Storage Informer
Storage Informer

Tag: EMC

shame on all of us

by on Jul.16, 2010, under Storage

3.008: shame on all of us

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Sometimes we in the storage industry misbehave.

Sometimes Badly.

The most recent example surrounds the reports early this week about how a bank was unable to service its ATM customers as a result of a vendors’ process mistake. Apparently an operator used an out-of-date procedure to execute a routine service operation during a planned outage and the result was an protracted unplanned outage. To their credit, the vendor publicly owned up to the mistake and is certainly taking steps to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

All fine and good, if we could have just left it there.

But no, it seems this is not to be the case. Sales reps from the vendor-at-fault’s competitors are gleefully emailing these reports to every customer and prospect, in hopes of creating sufficient Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about the competitor in the minds of these potential sources of revenue. I personally have had over a dozen emails in my inbox linking to the reports.

I find this deplorable, childish behavior.

And yes, that is directed at folks from my own company as well as those from competitors.

hey, we’re all human here!

Everyone makes mistakes, and whether the fault of a single person or a process or a whole communications chain, none of us are perfect. I know at EMC we work very hard to eliminate such errors, and I’m sure that our competitors try hard as well. But whether we are more successful at avoiding mistakes or not, this does not give any of us the right to exploit human failure – for to be sure, there inevitably will be mistakes made by all of us that have similarly serious impact on a customer.

Don’t get me wrong, though. If a competitors product has a deficiency that causes a problem or if the product simply isn’t fit-for-purpose (e.g., Apple’s iPhone 4), then I say it is fair game. But to imply that a competitors’ products are lessened by a human mistake – No sir, it ain’t right, and I don’t like it.

Hence the title of this post. Shame on us all for this behavior, and let us not wish similar mistakes on anyone. We all work and live in glass houses.

preventative measures

That said, I would like to highlight a couple of things that EMC does to help reduce the probability of human error causing problems. Up front I’ll admit these aren’t necessarily foolproof, and they don’t guarantee 100% success. But our internal metrics indicate that they are helping to minimize the risks and reduce the occurrences:

  • Procedure Generators: perhaps the most relevant tool in the Symmetrix arsenal is the automated procedure generators that we provide to our global customer services and professional services representatives – and to our customers! Available today for Symmetrix, Invista and VPLEX, these generators will create the procedure checklist for a variety of operational, management and repair tasks for the various audiences. To ensure that the latest procedures are used, the Generators automatically check in to EMC’s centralized servers every time they are run (these run on the users’ laptop or PC).
  • Uptime Bulletin: The Uptime Bulletin is a customer-facing periodical that documents EMC’s experiences related to system and data availability. In it, customers find not only statistics, but also recommendations on how best to configure, deploy and maintain their arrays to maximize their availability. Originally pioneered by CLARiiON, it is now also published regularly for Symmetrix, Invista, VPLEX and Celerra.
  • Regulator: Mentioned in an earlier post, the Regulator is capable of automatically stopping the execution of CLI commands that have been identified as problematic or that are operating in an improper order. The database of risk events is updated regularly, and the Regulator checks in via the EMC Secure Remote Service (ESRS) IP gateway used for remote support of virtually all of EMC’s storage platforms.

As I’ve noted, customers, partners and EMC representatives all have access to these tools, and they are key components of the best practices for operating and maintaining EMC’s products. I have no idea whether competitors offer any or all of these utilities, mainly because we don’t typically employ these as competitive differentiators. They exist because customers have asked us to provide them, and they are used because they have positive impact.

My advice to those that are wont to throw stones – remember, we are all humans, we all make mistakes, and when those mistakes have an impact on customers, it is not a good thing for any of us…there is no joy, no victory, no competitive advantage in another vendors’ mishaps.

What is most important is what we do to avoid them happening again…



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The Internet May Cause Distraction and Inability to Learn

by on Jul.11, 2010, under Storage

Warning: The Internet May Cause Distraction and Inability to Learn

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If Nicholas Carr is correct in his recent book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, you will not read this entire blog post. The main idea of the book is that the internet causes our brains to be easily distracted and also makes us less able to learn deep ideas as we skim more and read deeply less.  The book digs into the science of how the human brain learns.  The brain has “plasticity” – meaning that it will adjust to the activities that it does often, similar to what our muscles do.  Carr lays out the history of communication from the first written world, through the mass production of books, to the internet age and analyzes the impact that these technologies have on society and the human brain.  As he points out in the book, for every new technology, there have been those that have said that it will doom the way that we think or take away the very things that make us human.  But this time, according to Carr, there are real issues.

