Sunday, July 31, 2005
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
Over the last few days I flew to the Oshkosh fly in and camped with a few friends and enjoyed the air show and displays. www.airventure.com There were certainly a lot of interesting new designs in aircraft, engines and avionics. There are a lot of parallels in the aviation business and the enterprise storage business. There is always the 'Fad' factor of what is new and hot. And there are the old reliable designs that just keep on going. Aircraft engines have not really changed much in 50 years. And the Cessna 172 is a 50 year old design. The reasons why some things stay the same for so long is because you can't change the rules of Nature in the air or in storage. A given wing area will only carry so much weight into the atmosphere, and that weight can either be fuel or people and baggage. Currently a given disk can only deliver as much data per second as the backbone of the network will allow to pass through from Point A to Point B.
Provided that you accept that you can make incremental improvements to your data storage design and that you want to maximize your return on investment the smartest thing you can do is improve your storage efficiency. Zerowait is working on a solution to provide a software solution that can help you improve you storage efficency. Jon Toigo's blog mentions some salient points on why this is so important.
But the reality is that your storage vendor makes money on selling you inefficiency. Because the more storage you buy the more money they make. Our software will provide you with the information to help you create a more efficient storage network. It would make President Lincoln happy, because with our software, the storage vendors can't fool you anymore!
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Unlike NetApp, Zerowait ships all replacement parts from our location and provides tested products to our customers with warranties of up to three years, depending on our customers' requirements.
NetApp Out sources its critical parts distribution and re-manufacturing as evidenced by these articles :
Never for a moment did Network Appliance consider doing its own distribution of service parts.
As a result, NetApp needs to recycle defective parts, many of which can be repaired, as quickly as possible. ....Yet customers are receiving brand new boards only between 20 and 30 percent of the time.
At Zerowait, we consider service parts distribution to be a core competency of ours. We provide superior parts service and support at a fraction of NetApp's outrageous prices. Just ask our growing family of satisfied customers.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
-- Andrew Carnegie
Over the last few months we have watched as the titans of the storage industry have started to purchase companies in the Data Security business. Although they say their focus is on storage, they seem to be trying to diversify as quickly as possible away from storage. You can see in previous posts the multiple times that executives in these companies have waffled about their vision for the future of their companies.
Why can't they make a commitment to a long term strategy of High Availbility storage? Do these companies fear that they will be blind sided by a new disruptive technology? Don't you wish they would tell us what they are afraid of?
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
-- Yogi Berra
If Data Security is so important to data storage companies why are all their cabinets keyed alike?
-- Mike Linett
03/2005 Hitz: We're small enough that we can double our revenues in storage and remain a focused vendor. We're not interested at all in going EMC's route.
07/25/2005 article in Investors Business Daily Data Storage companies have new focus as many shifting into more Security work: "This is a growing priority for our customers, and they are looking for storage companies to address it," said Dan Warmenhoven, chief executive of storage firm Network Appliance.
Questions for your storage vendor:
1) What percentage of your R&D budget is dedicated to Data Security?
2) What percentage of your engineering staff is dedicated to Data Security?
3) How long has your company focused on Data Security as a core competency?
4) what percentage of your gross sales is earned from Data Security?
Getting these answers will reveal if your Storage Vendor is truly dedicating resources to solving your data security problems, or just following the industry trends.
Monday, July 25, 2005
7/11/05 DHS information security plans lacking, GAO says The Homeland Security Department has yet to establish an adequate information security program, congressional auditors found after spending nearly a year reviewing its cybersecurity policies and plans.
Information Security Forum Warns That The Cost Of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Is At The Expense Of Other Security Spending 11 July 2005: A new report published by the Information Security Forum (ISF) warns that the cost of complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation is diverting spending away from addressing other security threats.
Who has the keys to your data security? In many cases there are not even any locked cabinets protecting your critical business information. Data security should be considered part of data storage, not as an added feature.
Friday, July 22, 2005
"The reason why truth is so much stranger than fiction is that there is no requirement for it to be consistent."
