4724 posts • joined 31 May 2010
"Ooooh, new project for the weekend! Gonna build build me a Dalek outta a parrot and a Roomba!"
I'm never sleeping again.
Spinning rust is commoditising. Building the physical box that storage goes on is commoditising. The features that yesterday EMC and NetApp could charge squillions for are commoditising. Storage is not.
The demand for storage is unlimited. The challenges of storage are equally overwhelming. We continually need to store our stuff in new ways, with differing levels of redundancy, or long-term, or temporarily, or securely, or in a tiered fashion....the list goes on. There are storage challenges we haven't even thought of yet because the technologies to cause those challenges hasn't yet emerged.
Compute is nothing more than a race to the bottom on the price of silicon. CPUs, GPUs, ASICs and more; who can make more numbers crunch faster. We hit the ceiling on single-threaded speed ages ago and it's been stagnant ever since.
Networking is - like storage - a potentially unlimited market. Unlike storage, networking has been dominated by a monopoly for so long that the single biggest innovation that can occur is breaking the monopoly and commoditising what we already have. That is occurring as we speak.
SDN in the form of Openflow and like things will occupy networking nerds for the next decade, if not more. There isn't room in that market for too much innovation, because the battle to defeat Goliath still hasn't been won. Cisco's icy claws need to be uncurled first, and that will stall networking for some time. Besides, networks aren't the bottleneck today: storage is.
There is plenty of room for storage to grow yet. Whether you personally like the startup scene or not.
Let me try to be clear about this: commoditisation is a good thing. Companies have only so many dollars to spend. When the money is no longer going into high margin proprietary hardware then it can go into actual innovation. Slash the margins and get the hardware for near-cost and then you can invest your time (as an industry) on doing amazing things in software. And amazing things are being done!
The value of startups doesn't come from creating locking and milking customers for as much margin as possible by making things as incompatible as possible or requiring that you buy every replacement part/service contract/etc from the original kit shifter at stupid prices. It comes from making something people actually want using the best, brightest and most leading-edge talent that's out there.
The value of startups comes from creating a culture and a working environment that lures away the best and brightest from the fossilized legacy vendors, starving them of talent so that they cannot possibly compete.
Legacy vendors strangle customers, squeezing them until every last dime is extracted, then discarding them without a second thought. Startups strangle legacy vendors, draining the lifeforce from them, the customers and eventually the mindshare until they are top dog and must engage in legacy practices in order to defend their territory.
This is the circle of digital life. You may not like it, but you do have to live with it.
Addendum: the first hit for "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" is the Wikipedia page for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Which largely makes my point for me, but just because I feel the need to ram this particular one home...
Queensland bans IBM from future work. We live in a world where you absolutely can get fired for buying IBM.
Welcome to the future. Your preconceptions are no longer valid. Enjoy.
You're right, of course. "Who's on the box" has mattered a great deal in the past, and will continue to be a strong factor into the future.
That said, for all the reasons I argued above, I do believe that the power of name-brand inertia is less important. There is one other reason not mentioned there: scope. The Amdahl v IBM battle occured mostly back when there were far fewer companies with computers, period...let alone companies with the kinds of complex infrastructure that we have today.
The impact of a few people who can be bribed or who are so conservative they can't conceive of alternatives is greatly diminished by the sheer scope of the marketplace.
Unlike oh, so many of my peers I don't believe that "One size fits all." The idea that one - and only one - company must emerge dominant in a given field and that a company is only "worth" anything if it is that dominant company is completely fucking outdated and overwhelmingly ludicrous.
Look at storage. Storage is huge. It's a truly enormous field with unlimited growth potential. There is more than enough room for multiple companies to do amazingly well and a great many people to get spectacularly, stupefyingly, mind-blowingly rich.
You are absolutely correct in that people assume that large companies will "catch up" to the startups. Sometimes this assumption is right (usually because a big company acquired a startup, rather than innate innovation). Many times it's wrong. Even when it is right, the large company's solution is increasingly of lower quality, promotes lock-in and is frequently proprietary. This last is important in an era where so many are moving towards rapid-iteration technology departments powered by "as-a-Service" this and "Software Defined" that.
This is more than just some buzzwords. It's a discussion about how IT should be delivered. The DevOps movement - amongst many others - is an acknowledgement that corporate - and especially enterprise - IT has failed both the business and the users. Consumer IT leaps ahead, corporate IT lags behind.
You can't close that ever-widening gap by doing everything exactly like you've always done it before, relying on the same companies with the same release and refresh cycles. You have to take some "risks", even where the "risk" you're taking is simply stepping out of your comfort zone and using a different vendor.
Will every single company on earth do this? No. Do they have to for everything I've said above to be true? No.
That's where failure of imagination comes in to play. We live in a world where you no longer need "all" or even "most" of the world to follow, herd-like, in the same direction. The industry is diverse. It is complex. And companies seek the means to differentiate themselves form one another ever increasingly by doing their IT differently than their competitors.
That's right: many of today's companies are finding that doing IT differently from the "established industry best practices and "safe" vendors is what is giving them their competitive edge.
The old ways are dying. The idea that every single company will do IT the exact same way using products and services from the exact same vendors is almost extinct. There are so many vendors offering so many products today that this was ultimately inevitable.
So yes, not everyone is going to take the "risk" of trying a startup." Then again, that no longer matters.
(this post is part 2 of the above post)
Ahh, fear. We come to the heart of the matter! The meat of the entree, the very soul of your statement. All the features and proven reliability of an established product. Classic. Sew fear, uncertainty and doubt and ye shall reap the profits of the unrighteous who dared dream of a better world! Or so goes the theory, anyways. Protip: it isn't fucking working this time.
Problem 1: The CIO is of decreasing relevance. So that business model where you schmooze the CIO, bribe him with various things and ram your sale down the throats of IT, typically over their voiceferous objections? Not working nearly so well. The CFO is the new black today, ladies and gents, and (s)he can look at the numbers and features being offered by the startups, look at what the nerds say is needed and ask that one, horrible, shattering question:
"why is this one 5x as much for the same thing?"
Problem 2: Pure - and Tintri, Tegile, Numbus, etc. etc. etc. - are filled with staff from EMC and NetApp. "OMG don't you trust an an established product product more than newbies, lololololol" doesn't mean a goddamend thing if it's not only many of the same people making said product, it's is more often than not the best and the brightest from those companies doing so.
Do I trust Pure, or Tintri more than EMC or NetApp? Absofuckinglutely. Why? Because those who were most able to seek a better deal for themselves were the ones that left. They went seeking their fortunes elsewhere because they knew that they could; they were confident in their success. Why wouldn't I trust them more than the legacy vendor desperately trying to milk every last dollar out of R&D from 5 years ago staffed by those who couldn't make the leap to a bigger payout?
