Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dystopia for the Disrupted?

The debate surrounding our digital lives being ‘disrupted’ is nearly as constant as the never-ending stream of status updates on social media. To digital natives, it’s a new age of transparency, always-on connectivity, and the democratization of knowledge. To the late adopters, it’s a bacchanal of slacktivism, smartphone addiction, and narcissistic culture.

So is today’s technophobia a cultural dystopia for the disrupted?

In many ways, our early 21st-century data-driven culture is just the beginning. We now measure metrics for experiences previously thought to be ‘unmeasurable’. We quantify aesthetic qualities of art, music, and design via computer algorithms. Corporate-earnings reports are now written in less than a second through software. This new wave of technology will be the catalyst to a post-industrialist future -- engineered increasingly by algorithms and intelligent agents rather than humans.

For example, take the proliferation of ‘bots’ on Twitter. It has been estimated that approximately 24% of all tweets on Twitter originate from bots. Some tweet every word of the English language every 30 minutes, while others report earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and yet others self-compose poetic tweets.

Another project, by the Machine Learning group at the University of Toronto, highlights deep learning by taking an image and converting it into a sentence describing the image. While not perfect, it’s a fascinating view into the possibilities of algorithmic image recognition.

During the most recent earnings season for publicly-traded companies, corporate-earnings reports hit the newswires. Instantly, the data was compiled and passed through a proprietary algorithm. The software captured specific numbers (in the report) and matched them against its database of relevant information. The software, in milliseconds, produced a completely-written article; entirely indistinguishable from one written by a human.

These are just a few of the early adopters in this new era that seek to amalgamate engineering, art, and news. And this is just the beginning!

Among the growing hype of these new technologies, there is also growing skepticism of their anti-social effects.

Fabian Giesen (a former video game developer) has expressed concern that virtual reality technology (such as Oculus Rift) is on a “sad trajectory of entertainment moving further and further away from shared social experiences”.

Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto also shares the view that virtual reality gaming will lead us down a path that further promotes isolation. In an interview by the Guardian, he states that virtual reality is “in direct contrast” with the design goals of the Wii U. He goes on to state, “I have a little bit of uneasiness with whether or not that’s the best way for people to play.”

Nikolas Kompridis, a Canadian philosopher and political theorist, has also written about the dangers of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics. He warns that these technologies introduce unprecedented new challenges to humans, including the possibility of the permanent alteration of our biological nature.

Despite those that are instinctually suspicious of new paradigms, technology continues to permeate and fundamentally alter nearly every aspect of most people's lives. It has the capacity for tremendous benefit, yet great harm. The challenge we face is not the dichotomy of humans vs. machines; rather, it is understanding how we coexist with technology to raise the human potential.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What The Walking Dead Teaches Us about Backup

If you’re a fan of the television series, The Walking Dead, you’re probably anticipating Season 5 starting October 12.

Rumor has it that things won’t be any better for our heroes this season. Could there be something after the zombie apocalypse? No one knows; but what we do know is that individual groups escaped from the prison after its downfall, attempting to survive as they follow a line of railroad tracks to a supposed safe zone named Terminus.

But could this plot also apply to enterprise backup?

Season 5 of The Walking Dead opens with the Termites holding Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and most of the others in a railroad car. But, like the Termites situation, is it possible that your data protection strategy is being held hostage?

For example: how do you protect large, high I/O, or non-Windows VMs with agentless backup?

While application-aware agentless backup seems ideal, it’s far from reality. If you don’t have permanent agents, you may have to deal with account management issues. This means setting Local Admin privileges for each and every VM. Wouldn't this become unmanageable as you scale your environment?

Further, if you run more than just Windows Servers, how do you backup Oracle, SAP, and DB2 in Linux or UNIX environments with Windows-only Volume Shadow copy services?

And what about capacity? How do you keep costs low if your backup software is highly dependent upon 3rd party hardware products for deduplication or separate software components to forecast storage consumption? Often, these costs are overlooked during a proof-of-concept.

Bottom-line: The Walking Dead teaches us to survive in the most extreme conditions. While you probably won't need to recover your data due to a zombie apocalypse, your backup strategy needs to be smarter than a mindless zombie. In the words of The Governor from The Walking Dead, "You can’t think forever. Sooner or later, you gotta make a move."

What’s your move?

Monday, September 29, 2014

A New Way to Think About Oracle Backups

It’s no secret that protecting Oracle Database systems can be complex. Companies often dedicate a team of Oracle database administrators (DBAs) to create, test, and schedule Recovery Manager (RMAN) scripts for backup, recovery, archiving, and business continuance.

But isn't there a better way?

Yes there is. And it doesn't matter if it’s a single instance, Real Application Cluster (RAC), or ExaData system. On-premise or in the cloud. Or both.

If you’re just beginning to build out a new Oracle Database environment, imagine:

  • Meeting (or exceeding) business service level agreements through tiered backup, restore, and archive with deep RMAN, RAC, and ExaData integration
  • Removing the need for DBAs to manage RMAN scripts

If expanding or upgrading Oracle Database, you can: 

  • Reduce complexity and speed protection by eliminating duplicate processes with integrated Oracle Log management
  • Avoid purchasing a separate archiving product

Finally, if your mandate is to “move to the cloud”, you can:

  • Reduce storage overhead by tiering infrequently accessed data to AWS S3, Glacier, or Microsoft Azure
  • Protect data starting from the source with in-stream encryption and then extend encryption to data “at-rest” in the cloud

This is the new way to think about Oracle data protection. Want to know more?