-- Mark Twain
03/03/2005 Hitz - we can double our revenues in storage and remain a focused vendor
Hitz: EMC is putting together something that is very different to a storage company. VMware is by far the most interesting of their acquisitions and gets them into the realm of a systems company ... VMware makes the systems guys, like IBM, very nervous as it places an abstraction layer between the OS and the underlying hardware so that multiple operating systems can run on the same server. So there are plenty of sparks flying between those two. It's a reasonable strategy for EMC. They are the No. 1 storage company but still have to grow.We're small enough that we can double our revenues in storage and remain a focused vendor. We're not interested at all in going EMC's route. Our growth rate in storage is roughly double EMC's ... In the long run, we would love to be No. 1 in storage and then move into new areas. But because we are small, we can stay focused and innovate faster.
NetApp locks down Decru for $272M (Jun. 16, 2005)
Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) plans to acquire storage encryption startup Decru Inc. for approximately $272 million in cash and stock, reflecting the increasing role security is ...
NetApp buys VTL provider Alacritus (Apr. 07, 2005)
Network Appliance Inc. today announced that it will acquire virtual tape library (VTL) and continuous data protection (CDP) software-maker Alacritus, for approximately $11 million ...
It seems that NetApp is taking some detours on the hardware only roadmap that they were talking about in March. Have they decided to become a systems company like EMC? Are they afraid that Dual Core technology and 1TB disks will erode their market? Will they remain focused on storage with these new acquisitions? Why would they be changing their course so radically in only a couple of months?
Thursday, July 21, 2005
'Available Storage should be treated like Inventory. Either you have it, or you don't.'
Mike Linett (2005)
Pursuant to Jon Toigo's request that I clarify my statements on managing storage, I wrote him the following:
"Unused storage should be managed the same as raw stock inventory in a manufacturing operation. Some companies use a Min / Max inventory strategy, some companies use a forecasting and trend analysis strategy , and some companies just buy more inventory when they need it. These same concepts will work for your raw inventory of unused storage capacity. Additionally, most companies have multiple sources for their raw inventory , and purchase based on cost, availability and quality. Why should storage be any different? If you can track your usage of your raw storage you can see what it costs on different media and what the management cost are relating to storing data on your different storage platforms.
Production management has a concept known as 'Johnson's Rule', using this rule you would schedule production to the slowest machine or operation, since that will be the bottleneck in your production process. If your storage equipment is your bottleneck for storage access then borrowing concepts production systems management and inventory management would seem to be the solution to raw storage procurement and resource scheduling. "
Our software will provide the tools to manage your available storage inventory based on your parameters for cost, availability and replenishment. We are currently working on the Beta Test version of the software and concurrently doing research on the correct pricing and marketing model for the product. According to this week's Economist Article on technology the pricing model is very difficult in the era of dual core processing and is likely to get more difficult in the next few years.
But given all the imponderables, it has become extremely hard, if not impossible, to quantify what the value of any given piece of software is. What is known is that negotiating licences is not a trivial exercise. John Fowler, executive vice-president of Sun's network systems group, finds that companies spend typically between eight and 12 weeks planning and discussing software licences with their suppliers. In its bid to answer the value conundrum, Mr Fowler's firm has adopted the simplest of financial metrics. It charges firms a straight $140 times the number of employees on the customer's payroll for using its proprietary software. Why $140? Because it seems to correlate with the price that the company and its customers think is good value for having no hassles. The simple subscription gives customers the unrestricted right to run Sun's software on as many computers, by as many people, and as often, as they like.
While this model may work for Sun, we don't think it is appropriate for our product. We are trying to get a feel from our customer base as to what the proper pricing model should be for this product. Proper inventory management can make or break a company, and it is apparent that proper computer Storage management is just as important.
Evenually, the coming revolution in Dual core processing will also cause a shift in scheduling storage to the slowest machine. For example, Provisioning backups will be done based on 'Johnson's Rule' and the storage production pipeline will be based on processor speed, available network bandwidth, and storage devices' and their capacity.
