Condusiv Technologies Blog

Condusiv Technologies Blog

Blogging @Condusiv

The Condusiv blog shares insight into the issues surrounding system and application performance—and how I/O optimization software is breaking new ground in solving those issues.

SQL Batch Job Hell

by Brian Morin 1. October 2014 04:16

ASL was in SQL batch job hell.

A regular import of 150 million records into their SQL database would take 27 hours to complete.

ASL’s account team and clients needed access to the most current data immediately, but the 27 hour batch job meant that access would slip a full day of production or even two. That wasn’t acceptable as some clients would hold back business while waiting on new data to come online.

“Typically, IT professionals respond to application performance issues by reactively buying more hardware. Without the luxury of a padded budget, we needed to find a way to improve performance on the hardware infrastructure we already have,” said Ralph Ortiz, IT Manager, ASL Marketing.

ASL upgraded their network to 10GbE and was looking at either a heavy investment in SSD or doing a full rip-and-replace of the SAN architecture before its full lifecycle. Since that kind of hardware investment wasn’t in the budget, they decided to take a look at V-locity® I/O reduction software.

“I was very doubtful that V-locity could improve my I/O performance through a software-only solution. But with nothing to lose, we evaluated V-locity on our SQL servers and were amazed to see that, literally overnight, we doubled throughput from server to storage and cut our SQL batch job times in half,” said Ortiz.

After deploying V-locity, SQL batch jobs that used to take 27 hours to complete now take 12–14 hours to complete. The weekly college database import that used to take 17 hours to complete is now down to 7 hours.

Read the full case study – ASL Doubles Throughput with V-locity I/O Reduction Software

$2Million Cancelled

by Brian Morin 22. July 2014 08:52

CHRISTUS Health cancelled a $2 Million order.

Just before they pulled the trigger on a $2 Million storage purchase to improve the performance of their electronic health records application (MEDITECH®), they evaluated V-locity® I/O reduction software.

We actually heard the story first hand from the NetApp® reseller in the deal at a UBM Xchange conference. He thought he had closed the $2 Million deal only to find out that CHRISTUS was doing some testing with V-locity. After getting the news that the storage order would not be placed, he met us at Xchange to find out more about V-locity since "this V-locity stuff is for real."

After an initial conversation with anyone about V-locity, the first response is generally the same – skepticism. Can software alone really accelerate the applications in my virtual environment? Since we are conditioned to think only new hardware upgrades can solve performance bottlenecks, organizations end up with spiraling data center costs without any other option except to throw more hardware at the problem.

CHRISTUS Health, like many others, approached us with the same skepticism. But after virtualizing 70+ servers for their EHR application, they noticed a severe performance hit from the “I/O blender” effect. They needed a solution to solve the problem, not just more hardware to medicate the problem on the backend.

Since V-locity comes with an embedded performance benchmark that provides the I/O profile of any VM workload, it makes it easy to see a before/after comparison in real-world environments.

After evaluation, not only did CHRISTUS realize they were able to double their medical records performance, but after trying V-locity on their batch billing job, they dropped a painful 20 hour job down to 12 hours.

In addition to performance gains, V-locity also provides a special benefit to MEDITECH users by eliminating excessive file fragmentation that can cause the File Attribute List (FAL) to reach its size limit and degrade performance further or even threaten availability.

Tom Swearingen, the manager of Infrastructure Services at CHRISTUS Health said it best. "We are constantly scrutinizing our budget, so anything that helps us avoid buying more storage hardware for performance or host-related infrastructure is a huge benefit."

Read the full case study – CHRISTUS Health Doubles Electronic Health Record Performance with V-locity I/O Reduction Software

Rise of the Data Driven CMO, part 2

by Robert Woolery 2. May 2014 11:13

The data driven CMO is a controversial topic within marketing circles. So instead of adding to that debate, we want to share some lessons learned when merging data driven marketing with intuition marketing – “on the ground” stories from the front lines.

Once past implementing marketing automation and beyond measuring campaigns for engaged leads, marketing qualified leads (MQLs), sales qualified leads (SQLs) and CPL (cost per lead), we established metrics for different marketing activities like webinars, trade shows and field events. This allowed us to understand and measure the effect of something like our product positioning and message by activity. Instead of long debates about every word, we used A/B testing to “road test” the product message and determine if it had the intended effect.

For instance, communicating our value proposition, there was a consensus that it needed to be crisp and concise. The implementation, however, was another thing. The proposed communications seem to end up being two sentences long with lots of twenty five dollar words and ran three lines in length. There was always a word that had to be in the sentence because the audience would not “get what we did”, or was not compelling enough, or didn’t differentiate us from the competition. Based on a hunch, we added a much shorter version to the testing – “50% Faster, No Hardware Required”. This message out performed all the other options by 10X in response rates with the customer taking the next step in our process.

