NetApp Insight Berlin 2016

Having spent many years away from storage solutions, I have just returned from NetApp Insight in Berlin (thanks to my employer EACS) and I can report that the world of NetApp has changed.
NetApp, although they have always seen themselves as a software company, are seen by many (me included before Insight) to be a traditional, on-premises, storage vendor that maybe are not as relevant in the new cloud dominated IT world as they used to be. This is absolutely not the case.
NetApp now define themselves as the leading Data Management Company and over the last two years have been developing the Data Fabric. This is an initiative that is underpinned by proven NetApp technology, to enable storage management of data wherever it may be – On-premise, Private Cloud, Next to cloud or in the Public Cloud. By re-writing a number of the key NetApp technologies, such as SnapMirror/SnapVault and making ONTAP available in Virtual (ONTAP Select) and SaaS (ONTAP Cloud ) forms as well as the traditional appliance, it is now possible to manage a Hybrid environment – placing your data in the most suitable place, be that cloud, datacentre or both and enabling the ability to move that data, using proven, secure tools, when needed to reduce costs or increase security – removing individual data silos in discrete locations.
Another initiative that became obvious over the course of the event was a desire to simplify; those of you familiar with NetApp will know that there are a large number of tools to manage a wide range of technologies. This is being simplified by reducing the number of model variants and the creation of new central management tools that will ultimately be capable of running all the functions of the traditional tools, to provide protection that works across the entire data fabric as applications move back and forth, in and out of the cloud.
NetApp are also moving into new areas to address trends in the industry such as DevOps with the SolidFire products that deliver radical simplicity through automated and predictable storage, enabling new models of storage consumption.
Finally, don’t think with all the great new initiatives mentioned above NetApp have abandoned the on-premise Storage market, on the contrary they have just release the biggest ever update to their range of FAS and All Flash FAS (AFF) appliances that offer up-to 3X the performance of the models they replace while being more efficient to run.
There are many new products and capabilities in the pipeline that can’t be talked about yet so watch this space….

The PC is dead?

Something has been bothering me for a while when reading articles in the IT media, there is a statement that keeps recurring when discussing sales of hardware and software and the rise of modern trends such as Bring you Own Device (BYOD) – “The PC is Dead”.

I think these journalists should do a little bit of research to remind themselves exactly what a “PC” is.

Those of you who have been in IT for a long time will remember the arrival of the machine that started this revolution – The IBM PC.
This was a computer that sat on your desk, with a separate monitor and keyboard, running Microsoft DOS from a floppy disk (remember those?) and could do many things that the existing Mainframe, Mini & so called Micro computers of the time couldn’t. This was in 1981 – Windows wouldn’t be launched for another 4 years.

The key feature of the PC was that it introduced a standard that other manufacturers could work to, allowing many “PC Compatible” devices to be created running different hardware and software.
Over the years we have seen hundreds of different PC’s and the form factor has evolved from a large desktop device to “portable” units and then laptops to the point where I’m now using a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet as my primary PC for work.

So, what is a PC?
Is it a Desktop Computer, is it a Workstation? it could be either but not exclusively – by definition it is a “Personal Computer“.

All those journalists need to have a long hard think before using the term because from where I’m looking the Computer has never been so Personal and is a long way from dead.

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Photography and Phones

Those of you who know me will be aware that I enjoy Photography.

If you’ve known me for a long time then you will remember that I used to be “that bloke who always has his camera over his shoulder”! This was based on the sound premise that to get a good photo, first you had to have your camera with you.

Back when I started getting serious about photography my camera was a Fuji STX1 35mm Film SLR with a 50mm lens, that was a chore to lug about over my shoulder for the occasional photograph (being careful not to wast a frame of my 24 or 36 exposure film!).

This was replaced by a Pentax P30N with a 28-80mm Zoom lens, giving more control but more weight & bulk that I then added to through the purchase of an additional 70-210mm zoom, some filters and a flashgun, not to mention the tripod!

So I was getting the occasional great photo but was restricted by the amount of kit I was lugging about.

I then acquired an Olympus Mju “compact” camera, a beautifully designed little 35mm camera that could truly fit in your pocket – I could now have my camera with me without looking quite so obvious, but it was more limited in ability!

