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Zerowait High Availability Blog

Zerowait is an international 3rd party provider of Parts, Services, and Support for Network Appliance equipment. Zerowait is not a partner of, nor affiliated with, Network Appliance Corporation. Offices in USA,UK & AUS.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Management Myopia



NetApp's aggressiveness in forcing their customers to upgrade to Cluster Data OnTap  8.2  (CDOT 8.2) is worrying a lot of NetApp storage engineers. From the cost of the hardware and software required for the upgrade to the disruption of stable storage systems, NetApp's stance is causing storage engineers and their managers to look at alternative storage solutions. It seems that NetApp's management has lost sight of a significant portion of their customers' needs, and is now focused on forcing their customers to upgrade.

There is a theory that I have heard which is based on the idea of Vendor Lock-in. NetApp's management has decided that by changing the way licensing works they can lock customers in for the long term and because they believe that there is no viable alternative to OnTap their customers will stay loyal. But this view rejects that technology is marching forward and continuing to commoditize and therefore cheaper alternatives that are ' good enough' will blossom over time.

The history of the technology sector shows this view is myopic. Over time unforeseen innovations will take over from an embedded solution, unless there is a legal lock in that forces a technology to remain static. At the beginning of the NAS revolution NetApp was all about Open Standards and customers empowerment; does this seem like the NetApp we see today pushing customers towards CDOT 8.2?  I believe that Dave Hitz and James Lau were sincerely interested in commoditizing Storage when they came up with the Filer concept, but there seems to be a change within NetApp management now toward locking customers into their brand of storage. This may explain the interest we have been receiving from folks looking to migrate their storage infrastructure to a more open source platform than NetApp CDOT 8.2, and the strong growth in our independent NetApp service and support business.

If you are looking for alternatives to an upgrade from NetApp, Zerowait's legacy filer storage support solutions can provide you breathing room while you consider your strategic storage options. Upgrading to Cluster Data OnTap is not the only solution available to you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Autumn for big storage vendors



One of the unintended consequences of virtualization is that it frees the consumer from the lock in of the hardware manufacturer.  At first this was just a problem for the folks making servers as applications and hardware were migrated to the web for efficiencies of scale.  As time went on the virtualization of ecommerce payment, CRM, and small business accounting all proved that small business could compete in larger markets by streamlining the costs of IT and its associated staff.  The online companies that could provide these services used Virtual Machines built on high quality commodity hardware that they assembled themselves and deployed quickly. Now storage is moving to the same commoditized, highly competitive structure.

It often seems like a contradiction at first when I talk to folks about how market competition increases quality while reducing costs, but it is true. Over time profitable companies will seek to increase quality while reducing costs, because customers don’t like the hassles of shoddy quality.  For the manufacturer, the service call to repair something costs more than it would to build in quality, so successful companies build quality in as a way of reducing their costs of service. Their customers that do need a service call receive a better experience since the best service technicians are available to assist, instead of handling everyday failures which don’t happen in a quality product.

Recently I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how reliable cars are today as compared to those built 20 years ago. This is partly due to technology within the vehicles, but it also has a lot to do with the CAD engineering tools and materials science that has been applied to the manufacturing process.  Cars are so reliable now that the Journal article points out that the dealers are using the recall process to bring customers back in to their showrooms. This points out that the automobile dealers and manufacturers have learned what service companies have know for a long time; quality service builds brand loyalty and brings back satisfied customers to your store.

Zerowait has grown into an international company because we have focused on building quality service relationships with our customers. Consumers can buy from numerous vendors on the Web, but over time they learn that buying a commodity product from the cheapest vendor on the web may not provide the best value.  As labor costs go up the value of the service vendor goes up because a good technician can debug a problem quickly and efficiently.

The big storage vendors are in for a difficult few years, because in order to maintain their high quality service engineers they need to sell highly marked up technology to their customers who are already buying commoditized hardware for their virtualized servers and using open source software solutions.  Low priced commodity storage solutions are becoming more available, so it will be very hard to compete at their current high price point level.  Will they be able to compete in a deflationary marketplace?


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Zerowait’s competitive pricing for Government IT procurement.



Zerowait has been in business for over 20 years, and in that time we have worked with many Federal, State, County and City government IT departments.  Since 2001, the growth in Government Storage requirements has been accelerating, and as this equipment gets older our NetApp government customers have asked us to provide support for more and bigger installations.  Interest in SimplStor by this sector has also blossomed. While many of these customers are able to purchase from us under simplified acquisition procedures, often we are asked if we have a Schedule 70 Contract or a vehicle to make things easier on the procurement folks.  We knew that for this task we would need an expert, and we found one:  Tim Reid, now Zerowait’s Director of Government Contracts.

Tim is a veteran, serving in the US Navy until 1992.  Afterward he began a career helping businesses obtain Government contracts.  Over the last decade Tim has helped small businesses win almost $150 million in Government contracts, and he appreciated how Zerowait specifically could help the government support their legacy storage equipment and migrate to newer platforms like our SimplStor. As a taxpayer, Tim further understood the value we could provide; and, as a specialist in government business development, he recognized the unique value Zerowait could provide in cutting their IT procurement costs.

