Two Anniversaries and an Inventor
by Claus Mikkelsen on Sep 16, 2006
It’s been a great week for storage people here in Silicon Valley. I’ve been in the storage business for decades and we’ve always known that data and storage is the most important element of a datacenter (there is a reason it’s called a DATAcenter). If you lose a server, it ain’t great, but you buy another. Losing your data is generally followed by words we’ve all heard but not appropriate for a corporate blog. Companies cease to exist when critical data is lost.
So why has it been a great week? Well, the “Valley” has been busy chronicling and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the disk drive, the RAMAC 305 from IBM. Parties, champagne, news articles, and television spots have kept us all busy enjoying this milestone. I won’t bore you with how many of these devices would be needed to reach the capacity of my cell phone, but suffice it to say this beast held only 5 megabytes, half the size of the PowerPoint presentation I’m giving next week.
A lot has changed in 50 years, including Hitachi’s purchase of IBM’s disk drive business a few years ago. But what happened 50 years ago was a magnificent moment in technology.
The second anniversary last week was the 2nd anniversary of our TagmaStore USP which has lead to its own revolution in storage virtualization. Although not exposed to the same media attention (I was so disappointed that Katie Couric didn’t mention TagmaStore in her nightly newscast!), it is still an amazing engineering achievement and has received its own collection of awards including sweeping all 5 categories in the latest survey from Storage Magazine.
But what brought this all about, was an inventor and his team. The inventor of disk storage was Rey Johnson, and although much has been written of him, and many awards have been bestowed upon him over the decades, not everyone appreciates the vision, determination, and brilliance required. Think about it. Some 52 years ago he thought “Gee, I think the world would be better if we could access data randomly and I think I’ll figure out a way to do it”. This was in a sequential world (punched cards, paper tape, magnetic tape) before databases, file systems, control structures, and while computers were still in their infancy. There used to be stories inside of IBM of this renegade engineer from Endicott, NY was basically “banished” 3000 miles away, with his team, to San Jose so that they wouldn’t “get in the way”. I doubt these stories are true since Rey was an accomplished inventor at the time, but what emerged from a humble warehouse on Notre Dame Avenue in downtown San Jose has become, depending on your sources, a $80-$120 million a year industry.
We have many smart and creative people today that continue to invent, but there is a Grand Canyon-sized gap between saying “I can improve this technology by doing such and such” and inventing an entirely new industry. That takes vision on a grand scale.
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