My employer finally came out of stealth mode yesterday, so I can finally talk a little bit about what we do. What we provide is an “appliance” that plugs into a storage network in front of your old disk array, and gives you the ability to turn back the clock on your storage to any arbitrary point in the past. This differs from the snapshot products everyone already has, because it doesn’t require that you had the foresight to do a snapshot just before your database went nuts and messed up all of your data. You can always restore to just one minute before, without needing an omniscient snapshot strategy. Furthermore, restoration is instant. Sure, we’re still doing stuff behind the scenes for a while but, as far as anyone in front of us is concerned, every block on that volume just went back in time. Lastly, we store all that old data in a way that’s very space-efficient. We’ve worked with some Big Brains on how best to do this, and the result is a huge improvement over snapshot or backup non-solutions that require anywhere from 2x to 6x your original dataset size to get even less functionality.

So, what do I do? I’m one of three architects, with a particular responsibility for what we call the “platform”. There are six other people on my team, and I consider it my responsibility to keep them focused on doing the real work, so I get to spend way too much time in meetings or doing schedule stuff. I’ve even had to do slides. That doesn’t mean I’m uninvolved in the technical stuff, of course. If you’ve ever tried to stay on top of the technical issues affecting six hyper-productive developers, plus interactions with stuff going on in other groups, you know it’s not something even any techie could do, let alone some empty suit. I also have direct code-delivery and debugging responsibilities, though I have to admit I’ve been falling behind because of all the other stuff. Some of the people in my group would be hard to keep up with no matter what. We’re responsible for all of the drivers and OS interactions, plus general movement of data and messages between multiple independent nodes within the system. My own particular responsibility has to do with detecting and recovering from internal failures, without affecting the service we provide to users.

Obviously, this is all pretty intense. I’m working with what amounts to an all-star team, on some pretty interesting hardware that we’re using to do some pretty cool stuff. The reactions from people who’ve heard what we’re doing has also been very gratifying. I’ve worked at places where “what makes you so special” is a common question, but nobody is asking us that. People literally ask “can you really do that” and then start thinking up new ways to take advantage of our stuff. As our marketing VP put it, you often get to choose between technical risk and market risk. We’ve chosen a large technical risk in return for almost zero market risk. We all believe technology in general has advanced enough to make this possible, and that we’re the right people to do it first. There’s a lot of work involved but no real magic, and if we can get the technical stuff done the other stuff will practically take care of itself (as much as is ever the case). It’s a great environment to work in. We have good people doing that other stuff, so we geeks can just concentrate on the stuff we do best. And yes, we get to throw nerf footballs at each other while we’re doing it. All work and no play makes Jack burn out before the product’s out the door.