At Zerowait, we understand the problem that our customers are having and we have developed a model and prototype of our solution which over the next several weeks we will be testing in earnest. We want to thank Jon for all of his sugggestions, and we look forward to hearing from other interested parties regarding features they are interested in incorporating into our package.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
" I also think it would be great if someone could find a way to relate actual active storage growth to real inactive storage growth. "
Mike Linett (2005)
We are working on it Jon!
Jon Toigo posted this nice article the other day that references Zerowait
I have a message for all of the Tek-Tools, Computer Associates, AppIQ, EMC, Symantec, HP, IBM and all the rest of the 271 dabblers in the black arts of storage management: There are still a few simple data points that everyone seems to need, but no one seems to be getting from your products. Maybe this blog will help you to get your product development efforts pointed in a truly useful direction.
The other day, a client asked how he could get a handle on actual storage capacity growth in order to project storage requirements in his shop. He complained that he needed to go through so many gyrations just to get capacity allocation information out of his Network Appliance and EMC gear that he was seriously considering leaving storage altogether and joining one of the many troupes of the Cirque de Soleil that seem to be popping up at every hotel in Vegas.
"It seems like the vendors don't want us to know how much storage we are using. Or how much we have right now. Or how much they are wasting with all the value-add that they are giving me using my disks," lamented the would-be trapeze artiste. "In the meantime, I can't give management a straight answer to a simple question: How fast is storage growing?"
Responding to the fellow, I borrowed a page from a good friend of mine (and fellow industry troublemaker) Mike Linett, CEO of Zerowait, Inc. in sunny Newark, Del. I told the guy to "treat storage capacity like any other inventory." It's a simple idea that somehow sounded much more profound when Mike said it to me:
"Say that you have an inventory of widgets and you want to know how fast you are using them up. You simply take inventory at routine intervals, trend it over eight weeks or so, and -- voila! You have the storage usage info that you're looking for." It's easier than doing a triple back-flip dismount off the high wire.
Linett currently has his guys developing a simple tool for performing this feat with the NetApp gear used by his customers. He says he will shortly be offering it on his Web site. From where I'm sitting, we need similar capabilities for all of those other house-of-mirrors arrays whose vendors seem to be doing all they can to obfuscate efforts at capacity allocation measurement.
For those who want more detailed information on what is actually using up all that expensive disk, Linett says he is adding capabilities to sort contents by file extension. You'll know how much of your capacity is being eaten up by Microsoft apps, how much by downloaded BitTorrents, and so forth…another good idea.
I think there are a few more tweaks that the Zerowait folks could add as well. For one, I'd like to know how much storage each employee is using, or maybe all of the employees in a given department, or all the departments of a given business unit. That way, you can see who your storage hogs are.
I also think it would be great if someone could find a way to relate actual active storage growth to real inactive storage growth. People are always saying that you need eight to ten times as much inactive (backup, disaster recovery, data protection) capacity as you do active (production storage) capacity. Is that number real or just a bit of sleight-of-hand from the tape-and-mirroring crowd? I want to know!
Heck, I want even more: I want Mike to relate map his storage capacity statistics to some cost-of-ownership information. Take the value of the storage asset (usually a capital investment depreciated over time) and divide that by capacity to come up with cost per gigabyte (GB) to store data on that boat anchor of a Symmetrix or TagmaStore. Don't trust those funny numbers from vendors, do the math yourself.
Truth be told, many vendors say that they are working on interfacing their storage capacity reporting tools to back-end asset management systems. That will be a great thing once they get around to it. But I'm sick of waiting for all the relationship building between storage guys and asset management software guys to deliver results. We can get there today, especially if Mike were to put in some data entry screens where consumers can enter in the cost data from their hardware invoices, and tick off the appropriate depreciation method. Even Excel can calculate the result.
Oh, and be sure to add in the cost of all of that legacy Fibre Channel (FC) infrastructure (HBAs, GBICs, switches, cabling, etc.) that customers are talked into deploying just to make their lives a living hell. Watch how $50/GB FC disk accelerates quickly to $180/GB FC fabric storage! How much is it costing consumers to put up their data at the Hotel Fibre Channel? Probably a lot more than they think!
