A Legacy is something to be very proud of

How many of you have a smartphone? I know opinion is mixed on which is the best one. Some of you will be Samsung fans and others will be Apple fans. I personally am an iPhone 6 Plus user. As a technologist I’m always thinking about the technology we use today and what life was like before we had it. I think the picture probably sums it up quite nicely.

But you know all of this and it’s not where I’m heading. How many of you also had the original iPod? You remember the one, black and white display, micro drive and you know what actually very little else, but it sure was a pretty little thing and 10’s of millions of us bought them. It completely changed the way that we purchased and consumed music. And that same device, over the course of the next 10 years evolved. Flash came along and it adapted, touch screens came along and it adapted, it became the phone that we all (well a significant number of us according to current statistics) came to admire and use today. It has a legacy, an incredible legacy.

Looking at individuals, you have to agree that Steve Jobs has a legacy. His legacy was that he created technology, incredible technology that has fundamentally changed our lives and the world that we live in. And from its inception in 1976 he was able to create one of the largest companies in the world today.

Legacy is an amazing word. If you have it, then its something to be incredibly proud of. If you can aspire to create a legacy that your children or their children would be proud of then you are truly an amazing individual.

So when I hear the word Legacy thrown around as some sort of slur against technology companies that have a history and track record in the industry, not only is it a completely irrelevant thing to say, I also think it takes something that everyone aspires to create and simply dismisses it. I’m okay with any term or aspersion so long as it’s backed up by something substantive, but throwing out the word legacy like it’s a bad thing with absolutely no clarity or definition is in my mind very sloppy.

I think one reason that it’s left out there with no definition is that if a startup company uses the term and provides definition or clarity, they run the risk at some point of becoming the legacy they cast upon everyone else.

In the world of Flash we’ve already moved from SLC to eMLC to MLC and now to TLC and we have Storage Class Memory (SCM) coming fast and all of these have very different characteristics. So if your technology was designed originally for SLC then is it now in fact legacy? The way I hear companies use the term would mean, Yes it is! Which is why the comment is such nonsense.

The next time someone says this to you, have them define exactly what they mean, have them tie it to a specific technology, media type or the age of a technology, then ask them at what point they themselves become a legacy! And while your doing this it’s worth keeping in mind…Legacy

The World Wide Web was invented in 1991
Linux in 1991
Salesforce founded in 1999
VMware is now 17 years old
and IP which is now the predominant Network topology is over 40 years old

Are these all legacies? Computing models have changed, media has changed but these technologies adapt and continue.

Recently I’ve even heard people in EMC’s XtremIO team bandying around the term legacy. So what does that say about VNX or VMAX or Isilon or Data Domain? It effectively puts every one of these technologies into the ‘Legacy’ category. I wonder how the developers and the managers of these teams feel about this? Not good would be my guess.

I’m proud of NetApp’s legacy in the storage industry, but I’m equally proud of our ability to innovate and adapt as it evolves. If as an individual you are able to constantly improve but also be creating a legacy for anyone that follows then that’s one hell of a thing to accomplish and not something that should be allowed to be dismissed, or worse still even made to be somehow negative.

When the next vendor walks into your office and talks about a current and innovative technology being legacy, pick up your iPhone, your Samsung Galaxy or whichever smartphone is the one you use, wave it at them and then tell them to move on!


  1. So true!! In the case of technology, with its accelerating regeneration, the concept of stability and reliability should be championed. ONTAP is all that!!!

  2. Saturday I was watching History Channel. They ran back to back technology episodes: Modern Marvels 80’s Tech; Modern Marvels 70’s Tech; Modern Marvels 60’s Tech; and 101 Gadgets That Changed The World.

    Watching those, especially the 1980s show, you realize many innovations build upon the legacy of prior innovation. The DynaTAC cell phone, the Sony Walkman, and the digitization of music with the Compact Disc all are what led ultimately, to the iPod and iPhone revolution.

