Wednesday 27 January 2010

My most commonly used (polite) phrases

So during my many daily meetings, conference calls & VCs (I'm sorry but I utterly refuse to call a video conference a 'Telepresence session') it would appear that there are sets of increasingly common phrases I find myself uttering.

Now before I have them made up into placards or flashcards I thought I'd draft a quick list of the current (printable & less offensive) ones in no particular order :-

By far the most common one is "What are your requirements? Please show me the requirements?", naturally this is rapidly followed by :-
  • Anything written down at all? (And not using imaginary paper, or written with crayons, and no a napkin/beermat/fag-packet isn't suitable delivery material)
  • Any chance of the requirements staying consistent for longer than the flap of a hummingbird's wings?
  • Any chance of some requirements that don't require the combined skills of Gandalf, Einstein, Bernie Madoff & David Copperfield to deliver? 
  • Any requirements that aren't simply a list of vendor part numbers in a quote?
  • Can you explain & justify any of those requirements at all?
  • Can you explain & justify why you'd like something different from our standards?
If we're lucky the topic then moves on to things like :-
  • Where is the High Level Design document / schematic?
  • What about Backup & Recovery in your design?
  • Its recovery not backup that matters!
  • What about any form of RPO & RTO requirements?
  • How does component backup & recovery relate to the service backup/recovery?
  • HA isn't DR!
  • If you want DR, can you complete the BIA (Business Impact Analyser) to see what that recommends?
  • You do realise that an RPO/RTO of 0 is very difficult/expensive/not-possible at the infrastructure layer over that distance?
  • What's the SLA/OLA offered or required?
  • What are performance requirements? (and no saying 'the fastest' simply isn't good enough, and yes we do want to understand both storage & network IO in the performance requirements)
 Typically with partners/suppliers there will also be :-
  • Where are the performance benchmarks and claim proof for your technology or product? (and no '2x faster than previous' isn't of any use if we don't have a benchmark for previous etc)
  • What's the processes for, and how do you manage, RFQ, RFE, support etc?
  • Show and provide me with the TCO & ROI models for your product, technology & architectures
  • Show me the differentiation, unique selling point & justify your product vs other companies & products?
  • Can yo explain why you're better for me than the exiting/other technology?
 Naturally there are also the resource related topics such as :-
  • What priority is this versus other work?
  • Other than yesterday or today, what's the due date for this? 
  • Do you have any budget funds for this work?
And of course my all time favorite (thanks Larry T - I can't print the one from your Mother, but this one is still used a heck of a lot ) "don't be offended but, your inability to plan or think doesn't constitute an emergency on my behalf "

I'm off to mutter some more in a darkened corner... :)

Monday 25 January 2010

Cisco - Networkers 2010 Barcelona

So just some quick & brief thoughts on Cisco's Networkers Live 2010 session in Barcelona so far :-

• Where is the session content on vBlock, UCS, MDS, FCoE specifically? Yes there's some, but reading the conference agenda there appears to be more on video conferencing than core data-centre technologies!
• Where are the Cisco Press books on MDS, UCS, vBlock, Nexus, FCoE? (heck I'd have thought that they would be selling onsite at least... - I already have a copy but)

• Where is the update on the EnergyWise programme for Nexus & MDS product lines?

• Observations re conference registration :-
  • Why isn't the onsite Cisco store open today (rather than opening Tues afternoon - it's all setup and ready)?
  • The drinks bottles that were given away FoC last year to all attendees, are instead for sale in the shop this year
  • The 'limited qty' of Flip UltraHD cameras are priced at €179 which appears rather high compared to the prices on
  • Yes all delegates get given a free bag, but wouldn't it be nice if this offered some protection for carrying a laptop within? and having one of the key items insight to be a leaflet for 'visit Cisco brand fraud protection stand' gives odd impression...
  • The overall price of the conference at €1795 (Conf Tues->Thurs) + €525 (Mon tech sessions) is expensive to say the least (disclaimer - my ticket to attend was funded by one of our supplier partners)
  • The online session scheduler is good, but could benefit from being able to include the general sessions within the scheduler (keynotes etc) - and needs to be made easier to work with re resolving scheduling conflicts
Some more general Cisco related points :-

• There was clearly little point in brining my Unicorn or Dragon slaying equipment, as there is nothing in the conf at all re discussion ROI or TCO for the various technologies or products. Something even on building and justifying business cases for architecture or investments would be good - after all the technology area Cisco are covering in this space requires significant financial approvals...
• What's happened to Cisco re file-namespace (or FAN) since the NeoPath acquisition?

• Why Cisco has not got into the storage object market, especially given it's reliance on networking and networking technologies?

I'll update this as the week goes on...

Wednesday 13 January 2010

EMC Customer Council - Prague 2009

Right, so I spent 3 days the other week (well last year now - but I've been busy ok?) in Prague working with circa 70 other people at EMC's annual EMEA Customer Council. So naturally this is a tricky blog to draft, as being under many levels of NDA I certainly can't & won't talk about the content of the sessions and/or the information provided. But I just want to put down some thoughts out of the time spent and work done/started.

