance pain, their … none of us like our PCs, not any more. Any delight people had with PCs evaporated long, long ago and the letters ‘PC’ might as well stand for Pitiful Crap.

Notebooks are in the same ballpark. On the desk and on our laps Wintel is a pain. Thin clients are little better as you still have to work in a Windows environment and the datacentre supporting infrastructure is costly. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure has a lot going for it but desktop images need to be stored and the system has to cope with the daily morning boot storm. Cius tablets deal with this VDI boot storm issue at a stroke; it simply goes away.

The idea of having intelligent edge-devices that need their software loaded from a networked datacentre every time they are switched on is, quite frankly, bizarre. Why on earth would any sane person want to do that when the device could boot from its own NAND flash? The notion of VDIs and thin Citrix-type clients is only viable when businesses must have a Windows environment on their desktops. Take that away and the whole monstrously unbalanced VDI and thin Windows client infrastructure falls away in an instant. That’s what the Cius tablet presages.

Were business to take the Cius tablets, there would be no need for expensive deduplicating storage arrays to hold thousands of VDI images, and the server and network infrastructure to deliver them to the thousands of waiting thin clients and PCs. Imagine the ROI on a Cius tablet installation with the slashing and burning of the PC desktop and notebook estates, the elimination of data centre-hosted Windows thin clients, and the scrapping of VDI-storing drive arrays. All that hardware, software and network bandwidth could be retired overnight. A Cius tablet rollout could pay for itself on day one with millions of dollars to spare.

Place yourself in the shoes of the chief desktop and notebook strategy officer at Acer, Dell, HP and IBM and chew on this for a while.

Is it escapable? Doesn’t seem so. Cisco has the potential here to totally shred the business desktop and VDI/thin Windows client businesses, as well as much of the notebook business. Be afraid; be very, very afraid.

What shall we do? The answer is just so blindingly obvious: me too, me too, me too, me too!!!!

Of course they will; Acer, Dell, HP and IBM will all rush out their own Cius-type tablet business desktop and notebook replacement devices. They may be Atom-powered, they may be ARM-powered, but they will certainly not be mainstream X86 and Windows-powered, not when X86 cores eat battery power and Windows licenses cost cash and Windows has not been comprehensively re-designed and modded to suit the touch-screen, NAND-flash tablet world.

It looks like Android’s time has come and ARM will get another boost into the business stratosphere. Cius looks like a Cisco masterstroke and the reverberations of its arrival will resound throughout the whole IT industry.

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Adaptec’s ex-CEO joins SandForce board

Sundi Sundaresh, the ousted and no doubt very bruised ex-CEO of the Steel Partners taken-over and gutted Adaptec, has joined the board of SandForce, the SSD controller startup.

In a statement he said: “I look forward to helping this company drive their next phase of growth.” That looks like a good addition to the SandForce board.

Asked to comment on speculation that Steel Partners is interested in Adaptec, Sundaresh said !@*!!….. (only joking.)

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Cisco’s Cius (See us?) tablet

Wow; this looks good; an Android-powered tablet that docks into a Cisco desk-phone and uses the phone’s IEEE 10/100/1000 wired link. Cisco says “you can push high-definition video from the tablet’s 7-inch display to an adjacent larger LCD monitor” via the dock’s Ethernet link.

When it’s un-docked it changes to use the EEE 802.11a/b/g/n wireless network that you should have available on your campus. Off campus it uses the 3G/4G cell phone network.

It has a touch interface, plays video and can be used with a wireless keyboard, mouse and headset, also USB-connected ditto, as long as it’s connected to the phone docking station. There’s an on-screen keyboard for use when it’s not docked.

There is just 32GB of flash memory plus it can use Secure Digital memory cards. The software includes the Firefox browser and you can store, edit and share videos.

CIsco is pushing it as a business tool for computing, collaboration and communication. People with it don’t or won’t need a laptop computer, or maybe even a desktop.

Cisco says: “The tablet will come standard with a virtual desktop client application, so it can act as a thin client on your Cisco Collaboration Architecture .”

How does this compare to the iPad? First off it’s a business tool and not a consumer content consumption device. It’s integrated with Cisco collaboration products, like TelePresence, and it has mouse support, a singular iPad lack.

It’s dock also provides USB as well as wireless connectivity and that implies you could hook up a printer or external hard drive or digital camera. It has an 8-hour battery life instead of the iPad’s 10 hours and that’s probably due to the CPU, an Intel Atom 1.6-Ghz processor.