    These “non-legacy” vendors build on a legacy of employees hired from legacy companies, and a legacy of academic research, corporate R&D, and individual knowledge, often times from decades before (i.e.: Rosenblum and Ousterhout: The design and implementation of a log-structured file system, 1991; Lempel–Ziv–Oberhumer compression, 1994; and many others).

  3. I still like the definition of “legacy” I found after you prompted me think about it Matt – “software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use”. In the context of your post, I guess the decline of Blackberry, and before that Nokia phones are great examples.

  4. Spot on! Dealing with communications and journalism on a daily basis I can only say that using terms too lightly makes them interchangeable, redundant and therefore meaningless. Sadly, the terms become nothing more than buzzwords. I also cringe at:
    and Disruptive.

    In most cases, when I come across these terms especially when self-proclaimed, I think: “Come on! Who do you think you are fooling!”

  5. I think a lot of people are missing the point here within the discussion
    Lets take the examples defined

    The World Wide Web was invented in 1991 – Not actually factually correct it was around 1989…but look at how many iterations of html, http, DNS, routing TCPIP etc there has been since 1991?
    Are the old versions or these protocols/services classed as legacy?
    For example the standard for HTML 2.0 was done around November 24, 1995
    HTML5 XHTML are now the newer standards so does that make HTML 1.0 legacy.

    HTTP which was standardized in 1997. The Working Group presented HTTP/2 in December 2014, Will this make HTTP 1.0 1.1 Legacy?

    Linux in 1991 – Let’s look at this in more detail
    On 14 March 1994, Linux 1.0.0 was released, with 176,250 lines of code. In March 1995, Linux 1.2.0 was released (310,950 lines of code). We are now at 4.1 with 19.5 million lines of code
    Although the foundation as people point out here is built from the older versions of software, and may heavily reuse some of the code – The older versions become classed as legacy as newer, more efficient faster and effective ways of solving problems evolve in the way in which we can architect solutions, with new software or hardware.

    To have people understand this easier – Let’s move to an analogy of a formula 1 car, the old cars are legacy but the fundamental principles of the combustion engine are the same.
    I understand both points of argument here.
    Are the old engines legacy or not? as the same principles in design stand from old F1 cars to newer cars today
    However, Taken in a completely different context (which is the point of my post)
    Lets take the newer Formula E analogy of Electric Cars – Does Formula E make F1 legacy?
    E cars don’t currently go as fast as F1 cars.
    Is the chassis from the previous race series legacy ?
    We have to take the context of the “topic, item or discussion point” into consideration when using the word legacy.

    The argument here can be thought of as having a new Formula 1 Engine (SSD based storage) but NetApp are still placing it within a chassis that was built some time ago – So does that make the Architecture Legacy?

    Newer Startup companies have had the opportunity to also use the new engine, But place it within a new chassis and perhaps even bring in (from a hybrid approach) some Formula E into the equation.

    Despite what ever the argument is, taking the comment from John Rollason here
    “software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use” – We can also use this context in the form of software more, in the examples given
    Wide use – Could be defined as (reuse of old code) in newer versions of software
    Wide use in that it has been deployed in a lot of places.

    Doesn’t this argument when looking at the root of the issue come down to the fact that SSD’s are being used on software from NetApp that was initially and predominantly created because of the inefficiencies of spinning disks?
    Now there is a new “engine” / medium to store data on – Newer startup companies have the luxury of exploiting this ‘better’ than a legacy architecture ‘chassis’


    1. Thanks for the comment, a lot of what you highlight is a good reason as to why I’m so against the term ‘Legacy’ being bandied around, it’s generally used without proper definition or context. Where I hear this most frequently, due to the industry I’m in, is from startup companies that claim to be ‘Built from the ground up’ for Flash and that everything else is therefore ‘legacy’. However many of these vendors built for SLC in a world that’s rapidly moving to TLC, which has very different characteristics, many of them built ‘Garbage Collection’ into their Operating Systems which is now done perfectly well by the Flash medium, so are they themselves now a legacy?

      To your point about newer startup companies being able to exploit the medium better, the benchmarks for our AFF both in terms of performance and latency would indicate otherwise. We know we’ve still got work to do, but I think we’ve adapted extremely well.


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