Problem 3: we don't want the past, because we're careening headlong into the future. An "established product" is great at solving the problems of yesterday. That says fucking nothing about it's ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow. A company that needs to beat the drum of "establishment" in order to cling desperately to clients - and NetApp, I am looking at you square in the eyes as I say this - is already dead, they just haven't admitted it yet.
Maybe what you need to do is actually talk to customers. Not to CIOs. Not to people who coughed up storage mafia "protection money" at the first hint of FUD, but to those who have made the jump into the future. Ask them why they did so. I think you'd be surprised.
It isn't just about the money - although that's always a factor - it's about ease of use. We're not just talking about interfaces or management software here (although that does sell the odd array). It's about not having to futz around with an infinite number of options in the hopes of getting the optimal solution for your workload.
Put simply: the startups are fast. Stupidly, gloriously, overwhelmingly fast. They are fast at a price far below that of the legacy vendors. That means you don't have to bring in a storage consultant to hem and haw and test. There's no poking and prodding and "sizing workloads." You buy the thing, it goes really, really fast. If you need more than one, you buy more than one. They all go really, really fast.
In fact, you can - and do - completely overspecify your storage needs and you do so with the shit-eating grin to end all shit-eating grins because you're still significantly cheaper than EMC or NetApp, but the deal is done and the workloads are moved in the time it would have taken mummy and daddy to even figure out which overpriced tat they were going to try to pitch you for your requirements.
I'm not talking in the abstract here. I can sit you down with real people who have done the dance of hate with legacy storage and ended up champions and evangelists for the new guys. In fact, I'm only even able to write about any of this because that kind of investigation is my job.
All of this, from EMC to NetApp to Pure and so forth are so far beyond my price range that I don't have a stake in any of them. There are exactly two storage vendors I can afford: Proximal Data and Maxta. Maxta kicks right royal ass (and NetApp are the dumbest company on earth for not having bought them by now, but that's another story...) and Proximal can turn just about any ancient crap into workable storage for real-world workloads. (Again, you'd think these legacy cruft pitchers would have bought up Proximal by now, especially given the new project under development. *shrug* I guess they don't like having a snowball's chance in a neutron star at the future.)
Ultimately, I don't care if EMC or NetApp, Tintri, Pure or Skyera win. It's abstract nonsense to me. I'm a reporter from the Canadian prairies and I don't have a stake in any of these folks, not as a customer nor as a shareholder.
...but my sources do. They run their businesses - I would argue they bet their businesses - on the outcome of such technological races. They are not stupid people. They are not making snap judgements or jumping on bandwagons. They test, they verify, and they are innately conservative engineering types who don't like change.
Despite this, they are embracing change. They are stepping outside their comfort zone, walking away from the likes of NetApp and EMC and behooves you - and anyone else reading this - to find out why. Why are competent, capable, knowledgeable and experiences systems and storage administrators turning their backs on "proven reliability of an established product"?
I'll tell you this much for free: it isn't because they're stupid. And that, sir, is more than good enough for me.
I agree 100% that the array vendor is ultimately toast. I also believe that Pure is one of the companies out there that not only know this, they have the will and capability to adapt to the reality of Server SANs ultimately taking over the market. NetApp does not. (And no, it won't be VMware that dominates storage with their VSAN, no matter what VMware's desperate "we are the one size that fits all" marketing would have you believe.)
Culture flows from the top. My understanding of Pure - and please, do correct me if I'm wrong here - is that anyone can make a contribution. There is no massive internal red tape, no management egos to bruise; anyone can have a good idea, they are all accepted for consideration, everything is discussed and much is pursued. (Though limited resources dictate some level of choosing what to focus on at the moment.) I am led to believe employees at pure are excited, engaged and looking at how to leap beyond their current offering to take full advantage of the rapid evolution of the market instead of believing that they have the solution to everything as it stands now.
Why do you think people leave EMC, NetApp and so forth, hmm? Have you ever talked to these people? Why did so many of them go and start a storage startup, or join one? It is because they felt they were working in straightjackets at their previous job. That they were being strangled by a joyless and feckless bureaucracy. That their contributions mattered even less to management than they did...and they mattered not at all.
In situations like this it is usually the best and brightest that leave first. They are the ones who most readily chafe under the gravitational pull of stagnation and they are the most likely to be desired and demanded by others. VMware has had this problem for some time, and it's been an open secret in the valley for years now that if you want a VMware executive for your company it isn't particularly hard to get one. The joke is that all of VMware's top people can be found on Craigslist.
So no, it doesn't sound at all weird to say that the culture of a startup composed largely of EMC and NetApp refugees is different from the companies they fled. The culture flows from the top and is given colour and flavour by those at the bottom (assuming they are given the opportunity to contribute). That you don't get that makes me question whether you actually talk to any of these people or whether you have a vested interest in the status quo.
As for this statement: "There's nothing special about Pure products, in fact they still lack a lot of functionality that is considered standard in traditional storage arrays. And there are quite a few indictions (go through some of the SPEC benchmark results) that traditional arrays with SSD backends deliver the same performance as a Pure box - but will all the features and proven reliability of an established product. Is seems that you don't need as much secret flash sauce as some of the startups try to make you believe."
I will agree that there isn't anything special about Pure products when compared to other similar startups, but don't pretend for a moment that big daddy EMC or NetApps's archaic trundling shite is anywhere near as good as the stuff turned out by the startup crowd.
Today's startups are more performant in a wider range of real-world scenarios than either EMC or NetApp. More than that, they are more adaptable and less bogged down with legacy cruft. "Special Flash Sauce?" You're goddamend right it's necessary. More today than it was yesterday and more tomorrow that it is today.
Flash is not the same as a hard drive. It cannot be treated like "just a fast hard drive". Doing so will not only wear a hole through the middle in no time flat, it isn't going to let you actually maximize throughput for the equipment you have, and that's important because flash costs $virgins. More to the point, workloads are becoming ever more densely packed as compute capacity within a single node soars.
Network links are getting fatter and that means that we're trying to run more and more and more and more workloads off the same storage. To think that EMC and NetApp with their archaic operating systems and spinning rust drives are going to handle this going forward is the worst kind of bad joke. They aren't. They can't do it now. I have a list of sysadmins longer than a city block who spit out EMC's name like a curse and would rather work a road crew than deal with NetApp ever again.