I'd also like Mike to supply some fill-in-the-blanks spots for adding in soft costs: array software licenses, environmental costs (power, etc.), management and tech support costs (just multiply rough percentages of admin time by administrator salary or hourly compensation), and maybe even some pain-and-suffering expense that all those typical TCO models tend to overlook.
By the way, the result will be an all important component of any worthwhile Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) scheme. To write good ILM policies, you need to map data to appropriate infrastructure from a performance and cost perspective. Most of the self-styled ILM vendors aren't giving us any tools for characterizing storage platforms, probably because most of them also manufacture storage platforms.
This is all pretty basic stuff that has been, for some reason, overlooked in the management tools that are out there right now. I haven't even asked anyone to solve the problem of data naming, so we can figure out what to move in our ILM scheme, or to come up with a working access frequency counter, so you could know when to move data from target to target over time. For your information, you might be able to do that by taking the proctologist's view: Look at your backup logs and do some reverse engineering to see what data is being changed and how frequently.
But that's another blog.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
"We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal."
Mike Linett (2005)
"Zerowait will provide you a square deal when your big storage vendor won't"
Headline Network Appliance Delivers First Support Solution Designed Exclusively for Government Agencies
"Data management providers typically take a 'one size fits all' approach to service and support," said Mark Weber, vice president and general manager, NetApp Federal Systems.
Some things never change, NetApp has always tried to make all its customers fit into NetApp's service and support model. Zerowait has always customized its solutions to specifically fit the customers needs. Perhaps Mark Weber can write to us and explain specifically what his new program will supply NetApp hardware support program customers, and a clear pricing model would be helpful also.
Zerowait's customers recognize that fancy names and marketing programs don't improve support. Dedication to providing outstanding service and meeting our customers' unique requirements is what is important. Tell us what you need, if we can help you then we will create a support program that fits you like a fine custom tailored suit, at an affordable price.
Monday, July 18, 2005
"Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship."
Mike Linett (2005)
"Zerowait can help keep your ship afloat!"
Last week a large midwestern company called us up, because their NetApp hardware support was getting to be a real cost concern. They have a large NetApp installed base and their management was looking for ways to cut operational costs. I spoke to them for quite a while and they sent us their Weekly Logs so we could get an inventory of their systems. Once we reviewed their logs we created a quote and sent it off to them.
The next day I called them up to make certain that they had received our quote and ask if they had any further questions that I could answer.
Looks like Zerowait gained another customer !
As regular readers of our blog know, the more customers we get, the lower our price to each customer can be. Zerowait can reduce your price of NetApp hardware support substantially. Give us a call, we would love to hear from you!
Friday, July 15, 2005
A new customer called us up yesterday, he was very upset by the NetApp support quote he had received. He was wondering if it made any sense to continue using NetApp equipment since it is so expensive to continue with their hardware support. He had been reading this blog, and decided that maybe it was time to call Zerowait for a competitive hardware support quote. When he spoke to me he told me that he was thinking of giving up the features he loved about a NetApp filer because the costs of maintenance from NetApp made the equipment too costly.
He sent us his configuration information and we reviewed it and gave him back a quote in about 90 minutes. He called me up a little while later to check to see if our price was correct. We quoted far less then NetApp had for NBD parts replacement and support. He told me that because of our quote he would keep his NetApp equipment.
The Zerowait family of customers grows larger every week. Because our customers know that we provide affordable parts, outstanding service and knowledgeable support for their High Availability storage infrastructures.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Purchasing storage shouldn't require poker skills.
As many regular readers know we have been helping a NetApp customer negotiate his way through the NetApp Software support poker game. NetApp initially quoted him over $74,000.00 for his software support and the customer called us to help him make sense of the quote. We told the customer that typically NetApp charges about $5200.00 a year for ongoing software support for a F760. We have seen NetApp try this Bluff before, the idea is to raise the price of the support for an older system to incentivize the customer to buy a new system. But in this case the customer called their Bluff. After a few days the customer called back NetApp and he told them that his current storage architecture perfectly met his needs and he did not see any reason to upgrade. Either they could take his offer for one year of support or he would pick up his chips and leave the table. They caved in, met his price point, and walked away with their tail between their legs.