The flash memory doesn’t scale to the iPad’s 64GB but you can add Secure Digital flash cards. The battery is detachable and serviceable, unlike the iPad’s closed off and inaccessible battery design.

The interface is said to be contacts-driven, which implies a collaboration focus. Think of all those video bits flying around the Cisco networks to which hundreds, thousands of these natty end-point devices will be connected. That’s what you call synergy.

You can also make phone calls when the thing is docked or when it’s not. It has a rear-facing camera and a forward-facing one for video calls. The forward-facing, integrated HD (720p and 30 fps) video camera has zoom functions. The rear-facing, high-resolution 5-megapixel camera enables real-time, VGA-quality (640 x 480) video capture and still-photo capture.

You hearing this Apple? Eat your heart out.

Here’s the bad news. Cius is currently a vapourware tablet, a spoiler, a do-not-buy-current-tablets tablet. Cisco says: “Customer trials of Cisco Cius will begin in the third quarter of calendar year 2010, with general availability in the first quarter of calendar year 2011.”

Having said that the design and feature set is eye-catchingly good. Whether the performance is as good enough to match the feature set is another matter entirely. But it looks a terrific conception. Congrats to CIsco.

Now, consider this. Cisco has just come up with a business employee computer that is a touch-based tablet with a phone dock. It can replace a notebook computer or a desktop and runs Android. The low-key response is; yawn, okay nice, so what.

The high-key response is that Cisco has just declared war on Microsoft’s desktop and notebook products and allied itself with Google. If you were sitting in Redmond which response would you you have?

Secondly, this is a flash-only device. There’s no half-way house with Seagate Momentus hybrid flash/HDD Momentus XT disk drives, and no experimentation with single-platter 2.5-inch drives. This is flash only, with maybe external USB-connect drives. If you are Seagate or Western Digital you really do not want this device to succeed and start replacing HDD-using notebooks and desktops.

Cisco, from the HDD manufacturers’s camp point of view, has put its hat into the flash ring and is behaving in a very unfriendly manner.

This Cius device has a lot of disruptive potential, an awful lot, and bears watching.

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NetApp’s Jay Kidd joins ProStor board

Jay Kidd is joining ProStor as an independent director. But he has not left NetApp, where he is an SVP in the Storage Solutions Group looking after product strategy and development.

ProStor Systems makes the RDX removable disk drive product and InfiniVault library.

NetApp must have agreed to this; SVP positions are generally full-time. ProStor is a VC-backed company and has gained wide success through licensed manufacturers of drives and docks like Tandem Data and Imation, and their sales to OEMs like HP, IBM and others. Indeed we can say that the RDX line has had a material influence on Tandberg Data’s recovery from near-financial disaster under its previous management.

Kidd’s statement quoted in the Prostor release about his appointment said: “I’m excited about helping ProStor expand its market opportunities domestically and globally for the RDX removable disk and ProStor InfiniVault product lines in meeting the solution needs for long term information retention.”

As a full-time NetApp employee Kidd surely has no business expanding ProStor’s marketing opportunities anywhere at all outside NetApp, unless that is, this is a preparatory role for decreasing his NetApp involvement?

There is no announcement of any such diminished NetApp involvement by Kidd. ProStor says he is its second independent director from within the storage industry. Perhaps it is a face value thing. Kidd will not spend much time at ProStor; NetApp has no interest in ProStor’s products and technology, and there is no reason at all to wonder what’s going on.

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3PAR CEO – Storage Killing FIeld ideas not correct

Here is a post from 3PAR CEO David Scott suggesting that my ideas in the Storage Killing Fields post were incorrect:-

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As a self-declared [:)] “best of breed” primary storage manufacturer, let me try to put an alternative position forward relative to your recent article on StorageWhimsy:

articlehttps://storagewhimsy.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/the-storage-array-killing-fields/

I decided not to post it because it was too long, but feel free to use it any way you wish if you feel it would usefully add to the debate. [I think posting it ‘as is’ is the best way to represent David’s view.]

It all rests on how pervasive one views the future of the delivery of enterprise IT as a utility service in the form of public clouds (IT-as-a-Service — IaaS/SaaS). I’m going to use your analogy, but it would work better if we were used an analogy about the mobile phone business which is a true utility service model (think AT&T and Verizon in the US).

