Category Archives: computer science

Why what we do at NetApp is important.

One of the questions I ask myself on a regular basis, is what I am doing important?

Today, I was reminded about what why what I do is important to the people who use NetApp products.

In 30 years there are going to be those people who have pictures of themselves as children and those who don’t. And the ones who don’t are the one’s parents did not make backups.

What I do is make sure that the data our customers consider very, very important never gets lost. And if the data is a picture of you pulling your little sister’s hair, well that’s a digital memory that you never, ever want to lose.

Sympathy for my professors.

One of the recent challenges I was faced with was explaining to graduating CS majors why Network Appliance was a place they would love working at. And the challenge is not that I don’t think NetApp is a great place to work. The problem is that I think it’s a great place to work because we are growing at 30% a year, are working on the most important and hardest data management problems out there, have the best executive team out here and will work with some of the smartest people in the industry.
But if you’ve never had a job, are 21 years old, just got a degree in CS, I just might as well have said:

Network Appliance eivai isws n kallntern etaireia stov kosmo gia kapoiov pou molis teleiwse to pavepistimio. Megalwvei 30% to xrovo, ta problnmata pou lunoumai eivai snmavtika, exoume tromera avwtata stelexoi, kai para polous e3upvous upallnlous.

Which brings me to my challenge. Sometimes what you are trying to explain is so basic, that you don’t realize that it’s actually pretty complex and it’s only basic to you because you’ve been living and breathing it for years.

This reminds me of a professor of mine who in class had the following dialog with a student:

Student: Why can you add and multiple nxn matrices but not divide them?

Professor: because matrices and integers have the ring property.

Student: Huh?

Professor: integers and matrices are both rings

Student: ???

Professor: Integers have the ring property as do matrices

The problem was that the Professor just did not get that the student had no idea what the word ring actually meant.

It turns out that going to that place where you have to explain what the ring property is, is a hard thing to do. And everytime I try, I keep going back to: well the integers are a ring.

So to the professor I mocked mercilessly for years, I apologize. Understanding what the gap is and explaining it, is a very, very hard thing to do.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Many years ago, I was having lunch with a bunch of friends who were doing a Ph.D in Computer Science with a focus in theory and algorithms. And somehow the conversation got around to talking about various practical algorithms. So I, of course, said:

You want an algorithm that finishes in a finite amount of time.

So to set the record straight, almost 8 years after the fact, what I wanted to say was:

You want an algorithm that terminates in a reasonable amount of time otherwise it might as well never terminate.