Many customers call us when they are playing poker with their NetApp sales people, one tactic that we have seen from a Canadian customer's quote is for NetApp to include Snap Mirror on their quote for a single system. We have never seen a Snap mirror licensed box mirror to itself so this seems to be another tactic to pad the quote, to the unsuspecting customer. This customer called Zerowait and we explained to him how to play poker with NetApp.
Working with NetApp on a new purchase requires that you negotiate everything and clearly write down your terms on your purchase order. Zerowait can teach you the poker skills you need when it comes time to meet your salesman at the Poker table. Remember it is your money and critical data that you are gambling with. If you need some tips, give us a call!
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
It takes teamwork to achieve the goals of high availability storage and long term return on investment. Yesterday a BIG Government Agency called us because NetApp has stopped supporting their equipment. No parts Available from NetApp for his F630. When faced with the alternatives of vendor mandated upgrades and reducing his costs per terrabyte of high availability storage, this IT decision maker needed a trusted ally. Zerowait works with you to get your money's worth from your NetApp investment. We stock the parts, we fight on your side.
As the largest third party service and support organization focusing on NetApp equipment we are stunned when we read statements like this from NetApp employees ...
Joel Reich, senior director of product marketing at NetApp, said bundled SANs are being sold more for ease of configuration than for cost-cutting. "We're not in the camp of trying to find out ways to knock pennies out of the cost of Fibre Channel. Fibre Channel will never get to the cost of Ethernet," he says.
Shouldn't NetApp be working on ways to reduce your costs of storage management? If they were able to reduce the costs of managing your storage infrastructure, you would be able to invest in staff instead of buying overpriced software licenses and hardware support agreements. Zerowait is fighting for you every day to reduce your costs of NetApp service , support and upgrades.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Substance over Style
As a child I used to watch Speed Racer, and I loved the simple story lines, good always triumphed over evil. And Speed always won every race by figuring something or other out just in the nick of time.
Business success is based on a repeatably successful system and a team dedicated to building that success strategy. Speed racer and his team worked things out together and there are a lot of good business lessons to be learned in that cartoon series! Business reputations can be ruined by creating an image that can't be sustained under real life situations. Asking your team, or your vendors, to create a series of one off solutions can end up costing your company a lot more than money, it may create a system which is not repeatable, and therefore risks your data recovery.
Current events show that many companies can't securely transport their tape backups and when they can't, they are unable to quickly and accurately restore their data for their critical business functions.
Statically these occurrences may be insignificant, but the fear of losing critical business data weighs on the conscience of every business person. If data integrity is important to your business, then data loss is not an option. Zerowait can help you create a successful storage strategy that includes the methods and tools required to manage your critical business data. And our solutions can help you quickly test and improve your data integrity statistics.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Disaster Recovery or Disaster prevention!
Over the weekend we watched as another Hurricane hit Florida. It brought to mind the problems of backup strategy and business recovery. At Zerowait, we reviewed our backup strategy and decided to implement a Disaster Prevention Strategy. For us it was easier to create a secondary site which we could mirror data to then it would be to create a complete emergency Disaster recovery solution. The benefits of our system are easy to quantify. We can test by simply switching our DNS to point to our other data center. When we need to do maintenance in our Newark Data Center we simply cut over to the Wilmington Data Center at the beginning of a work day, there is no interruption in our business tasks, and our engineers can do their maintenance without causing business problems.
Some our customers, have expressed interest in our strategy and Zerowait's engineering staff is helping them create a similar Disaster Prevention Strategy using transferable licensed NetApp filers. This helps them save money while increasing their data integrity. We are now working with some customers on implementing their Disaster Prevention strategies using our two data centers, because our customers know they can depend on Zerowait to provide them with affordable NetApp solutions for their critical data storage requirements.
Friday, July 08, 2005
NetApp customer outraged by bizare Software support quote from NetApp!
On Thursday , we received a quote by fax from a NetApp F760 customer who received a quote for over $74,000.00 for his ongong software subscription. He called us to discuss this hilarious quote. He was laughing , but he was astonished and quite aggrevated also. How could they charge this much for a subscription for a software package? If I did not see the Quote with my own eyes I would not believe it.