They put in a Tinrti, or a Tegile, a Nimbus, Skyera or Pure system and never looked back. People move to Nutanix, SimpliVity or Maxta and they don't come back, and of the few I know still stuck using EMC and NetApp where they have an actual say in which storage vendor gets bought, they are either trying to plot a quick exit or climbing the walls to get hold of Proximal Data.
NetApp and EMC are expensive. Ridiculously, horrifically, hilariously so. They are expensive not just in the up-front cost of the array, but they need more space to do the same damned job as their more nimble brethren...and for what? And what does that future look like, when the people cheering rah-rah for those stagnant putzes are decrying the future and championing the past? Why would anyone attach their future to such an outfit except out of fear?
(part 2 in next post)
I didn't say they'd get it. I said that's what they'll be aiming for. I have no idea if they'll get it only because I am absolutely convinced that we are within 18 months of the collapse of the bubble. If they don't IPO before then, they're probably done for.
But what VC doesn't make a play for at least 10X return? Let's be real here, people: venture capitalists don't invest a half a billion dollars into a company without expecting at least 10x. Not when there are WhatsApp deals going on left and right.
NetApp is chained to the past. Technologically and culturally. They don't have the constitution to be cannibalizing their own efforts in order to feed the future and that is leading to all this nippy little rats eating their lunch. Their valuation is so low right now not because storage is inherently a low-valuation sector of IT, but because they are fundamentally unable to adapt to the changing landscape quickly enough.
Could Pure get away with $8B? If they IPO very, very quickly and they manage every single aspect of it up to that point perfectly, then yes, I believe they could. Will they get $3-$5B? Unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong, yes they will.
IPOs aren't about what the company is worth now. It's hype and drama about the "promise" and "potential" of the company.
At the end of the day, storage is huge. Bigger in most ways than compute and bigger even than networking. China will cut networking to shreds in short order just as it has done with compute...but storage has a long way to go based solely on the promise of doing every increasingly clever things with infinitely expanding amounts of data. The market for storage is - quite literally - unlimited.
Pure, like a few other storage startups, has a culture that seems able to innovate. To generate new ideas and proactively seek out new markets instead of react. Unlike a lot of storage startups they have a metric hoo-haw of money to play with and a few folks who are really, really determined to get things right instead of beta testing on live customers.
Timing is everything. If they get in before the bubble collapses they could be one of the last big IPOs of this cycle. After all, they have real-world value when compares to a Twitter or a WhatsApp, and if you take a moment to talk to their actual customers, they don't just have "users", they have acolytes.
It's going to be an interesting next year and change before the bubble goes pop. Then it's going to be a spectacular next 2 years while the carnage ensues and the body count rises.
"If it can do that and ride a growing flash array wave then a successful IPO at, say, a $3bn to $5bn valuation could be possible. That'd be highly profitable for the VCs who are now betting big on the outcome."
Um...Pure has had at least $470M pumped into them. A $3B IPO would be substantially less than 10x flowing back to VCs and even $5B probably isn't going to see 10x flowing to VCs, depending on how big a share the founders still have. I humbly suggest that you're off somewhat in what they are going to be seeking from an IPO. $8b-$10b seems more likely...
And yet, I sit somewhere between left libertarian and social democrat. If we (representatives of radically different philosophies) can approach agreement on this issue...
Re: An open question to the anti-net-neutrality crowd:
Trust a nerd to believe you can solve social problems with technology. *sigh*
Look, I don't care what the technology can do. Just because TCP has the ability to do QoS doesn't mean that QoS should be used on the public internet. I'm perfectly aware that this is a capability of the protocol, and I use it within the bounds of my own network so that I, and only I can decide what priority different classes of traffic get on my network. In fact, my edge routers are even able to look at QoS settings on the network and determine which packets get priority for access to the internet. That is how I determine the quality of service of my network.
There's the critical bit there. I determine the quality of service of my network. Nobody dictates it to me, certainly not by discriminating based upon whether or not I am requesting packets from a company that competes with my my ISP.
You can bang on about FRAND/RAND as a solution to the social issues of abuse of monopoly or pesudo-monopoly position, but I've yet to see many examples of that actually working in the real world. Unless I'm missing something, your anti-net-neutrality stance is lodged firmly in mistaken economic beliefs like "the free market actually works". It doesn't, certainly not when there is the option for a monopoly to exist. It's as big a myth as trickle down economics.
So really, that's what this boils down to. There are plenty of examples in our history in which companies - including many of the very same companies that are in question with this very issue - have abused monopoly power, influenced regulators and politicians to the detriment of customers and generally been gigantic assholes. There are far fewer examples of "the invisible hand of the market" simply clearing everything up and making abuses go away.
If you have a means of guaranteeing that investment gets plowed into ever better infrastructure perpetually, that service is universally available, that speeds and quality increase over time, that prices won't become gougingly predatory for end customer and that barriers to entry will remain low-to-non-existent for new entrants, I'm all ears.
So far, imposing net neutrality and a shitload of regulation seems like the only way to achieve the above. Simply letting those in power do whatever they want is absolutely, positively, without a shadow of the remotest doubt going to result in the exact fucking opposite. There is no reason whatsoever to believe otherwise.
Additionally, as for your parting missive:
"and above all else that no internet provider is allowed to prioritize packets from services they own above those of services from competing providers.
Not even the routing and control protocol traffic required to maintain your network's stability?"
Don't be asinine. You're attempting to pin an extremist viewpoint on me when under no circumstances have I evidenced such. Routing and control traffic is and should be considered to be part of the infrastructure itself. It is necessary overhead to make the system work.
As I had stated plainly in my posts, I have zero problem with certain items having priority on the public internet, so long as the rationale behind their having priority was obvious, transparent and clearly grounded in the common good. (For example, 911 or telemedicine traffic.)
As a society we make "common good" exceptions for every traffic and communications network. In times of emergency our governments have all sorts of powers ranging from your duty to pull over when an emergency vehicle has lights/sirens on so they can pass to priority use of comns equipment by government officials during a crisis.
Do not try to set up a straw man by pretending that I am some ideological purist trying to impose a radical and absolutist agenda. That's bullshit and you fucking know it.
What I am seeing is the best outcome for small business owners and end customers in a fashion that doesn't completely ruin the ability for ISPs, CDNs, content distributors and even the rightsholder mafia to make money. I seek to prevent any one group from gaining absolute control and I seek to prevent vertical market integration which would lead to monopoly positions, anti-competitive barriers to entry and egregious - I would go so far as to say economically dangerous - pricing.
Let me be even more clear here, just so that we can all speak the same language: western society is becoming one that is based on the production and distribution of intellectual capital. We cannot - we must not - allow the distribution system of that intellectual capital to become controlled by a small oligarchy.
