Tech Expectations

A deeper look at disruptive business and personal technology

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Cloud storage is way better than storage on your own device

Bold statement? I was a bit surprised at the conclusion myself. But, let’s take a deeper look.

I’ve obviously made certain choices regarding storage, and have done my own comparisons at certain points in time, but was prompted to update my thoughts after a recent tweet by Chris Mims of the WSJ:


Strong words from Chris, but they ring true. It’s easy to forget that your device can be stolen, and your typical protections (e.g. a lot of folks don’t even bother to set a device login) can be circumvented way more easily than a well-designed, well-funded cloud storage service. Historically, according to the Open Security Foundation, reported exposures of personally identifiable information (PII) resulting from lost or stolen devices and media made up more than 22% of all incidents, while hacking made up 30%. The numbers are comparable. While the percentage of incidents related to hacking has increased dramatically in the last year, the um, Target has been easier prey like retailers.

Looking more broadly than security, I wondered if a cloud storage service could actually be better than storage on a device.

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What does perfect computing look like? (extended version)

Most people I know have at least three devices. A laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Some have two of each, one for home, and one for work. If you’ve gone all Apple or all Android, the systems aren’t totally fragmented and disjointed, only partially so. Any deviation from either ecosystem, either at the device, app, or cloud service, and you start running into trouble.

I think it’s because the vendors don’t really know what we want.

They are learning the new style of computing at the same time we are. The cloud app vendors like Evernote and Dropbox are way ahead of the device and OS vendors, and it shows.

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Data storage market overview: State of the market in 2014

(updated 5/15/14)

Data storage is a massive market ($22.5 billion for the 2013 high end storage market alone), and has reached a critical point in its evolution, highlighted by dramatic changes in base technologies, interfaces, and service models. EMC’s recent acquisition of DSSD was another thought-provoking data point.

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Facebook pays $3.6 billion for digital scent technology


Silicon Valley received another jolt this morning as Facebook again paid billions to acquire a nasal nascent technology. This time, it was the Digital Scent Technology company Scentsitive, which recently raised $15,041 on Kickstarter. Scentsitive has a prototype “scent printer,” which currently produces a range of fermented scents ranging from balsamic vinegar to chou doufu. During the announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was accompanied by the freshly “printed” smell of aged gouda cheese (a personal fav), proclaimed:

Scent is absolutely the next great social platform. It will change (a times violently) who we work, play, and communicate with.

Scentsitive, a 2.5 person shop, will be run as a separate company and be left to “innovate independently.” Scentsitive CEO Brent Whiffley said, “It became clear to our team, and our pet dog, that Facebook was the right place for us to grow and realize our, er, vision.”

A spokesperson from Givaudan, creator of such masterpieces as Calvin Klein’s Obsession and J’Adore, praised the Facebook move, calling it “inspired. The emotional pleasure of fragrance, if targeted, would be like Eros firing advertisements straight into the prefrontal cortex.”

No word on when hearing, taste, touch, or the rumored sixth sense will be appropriated.

Happy April Fool’s Day!


Centralize, protect, and serve all your media

Like most folks, we are now buried under the weight of multiple generations of digital music, photo and video. In our case, 13 years of it.

We’ve had 2 generations of digital cameras, a digital camcorder (remember those?), 2 generations of smartphones, Apple AAC format, MP3s, DVDs, Blu-rays, and digital movies purchased from multiple different stores. We’ve had five generations of Mac OS X and countless versions of iTunes and iPhoto. And we’ve never had the time and patience to figure out an end-to-end strategy to manage all the content we’ve generated.

Businesses usually spend the time to address this for their data. They try to centralize the data to make it easier for different users to access it. They manage the centralized data through its lifecycle so that it is faster to access when it is most needed, protected so it is quickly retrievable when it is most valuable, and replicated in a secondary site in case of disasters.

Having worked in the storage market for about ten years, I knew what needed to be done, but the data kept growing, and my “free time” kept shrinking. Fortunately, the tools have gotten significantly better (with some caveats). A relatively low key end of year vacation was just the thing I needed.

First, here’s how my environment looked:

Home media - before


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How Apps drive storage: the story of Dropbox and Amazon S3 (repost)

Earlier this year, I noticed a post claiming that Amazon S3 was storing more than 262 billion objects. That blew me away, as just a year before, Amazon had claimed 102 billion objects. 150% year over year growth!

S3 is now on an exponential growth curve, passing 566 billion objects in October, and it is often cited as a cloud success story. But, what’s driving this growth you may ask? Primarily an application that lets consumers access their files across their tablets, smartphones and PCs: Dropbox.

S3 is great technology, but without an application, it is strictly the province of developers who need a place to put bits. A consumer application like Dropbox leverages the Amazon cloud without users ever knowing it. As you can see from the chart below, if Dropbox’s own claim of reaching 100 billion files is to be believed, they drove nearly 50% of S3’s growth between March 2010 and March 2011.

If you dig a little deeper, you’ll notice the discrepancy between Dropbox claiming 100 billion files, and Amazon claiming hundreds of billions of objects. Amazon protects files in the cloud by creating multiple copies and distributing them in different locations. It typically offers protection against the “concurrent loss of data in two separate storage facilities”, which means it keeps at least 3 copies of each file for its standard service. If one were to interpret this literally, Dropbox would make up nearly all of S3’s growth (see the green line):

This seems a bit unbelievable, as I have to think that the Amazon Cloud Drive, which automatically stores every digital purchase that people make from the Amazon store, is at least making some impression. But the possibility of a single application having so much influence on storage is eye-opening (but it shouldn’t be surprising – storage experts need only look back at Oracle Financials and Microsoft Exchange for enterprise examples of applications driving storage).

The broader storage market should pay attention. “Big Data” is all the rage, but much like Dropbox is driving petabytes of S3 storage for consumers, business mobility is primed to become the dominant driver of enterprise file storage systems.

– Leo (@lleung)