In subsequent years I “Went Digital”, initially with a compact Kyocera/Yashica (interesting brand alliance!) and then onto my prefered Panasonic FZ and TZ models (Bridge & Compact).

These Panasonic cameras have served me well allowing the power and control of the old film SLR’s but without so much bulk BUT I still need to take them with me to get a photo!

This weekend I was at a family christening when I noticed something that had been creeping up on me for a while – even though I took my trusty Panasonic TZ with me I was actually taking more photos with my phone than with my camera.….

Now, even a year ago, taking photo’s with a phone was just a last resort as the quality of the lens & processing were dubious, but I now have a Nokia Lumia 820 that has an 8 megapixel sensor, a Carl Zeiss Lens with full AutoFocus, Dual LED flash and the capability to take 1080P (Full HD) video – better than both my “proper” cameras.  And just to add to the convenience as soon as I get a WiFi connection my Photo’s are uploaded to Skydrive so I don’t need to spend ages copying SD cards to my PC when I get home!

I will still use a “proper” camera when going out with the intention of taking photographs but the rest of the time, I have my camera in my pocket all the time, oh and I can make calls on it too…..

Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone

There has been a lot of talk about Windows Phone in the IT media and Nokia ran a big advertising campaign when the Lumia 800 was launched in November so I thought I’d add my thoughts on this topic!

I’ve had my Nokia Lumia 800 for about 2 months now and to be completely honest – I love it!

The Windows Phone 7.5 OS is very simple and intuitive to use, everything I’ve attempted to do with it I have succeeded, with little frustration or resorting to searching the web for help. 

The size of the device is pretty much perfect; my previous HTC HD2 was a little too large with its 4.3″ screen but I was concerned that the Nokias 3.7″ screen may be too small, the reality is that it is just big enough to use without making the device too bulky.

One of the best attributes of the design is the People Hub, linking together all services, such as Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook,etc with the Contacts (Synced from Microsoft Exchange in my case), so that from one search I can see all communication from a particular contact, irrespective of the source (e-Mail, text, tweet, wallpost, update, etc). From this contact screen I can then choose to Call, mail, text, tweet, etc that contact based on their information.

This simplicity of design is further enhanced by the quick processor in the Nokia and that stunning 3.7″ AMOLED screen. When I first saw the screen I have to admit that I thought it still had a sticker on it with a demo screen, the image is so crisp and bright!

A particular surprise was the Zune Wireless Sync capability, once the ‘phone has been connected to a PC via cable and setup in Zune it enables the wireless sync option. This works automatically when I charge the phone and the PC is on, after 10 minutes on charge all data is synchronised over the wireless network via Zune so any photo’s I may have taken (with the 8mp Carl Zeiss Autofocus camera) are backed-up on to my PC and music & data is synchronised. Surely this is how IT is meant to work?

Another useful option for me professionally is the ability to configure Multiple Outlook e-Mail accounts, as I spend the vast majority of my time working with Exchange Server the ability to test Exchange ActiveSync is key. In the past I would have to borrow a device from the client (if they had a spare) or just use the Microsoft provided TestExchangeConnectivity website (which, although good, doesn’t always reflect the reality of a device being connected). With the Nokia I can quickly configure a new Outlook profile, using a test account on the new Exchange 2010 Server and confirm that the service is working.

Finally a little bit of surprise & delight – when the ‘phone is connected to my Bluetooth hands free in the car, If I receive a text message the phone will tell me, via the hands free system, and ask if I want it read to me!

Dislikes

A few minor niggles really;

No Bluetooth data transfer – the bluetooth implementation is only capable of headset/hands free functionality (which works extremely well)

Internet Tethering is not available at the moment, this is a minor niggle & apparently Nokia and Microsoft are working on addressing it.

No Storage Card capability – once again not a major issue as the device has 16GB built-in and many apps (such as Office) will save to internet locations as well/instead of to the device.

My major issue really is nothing to do with the device but the fact that, other than the Nokia launch campaign, Windows Phone is not being promoted by the manufacturers or the operators. I find this incredibly frustrating as the Microsoft Operating system is genuinely innovative and, to my mind, better that other devices out there (you know who they are – Fruits & Robots!).