To do so would place us at a spectacular disadvantage compared to other nations which see the value in ensuring fast, reliable, cheap and (mostly) equalized access to the economic "market" that will define the twenty-first century. Everyone - rich or poor - needs to be able to both buy and sell wares in that market place and they need to be able to do so unfettered.
If you hand an oligarchy the vice and place our collective economic testicles in the middle, don't be so shocked and shaken when the start tightening the thing demanding money.
No "technical capability of the TCP/IP protocol" is going to solve that. Even toothless FRAND/RAND rules (that don't solve the issue of barrier to entry int he first place, they only assure that the few who make it over the barrier get equal prices) just don't solve the problem.
People aren't rational actors. It's about time those who worship disproven economic theory got that through their heads. It's kind of important when you're trying to build a society based on rules and technologies that not only have never existed before, be up until a few generations ago, we couldn't have even imagined ever would exist.
Re: @ Trevor Pott -- An open question to the anti-net-neutrality crowd:
Consider it yours. ;)
Re: An open question to the anti-net-neutrality crowd:
And yet, I can answer the question of "what is net neutrality", Andrew. And I even have spelled it out. Comprehensively, in fact. I'm sorry if you neither like the answer nor the fact that I loudly and proudly support it.
"What is net neutrality?" Net neutrality is the assurance that all packets sent from me to another party on the internet are treated the same. It is the assurance that the data I request from all parties on the internet is treated the same. That ebay packets are treated as no different than "bubba bob's shit shack" and above all else that no internet provider is allowed to prioritize packets from services they own above those of services from competing providers.
Now, that's a pretty damned absolute statement and we all know absolutes don't work in the real world; some flexibility is required. This is where content delivery networks come in. CDNs place the content closer to the end user and thus - by some definitions - treat some content differently than others. Overall, I don't think anyone has a problem with the idea of CDNs, even the most died-in-the-wool net neut advocates, so long as access to those CDNs is treated neutrally on both sides of the equation. I.E. that the ISP doesn't discriminate against CDNs that host competing services and the CDNs don't discriminate against content providers.
Everyone treats everyone else "blindly". Nobody peeks at anyone else's traffic to see what it contains and nobody degrades traffic based on destination or origin. That's net neutrality.
Net neutrality doesn't mean we can't develop new technologies and take advantage of them. It means that we must develop and implement these technologies in such a manner that they do not constitute a barrier to entry for any party seeking to use what has become absolutely vital shared social infrastructure.
Thus the intent of the regulation is this: that companies which own vital pieces of the internet - be they content, CDNs or infrastructure - are not allowed to exercise control over their piece of the pie to make it harder for others to compete.
This means that ISPs should not be allowed to degrade Netflix or Youtube without similarly degrading their own offerings, and shouldn't be able to degrade anyone at all if they own a non-internet-based content delivery service (such as cable). No screwing the competition and yoru customers in order to prop up another segment of your business.
It means CDNs should not be allowed to refuse "bob's shit shack" because they host content for ebay. Nor should they be able to engage in predatory pricing for smaller sites.
Google and other content sources shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against competitors either. They do Bad Things regarding how they rank competitors on their site, and I think the EU is right to slap their wrists on this.
That said, their competitors attempting to use such proceedings in order to get Google's proprietary ranking algorithms revealed (and thus most of Google's value as a company destroyed) is bullshit too. That's a trade secret and we can legislate on the results, but shouldn't be able to force them to open the kimono.
Lastly, content hoarders who demand ransom payments for stuff people long dead made shouldn't be able to cut better deals with services they own/operate than they do with third party content services. I don't give a flying fuck if $content_service is owned by Universal, Google, Netflix or the local Linux User's Group. The cost of licensing that content should apply to everyone.
In this manner content services like Netflix can compete on merit by providing business models that suit the demands of customers. Content hoarders can charge outrageous prices, but only if they charge them to everyone; thus if they charge too much more than the next content hoarder nobody will watch their content and they'll wither away and die.
ISPs can invest in anything they like, but they can't behave in a manner different than "dumb pipes". With, of course, the acknowledgement that there will be some (read: emergency services) exceptions to the "dumb pipe" rule, but those exceptions should come with a "public good" rationale, not a commercial incentive rationale. (E.G. by all means prioritize telemedicine and 911, but do not prioritize Skype over 3CX or Cisco over Asterix.)
I don't give a rat's ass about righteousness, and I give less than that about being viewed as moral. As for upvotes, the server says "In total, your posts have been upvoted 10125 times and downvoted 1599 times." I passed my "10,000 upvotes" mark days ago; I'm actually trying for 2,500 downvotes now. Because arbitrary numbers make the nerd in me happy.
So how about we put away the personal fooferah here, hmm? I don't give a shit if every single person in this forum, or every single person on earth disagrees with me about this. I am not writing for the masses. If I were, it sure as hell wouldn't be in the comments section, it would be in a 2500 word feature handed to Lewis with added emphasis.
No, I'm angry. I'm venting my spleen. There is a thing that I believe is just, and that is treating my traffic the same as your traffic...and that's getting trampled on here. I don't believe that might makes right and I sure as hell don't think that having more money than the next guy give you the right to screw him around either.
So that's what this is about. This is about the little guy. About regular joes like me who, like me, want to create an internet startup. We want to create and publish content and we want the right to do so on equal terms with everyone else. As a business owner I want low barriers to entry. As a citizen I want the same thing, because low barriers to entry encourage competition, which in turn encourages innovation and drops ultimately results in the commoditization of goods and services so that I can get them cheaper.
I don't want a tiered internet and I don't want a tiered world. I don't want an "us" and a "them". I don't believe money is speech or that anyone else should have a greater say than me (or me than them.) One voice, one vote. Not one dollar, one vote. From politics to packets; equality of opportunity and and moderate attempts to regulate the system such that we have lower disparity of outcome.
I am not trying to say "equality of outcome". I'm not a complete nutbar. Equality of outcome is not only impossible to achieve, it goes against our very nature as a species. We need to be able to achieve some form of stratification and hierarchy or we become very, very upset.
What I don't want is an internet that mirrors the wealth gap. I certainly don't want an internet that encourages said gap.
I'm flexible in my beliefs. When there is a reason rooted in the common good to make exceptions to equality then I'm all ears. But I don't - and I won't - accept that we should allow (let alone enshrine!) barriers to entry. Not at the infrastructure level, the CDN level, the content service level or the content licensing level. Equal access by everyone to all levels and equal treatment of all competitors by all other levels of the stack.