Another lesson learned is customers want a personal conversation – two colleagues over a cup of coffee, no spin. This came in part through a coincident. During a webinar, the web conferencing company had a failure. When our team reached out with an email saying “I’m sorry about the WebEx failure today but these things happen” and went on with the business discussion, the response outperformed all other post event communications. To test and measure this idea further, we started adding in references to discussions made during the webinar that you would only know about if you attended. Compared to the standard email, these personalized correspondence created a higher quality engagement with the customer and converted at a higher rate into a MQL.

These and other lessons allowed us to improve our demand generation performance. When we started the yield for every $1 spent on a webinar was $4 in sales revenue. By analyzing the webinar data, creating hypothesis and testing them, we were able to innovate ideas and tune our process so we increased our yield to $8.50 for every $1 spent on a webinar. The team now has set its own goal of continued improvement looking to exceed $12 in sales for every $1 spent.

Data also allowed us to uncover customer insights more quickly with less risk in what we call “getting to why.” Just because someone is clicking on an email or white paper doesn’t mean we knew what the customer wanted or why they took the next action – without data there was a lot of “I believe”. The insight into why the customer responded shaped everything in our sales and marketing process. This gave us a big advantage and a big reason why in just one year we are fast approaching 2,000 corporate installation much faster than any of our direct competitors.

However, everything is not perfect. We generate lots of data – Big Data – and we need to store and analyze that data. Moreover, the industry is just starting to create solutions to help marketers take advantage of all the data and use it cost effectively.

A key step for us is to take the data generated and feed it into spreadsheets for measurement and idea analysis. This process is time consuming but critical. Not only is data input time intensive but running new idea scenarios to determine how we might improve is as well – this is where marketing innovation happens.

Waiting for data to be processed is a big penalty for a marketing team that is taxed with more things to do than time. So we started looking at ways to increase the speed of our infrastructure to improve our performance. This wasn’t just our laptop and desktop systems but the servers and storage systems that supported us. As we worked with our IT team it became clear we were creating a lot of I/O (Input/Output of data) with our process. We were not just reading existing data but adding new data and changing/appending existing data. This means lots of I/O traffic between our systems the server and storage infrastructure. And because we were accessing those systems at the same time the Sales and Finance teams were, the long and increasing delays in response times to our queries became business critical.

We’re not IT experts but it became clear we were driving IT decisions and needed to collaborate with our IT team to accelerate our processes. Another lesson learned, CMOs are now driving IT decisions and spend. As we looked into this we found other marketing teams were experiencing the same thing. In a Gartner survey of marketing executives it revealed a healthy increase in marketing spending – an average of 10.4% of revenue – and it was estimated that 20% of the marketing expense budget (a mix of capital and expenses) is being spent on marketing technology and related services.

How did we solve the I/O performance problem? There was a fast, simple, non-intrusive solution but I’ll have to leave that story for our next blog.

So while the debate rages on about the data driven CMO, marketing teams on the ground are changing the marketing and business landscape by integrating data with their marketing intuition to innovate ideas and processes that increase sales and marketing ROI along with a deeper collaboration between the CIO and CMO. This unique opportunity to incorporate data for greater customer insight has created company and product differentiation, and faster revenue growth.

The End of Mad Men, part 1

by Robert Woolery 24. April 2014 11:14

Data is driving the rise of the CMO and with it a disruptive role change. This is the launch of a series of posts that review this change, what it means to the business and a few lessons learned, the hard way!

The final season of Mad Men has started airing and its timing couldn’t be more prophetic. Not only are Don Draper and the firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce going through tumultuous change but all of society as well. Their lives, their roles and the world as they know it is moving in a direction they don’t yet understand, predict or control. What they and their business yet realize is this is the beginning of the end for Mad Men. Marketing by intuition, personality and “controlling the conversation.”

Except for Millennials, Mad Men are what we in the marketing world have grown up with, trained under and built careers following – obsessing over every color, font size, dissecting every word and debating for days. Marketing by hunches, past experience and controlling information, the selling process and dominating the conversation. That has now changed forever.

Thanks to the Internet's gateway to information and easy access to peers, buyers are keenly aware of solutions in very little time – references are easily discovered on social media through blogs, forums, LinkedIn and more. It is no longer a selling process but a buying process, and the buyers are in control

What is rapidly emerging is a new breed of CMOs – Math Men. These CMOs are focused on the entire customer experience, gathering insights from data about the buying process and collaborating with buyers in that process. These CMOs are using data to reduce the risk of intuition, the “mystery” in marketing and the debates on what is working, focusing resources on programs and ideas that deliver results.

