The best of times – behind the curtain of

From left: Julius Clayton, myself (Matt Hobbs), Kevin Jones and Simon Stevens – 13 June 2023

It’s not often that I get to travel to the opposite side of the world for leisure, but when I do it’s a case of go big or go home, and since I just left home the only option is to go big! I’m currently in the UK with my wife for our friend’s wedding, but came in early so that I could also catch up with these industry legends: Julius Clayton, Kevin Jones and Simon Stevens.

I’ve worked with these gents now for the best part of 6 years; we’ve caught up face to face a couple of times before at various company events, but this was the first time that it was purely for personal reasons. Of course though we talked for about 9 hours on various PowerFlex related nonsense, and boy was it fantastic!

What brought us together though in the first place all those years ago? For me, I believe it was that kind moment when something just clicks for you. For us it was PowerFlex and how novel, how revolutionary, transformational, how capable, how disruptive, how performant, how reliable this product is and the difference that it was going to make in the block storage world.

Before that we’d seen the pain and suffering that other traditional storage systems created for their operators and end users – and we knew there had to be a better way; so when we each stumbled across ScaleIO (PowerFlex) it was love at first sight.

But like all love, there can be difficult and challenging times. Decisions that were made that whilst you can understand where it’s coming from; you still don’t necessarily agree with, but simultaneously do agree that change was necessary. It’s impossible to please everyone, so I do sympathise with those that have ever had to make difficult decisions.

One analogy that I’ve been working on is about Lego. Lego is fantastic if you enjoy building things. You can go off track and come up with your own designs, you can back track easily and fix your mistakes quite quickly when something is wrong. You can also evolve your design as you see fit – your small car that started with four wheels eventually became an 18 wheel hauler!

The problem of course with building things is that not everyone is a master builder. It takes a lot of time, it’s not always perfectly repeatable so errors creep in – and it can be very difficult to maintain custom designs over a long period of time.

And this is where automation comes into play. The challenge with automation however is that certain choices have to be made up front – standardisation is the key to success. But what if you need something that doesn’t fit into a pre-defined template? We’re all different and so are our IT requirements.

Automation is also hard to get right even when the conditions are next to perfect. The error handling has to be spot on, along with detailed messaging if something does go wrong. It’s often the case with automation that it takes you longer to troubleshoot it than it wound have taken you to deploy it manually!

However, once the automation is right this is where the real time saving comes in – Day 2 operations. Keeping it patched and updated is a huge task without automation and this is where PowerFlex Manager really shines.

Ultimately this is a case of you can’t have everything – either you can have full flexibility with manual deployments, but have to take on the responsibility of keeping it patched and updated, or you can have the automation but with less flexibility. It’s a tough one, but the good news is that the flexibility with automation is increasing every day.

On another more personal note, today is my last day at Dell after thirteen years. It’s been one heck of a journey for me, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. The learning, the projects I’ve worked on and the friendships forged with like minded souls will last me a lifetime.

As for what’s next – I am yet to decide! I have a few ideas, although my wife is asking me to relax for a while. I like the idea of starting my own business, and I’ve also discovered that I need to be doing something that gives me real face time with people. Zoom simply does not cut it!

I’ll continue to maintain this site for now, I look forward to seeing updates from the guys, and I’ll probably add a few more thoughts from time to time as well.

As for today though, today is the first day of the rest of my life. Travel well my friends!