Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

While the hardware integrates, the software decouples

In my last post I spoke of the trend toward hardware integration. What's interesting is that the opposite is happening in software. Proof of that is my PC. I have a Wintel computer that looks and behaves very much like an Apple OS X machine. By using various skinning and modding applications I have transformed the Microsoft Windows interface into fair approximation of OS X down to the Finder and cool toolbar at the bottom. The last of the great tests of software uniqueness - look and feel - has been swept away.

Why is this possible? Because software has been pulled apart into components, even operating system software. The GUI is dissassociated from the applications frameworks, which is further decoupled from the device interfaces and hardware. What began in the 1980s with the first PC is now reaching its logical conclusion - complete seperation of software functions. In the Windows world, we have a very mutable GUI, sitting atop frameworks such as .Net or JSEE, on top of the core Windows XP OS which, in turn, is seperated from hardware through devices drivers and the HAL. Everything is abstracted and, hence, changable and extensible.

This is very good indeed. We as consumers of computing products can now choose the best underlying OS for our needs, with the type of framework that fits or applications, and the GUI that works best for us. These can be put into different types of devices that suit our needs for performance, size, and features.

Of course, this tends to strip away many of the advantages touted by manufacturers of operating systems. I won't buy an Apple based on the GUI when I can have that GUI on the platform of my choice. If I can choose a Windows application layer (like Mono which is an open source .Net implementaion) for my Linux box then I can have my favorite applications on any platform I choose. I don't need to choose Wintel.

For users of computer technology (and proponents of open source applications) this will bring more choices at lower cost. Good for us. Now, if vendors can only find a way to make money in that environment...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Storage Gets Small

I'm constantly amazed at how quickly technology products can shrink. Technology products always start off big and massive but shrink rapidly to a very compact size. A typical technology product starts with something the size of a refrigerator, which shrinks to pizza box or mailbox size, next down to shoebox size or smaller, and finally onto a single chip. We have seen this happen with computers (Mainframe to mini to PC to computer on a chip), networking products, and now, storage.

Take the typical NAS device. Originally large and cumbersome, you can now buy a small NAS device with 200G to 300G of disk space for under $250 and only slightly larger than a hard drive. These products do not have the features of the high-end NAS products but work well in small office and home environments. Their larger brethren have more capacity and features but are take up less space (for a comparable amount of storage) than any previous NAS device.

Alongside the trend toward becoming smaller, there is also a tendency to integrate features in a single box. It is usual, for example, to find networking products that encorporate DNS, DHCP, firewalls, virus protection, and routing into a switch. Ten years ago these would all have been seperate products on several different servers or appliances. This integration makes management and deployment much easier.

The same is happening in storage products. We are seeing the advent of the unified or universal storage platform that integrates SAN switching with the storage, as well as a variety of storage network services. Products from major vendors include virtualization, security, file services, and QoS in a single extensible platform.

Ultimately, much of what we think of as storage networking will reside on a single chip. It will handle switching, network services, file services, and routing functions all on a single piece of silicon. That, in turn, will lead to very compact storage networking devices. These devices will be less expensive and more powerful than huge collections of products today.

For more on the Unified Storage Platform and the trend it represents, check out the whitepaper on Storage Consolidation on my website at

Monday, July 18, 2005

Tom's Technology Take

This blog is where you may find the musings on technology by Tom Petrocelli, President and Chief Analyst with Technology Alignment Partners and author of Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management. It will have my thoughts on enterprise and personal technology. In the future I plan to cover:

* Desktop Search Engines - Been through them all!
* Blade Servers - Why they are so cool
* NAS for Home - Now you can have you own little NAS device at home
* Continuous Data Protection - Product or feature?

If you are interested in any of my previous articles, you will find a partial list at my company's website