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Friday, August 22, 2008

Forrester offers practical advice on email archiving

Forrester Research analyst Jo Maitland told Forrester clients in a teleconference titled “Email Archiving Mistakes to Avoid” to keep things simple in their selection of a product and setting of policies.

The summary is:

  • Backup systems are not archiving systems
  • Do not use archive systems that offer stubbing. This only leads to more trouble "down the road"
  • Web-based interfaces are the best way to access the archive
  • Procedure to recover a message should be simple
  • Don't go crazy with complicated "nirvana" policies

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New storage offering: Amazon Elastic Block Store

Congratulations to Amazon for yet another great web service offering - persistent and elastic block storage for EC2. This type of storage enables a whole new set of web service capabilities and
will enable Sonian to offer more sophisticated features to our hosted email archiving service.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sonian profiled on TechWeb TV

TechWeb's John Foley interviewed me for a Startup City: Boston video segment. During the interview we discuss cloud-based archiving, concerns about hosted data and how Sonian leverages elastic compute services to provide superior performance at affordable rates.

The term "cloud compute" is receiving a lot of attention in the mainstream IT press and blog-o-sphere. Whether or not "cloud compute" sticks as the term that defines the next wave of IT innovation, it is certain that compute infrastructure managed as a service will become the platform that powers many enterprise applications.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Merrill Lynch Report: Cloud compute market could be valued at $160bn by 2011

Merrill Lynch recently issued a research note: “The Cloud Wars: $100+ billion at stake” (07 May 2008). The analysts write that by 2011 the volume of cloud computing market opportunity would amount to $160bn, including $95bn in business and productivity apps (email, office, CRM, etc.) and $65bn in online advertising.

This is the first significant financial analyst report that shows the awesome potential "internet infrastructure as a service" will have on the IT landscape.

Hosted email archiving in the cloud makes a lot of sense.

(Graph courtesy Markus Klems, Sonian added to show positioning)

Monday, August 11, 2008

We're all crazy for email

Check this out. AOL has a new email survey that tells us a lot about our email habits. Results are sorted by major city. The survey asked Do you check your email in the middle of the night? How about when you're driving? If you said yes then you're definitely not alone according to the fourth annual Email Addiction Survey from AOL Mail. Among the findings:

  • 62% of people check work email on the weekends
  • 19% choose vacation spots with access to email
  • 59% check email from the bathroom (up from 53% last year)

See how email users in 20 cities fared in this survey, or check out national results by clicking on "Full Survey Findings." For a quick glimpse, take a look at the Most Addicted Email Cities below.

Friday, August 8, 2008

GroupWise is 20 years old today

My friend Richard Bliss reminded me GroupWise is 20 years old today - launched 8/8/88.

Although not originally knows as GroupWise, the product WordPerfect Corporation launched as PerfectLibrary and renamed WordPerfect Office 2.0 on August 8 1988 was a revolutionary piece of software for the time. An integrated email, calendar, task system with server components that could run on the popular operating systems of the day: DOS, 3COM, Banyan, Netware, etc. My first experience with Office was an installation at Greater Boston Legal Services. The legal professionals there quickly became big fans of electronic mail.

WordPerfect reinvented the product a few years later as WordPerfect Office 4.0. More features were integrated, gateways for SMTP and dial-up were added, and a truly modern complete collaboration system debuted. It was no small feat to create a multi-platform email system when DOS, OS/2, Windows, Netware, Vines, and other operating systems were all being used in many different configurations. WordPerfect Office quickly became the standard platform for most law firms, and it was an amazing experience to see the effect simple electronic communication had on the work force. Fax, FedEx, Telex and paper memo usage gradually dropped, and email became a trusted communication tool. Today email is a given and used world-wide for all contacts.

Novell inherited WordPerfect Office and renamed it to GroupWise and has continuously been innovating the platform with the latest release "Bonsai" v8 due to launch soon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Storing the world's data: Sonian invents new way to manage archive data

Storing the worlds email data is no small feat. Sonian has been working on this problem for almost 2 years. Our architecture started with the idea that cloud compute infrastructure would be the best starting point for a next-generation archive service. This was before "the cloud" was talked about as a viable platform for enterprise needs. I am very pleased to say we made the right bet, and have 24 months of experience in this area as others scramble to catch up.

Building for cloud compute gave us the opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper for the foundation elements: storage, processing, database and presentation.

For storage we developed a compliance layer on top Amazon S3. This makes Sonian compliant with SEC storage rules, and makes S3 useful for the enterprise. Our layer also adds encryption and tamper guards.

Processing in the cloud with on-demand CPU available in real-time allowed us to create a software stack that can expand and contract computational needs as customer data flows through the pipeline process. With this we get a system that can grow to meet the indexing and searching needs without idle CPUs burning away.

Erlang is used as an enterprise service bus to coordinate all data processing needs. Erlang has been around for many years, and has had a resurgence as a great language for messaging-based applications. Map-reduce and parallel processing capabilities are all built-in.

The Sonian database is a mixture of open source and proprietary technologies coupled with the cloud storage sub-systems. All data, including the full text indexes, are stored encrypted. Our enterprise audience needs to know their data is secure and stored reliably for as long as they need the information preserved.

Our presentation layer is based on the very agile Ruby on Rails web framework. Rails is a great web framework based on model, view controller principles and allows us to quickly add new user interface features and get them to the customer in six week development cycles.

With our cloud compute foundation in place we will be adding more features that leverage what we have created so far.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Great resource: Email "true cost" ROI calculator

Calculating the true cost of operating an email system is an elusive art. Beyond direct software license and hardware expense is a grey area of storage, networking, bandwidth and staffing that all need to be apportioned to messaging costs.

In addition, employee hours spent managing (reading, sending, searching and organizing) their individual inboxes is estimated to increase from from 2.5 hours a day to 3 hours a day in the next two years. provides a link to a email ROI cost estimator available from the Association for Image and Information Management (AIIM). AIIM released this "email return-on-investment (ROI) calculator tool" for CIOs and IT directors to help analyze true total cost of ownership for more accurate budgeting and planning purposes.

Don't stub your (toe) mailbox

A recent Technet article Understanding the Performance Impact of High Item Counts renews the debate whether your archive solution should "stub" the archived item in the original folder. The only reason to stub the archived item is to appease end users desire not to have to learn to look in another place for their old messages. I'm not minimizing the desire to make end users happy - at the end of the day the end user is a customer for the IT department as well as all the vendors the IT department invites to the party. But stubbing comes at a huge cost, and the above Technet article highlights the issue clearly: the count of items, as well as the storage size of a mailbox, all matter for email server performance. Stubbing does nothing to help get the item count lower.

IT Departments continuously make difficult decisions balancing the impact of "ease of use" for the non-tech folks against the cost to maintain systems that may only marginally make their daily email usage easier. Maybe IT doesn't have to bear this burden anymore. I think it's time to step away from the "stubbed" mailbox.

Update: In another Technet article Microsoft recommends that third-party email archiving solutions be configured to move email content completely out of the mailbox without retaining stub files in the mailbox.