What Is “IT Productivity”?

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

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As a blogger, I do a lot of reading, or maybe ‘skimming’ is a better word, to find my next topic or  prep for my next post.

Last week, TechTarget’s “Latest Technology News and Expert Advice” email caught my attention; it included a link to the definition of ‘IT productivity.’

Curious, I clicked on the link and was directed to whatis.com and the following definition:

“IT productivity is a reference to the relationship between an organization’s technology investments and its corresponding efficiency gains, or return on investment.

With capital and labor often being scarce resources, it’s important to maximize their impact as a driving factor in IT productivity. Data that reflects IT productivity can be measured and quantified to identify where IT systems exert their greatest leverage; that data is then directly linked to an organization’s resulting profits. The CIO is generally responsible for determining and promoting the business value of the IT department, pushing for improvements and boosting IT productivity.

IT productivity should enhance an organization’s growth and promote economic well-being. Investments that can contribute to IT productivity gains include hardwaresoftware and expansion of the labor force.”

Three things immediately struck me:

  1. That’s there’s even a need to define ‘IT productivity’—at least at such a high level. Qualify and quantify  it. Yes. But define it? I’m not so sure. Then again, it would be good to get IT and business leaders to agree on a single definition. Bridge the gap a bit, perhaps.
  2. The definition waffles between a traditional  (i.e., where productivity is measured in IT efficiency and ROI terms) and more modern (i.e., where productivity is calculated in business terms, such as increased business efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, increased business innovation, and better and faster business process execution) view of IT today. 
  3. IT productivity gains are just as much today about the people, process and priorities organizations set as they are about the hardware, software and number of people in which they invest. Put another way, all the great technology in the world is only as good as the people and the processes you have in place to support and leverage it. Similarly, adding people to your IT roster doesn’t necessarily equate to net gain in productivity. Remember, as Guy has blogged: It’s who you hire, how they think and what they do that’s ultimately important to your business.

Could be that the definition of ‘IT Productivity’ is in a state of transition, or transformation, too. 

Things to ponder…

Software-Defined Storage, SLOs, and the Protection Storage Architecture — The Story Continues, Part I

Stephen Manley

Stephen Manley

CTO, Data Protection and Availability Division
Over the past 15 years at both EMC and NetApp, I have traveled the world, helping solve backup and recovery challenges - one customer at a time (clearly, I need to optimize my travel arrangements!). My professional mission is to transform data protection so that it accelerates customers’ businesses. I have a passion for helping engineers pursue technical career path(without becoming managers), telling stories about life on the road and NDMP (yes, that’s NDMP).

Window to future

“Software-defined [fill in the blank]” has already made a huge industry impact. Admittedly, there’s a lot of buzz around the term, but it’s no small feat to triumph over “big data” so quickly. And as with many over-hyped terms, there is some real substantive change behind it. So, overlooking the obvious cynical jokes (e.g., thank goodness we don’t need that pesky hardware to store data anymore!) what will software-defined storage mean to data protection and the teams that provide it?

Software-Defined Storage—It’s about SLOs

Software-defined storage (SDS) is about delivering service levels to your applications with your storage assets (compute and media).

Too often, people assume  SDS means that it’s finally time to build a storage system out of software to run on commodity hardware. They’re about 15 years too late; it’s already happened. What makes a Data Domain different from a VMAX? The software. So, if so much of the value in storage has already moved to software, why the noise about software-defined storage? One word… simplicity.

Managing storage environments is excruciating. Each type of array has a unique set of functionality—a storage personality—that must be managed differently and on dedicated islands of hardware.

Customers like the distinct functionality (e.g., Data Domain’s space optimization and data durability, VMAX’s predictable performance and availability, Isilon’s scale) but hate the operational complexity. In some cases, operational simplicity wins and customers select a one-size-fits-all “good enough” storage solution. In other cases, they grind through the complexity. In either case, they have to settle.

Software-defined storage promises to simplify storage management by delivering service level objectives across the various storage systems. Instead of having to be an expert on the intricacies of the VMAX, VNX, and Isilon—imagine a software layer that selects and configures the appropriate storage personality for your workload.

That’s why software-defined storage is so exciting—you can have your cake (all the unique storage functionality) and eat it too (none of the agonizing management complexity). While most customers immediately focus on service levels objectives like response time, throughput, and availability, that’s not where you’ll find the maximum value in software-defined storage. It’s in protection. And it can help you achieve a whole new level of IT productivity.

Software-Defined Storage—It’s about Protection SLOs

Protection has created the greatest amount of complexity in storage environments. While each storage array has a different personality, each also has a well-established set of performance and availability capabilities. In other words, most people know the difference between a VMAX and an Isilon. However, each array offers multiple native protection methods (e.g., SRDF, TimeFinder clones, RecoverPoint) in addition to traditional (e.g. backup client) and next-generation (hypervisor or application-level) backup techniques. The complexity multiplier is staggering. If storage management is excruciating, protection management is soul crushing; it’s impossible to make the right choice.

How can software-defined storage address the protection management challenges?

