The Origins of eCDM: Team Houston

The Origins of eCDM: Team Houston

Dell EMC recently announced Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM), a product that enables global management and monitoring of data copies across primary and protection storage. Perhaps just as interesting as eCDM is the way that the product was conceived, designed, developed, and taken to market. Like the trailblazers of the west, the product team behind eCDM was faced with the daunting challenge of exploring uncharted territory. They created a product from scratch using agile methodologies, open source technology, a brand new UI, and an entirely custom go-to-market strategy.

This is the final post in a series that details the challenges and successes of the product team from conception to release. The first and second posts can be found here and here, respectively.

Designing and developing a product such as eCDM is a major feat, but it’s really only half of the story when discussing emerging products. The other half of the challenge is taking the product to market. In a company that is so accustomed to acquiring new technology, the eCDM product team needed to address the rarely encountered challenge of creating a go-to-market strategy from scratch. However, starting from nothing has its advantages. The eCDM team’s strategy began with using customer feedback differently. The development team continuously and directly addressed customer feedback during design and implementation to build a more valuable and usable product.

In order to anticipate the needs of the customer, a specialized team of quality engineering experts called Team Houston was created to provide the customer voice to the engineering team. The group quickly became a core component of the eCDM go-to-market strategy by performing end to end testing and developing a deep understanding of the product from a customer viewpoint. David Sandock, a senior member of Team Houston, explained that his team provides a unique perspective of the product by testing features as if he and his team were actual customers. “We concentrate on areas that we anticipate to be most frequented by the end user and then we try to break them,” David said while discussing the role of his team. Unlike traditional engineering or quality teams, most members of Team Houston are not on scrum teams; as a result, they are free to explore and test any part of the product.

Team Houston also plays a major role in gathering and executing on customer feedback. David and the team helped facilitate the hosted beta. They took their experiences directly back to the engineering team, removing the pesky barrier between the engineer and the customer. Through this model and the diligence of Team Houston, the engineering team addressed nearly all of the customer feedback from the hosted beta through bug fixes, new features, or user experience improvements. “We’re listening,” David told me, and the engineering team is certainly taking action to address what Team Houston hears.

The product management team is also listening closely to customer feedback. Robert Hammond, the go-to-market product manager for eCDM, spends nearly 40% of his time in front of customers to learn and help solve the challenges that they face with data protection. As Rob puts it, “I don’t learn anything in my office. The only way to learn what we should be building is to interact with the customer.” With emerging products, it becomes increasingly important to understand deeply the problems that customers are facing in order to address them.

eCDM was designed from customer feedback, and future product iterations will continue to reflect countless customer conversations to properly address customer needs. Rob and the product management team have spent countless hours understanding customer needs and developing requirements that address many of the challenges that customers face with self-service data protection. “What we’ve built has come directly from listening to our customers,” Rob said, “and we’ll continue to listen in order to address the needs of our customers.”

As eCDM evolves, it is fueled by customer input. Team Houston and the Product Management team have done an exceptional job of taking a new product to market in a way that leverages customer interaction to improve eCDM. Team Houston plays an instrumental role in engaging the development team with customer feedback, and the product management team has included many features based directly on customer input. Together, these teams enable eCDM to enter the market as a well-defined and user-focused product.

David Sandock has spent the last 9 years working in the Israeli tech scene, having spent the last 3 years with EMC as a Senior Software Quality Engineer working for RecoverPoint. He recently relocated to the US to take a role with Dell EMC’s eCDM product.  He has been primarily responsible for customer focused end-to-end testing, while being a focal point for the different storage technologies used in testing the eCDM product and as a direct link between testing teams and the product management team.

Robert Hammond is a product manager on the eCDM Team. He is focused on helping customers successfully adopt eCDM while sharing what he has learned from customers with the rest of the product & engineering teams.  Prior to this role, Robert held various product, marketing and pre-sales roles at Dell, Amazon and a few startups.

 

~Tyler Stone @tyler_stone_

The Origins of eCDM: New Technologies & Methodologies

The Origins of eCDM: New Technologies & Methodologies

The Origins of eCDM: New Technologies & Methodologies

EMC recently announced Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM), a product that enables global management and monitoring of copy data across primary and protection storage. Perhaps just as interesting as the product itself is the way that the product was conceived, designed, developed, and taken to market. Like the trailblazers of the west, the product team behind eCDM was faced with the daunting challenge of exploring uncharted territory. They created a product from scratch using agile methodologies, open source technology, a brand new UI, and an entirely custom go-to-market strategy.

This is the second post in a series that details the challenges and successes of the product team from conception to release. The first post can be found here.

Agile methodologies, open source software, and an intuitive user interface are expected of modern software today. However, there is no simple, well-worn path from long-standing traditional development processes to these signature software traits. Each deviation from an existing methodology requires a clear business justification, and in turn, a clear benefit for customers. The eCDM team embraced these concepts and worked diligently to excel at agile, test and utilize open source components, and build an attractive, effective user interface – all while emphasizing the customer experience.