Suppose you view the car manufacturers (e.g. BMW, Mercedes) as the new public cloud IT-as-a-Service suppliers (a car after all is a standardized service, since the consumer doesn’t get a lot of choices as you point out). Their business is to create a best-in-class infrastructure (the car) that attains the particular service level (performance, comfort, features) at the most competitive price point they can achieve, and then lease (utility pricing model) or sell the car.

BMW is in intense competition with Mercedes and they are in an evolutionary arms race to out-compete each other from generation to generation on these terms. They integrate car seats, steering wheels, electronics, pedals and everything else in the car from a set of product manufacturers to meet this aim. Neither BMW, nor Mercedes, can afford to choose anything that is less than Best-of-Breed (meaning whatever capability/cost combination is “optimum” for the type of car and target segment they are trying to attain) otherwise they will lose in competition to the other. Ultimately, if they continue to handicap themselves by choosing sub-optimized components they may lose badly enough that they will be acquired.

The systems vendors in this view of the world would be the equivalent of a car component suppliers trying to roll up an “integrated stack” of car seats, steering wheels, electronics, pedals etc. and marketing them to BMW and Mercedes. Some of the components are Best-of-Breed, but many aren’t. However, each of these systems vendors tries to claim there is some integration benefit from buying everything from them. It’s a superficially attractive argument.

Now let’s say BMW buys such an “integrated stack” from one of these car component roll-up vendors called Fully Unified Distribution corporation (FUD). BMW would inevitably put themselves at a disadvantage to Mercedes because some or many of the components they are forced to integrate from would be sub-optimized (FUD has great car seats, but not the latest electronic traction technology, nor iPOD playing systems – just CD players). Mercedes, continuing to choose Best of Breed, would not suffer the same handicap, and would with almost all certainty start winning in the car-buying consumer market place. Mercedes is able to integrate better functionality components (great car seats, latest iPOD playing systems, and optimum electronic traction technology) while BMW had to accept whatever FUD had in their “integrated” arsenal. And Mercedes would even find themselves being able to lease their higher functionality cars, at a cheaper price than BMW, because FUD was exerting undue price control on BMW’s procurement department due to BMW’s dependency on FUD’s integrated stack (proprietary lock-in). BMW loses. Mercedes wins. BMW’s never going to let that happen, just as no IT-as-a-Service provider is going to let it happen. If you view the enterprise IT world as moving increasingly towards IT-as-a-Service then a Best-of-Breed strategy will be seen as the key to success in the public cloud. (BTW, if you counter by saying that BMW could choose, only the Best-of-Breed components that FUD has to offer and then insert other Best-of-Breed components from alternative suppliers, you have effectively said that BMW has maintained a Best-of-Breed strategy like Mercedes.)

Even traditional enterprise IT organizations who can successfully build their own private clouds because they have appropriate IT competency and scale, will find themselves having to compete with IT-as-a-Service suppliers for their own internal business units’ projects. There is a clear trend for internal business units to increasingly ask for bids from both ITaaS suppliers as well as internal IT when considering new projects. This new type of competition will force the traditional enterprise IT organizations towards Best-of-Breed strategies as well s they turn themselves into Internal Service Bureaus.

And if an enterprise IT organization doesn’t have the scale or IT competency to build its own private cloud, then it should probably be an organization that moves earliest to become a customer of the IT-as-a-Service providers themselves (implemented on Best of Breed stacks). After all, if they have never seen IT as a core competency, why buy an integrated solution when there is a newer, better, renting alternative?

Where’s the room for integrated stacks in this picture?

What integrated stacks really represent is a defensive competitive strategy to slow the transition from traditional enterprise IT to the IT-as-a-Service world by getting enterprises that don’t have strong IT competency or scale, to build their own private clouds based on these integrated stacks. The systems vendors have incumbency in the traditional IT data centers; they don’t in the IT-as-a-Service world. The tectonic shift towards IT-as-a-Service represents an existential threat to the systems vendors, so they have to slow it down.

The survival of Best-of-Breed really depends on whether one thinks there is an inexorable shift towards IT-as-a-Service. Are the car manufacturers the “systems vendors” or the “IT-as-a-Service” suppliers?

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This is a persuasive and very well-presented view. Thank you David.

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The Storage Array Killing Fields

“Best of breed” is the rallying cry blaring out from non-aligned third-party vendors as integrated IT stacks form from the vBlock trio, HP, Dell, HDS and IBM. The integrated stack people say open industry standards are lifeboats for users in if they want to abandon an integrated stack ship or make it work with existing networking or storage or compute gear.