That, to me, is net neutrality. If you want to fling poo at me, go right ahead, but hey, hit the downvote button while you do it? I'm trying to hit 2500.
Re: Triple Play...
Telus does this over copper ADSL (technically VDSL 2+) and uses this as an excuse for why they don't need to invest in fiber, or faster internet. If it can carry their TV (while reducing everything else to a useless crawl), then it's "good enough". I happen to disagree. Loudly.
Re: @Trevor, et al
I disagree. There is competition. It comes in the form of the bendy human beings doing incomprehensible things with trapeezes or the folks in costumes on the stage, or the gardeners who maintain the local devonian gardens or the local ski hill, or the...
Look, fuck the internet. There's a huge, great world just outside our door. Let's go play in it.
@ Andrew Orlowski
I read your other post, and the link. It did nothing to sway me. I've made my case in the various posts in this thread and the issues I've raised haven't been addressed. Brushed aside so that handwaving about "teh evil Googles" can occur, yarp, but there are a lot of things I brought up that are simply ignored.
And, oh, yeah, Google is evil...but so's everyone else in this particular shitstorm. From the content ransom seekers down to the last mile providers. A lot of sinners, no saints, and the freemarket is worth fuck all to average joes like me.
Re: An open question to the anti-net-neutrality crowd:
I don't disagree with that assessment at all. Mind you, that's why I hate pretty much every culture on earth. I really would like enough money to move to the woods and not have to ever deal with this crap ever again. Kthxbai.
Re: A Very Strong Stink of Corruption
Thankee muchly. Or not. Really, actually, if someone wants to meet my price, I'm quite happy. It's only a measly 8 figures...guys? Guys? Come back...
Re: A Very Strong Stink of Corruption
"the oligarchy (a.k.a. the 1%) owns both the government and the media"
They down own all of the media. I'll speak for nobody but myself and my sysadmin bloggers, but not a one of us has received anywhere near enough money to buy us off. :) There's still the odd one of us that isn't a corrupt tool of the 1%...
Re: An open question to the anti-net-neutrality crowd:
I disagree that my proposal is a burden on existing corporations. Short and simple? You take the bits that are non-core and spin them off into their own company. EMC and VMware compete, despite EMC owning 40% of VMware. The same can - and should - happen here.
Google's CDN network can be spun off as it's own concern. The ISPs' content companies can have the same thing occur. Regulations put in place to prevent any sort of preferential treatment in contracts with parent company and monitoring in place until such a point as we're satisfied they're separate enough to have separate cultures.
In Australia - or hell, Canada - you simply declare the monopoly provider(s) a publicly regulated utility. No different that we do here with natural gas or electricity. The infrastructure providers are a completely separate company from those selling you access/bandwidth. It's not the cleanest solution, but it's one we have all sorts of regulatory precedent for all over the world and we know where the pitfalls are and how folks try to game the system.
I don't particularly care if Comcast owns X% of NBC, so long as A) it's not a controlling share and B) they are prevented from "doing a sweeter deal" for one another because of that ownership.
That's the model I propose. It works out for the capitalists in the long run because it encouraged competition, innovation and thus profit and new markets. It works out in the short run because nobody actually loses anything substantial. It works out for the customer because we have a chance of maybe, one day, being half as awesome as the rest of the civilized world.
Re: A Very Strong Stink of Corruption
Addendum: Bear something in mind here...*I*, personally, can build a video service in technically capable of going toe-to-toe with Netflix in two years. Why? Netflix did all the hard work for me, and so I can light the technology bits up in no time. A team of proper devs coudl do it in less time.
A company like AT&T or Comcast can negotiate the content deals required to compete with a Netflix in a matter of a few months. The barrier of entry for ISPs to abuse a lack of network neutrality is next to nothing.
The barrier of entry for content providers to build a global internet with complete last-mile access is huge and measured in decades.
So when you point fingers and try to see who has bought whom...consider for a moment who stand to benefit in short order here. Google's plans for world domination would have proceeded apace with both network neutrality in place or not....though with network neutrality in place they could have used existing networks to backfill last-mile they didn't own far cheaper than they will now be able too.
Google wasn't the one handing out brown envelopes here. The ISPs were.
This bullshit factory buys them the time between now and the moment Google has permeated the top 20% high-value markets to get a content offering going that can compete with Google, then throttle Google, Netflix and everyone else into the ground until everyone has no choice but to use AT&TCastFlix because it's the only thing that works.
They can light that up in a year. It buys them a decade. Maybe two. In the meantime, they make Google so unappealing that they drive customers away from them (partner with MS to have Bing be the Search Of Choice?) and build an advertising platform that will move all of Google billions in income into their coffers. (Partner with Facebook?)
No, this helps noone but the infrastructure owners. The ones who want walled gardens and captive audiences because - and let's be real here for a moment - there's a hell of a lot more margin in advertising than there is in infrastructure.
We, the people, are a pressure that demands commoditisation of access. Dumb pipes fast and cheap. Nobody wants to be in that business if there is a better business to be in. Advertising against captive content consumers who can't get a fat enough pipe to go elsewhere is exactly how you make that money. You don't make that money charging Google extra to reach customers. You make that money by making it as hard as possible for Google to reach customers then throwing your own alternative up.
This isn't about providing anyone a "fast lane." It is about making the ISPs the content providers, the advertising platform and even the cloud providers of the 21st century. Going "off net" is about to cost Americans their left testicle.
And you say Google and Netflix are the beneficiaries? No. They're about to be casualties.
Re: A Very Strong Stink of Corruption
"Uncle Ron's Video Startup" currently has the choice of dozens of CDNs. They don't need to own the infrastructure. At least, they didn't, until the almighty US of corporations decided that massive vertical integration was just groovy.
The whole point of the third party CDN market was to provide the economies of scale to "Uncle Ron's Video Startup"-type sites that you can't afford until you're Netflix. Now maybe I'm completely senile, but I seem to remember that integrating with these sites for past projects was a matter of minutes, and that the prices were rather reasonable.
When this goes south, it's going to be because we mixed our food and allowed content providers, CDNs and ISPs to become one entity. That's a very, very, very, very, very bad idea. None of those categories should every be allowed enough power to strangle the internet.
Net neutrality would have mostly kept the wolves at bay. Now? Fugeddaboutit.
Google is not the winner here. Comcast and AT&T are. They can now strangle Google - and anyone else they choose - in favour of their own services. Google, no matter how large they have become, simply don't have the capital to lay enough fiber to combat such shenanigans. The ISPs now hold the CDNs over a barrel too, and they'll shake and shake and shake until all the coins come out.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pay my "fair and equitable" mobile bill.
