Enough with the Truth Already: A Cloud Conversation with Jon Toigo

You want a piece of Jon Toigo? Be my guest.

But you better bring your lunch.

Jon Toigo, consultant, speaker and professional pain in the neck to the purveyors of storage marketecture and other bogus concepts, is also a self-professed truth teller. He can't help it, but a lot of people over the years wished he could.

The list of aggrieved Toigo targets includes SAN vendors, x86-based clouds from vendors such as VMware, and unrestrained IT profligacy. When it comes to cloud, he falls back on his datacenter management days and espouses a new and different phenomenon: the mainframe cloud. This concept is so new and different that many virtualization and cloud experts have never heard of it.

"When I look for the essence of what folks are looking for in cloud, they're looking for pooled resources delivered as services in a predictable way with security and multitenancy, which means when one workload loaded into a common environment fails, it doesn't cause all other workloads to fail," Toigo says. "Most of the stacks of hypervisor-based technologies we see today on x86 platforms are not resilient. If you pull out one app, or one app fails, the whole stack comes tumbling down."

He claims mainframes aren't subject to such weaknesses because after 10 years of studying multitenant computing in logically partitioned environments, mainframe technologists figured out how to insulate applications from each other—and they've been doing exactly that for the past 30 years.

Toigo, who is CEO and managing principal of Toigo Partners International LLC, springs from non-technical roots. After graduating from Catholic University of America with a B.A. in political science and a master's in international relations, he returned to his Florida home. There he got a datacenter job, along with a boss that sent him to so many computer courses that he kiddingly says he received a technical degree in the process. From there he held jobs as an IT manager and systems integrator before profiting handsomely during the dotcom days, and then deciding to hang around as "part consultant, part industry watchdog, part consumer advocate" for the last 10-plus years.

Freed of money worries, he preached parsimony to users, telling them they should do more with less and to stop throwing hardware at their problems. This message was roundly rejected by many IT pros who said, "Look, we've got the money, we don't care."

Which eventually lead him to SANs, which became very trendy, very expensive and, for Toigo, a target-rich environment. As he explains it, SANs leveraged concepts introduced by DEC in the form of the Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA). ENSA envisioned all storage being pulled together in a dynamically shareable resource and shared over a common network interface to any server, regardless of whose devices were in that pool.

Not surprisingly, SAN vendors balked. "Of course the vendors, who were dead set against the commoditization of their wares, really resisted the concept of common pooling," he notes. "They didn't like it one little bit because the name on the bezel plate of the server or storage device didn't mean anything anymore."

Toigo notes that this transpired against a background in which the capacity of disk drives was doubling every 18 months from 1984 on, and the cost of a gigabyte of storage was declining by 50 percent every 21 years—two factors he says should've been driving down the cost of storage. Instead, however, he claims the cost of an individual array accelerated at a rate of 120 percent per year during the same time frame. Appalled by the economic implications for storage customers, he hammered away at the inequities while polarized SAN vendors fumed—but refused to debate him publicly. They sat back—and Toigo ate their lunches.

About the Author

Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.

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