The Internet Distracts People with…SQUIRREL

Like the dog Dug in the movie Up! (SQUIRREL!) – internet users can find it hard to stay focused.  While I agree that almost any repetitive activity can potentially become addictive, I believe that most people can take control of the tools that they use for communication rather than letting them control you.  Even in pre-internet days, the draw of interrupting technologies was there – do you finish the task that you’re working on, or answer the ringing phone or watch TV (or even read a book)?  The brain can get so used to a stimulus that it will make you crave it when it’s not there – this even affected Dilbert back in 1996.
The difference with the internet is that it is everywhere and people can become like a mouse pressing a lever for a pellet by constantly checking email, RSS, Facebook, or Twitter.  These activities can be properly worked into the flow of the workday rather than as a distraction from getting things done.  Personally I know that I have a tendency to want to stay connected and respond rapidly to messages. (Disclosure: Hi, I’m Stu and I’m an internet addict, see me on Twitter)  The more we allow ourselves to be interrupt driven, the more our brains will see that as “normal” and it will become harder to stay focused for longer periods of time.  Recent studies (including some in the book) show that the cost of context switching is larger than any gains for multitasking.  You have the power to take control of your environment: finish conversations without interruption, check messages when you’re done with a task, not when an alarm tells you that it comes in.

Reading vs. Skimming

If you’ve read this far, congratulations!  In the age of the internet, most people skim rather than read.  The book describes that people read in an “F” shape, that is that they read the first line or two, then partial lines and eventually just start scanning down the page.  As a blogger, I try and keep my posts short (500 words for most posts or 1000 for a deeper discussion) and also try and break up the text visually with some bolding, italics, headers and photos.  Carr also says that even the basic web format with hyperlinks is very distracting.  Each hyperlink that you reach makes you think about clicking it and if you do will you ever get back to where you started (for this article, I put some links at the bottom rather than throughout the text).  There is fascinating research in the book which explains how memories are created and the science behind short term and long term memory.

“How do users read on the web?”…”They don’t”

While in general I feel that Carr is a bit of a pessimist about technology, I do believe that he is correctly raising an alarm on this topic.  The argument in the book is that as we skim more and rely on the internet to store information rather than our brains that our brains will have less context for problem solving or deep thoughts and that we become shallower.  Mass production of books brought learning to everyone, the internet increases information flow, but potentially we understand and internalize less.

There are a few ways that we can still absorb information in the internet age.  Of course the first is to read deeply – I’d recommend picking up The Shallows if you’ve found this discussion interesting (I think that it should be required reading at colleges). Another way is to write; the process of organizing your thoughts and translating them into words helps your memory and critical thinking.  A third way is to have deep discussions with friends and family – nothing like a lively debate to get the brain going.  A final way is just to give yourself some free time to think – where new information isn’t flooding in so that you can sort and process what you’ve brought in.

I consider myself a pragmatic optimist on the new technologies.  Like some of the optimists in the articles listed below, I believe that the internet age brings proliferation of information and opportunity for a globally connected community.  It’s the core of the company that I work at now.

Where do you stand?  Are you an internet optimist? Do you believe that there is validity in Carr’s positions?  Will the internet turn people into shallow shells that can’t function without computers?

Here are some related articles that I’d recommend:

Are You An Internet Optimist or Pessimist? The Great Debate over Technology’s Impact on Society by Adam Thierer  (Adam also reviews The Shallows)

I Know I’m Not the Only Internet Optimist… by Andy McAfee

Carr’s article from The Atlantic: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Does Multitasking Lead to a More Productive Brain? from NPR

A couple of posts of mine discussing similar topics after reading a book by Neil Postman

Nicholas Carr on The Colbert Report


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Is there a technical Sociological term for “truthiness”

by on Jul.09, 2010, under Storage

Is there a technical Sociological term for truthiness

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I’m going to Bitnorth in August. Its going to be geeky and awesome, and I can’t wait. I have to present. Everyone going has to present. I wanted to present on the idea that there since there is still a digital divide, is it possible that the new social rules that are emerging will impact a population that can’t participate in creating these new rules. And is that a problem?

But given the situation in the Gulf of Mexico (I’m from the Florida Panhandle), I’ve changed my idea just a little bit. I’m actually writing this blog post in the hopes that someone can help me with some terminology.

The background story

Since all of my family and lots of my friends still live on the Gulf Coast, I get pretty frequent updates on what is actually going on. What I hear from them is different than what I hear on the news up here in New England (where this week I heard more about Linsday and LeBron than the oil spill), or even in the newspapers back home.

Friends from a bit further west of my family (New Orleans to be exact) say the same thing – the news that is being reported is not matching the reality that people are seeing and living.

What is going on in the Gulf is very strange.

We know millions of gallons of oil are being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, and they are using an extremely toxic substance to break up the oil, and that they may have drilled into a methane bubble. What we don’t know is what impact that will have on the health of the residents of the Gulf Coast, because no one is sharing the information that could help Gulf Coast residents and visitors come to their own conclusions about the dangers of living near this oil spill.

Back to my Bitnorth presentation

Here’s my idea – what happens when in this day and age information imposters use social media to control the message about an event that will impact everyone? What happens if information imposters are very social media savvy, and are able to use “truthiness” to futher their own agenda? What happens when information imposters are able to game the system to seem as if they are more relevant than people or organizations trying to get the real information out there to people? What happens if these imposters know how to work people to gain their trust, so that they are the ones with high affinity?

What happens to our idealistic view of how social media can be used to improve and connect the world?

My main question for all of you is this: is there a technical term for this concept of “truthiness”?

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