When people think of agile today, it’s so easy to accept it as a foundational piece of modern software development. Marina Kazatcker, the lead engineering program manager for eCDM, explained to me that the eCDM team had planned to use agile since the conception of the product. However, it’s important to note why the decision was so clear; other teams within EMC were already using agile methodologies and they were seeing great results from the process. Teams were able to effectively measure their progress and keep track of their assigned stories. Most importantly, as Marina and the team noted, was that agile would allow eCDM to iterate quickly with higher quality, to the benefit of end users. Agile development processes means quicker bug fixes, more releases, and more robust code. With these benefits in mind, Marina and the team welcomed agile and began the journey with 15 scrum teams (editor’s note: With 15 scrum teams, eCDM jumped into the agile deep waters right away!), each addressing a separate feature or component of the product.

Around the same time as those agile conversations, engineering teams were debating the use of various open source tools within the eCDM product. Amrit Jain, a software engineer for eCDM, explained the importance of leveraging open source in modern software products. Before open source was widely adopted by enterprise, engineering teams shared an emphasis on developing everything in-house. However, Amrit highlighted the reason for choosing an open source option over an internal solution: “we’re not in the business of building smaller components; we’re in the business of building our product.” Re-using components that already exist in the open source community allows the team to focus on what really matters: the product. Open source solutions enable products to be built quicker, and with the open source community surrounding these solutions they are robust and battle-tested.

While Amrit was focusing on back-end open source components, the user interface team for eCDM was carefully planning their choice of both technology and design. Skip Hanson, a senior manager responsible for the eCDM user interface, understands the importance of an intuitive user interface to complement underlying technologies in a modern software product. The team focused on ease of use to provide the best possible experience for the end-user. “Enterprise software usability shouldn’t be any different than any other software,” Skip explained to me. It makes sense – the same people that use consumer software will be using enterprise software. Even though enterprise software is more complex by nature, the design shouldn’t reflect that complexity. For that reason, Skip and his team chose modern web tools and design standards to develop the eCDM user interface with a focus on the customer. As our customers have repeatedly cheered on EMC’s new UIs – “No more Java!”

It’s pretty clear to see that each of the technical decisions made by the eCDM team reflect a nearly obsessive focus on the customer’s experience with the product, despite the challenges associated with deviating from existing development processes. Whether it is faster development cycles, more robust product components, or a great user experience, the decisions to use modern methodologies and technologies enable eCDM to more effectively respond to the needs of the customer.

Marina Kazatcker is the lead engineering program manager for eCDM. She began her career as a software engineer developing algorithms for medical devices. For last 15 years, she has worked in various software development and leadership roles inside tech industry. In the last 5 years she has led the Agile transformation in product development in different programs.

Amrit Jain has worked at EMC for 3+ years as a consultant software engineer, with 15+ years of hands-on experience in architecture, technical design, and development of various large-scale cloud and web-based services and applications. Amrit has worked in various software development and leadership roles at Cisco, Oracle, and Ocwen.

Skip Hanson is a 20+ year veteran of EMC and unapologetic UX evangelist. He has spent his whole career in UI/UX design, development and management. He is currently responsible for the UX of eCDM. In past lives he has worked to improve user experience in many projects including: BRM, BRM mobile, NetWorker, Avamar, and Raptor. He is currently Senior Manager for the best group of UX hackers and creatives he’s ever met.

Tyler Stone @tyler_stone_

C-D-M and Y-O-U: Excess copy data is a problem, but how do you solve it?

C-D-M and Y-O-U: Excess copy data is a problem, but how do you solve it?

If you’ve been following EMC’s latest announcements, one of the numbers you’ve seen repeated over and over… and over is $50 billion, the amount that the “copy data problem” is expected to cost customers globally over the next three years. Given such an outrageous number, it’s hard not to take a closer look at what’s causing this major cost overrun. I’ll save you the Google search and tell you right now: your numerous data copies are taking up valuable space on your storage, and the decentralized self-service methods of monitoring, managing, and protecting these copies are costing you a lot of time and money due to lack of oversight.

CDM 1

You can’t expect your DBAs and application owners to deviate from native copy creation processes, and you can’t get rid of every copy in your data center. Copies are vital to supporting nearly every task that shouldn’t be done with production data – operations, analytics, dev/test, data protection, and more. But how effective are you at managing those copies? Can you effectively mitigate the risk associated with self-service copy creation? Do you have the right number of copies on the right storage? Copy management solutions provide a central way to supervise copy creation and administration, which means you get to reclaim control of your copy data. With the right copy management solution, application owners and DBAs can continue to create copies while providing you with a way to oversee copy orchestration and ensure that copies are on the right storage to meet SLAs and mitigate risk.