With Tim’s guidance, Zerowait now has a U.S. Federal General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule 70 contract application in process, which when awarded will allow Zerowait to provide specialized goods and services to a broader segment of the governmental IT sector.  As Tim says, “We are looking forward to being able to answer ‘Yes’ when agency IT managers ask if we (Zerowait) have a GSA Schedule.  Being awarded the contract, and having earned the right to be a GSA schedule contractor, will make all the work getting to this point worth it.”  Over the last several months Tim has added to our capabilities and modified our processes to meet the stringent requirements of government contracting.

After two decades in business Zerowait now has a dedicated government contracts department and we are building a team of specialists to help agencies and organizations that need to maintain, expand, or migrate their data storage infrastructure while staying within strict budgetary constraints.  Zerowait can now offer service and support for legacy NetApp equipment and our SimplStor systems which can run Redhat, Solaris with ZFS or Microsoft Storage Server R2, providing government IT departments the same flexible and affordable systems and support that Zerowait offers our commercial customers.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New information challenges established assumptions



Over the last couple of weeks I traveled to our Australian office and visited our clients in Sydney and Newcastle to discuss their storage issues and strategies for the next couple of years. Almost all of our clients were discussing the Cloud storage pricing war between Amazon, Google and Microsoft and trying to figure out how to take advantage of the cloud for archival storage within their storage tiers. 2 cents a TB per month for cloud storage changes the dynamics of archival storage.

Many of our clients in Australia need storage proximity so that they can take advantage of the bandwidth required to do their rendering or run complex algorithms for their modeling. The issue of storage proximity makes it hard to use the cloud providers for the majority of their storage requirements except as a replacement for archival tape. When the big cloud providers are offering a cost of 2 cents per TB per month the costs of a tape library, maintenance, licensing and offsite storage for archival data storage tapes is hard to justify when budgets are tight. And for this reason our clients are looking at moving archival tape assets to the cloud.

Moving archival information to the cloud inevitably leads to finding an integrated and affordable solution to simplify the transmission and retrieval from the cloud. At three meetings last week we discussed the integration of Microsoft’s Storage Server R2 and their Azure cloud as an integrated Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) strategy instead of tape. Our clients wanted to know if Zerowait had a pathway that could help them migrate their data and storage from NetApp to a combination of NetApp for their tier one storage and a High Availability SimplStor for their Tier two storage that could move data back and forth to the cloud, and reduce their storage costs substantially.

Zerowait has a simple and affordable pathway to help our NetApp support customers slash their storage costs without affecting their storage availability. We can help our NetApp customers move their data to our SimplStor equipment running either Red Hat storage, Microsoft R2 or Solaris with ZFS, and if our clients want to move their archival data to one of the big cloud storage providers we can help our customers set up this service also. And finally when our customers old equipment is removed from service we will  help our customers sanitize their legacy disks and dispose of their old equipment. 

It seems that at 2 cents a TB per month, the big cloud guys have gotten the attention of the big storage users and now the question is how to create a 3 to 5 years storage strategy to take advantage of this technological change. With this easy to understand strategy, Zerowait is providing our customers with an affordable set of solutions to help them meet their future High Availability storage requirements.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Bridge to the Future



Over the last couple of weeks I have been visiting customers in Colorado and found that many of NetApp’s customers are distressed by the costs of upgrading to OnTap 8.2, which include new hardware (in many cases), training and data migration. Migrations are never easy, and with the corporate mantra these days being “doing more with less” finding spare cycles in an IT department to develop and document the migration plan, then schedule and implement it with limited staff is alienating many of NetApp’s customers. 

The majority of IT departments don’t have the expertise to handle data migrations, and justifying another proprietary upgrade for storage hardware is at odds with management’s push to reduce costs (both capital and ongoing support) using open source and commoditized solutions. These customers, and many more, are yearning for an affordable storage solution for tomorrow and the next 5 years or more, and the media is beginning to notice.

Is this perception true? Possibly – and the IDC numbers and NetApp’s own recent results, with flat-lining revenues indicate that something is not quite right in Sunnyvale. The filer lion king is turning, just maybe, into a floppy old beast and needs to reinvigorate its carnivore approach to the storage business.

In a tough economy, storage administrators need a trusted advocate on their side to help bend the costs down and Zerowait has a set of alternative solutions to help customers whether they want to maintain their legacy NetApp infrastructure, migrate to an affordable and reliable open source solution, or migrate up to 8.2. In addition to providing long term legacy NetApp support, allowing you to capture the maximum ROI from your current NetApp investment, our engineering staff has the broad storage and network experience to provide assistance in data migrations, whether supplementing your staff or managing a turn key migration. And for those looking to contain costs by taking advantage of the open source  x86 environment, our SimplStor product line delivers highly reliable, affordable  storage with the enterprise support and auto notification limited IT staffs need to ensure availability. 

Zerowait has support, migration, and alternative hardware solutions that will help you build a bridge to your Future data storage requirements.  www.zerowait.com