An open question to the anti-net-neutrality crowd:
Please explain why net neutrality is bad for me.
The problem is that no matter how often or ardently it's repeated, I don't believe in the lie of the free market any more than I do bullshit like "trickle down economics." What I want is regulation that guarantees all packets are treated equally and that ownership of infrastructure is separated from ownership of content by a regulatory firewall made out of elventeen squillion angry sociopathic US airforce drones.
Is a Youtube monopoly good? No...but neither is a Comcast one. The image I linked to above describes the very real fears of myself and I daresay millions of others. Nothing said here or linked to does a damned thing to convince me this isn't exactly what's going to happen, or that if it did it would somehow be to our benefit (bullshit.)
The infrastructure of the internet needs perpetual investment. Period. The incentives need to exist to force those who own the infrastructure to continue upgrading forever. There is no downtime allowed. As new technologies are created they are to be implemented, period. That's what I pay my ISP bill for. End of line.
Now, on top of that, I will pay content providers. I pay my dumb pipe to be the best damned dumb pipe it knows how to be, I'll pay my content provider to be the best damned content provider it knows how to be. That content provider will pay it's upstream for carriage, it may pay a CDN for carriage - if it's big enough to warrant it - and it pays the
artists rightsholders their ransom money.
Frankly, I'd argue that in order to keep things competitive content providers should not be allowed to own CDNs. Infrastructure should be kept firewalled from content on both sides of this equation. Not only should infrastructure providers not be allowed to own content, but content providers should not be allowed to own internet infrastructure outside their own datacenters.
CDNs should, in fact, be a separate entity from both last-mile ISPs and content providers. They stand up distribution nodes wherever they can strike deals with local last-mile ISPs and they provide the algorithms that properly determine what content needs to be on those nodes.
Content providers make their deals with the CDNs. CDNs make the deals with the ISPs. Nobody gets vertical and nobody has an incentive to start discriminating against anyone else's traffic or trying to double-dip.
That's it. I pay my ISP for last mile transit for X amount of packets over the course of a month with Y peak theoretical capacity and Z average capacity. They provide it on a best-effort basis and continually reinvest the fees from my internet charges into new infrastructure.
As part of that, my ISP works hand-in hand with various CDN providers to ensure that CDNable content is CDNed and then makes the best peering arrangements possible with other networks to provide the best possible access it can to the wider internet for it's customers.
Content providers pay their carriage to their upstream provider and CDNs, if they use them. Problem solved.
What I don't understand is how altering this arrangement in any way benefits me, the consumer. How does allowing the ISP to double-dip and charge the content provider and me for the same bits help me out? How does giving the ISP incentives to deprioritize traffic from competitors over their own offerings help me out? How does allowing the ISP to continually make convoluted back room deals that deincentiveize them to invest in infrastructure upgrades help me out?
Why would I support any regulation, market strategy, economic philosophy, ISP or content provider that doesn't act in my interests? Why should I?
My interests are best served by having access to the complete global internet free of any restraint at the fastest possible speeds that are possible given the current limitations of technology and financial capability. My interests are best served by ensuring that there is massive competition at all levels and that any market that makes it to a monopoly becomes heavily regulated to prevent abuse.
So please, do explain to me how a tiered internet benefits me? How does it better suit my needs now, and in the future? How does it guarantee that we don't fall even farther behind nations like South Korea or Sweden than we already are?
And one more thing, while we're at it, please do explain to me one other thing. If I must pick from amongst a variety of available demons and devils, why is Google not the best choice for me? There's a lot of "evil" companies out there, and Google absolutely is one of them, but Google also seem to actually periodically do things that actually benefit me. AT&T don't. Comcast sure as hell don't. Telus and Rogers and Bell don't. The major content companies sure as shit don't either.
...but sometimes, every once in a great while, Google does. So if the world is truly so righteously and completely fucked that there's no way it can possibly evolve without some monopoly taking control, explain to me why I shouldn't vote for Google to be that monopoly?
Bonus points and added rah-rah if you can do all the above without resorting to particularly tiresome economic fallacies or libertarian moralizing about "should". I don't care about other people's morals and economic belief systems. Just results.
@ vlbaindoor Re: Oh goody.
Scurrilous vagabond! I find your deleterious insinuations both haughty and contemptuous. Your vapid and irrational comments lead me to believe that your lineage could be none other than a cockferret for a father and a cuntweasel for a mother! Perhaps it is worth the application of effort to steer your course away from the seemingly inevitable douchepocalypse and towards a glorious nerd-calming fuckfest of personality-altering proportions.
May you find peace and the chance to chill. ---> Beer, because it's Friday.
""Unfortunately it's a little bit late," he warned. "We thought the world would act in a grown up way, but well...""
Funny, I've been saying that the world wouldn't for a decade already, and that the failure to grok this - and appropriately plan for it - is why I consider IPv6 and all those who dreamt it up a laughable failure. Just because it works on an ivory tower drawing board doesn't mean it works where dollars must leave the wallet.
But no, they called me crazy. Well fuck them.
If we have enough satellites up there serving duty as part of the global positioning network then - combined - they can be rapidly redeployed to restore coverage. When the big one hits half of them will survive, due some some giant ball of rock or other being between the sun and the satellites. Between launches of emergency reserve satellites (2-3 units per system), activation of in-flight spares (1 per system, typically in MEO over the dark side), and the ability to reposition some of the existing nodes of some of the systems full global coverage could be restored to multi-band systems in days.
Getting the various governments to cooperate enough to retask satellites for that, however, could be difficult.
Re: Abridged version
"To be fair, Cisco stuff is pretty bloody good at what it does."
Can't disagree, but for most areas of Cisco's endeavors, there are others that area as good that cost less. Really, that's the bit that matters.
Re: That's because those devices are based on Linux, not Darwin
*shrug* getting component manufacturers to port drivers to another OS is a bitch. Even if you're Apple.
Re: 100 per cent data availability ?
With a list of caveats that lasts longer than the movie itself. I'm somewhat less than enthused, though willing to give it the old unit the benefit of the doubt. Now about the new unit...
Re: 100 per cent data availability ?
Sure it is. Shoot it. Does it still work? If not, I heartily disagree with the claim. I deploy storage to my SMBs where I can pick any arbitrary storage node and shoot it with the array still working. If the thing can't even survive that test...
Re: Regardless of what X is.
“what if a misogynist parent paid for someone else to receive a primary education in place of his daughter, so that his daughter would receive no primary education, to keep her illiterate and innumerate?”
Then said parent would be violating the daughter's human rights and would - in any civilized country - be tried, sentenced and above all else had the privilege of raising a child revoked.
