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Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

How the idea for this blog came about

This past weekend my daughter asked, “who invented toast?”  So having a little Cliff Clavin in me, I made up a story of how toast was invented by a gentleman called the Toastmaster General.  When she responded, “really?” I quickly said no but I’m sure it can be found out on the internet.  So that is exactly what I did – who invented toast.  Let the research begin.  It was during this meaningless research that I came up with the idea to blog about it because what I found was a great story of invention, innovation and the real meaning of the old saying and the title of this blog, “the best thing since sliced bread”.


It seems it was originally thought up by the Romans, as a way to preserve bread.  By the way bread was so valuable, Egyptians would pay workers with loaves of bread at the end of the day, making them the original bread winners I suppose.  The Romans called it “tostum” which literally means to burn or scorch.  Fast forward to the 1900s – 1919 to be exact.  A gentleman by the name of Charles Strite a master mechanic from Minnesota set out to solve the problem of burnt toast in the company cafeteria – so he invented the variable timed toaster, which he received the patent for in 1921.  However, these toasters weren’t exactly flying off the shelf, his original thought for this invention was commercial use in restaurants and big corporate cafeterias.  In 1926 however, he received a patent for a home version of his toaster and Waters Genter Co who has been manufacturing these commercial grade toasters started to manufacture the home version under the Toastmaster brand name.


Believe it or not people were wary of this new toaster and didn’t see much of a reason for it – the simple, manual method of slicing bread to toast they were using at home worked just fine, albeit very inefficient.

As a result this new variable timed toaster business never really took off until 1930 when the Wonder Bread Company’s innovation of pre sliced bread advanced the toasting industry to new heights.  In 1930, 1.2M toasters were sold and it literally changed the world.  Something as simple as pre sliced bread.  Incidentally – it wasn’t until 1933 when the bread companies began to standardize on the size of the slices, making the toaster an even more relevant convenience and marked yet another key milestone for this industry’s development.

Three independent products converging in compliment to advance the consumer market.  This is what got me thinking about our technology market and the convergence of cloud, virtualization and data protection.  What is the sliced bread of our tech market?

Cloud, Virtualization and Data Protection

There is a saying amongst us Unix geeks – there’s no such thing as an original unix script, just mods upon mods upon mods.  Mods=innovation, taking an original idea, morphing it into something different or something better and delivering value.  In some cases taking several scripts and making a scriptlication – convergence of several independent scripts operating as one.  This is what Wonder Bread Company did – they didn’t invent bread – that has been around for thousands of years – but they brought their product together with an automatic slicing machine to change how the world would consume bread.  That little innovation created a huge market opportunity for Toastmaster as well as Wonder.  There is so much great technology in our market today,  I would dare say we are in probably one of the most interesting periods of our high tech industry – great new inventions and even greater innovations are literally changing the world.

I often say we are seeing a convergence of cloud, virtualization and data protection – all of the research I read points to this fact.  Four years ago virtualization was just beginning to become more mainstream, moving from Dev/Test to production and today the percentage of sites that have virtualized is staggering.  In ESGs Trends in Data Protection research, 62% say they are using server virtualization technology.  In a Cap Gemini research report, “Business Cloud: The State of Play Shifts Rapidly”, it states 88% of companies say it is the economic climate driving them towards cloud, which makes sense.  From my perspective, the following are the top five reasons companies are looking at cloud solutions.

5. Data Anywhere
4. Flexible IT
3. Limited Staffing resources
2. Continued Data Growth

From the same Cap Gemini report top 3 business drivers cited by companies surveyed for the move to the cloud are

With managing data growth in the top 5 of everyone’s research reports it is no wonder improving data protection, disaster recovery and business continuity also remain in the top 10.  Every year it is a challenge, backup is the app IT loves to hate – that is everyone but the backup guy.  Up until about five years ago, backup applications were what was called “sticky apps” – in other words they are hard for customers to move away from because there is so much invested.  Not just investment in licenses, hardware and software but the data being entrusted to this backup app is probably the biggest investment.  This all began to shift in 2008 – Gartner pointed out customers were more willing to change backup vendors if provided a compelling enough reason to shift.  ESG research echoes the same sentiment and has been doing so since about 2009. The most recent ESG research reports 44% of IT professionals surveyed would use a new backup vendor if given the opportunity to re-architect the backup processes and 16% say they would use a 3rd party cloud service.  What was the catalyst?  I believe it is the rapid adoption of server virtualization.  “Virtualization changes everything” – this was a very popular statement in 2008, 2009 and 2010 – it was overused in my opinion and some became desensitized to the facts wrapped up in that statement.

Virtualization Changes Everything – or did it?

Yes, it changed how we think about server acquisition and deployment.  It changed how we think about application performance and accessibility.  It changed how we deliver to the markets we serve.  It also changed our mindset about how we protect our data and THIS, I believe, is what provided IT the freedom to choose a different approach to protecting its environments.  If you are deploying a new platform and this platform is destined to be spread out across your entire organization, it makes perfectly good sense to reconsider how things are being done today.  This is what made the traditional backup applications much less sticky but data protection as a function is not going away – again I believe it will always be foundational to whatever new technology is introduced but given all the pressures on IT today the old way of doing things (ie. old backup apps) just won’t keep up.

Wrap up

With more and more data to protect, archive and manage it seems very natural to see this converged model surface between cloud, virtualization and data protection.  The fact that 88% of companies are driving towards the cloud due to the economic climate says a lot for the future of cloud, cloud services and cloud storage.  With only 56% saying they trust their data to the cloud, it means there is still a lot more work for us to educate the market about what to look for in a cloud service provider and why data security is so important.

Who knows, cloud may just be the best thing since sliced bread.

-Chapa signing off

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