  • First, customers need to extend their SLO expectations to include Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Recovery Time Objective (RTO), retention, and recovery resiliency (e.g., geography, number of copies, etc.).
  • Second, they need to select a protection storage personality that integrates with the data movement and control mechanisms from their key data sources (e.g., primary storage).
  • Third, they need to connect the protection movement to the application.
  • Finally, they need to demand data management software that can span all the different protection mechanisms. If this sounds familiar… it should. The protection storage architecture recognizes that in the “software-defined” world, storage will take a much more prominent role in protection than it has.

The ultimate goal for software-defined storage is to enable a customer to provision protected storage to meet their SLOs.

The Future Won’t Look Like the Past

While the software-defined storage battles currently are more sound and fury than substance (e.g., a “one-size-fits-all” storage OS is “software defined” in the same way that Michael Bay’s films are “diverse”). Ignore the petty debates and focus on the substance—the storage market has become a breakneck race to see who can deliver SLO-based storage provisioning and protection.

Software-defined storage will have profound implications on the roles of the backup and storage administrators and how companies build (and purchase) protection solutions, and it lays the groundwork for the next massive shift in our industry—from data protection to data management. If you thought my last series was long… wait until you see this one.

Chicago Was Cold but EMC Forum Was Hot!

Gene Maxwell

Gene Maxwell

Technical Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I am known by many as the creator of documentation that helps others easily understand technology. This is because I discovered that I myself was a visual learner as I worked in many different IT roles over the years. Prior to my technical marketing role, I was an EMC technical consultant for six years. I also have many years of experience as a customer in IT responsible for data center management & disaster recovery, including backups. My hobbies include building PCs, collecting movies (Casablanca is my favorite), singing and playing my guitar. I have a twin brother who is three minutes older than I am.

Show is Cold Too, just like ChicagoOctober 23rd was very cold in Chicago, almost 20 degrees below normal.  But at the Westin Hotel near O’Hare Airport things were hot with nearly 600 customers attending the EMC Forum Chicago event.  In 2013 there have been 55 different EMC Forum events happening across the country providing information about EMC’s exciting solutions portfolio helping thousands of existing and potential EMC customers better understand how to lead their own transformation.

The event was kicked off by Steve Crowe, the Central Division Senior VP, with the keynote address given by Jon Peirce, SVP, IT Private Cloud Infrastructure Services sharing the different ways that EMC is leveraging its own solutions to transform EMC into a more efficient organization. Following the keynote, there were 5 different tracks including 20 different sessions to choose from on topics that ranged from cloud transformation, backup recovery and archive, converged infrastructure with Vblock, VIPR, to Big Data.  There were also 14 sponsor booths where folks could stop and talk about specific products and solutions. When I was a customer, I loved to attend these events to get the latest information on all things EMC.

I was lucky enough to be the presenter of “Changing the Game with EMC Backup and Recovery” for BRS.   My session was full with even some attendees standing in the back which tells me there are still lots of folks out there struggling with backup and archive. I talked about how IT organizations that don’t focus enough on servicing the needs of their business units can create an accidental architecture which can be very inefficient, expensive, hard to manage, and not be as scalable as it needs to be. I provided an overview on how EMC’s data protection solutions for backup and archive can provide real value for their transformation journey.  I also provided an update on our most recent launch for Data Domain, Avamar, and NetWorker.

I believe there is only 1 EMC Forum event left in 2013 (30 Oct is Dallas, where you can also say “hi
to EMCBackup) – but if you get the chance to attend EMC Forum next year, I highly recommend it.  It was fun and very informative.  In Chicago, EMC Forum was hot, and there was a real buzz in the air!

Purdue Pharma and EMC Backup Recovery Systems Transform IT

Chandra Jacobs
I love creative and challenging projects in the emerging technology product space. I have a background in tech, innovation, and product development, especially as applied to web and mobile apps in the entrepreneurship arena, but have recently moved into marketing. In my role as a product marketer, I have gravitated toward digital marketing as well as analytics/data mining. It fits well with my techie geek bent as well as my cloud angle on The Backup Window. (Be sure to catch my posts on Innovation Station too!) Outside of work at EMC, I enjoy exploring Boston’s culinary and jazz scene (often in combination), and travel as much as I can (35 countries and counting).

Yeah, Baby!

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

Okay, so I can’t resist… As my 15-year-old daughter would say, “It’s just too good.”

I’m talking about the massive media response to Mike Myer’s recent baby news, as edited and looped by Conan O’Brien’s team. Hi-lar-ious!

I think Los Angeles Times columnist Meredith Blake summed it up best: “As groaningly predictable as each individual ‘Yeah, baby’ joke is, somehow edited together, the effect is magic, proving that sometimes the whole is truly much greater than the sum of its parts.”

I know it had my entire family—from my husband to my 13-year-old daughter—laughing and doing their best “Yeah, Baby” impersonations, and only my husband and I have seen the movie. (By the way, my husband nailed it. He’s the Abstract Thinker in the house.)

Now, if only I get them to respond to technology topics in such a way. De-dupe… protection storage… backup transformation… yeah, baby!

I can dream