"Individuals could well trust e.g. a convicted perjuror enough to entrust their votes to him, but would it be generally accepted that a perjuror could act as a proxy for citizens in a secret ballot"
Other individuals and the state should have zero say on whom I choose to trust with my vote. It's my vote. By what right do they interfere?
"A person could implicitly trust someone to act on his behalf for in-country business, but what if that proxy is persona non grata to the current government?"
Then you're an idiot in choosing your in-country proxy? The person you choose to act on your behalf must be legally capable of doing so. We have a term in Canada that pretty much encompasses the concept, we call such individuals "bondable."
You're really - really - stretching for edge cases here when common sense will tell you that everything has boundary conditions. The existence of boundary conditions doesn't preclude the usefulness of the concept.
I should be able to select whomever I want to represent me. If the country in question refuses to deal with that person based on that individual's past behavior - as opposed to the concept that for some asinine reason I should not be allowed to operate by proxy - then I have chosen my representative poorly. That's pretty damned straightforward and I don't see how it invalidates anything I've said above.
Some people will attempt to commit crimes, even human rights violations against their own children. Again, I don't see how this invalidates the concept of a proxy rights.
Your arguments seem to be grounded largely in "what will other people think" of you choosing to do this?
I ask simply: why the fuck should I care what they think? My life absolutely should not be held hostage to the irrational moral whims of others. Unless what I am doing infringes upon their liberties, I should be free to do as I please. They should not have the "right" to impose arbitrary moral standards on me.
If I am doing something to harm them or common property that is owned by all citizens then by all means, restrain my liberty in order to curb my excesses. That is right, proper and just. Unless and until such an even occurs, however, get the hell off my lawn.
My choosing a representative to act on my behalf in any of the scenarios you outlined does not infringe upon the rights of others. If you can imagine a scenario in which my choosing a representative does in fringe upon the rights of others then that is situation in which a compromise needs to be discussed and likely legislated.
Telling me what I can and can't do because of arbitrary morality or religious belief is not a right I recognize, so I do not recognize the "right" of others to tell me that I can't choose a representative just because they don't happen to like the idea.
That we happen to live in countries where others do in fact succeed in restraining liberty where the exercise of htat liberty harms noone (say, sexual relations between consenting adults) is indicative only of the fact that they are willing and able to use force to make others comply.
Pointing a gun at my head and telling me that I am not allowed to engage in an activity is not remotely the same as there being an ethical or rational reason to prevent me from engaging in that activity.
Also: do remember that most of us did not choose our nationality. I swore no oath of allegiance to Canada, her laws, politicians, religious organizations or NIMBYs. I was born here, and if I don't obey the dictates and whims of those who wish to impose their irrational desires upon me then I will either be killed or forcibly confined.
That is not the same as laws crafted ethically and rationally wherein I am given the choice to agree to abide them and do so because I believe that on the whole they are just.
So I return to my original thought: I see no reason I shouldn't be allowed to chose a trusted proxy for everything, so long as what I am doing is legal. In addition, most of what's currently illegal probably shouldn't be. They are two separate issues, and certainly there will always be bad people trying to beat the system, but I believe both statements are valid.
Picky any basic human right and you'll find people who are vehemently against it. A great example would be freedom of religion.
Is legalization of prostitution going to solve every single problem related to the profession? No. It still stakes actual enforcement of regulation. Hey, how's that financial industry working out, 100% problem free?
As for: "Regarding X, would X include: receiving a primary education?"
Sure, why not? I get the right to one education, courtesy of the taxpayer. What if I have enough money privately to get an education from an alternate facility or even from an alternate country? Why should I not be able to assign my "chit" to a fellow from (for example) Nigeria, whom I fly up in order to be educated at my country's public institutions using share of the social contract?
As for: "Regarding X, would X include: voting in one’s country?"
Absolutely, 100%. I trust my wife my my life, my sanity and access to every aspect of my finances. Why should I not be able to ask her to vote on my behalf? I also happen to trust a handful of individuals at the same level; why could I not ask the same of any of them? I can do so at a corporate level: my shares are represented at shareholder meetings by a trusted in proxy in all cases (I hate AGMs). Similarly, one of those aforementioned "trusted parties" in my life is the proxy for my vote regarding my condo board, and absolutely casts my vote as I would, even when we both vehemently disagree on the topic (and thus he's voting for and against his own position!)
I can think of ways you could abuse this ability - I.E. the local Mafia Don pressuring people - however, quite frankly, they could do that anyways. The methods would simply less direct and the fallout from the vote not going the Don's way more indiscriminate and messy.
As for: As for: "Regarding X, would X include: entering one’s country?"
Again, absolutely, why not? There are some tasks that simply need to be done country-side. Why can't I send a spouse or an aide to resolve the boring stuff? If some mindless bureaucrat needs to see me say "yes sir, very good sir, three bags full sir," can't they fire up Skype and stare at my jiggling jowels?
Obviously, when something is physically happening to the meatsack I occupy - I.E. the meatsack I occupy if physically moving across the border - then that is pretty hard to outsource, but with the sole exception of my not having solved the physics of paying someone else to do that, what's the issue? If I need to stay in the US for an extra month, but there is $red_tape to be dealt with, why cant' my wife fly home, grab a telepresence robot, head to the federal building and sign whatever bits of monotony need to be signed on my behalf? Why not a trusted personal assistant or aide?
Hell, here's a giggle: why, for any of the questions above, do I even need wetware at all? Why can't I just get a telepresence bot with a pair or arms and send that everywhere "I" am supposed to be? I can run a dozen of the things at a time and they could be semi-autonomous. They can do the boring things like "standing in line" and "fetching per-selected items", only alerting me when there's something I need to actually pay attention to, like signing a piece of paper or answering pesky questions for nosy wetware.
I fail to see a single legal thing in life where I shouldn't be able to pay someone else to do it on my behalf, if that's what I so desire. And frankly, most of what's illegal shouldn't be.
Re: Dear Broadcasters. Fek Off.
Prostitution is legal, in civilized jurisdictions where we recognize that the state has fuck all right to tell an individual of any gender what they may or may not do with their bodies. Legalizing prostitution allows the practice to "come in from the cold", where it can be regulated, accomplished in a secured environment and the overwhelming majority of negative consequences deal with in a sane and rational fashion.
If I have the right to do something then I have the right to pay someone to do it on my behalf. There is no moral or ethical rationale behind such an arbitrary restriction. Only greed and/or the desire to insert your personal control over the lives and doings of others (see: religion as the major culprit) can even begin to explain the asinine philosophies underpinning the concept that one could be allowed to do X but not pay someone to do it on their behalf.