Perhaps NetApp needs to make money on the backend because they have been giving too much away to gain maket share Dave Hitz, cofounder and head of engineering at NetApp. "We have a single software system, and we can cut our prices to gain market share," he says.
I don't know of any customer that likes to be bullied by their vendor, and this latest pricing tactic seems to be a way for NetApp to either force customers to upgrade their perfectly good storage systems or to pad NetApp's profits. The uninteded consequence of this pricing structure will be to drive customers away from NetApp products, because the ROI of their products just skyrocketed.
If you are looking for a way to keep your NetApp costs under control please keep Zerowait in mind. Our satisfied family of customers continues to grow because Zerowait provides an affordable alternative to NetApp's outrageous service, support and upgrade pricing.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
On Wednesday , we received a phone call from a NetApp customer, that had been told by his sales representative, that he should always purchase two or three times the storage he needs, just to be safe. He called us to see what our take of the situation was. I asked how the determination was made that he needed more storage? Did anyone review his storage capacity and usage profile? What were his storage growth projections? There are many reasons to ask these basic questions but they come down to one really good reason. Since storage goes down in price relative to capacity over time, it makes financial sense to buy the least amount of storage you will need at the time of purchase. History has clearly taught us that adding storage capacity will be cheaper in the future.
When a company calls us to do a storage evaluation we typically run some of our scripts to get an idea of each of the following areas:
1) What is the usable storage on the filer.
2) What is the total capacity of the filer
3) What is the Snap Reserve on the filer
4) What is the percentage of used space by file extension.
5) What is the age profile of the files.
Within few minutes we can tell what the access profile of the filer is and quickly help our customer create a storage plan that makes budgetary sense. Most of the time, our customers find that simply adding some Zerowait storage shelves and disks and reorganizing their current storage configuration is all that is needed. But whether our customer needs our help in configuring their storage, migrating data or adding capacity, they know they can trust Zerowait to provide the best service and support available for NetApp equipment.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Safely Purchasing Second-Hand Storage Gear
A few customers of ours called us or sent us links over over the last few days to point out this article which features Zerowait. I like the article a lot! The article goes into the proper way to purchase used and remanufactured equipment and what to watch out for.
The article also has some bullet points that refer to studies that say that many customers are looking for a ROI on their storage gear in the 5 to 7 year range, but as I have pointed out previously, NetApp; like so many other manufacturers, focuses on a refresh cycle of 3 years. This is the disconnect that enables Zerowait to grow. Zerowait focuses on providing affordable ongoing service and support for systems beyond the 3 year window, which are still reliably serving data.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Over the holiday weekend we received several emails requesting quotes on our systems with transferable licenses. When sending us a request please try to include the shelf type you want and the LRC or ESH combination for the shelves. Also, please include your preference for drives and any additional Network Cards you require over the standard configuration. Without this information we have to call you back so we can prepare an accurate quote for you. If you have your NetApp quote you can send that to us via FAX at 302 738 4302, and then we can create a competitive quote based on the items in that quote.
We have transferable licensed systems in stock with NFS, CIFS, Cluster and Snapmirror. We can save customers thousands of dollars for the same license codes that NetApp will sell you. Ten thousand dollars saved is a ten thousand dollars earned!
Friday, July 01, 2005
NetApp also claims that its RAID-DP technology is “4,000 times more reliable” compared to conventional RAID-1 systems, in terms of safeguarding disks against failure.
How did NetApp come up with this figure? The News reporter doesn't say. I would be interested in finding out how much more reliable their RAID-DP is compared to RAID 5, which seems to be the most prevalent raid in the Data Centers we visit. Also, it would be interesting to learn why RAID-DP was released after SATA Disk technology was put into NetApp systems. Was there any linkage between SATA unreliability, as compared with FC disks, and the Release of RAID-DP? Is the RAID 4 that NetApp used to recommend inferior to their RAID-DP? Perhaps the SATA disks are more unreliable, so a dual hot parity disk solution is required? Maybe Keith Brown, NetApp director of technology and strategy, or one of our loyal readers at NetApp can answer these questions for us?
Have a great Holiday weekend !