So they are too but, in the long run, people don’t use lifeboats unless the ship sinks. There are more forms of lock-in than proprietary technology. Customers facing messages from the integrated stack people that say, yes, we support open standards, but if you use our stack components together you get more cost-savings and data centre efficiency savings than if you use third-party components for any part of the stack. Oh, and by the way you can order our stacks with one SKU and have one support contract cheaper than a part-component one with a separate SKU and support contract for the third-party component.

And, by the way again, our stack management software gives you a single pane of glass and you will need one more for each third-party component.

Why shouldn’t customers buy this story big time? Let’s use the car analogy. I buy a BMW and it has seats, probably made by a contractor who supplies BMW and Mercedes and Audi and whoever. I don’t know who they are and don’t care; I’m buying a BMW or a Mercedes.

There is one area where seat branding does matter; sports cars where I’d like Recaro seats, and some sports car manufacturers do use this best of breed Recaro seat branding. The thing is there are few seat manufacturers now that are independent in contract supply terms from the integrated vehicle stack manufacturers.

Who cares to bet that today’s list of non-IT system vendor, small and large storage array manufacturers: 3PAR; Atrato; Buffalo; Compellent; Data Direct; Dot Hill; Infortrend; Isilon; EMC; HDS; Huawei; LaCie; LSI; NEC; NetApp; Nexsan, Panasas; Pillar Data; Promise; Xiotech; Xyratex; etc., won’t be whittled down greatly as, or if, customers buy the integrated stack story?

In fact, if integrated IT stacks do take off, and my intuition says they are going to become pervasive in the next ten years, then best of breed could mean just that, the single best of breed with everyone else going to the wall or becoming a hidden contract component manufacturer for the integrated IT stack vendors.

That means guard your system vendor OEM and reseller deals guys. Do your best to turn your reseller deals into OEM deals, because if you aren’t the absolute and clear number one in your field and don’t have OEM deals with an integrated stack vendor, or become a fixed part of an IT stack vendor by merger or acquisition, you are going to go to the wall; become someone’s lunch; get crucified.

In ten years time which of the vendors in the list above will still exist outside of OEM deals?

If we say that just one will, the absolute best of breed then, I’m sorry, but based on storage mode coverage and revenues and channel strength and so forth it is NetApp.

The others will lose out in their ability to sell to general businesses and service providers. It won’t happen quickly, it will be a long and drawn out strangling of an industry but who will bet it won’t happen? Who buys special seats and special shock absorbers and special tyres for their car, van, truck or coach these days? Only the enthusiast, not the everyday joe; joe company, joe public sector body, joe taxi company, joe limo company, or joe trucking company.

In what respect does a storage array differ from a car seat or a shock absorber when the thing it is going to be fitted to is an integrated manufactured end-user product, be it IT stack or a vehicle?

I mean, in ten or fifteen years time, who cares, who really cares if the majority of the storage vendors above exist? Is there a remembrance society for lost seat manufacturers, vanished shock absorber suppliers?

Who mourns Auspex, OnStor and other vanished array suppliers now?

The storage array vendors, whether they like it or not, are going to be engaged in a multi-year, titanic struggle for survival. “Are going to be” … they already are. Oracle has Sun, with Pillar Data in the wings. HP has StorageWorks. Dell has EqualLogic. IBM has its DS whatevers and XIV and SONAS. Fujitu has its Eternus stuff, including the old FSC storage. HDS is part of Hitachi which has servers. NEC has HYDRAstore and other storage stuff in Japan. Huawei has is own storage. Acer needs some storage supplier tied to its servers if it is going to become an integrated IT stack vendor.

Everyone else is out in varying degrees of cold. Dot Hill, LSI and Xyratex are the three lottery winners. They have OEM supply contracts as their core business model. Guard those contracts boys; they are gold nuggets in a world that’s going to be full of gold rush miner vendors looking for their claim.

And the best way they could get it, the best way they could get on the OEM storage array supply and survival gravy train? Become a claim-jumper and buy one of the now, oh so very valuable threesome: Dot Hill; LSI; or Xyratex. These three have the keys to the OEM supply door. It’s easier to buy a key holder than design, build and establish your own OEM supply door.

The storage array vendor killing fields; that’s what I’m blogging about in this apocalyptic blog. Am I going over the top? Let’s talk in ten years time and, meanwhile, when you slide into your Chevy Suburban, your Ford Crown Victoria, your Merc E Class, your VW Passat, and so forth, ask yourself this: “Who made the seats?” And: “Do I care? I mean, really?”

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