Regardless of what X is.
Re: "From the country that gave you"...
Okay, let's turn your logic around: the USA and the UK need to sort out their shit before spying on the rest of the world and trying to get other nations to do their bidding by force. They have poverty, corruption and out of control public debt just as a start. After that we could look at the education issues, what with a significant % of the country badly misinformed about proper science and critical thinking and a huge % of both countries still believing that a theocracy is a grand idea, so long as it's their religion that is in charge.
Every country has problems. Two of the biggest bullies on the international scene are the USA and the UK, both of which have umpteen problems of their very own. Brazil is, in this case, doing something good for a goddamned change, and I daresay they are actually ahead of the almighty anglo-american power bloc on civil liberties here, which just goes to further illustrate that both of those countries have lost the moral authority to be telling others what to do.
The world is moving on without you, and now developing nations are starting to slowly get their shit together and even becoming the defenders of liberty you claim to be, bu aren't. Get used to it. The anlgo-american moral hegemony is done.
And good fucking riddance.
Re: They should charge more
What they should do is get together with Google to form a bleeping empire. Start putting up hardlines and LTE everywhere. Youtube + Netflix can provide content while Google becomes the advertising king of the next generation. make sure everyone has fat pipes and access to every scrap on content they could ever desire theALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD
Re: Breaking News!!
"A country with a monarchy that is more of a meritocracy than the governing party !"
At least the Limeys have some part of their grey and soaked country that has a meritocracy. That's a hell of a step up from the US of A.
"There's no room in this world for a [motor vehicle] that can't be a half-tonne truck, a mini-van and an F1 racing car all at once. Nobody's going to buy that when we have this here vehicle that is a mediocre attempt at all while also being a complete failure at all. The world will be exactly as it is today until such a time as a new company comes out with something exactly like what we have today, at which point it the world will be exactly the same, except with a different name on what you buy."
It may well be that Microsoft owns the general-purpose desktop PC market...but that market is stagnant-to-declining. The new hotness is task-specific computing devices, as the silicon - and the software - is cheap to the point that we can have a "good enough" device for everything, rather than a "not quite good enough" device that tries to do everything badly.
The world is changing. Oh, not all at once, but it is changing. Microsoft's role as the dominant force of the nerd-verse is going away. There is a thing happening. It's called diversity. "One OS/productivity suite/storage array/pop star/car model/brand of toilet paper to rule them all" is a dead concept. Horses for courses is the new normal and uppity nerds terrified of losing their place in the hierarchy are just going to have to fucking cope.
Re: Why in the hell are any of us stupid enough...
How many lines of code does it take to print "bend over?"
Re: Why in the hell are any of us stupid enough...
"The point being that not everyone who makes a decision to target the most commonly used and widely supported software suite in the world"
Re: @Sandtitz Some nice ideas @poopypants again @Trevor
Nope. I expect El Reg forum users to know better than to use Windows 8. :P
And with that, happy easter!
Re: @Sandtitz Some nice ideas @poopypants again @Trevor
Let me me more clear, given that my usage of lolcats-like meme grammar didn't spell it out clearly enough for you:
How is the average user - you know, the mindless consumer to whom Windows 8 was targeted - supposed to update if the store download is borked? Blah-blah-blah something .iso is to them what someone saying "you just [in comprehensible static] CV joint [Charlie Brown adults] the googenplexit" when telling me how "easy" it is to fix my car.
The USA: from a country that once proudly considered itself the champion of "the people" and a defender of individual liberty throughout the world to huddled masses of insecure internet commenter delusionairily defending the wrongdoing of their government with "everyone else is as crap as we are" in as little as three generations.
Re: PCs are much faster than they were 3 years ago
"I think that everyone in a work environment deserves a new PC."
Why? What's the business case?
"If I can run software tests in 10 minutes instead of 40 minutes then it makes sense to buy me a £200 i3 PC to do my job."
You may have a reason to have a faster PC for the specific business case that software tester. Assuming you ignore the options of cloud computing (public or private) or providing them multiple older PCs so that they can run multiple tests in parallel.
Personal preference does not a business case make. Certainly, one cannot extend this specific use case - that of testing software - to apply to all workers.
Re: PCs are much faster than they were 3 years ago
For what purpose does a consumer of content require anything more powerful than a Pentium III with H.264 offload?
This plan is so bad for AT&T that they're refusing to participate...
...so it must be fantastic for actual customers then. Carry on, FTC.
It offers higher value for dollar and
there aren't a lot of nerd knobs for you to twiddle so keeping the thing up to date is relatively minor annoyance. (That said, they do have some work to do in this regard to make it completely idiot proof.)
If you aren't spending your own money, aren't responsible for the budget in any way and are constitutionally allergic to storage that doesn't come with an EMC sticker, ScaleIO is a great choice.
If you want an off-the-shelf product that Just Works, with no fiddling and no decisions to make, choose Nutanix.
If your goal in life is an off-the-shelf offering focused on multi-site data management, SimpliVity are the folks you want.
If you want the ability to roll-your-own converged infrastructure with minimal fuss, muss and above all expense, knock on Maxta's door.
If you just want to make your existing spinning rust go faster - or you are dealing with dunderheaded storage admins from the past who will never buy anything except EMC/Netapp rust arrays - Proximal Data will make you happy and do so cheaper and easier than anyone else.
If you are ready to forklift your storage - but not your compute - then turn to a hybrid vendor like Tintri for a moderate boost or an all-flash one like Skyera for the bat-out-of-hell option.
In today's storage world no one product - or vendor - fits all. There are enough niches for everyone and there's more than enough money to go around.
"If productivtiy software is a commodity, what's the alternative to Outlook?"
Depends on who you are. Personally, I've found Thunderbird is a good alternative for a lot of people. Many others like Google Apps + Gmail is as integrated as they need. I've seen a lot of people uptaking Zimbra recently. It is all about horse for courses.
Is there a like-for-like, feature-for-feature replacement for Office, especially for Outlook? No. But that doesn't matter. Office is huge; it tries to be all things to all people and most people just don't need it. They're fine with the alternatives.
Some folks legitimately need Office. Still others have a need to cling to it like a security blanket. All roads lead to personal happiness here, so why judge? The point is that we have choice now. Not so long ago we really didn't.
There are viable alternatives to Office today for the majority of users and that's huge progress. Microsoft must compete on merit int he productivity space and other vendors are meeting niches and price points that Microsoft doesn't feel like embracing. That's a good thing. Monoculture is bad. Let the good times roll.
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