Okay, so you get it – copy data management is relevant and important to enable self-service, ensure business compliance, and mitigate security and data protection risks. Now here’s the important question: which copy data management solution is best for you?

Traditional Copy Data Management

To date, most copy data management solutions have followed the same traditional approach and architecture. Basically, traditional copy data management consists of a server and storage. When installed, the CDM product is inserted into the copy data path and it copies your production database to the product’s own storage, creating a “gold” or “master” copy. The master copy is the copy for which all other copies are derived, and it is kept up to date with your production database through a scheduled synchronization process.

However, this architecture has some drawbacks:

  • Introduces a bottleneck in the copy data path
  • Requires reworking operational workflows and additional hardware
  • Copies are stored on a secondary storage device not designed for protection
  • Centralized copy management hardware creates a single point of failure

The limitations of the traditional copy data management offerings have prompted the conception of a new architecture.

Modern Copy Data Management

Modern copy data management, like EMC Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM), allows you to non-disruptively discover copies across both primary and protection storage in your data center. It embraces the decentralized ways of creating copies and the various underlying storage technologies that empower efficient copy creation, orchestration, and protection. The solution will non-disruptively discover those copies and monitor their lifecycle across the data center. Then, using the same solution, you can create customized service plans, automate SLO compliance, and make informed decisions about your copy data. Through this model, storage administrators, backup administrators, application owners, and DBAs can continue to create copies however they wish while still providing you with the global oversight needed to ensure compliance with various business or regulatory objectives.

Now that I’ve described the solutions, you can decide – copy data is a problem, but how will you solve it? To learn more about eCDM, check out emc.com/ecdm.

-Tyler Stone @tyler_stone_

The Origins of eCDM

The Origins of eCDM

EMC recently announced Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM), a product that enables global management and monitoring of copy data across primary and protection storage. Perhaps just as interesting as the product itself is the way that the product was conceived, designed, developed, and taken to market. Like the trailblazers of the west, the engineering team behind eCDM was faced with the daunting challenge of exploring uncharted territory. The team created a product from scratch using agile methodologies, open source technology, a brand new UI, and an entirely custom go-to-market strategy.

This is the first post in a series of posts that will detail the challenges and successes of the product team from conception to release.

John sat at his desk with a pen and an 11”x17” sheet of paper, outlining quadrants for each of the topics that I suggested we discuss. He was a software engineer after all, and he was approaching this interview with the same comprehensiveness that would be expected when designing feature specifications for a product. However, John is no ordinary software engineer – he is the chief architect for the eCDM v1.0 release, and he’s been working on this concept for years.

Nearly 7 years ago, EMC sponsored the ideation of next generation data protection concepts. John participated in the conception of “objective based management” – managing data copies based on what you want the outcome to be rather than what you need to do to produce a desired outcome.

For example, when a backup administrator needs to meet SLAs that require one copy of production on primary storage, one copy on protection storage updated every 24 hours, and another copy in the cloud updated every week, the backup administrator will configure their backup application to create copies to align with the SLA. However, with objective based management, the backup administrator would provide the SLA to the software and the software would configure and automate the necessary operations to meet the SLA. While the concept is simple, it fundamentally shifts the way that traditional backup software is designed and used.

“There is a difference between performing protection and knowing that you’re protected,” John explained to me while discussing the benefits of eCDM and objective based management. When a backup administrator performs a backup, they are simply confirming that their backup application completed a protection action. For example, if a backup application backs up their production data to protection storage, the application will flash a happy green. They’re protected now, right? What if something happens to that copy on the protection storage, though? The backup application doesn’t actively monitor protection copies; it simply provides an interface to perform and report on backup actions.

eCDM does not simply perform protection actions, it enables users to know that they are protected. In addition, the objective-based management model has implications beyond traditional backup and recovery. As the use cases for copies expand and application self-service grows in popularity, the need for a global interface to enable automated compliance and governance has risen. After designing a service plan, eCDM monitors and automates compliance operations to ensure that copies are meeting SLAs. It provides much more insight than a green light when a backup completes.

This concept is certainly intriguing, but what struck me was the passion that John exuded while discussing these topics. This enthusiasm is common on the eCDM team; it’s clear to see that the team shares John’s vision of objective based management and the experience that eCDM is promising. The members of the eCDM team are technical experts in storage and data protection, each with an average of 15-20 years in the industry. Their experience spans across varying business units within EMC and throughout the industry. When this many technical experts are so passionate about a product, it deserves notice.

John Rokicki is a 25+ year veteran of the storage management and data protection industries, having spent the last 11 years with EMC as a consulting engineer and senior manager. He has been primarily responsible for storage integration within EMC’s data protection products, including EMC NetWorker, with such technologies as EMC RecoverPoint, EMC Isilon NAS, and EMC VMAX storage. John currently serves as a product owner, chief architect and developer for the eCDM v1 release.  John has been acknowledged by the United States Patent Office for several inventions related to his past and current work.

-Tyler Stone @tyler_stone_