In this new world order, Math Men CMOs are outperforming Mad Men CMOs. The IBM Institute for Business Value just released their 2014 CMO study,"Stepping Up to the Challenge, CMO Insights from the Global C-suite Study". The study interviewed 524 CMOs from all over the world and a variety of industries. Math Men (Digital Pacesetters in the report) and their enterprises have a deeper understanding of their customer and are 60% more likely to be financial outperformers. Moreover, Math Men CMOs invite their customers to play a part in shaping the strategic direction in products and services they offer and are 59% more likely to outperform their peers.

This is not limited to business but a part of a broader trend effecting governments and societies. The past two U.S. Presidential Elections demonstrated how data driven campaigns outperform traditional Mad Men campaigns in getting out the vote, grassroots fundraising and focusing resources on key swing districts for maximum results. Money was not the deciding factor, data was.

"Inside the Secret World of Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win" provides some of the details on the impact data driven decision making helped the 44th President win a second term.

Data driven CMOs have found that data equals proof and transparency. However, it’s not a perfectly predictable formula. There is a need to decipher good data from bad, develop accurate reporting, the skill to analyze and put the conclusions into action quickly.

With our eminent demise, now what?

The great news, unlike our friends at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, our season is not coming to end. We can re-write our story. In the words of Don Draper “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation”. While not without its challenges, the move to a data driven CMO has been the most exciting marketing challenge of my career.

When we first embraced data driven marketing in 2007, it was with marketing automation for B2B IT infrastructure solutions. Some of the challenges were addressing data quality, finding leaks in reporting and evolving the Mad Men mindsets. But the advantages quickly became clear – innovating marketing ideas and blending data with instincts. We were able to validate what was working and worth doubling down on, A/B testing of a new idea or program quickly, and finding bottlenecks in our sales and marketing process in real-time so we could quickly fix them.

We also learned that the speed of our IT infrastructure had a direct impact on how quickly we could gather data, analyze and take action which required thinking about performance differently – increasing performance without adding infrastructure hardware. Like any business, there is never enough resources, time or a shorter list of things to do and marketing teams waste time waiting for data to be collected, processed and analyzed. In a market where the speed of business is always accelerating, this was critical.

Becoming a data driven CMO allows for greater contribution and influence on the business. Data driven sales and marketing can provide more accurate sales forecasting, optimized sales and marketing spend with improved ROI, and the ability to see and head off problems before they go critical. And the most important, provide the opportunity to innovate your marketing.

Additionally, your team can stop obsessing and start working. The marketing organization will be more effective, getting exposure without breaking the bank, tons of counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you while creating differentiation and collaboration with your customers.

So while Mad Men are going the way of old-fashions in the office, Math Men can still use great colors, smart copy and intuition but with an unprecedented opportunity to advance their businesses in meaningful ways and provide a unique customer experience.

The Gartner Cool Vendor Report in Storage Technologies: Vanity or Value

by Robert Woolery 22. April 2014 08:58

We all like lists that rank who is cool, best in class or top score in a buyer’s guide. Every year, Gartner releases their prized "Cool Vendor" selection. But is it just vanity for the vendor selected or is there actual, tangible value to the prospective customer that makes you care?

We believe one significant difference about the Cool Vendor Report compared to other reports is Gartner does a deep-dive examination of compelling vendors across the technology landscape, then upon selecting their "cool vendors" for the year, they reveal their analysis, why the vendor is cool, challenges the vendor faces and who should care.

Of all the technology companies on the landscape, Gartner chose to highlight four this year in the area of storage technologies, providing research into their innovative products and/or services.

When we were brainstorming our flagship product V-locity, we spoke to hundreds customers and we heard a common theme – performance problems in virtual environments whereby users were buying lots of hardware to solve an inherent software problem per the "I/O blender" effect.

As we dug in, a clearer picture emerged. We've become conditioned to medicating performance problems with hardware. And why not? In the past, performance gains were growing by 4X to 8X every ten years. Hardware was cheap. The price performance continued to improve every two years. And inertia, doing business as usual was low risk – buy more hardware because we’ve always done it that way and the financial folks understand the approach.

When we evangelize the problem of I/O growing faster than hardware could cost-effectively keep up and the need for a software only approach to easily cure it, we found the problem and solution resonated with many customers – webinar attendance ranged from 400 to 2,000 attendees. And while we are fast approaching 2,000 corporate installations, there are still customers wondering why they have not heard of the I/O problem we solve and our innovative way to solve it. They want some proof.

This is where the Gartner Cool Vendor report is helpful to IT users and their organizations. The reports help focus and reduce the learning curve on the relevant problems in IT, the innovative companies that warrant further investigation and highlight interesting new products and services that address issues in emerging trends.

The Cool Vendor Report can be read in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the Cool Vendor Reports are one of two top reports Gartner clients download.

Now for our vanity plug, Condusiv is listed in the Cool Vendor Report titled "Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2014." This is usually only available to Gartner clients, but we paid for distribution rights so you could read it for free. Download Gartner's Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies Report

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