1) Firstly yes despite what people may think it definitely is work - sessions start around 0830 and run until around 17:30, and (as the paraphrased F1 saying goes) in these sessions your either giving or receiving information, there is never a relaxing moment. Yes there are 15min breaks dotted around the schedule - but for most of us the breaks get filled up with discussions with peers & EMC staff. And during this you still have to find time to fit in the usual 'day job' conf calls, emails and reports.

2) You meet some great people at these sessions - with a good diversity of views even though a lot of the requirements aren't too dissimilar. Indeed it's the candid & fluid interaction between attendees (employees & customers) that makes the event work and gives the value

3) This really is one of the best organised & structured council/feedback/user-group sessions I've ever seen with any supplier throughout my career - at lot of that must go down to a very professional & high quality team that plan, organise and manage this. I'm lucky enough to have been invited to attend for many years and it's always been more than worthwhile.

4) Despite EMC's somewhat historic arrogant image they really are actively listening, engaging in dialogue, taking feedback and changing approaches & technologies - very positive and rewarding for the time invested with them. In short customer feedback really does make things happen.

5) As is evidenced by their strong (perhaps sometimes slightly too calculated / manipulated at times) use of social media the company culture is also changing to a more open and communicative approach.

6) It's also clear from the past results, the level and qty of mngt attending, level of investment and detail of follow-up actions it's obvious EMC take this very seriously - I'm glad they do.

7) During the sessions there were many points that got my mind racing and raising the odd question or 6, and at least one occasion I was so shocked with the dialogue I was stunned into being speechless (at least momentarily).

Of course Prague is a very nice city - but this year workload & events meant I only really got to see it from a taxi to/from the airport. Unlike MS PDC ( we didn't get any free netbooks - but did get a jacket, plastic pens and notepads (does that qualify as an FTC suitable disclosure?).

I don't believe it's breaking any confidences to mention that it was also great to catch-up with past attendees & friends (eg @stuiesav @chapmancentral @storageanarchy @docderrico - and many others not yet on twitter, or (wisely?) not prepared to share their IDs with me), but also to meet a great new crowd of first-timers who contributed highly to the event. (naturally @storagebod was very much missed, and would be good as a 'guest analyst speaker' at the next session)

A few other suppliers run similar titled events (although it surprises me just how few seem to run them, or treat them as seriously) but seem to pitch the level either too snr mngt (CIO/CTO level vision fests), or too open (300+ people attending user group briefings) or only for their resellers (shows priority focus of training people to sell rather than listening to the customer). They would do well to follow EMC's format and model here - I know I'd find it very valuable.

If you get an invite to such a session accept & attend - but also, please be prepared to contribute, discuss and challenge in the conversations & sessions, the supplier can only listen if we talk (or shout in some cases) and it is the customer responsibility & duty to help the supplier move forward.

All in these 3 days tend to be the most valuable conference / workshop days I spend during the year, I hope they continue, and I hope more suppliers adopt the approach!

Sunday 10 January 2010

"StorageBeers On Tour" Motorsport Event?

Ok so there are a few motorsport fans follow this blog - so my thought is that we could have an informal "StorageBeers on Tour" camping, beer & cars meet at one of the following events :-
  1. Le Mans - 12-13th June 2010
  2. Goodwood FOS - 2-4th July 2010
  3. Spa F1 GP - 27-29 August 2010
For Le Mans we normally plan to arrive on the Wed or Thurs before the race, and return on the Monday morning - driving there & back and staying in Maison Blanche.

For Goodwood FOS we normally arrive Thurs night or Fri morning and lave on Sun evening - staying at a local campsite a couple of miles away (with electricity).

These are not a football/stag-do events, but rather relaxed weekends, camping, cooking dead animal, hunting decent coffee, watching cars, sharing beer & whisk(e)y into the night.

So if anybody is up for something please let me know and I'll work out the costs etc :)

Update to add some cost estimates (very estimate - and assuming 2 people per car) :-

Camping & Ferry etc £169
Race tickets (Bronze 3 day) £160

Camping (3 nights - 2 people per pitch) £35
Passes (3 day roving) £100

Le Mans
Camping (MRI in Maison Blanche) & Ferry etc £165
Race tickets (not grandstand) £70

Add petrol, beer & food, speeding fines etc :)

Which is the preferred car event?

Wednesday 6 January 2010

OT - UK Winter Wonderland

Well as no doubt anybody seeing the news will have heard that the UK has suffered a couple of snow-flakes in the last few days, and as a result there is mass reporter hysterial, panic buying & shops, road gridlock, trains running hours late (if at all), schools shut and little work attendance.

So whilst walking to drop my son of to nursery this morning I took a few pictures of where we live :-

The intrepid explorer himself

And it was this pic above where my foot went through the frozen lake ice - gave me a little shock but no harm done.

Might go to the ski challet later to find Gluwine :)

Think I'll be staying indoors as much as possible with a nice warm cup of coffee :)