Friday, March 31, 2006

This week we sent out an announcement on our ZHA Exception reporter which is a tool for helping customers to manage and optimize their NetApp infrastructures. It is subscription based, and reads through the autosupport logs that our customers filers send us automatically. You can see a sample at www.zpiphany.com .

If you are looking to optimize your NetApp filers performance I would suggest that you take a look at our product. If you want a sample please send an email with your autosupport as a .TXT attachment to store@zerowait.com and we will prepare a sample for you.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Disaster prevention Summit - May 31 and June 1

Jon Toigo's group is putting on a Summit that should be very useful to the end users in the industry that read this blog. I am working on putting together a hospitality suite at the Venue for all of the folks that we work with in the area and also some of the attendees of the conference.

I will be visiting with our clients in Tampa, Orlando and Miami next week, and I hope that they will join us for Jon's conference. Additionally, next week, I will visiting with our international dealers and partners at the ASCDI conference in Miami.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Why buy a new NetApp unit? Does Jabil Circuit build a better box for NetApp than NEC did?

We get calls on a daily basis from customers who are looking at an outrageous price quote from NetApp for some new upgrade. Although the NetApp sales folks tell them that the new FAS3020 series equipment is faster and better than the F880 or a FAS960 they can't seem to provide any reliable performance statistics to prove that they are. So, if the new stuff is no better then the equipment that you already have why not just upgrade your storage and max out your current systems? Once the NetApp sales person hears that a customer is considering the purchased of an off lease transferable licensed system, all sorts of proclamations of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are unleashed. What is odd about these proclamations is that according to the marketing materials that go with the older systems they were the best things ever made. Has technology changed so drastically in one model from the last? I just don't get it. The only difference I can see is that the FAS3020 equipment is assembled by Jabil Circuit from parts supplied by Intel, Qlogic & Cherokee power supplies, while the 800 series and the 900 seires were assembled by NEC from components made by Intel, Qlogic and Cherokee power supplies.

The drives are from Seagate and the shelves are made by Xyratex. So the big difference in the new NetApp units is who assembles them? Sounds far fetched to me. As months turn to years NetApp still won't provide any verifiable performance claims to an independent lab, although they promised they would.

Monday, March 27, 2006

EXPECT DOUBLE DISK FAILURES WITH ATA DRIVES - Dave Hitz - NetApp Founder

After reading Daves' blog you have to wonder if NetApp keeps any of their critical accounting data or sales data on ATA drives. Dave goes on to say - Bottom line, using ATA drives without double protecting RAID is questionable. As drives grow, I suspect that it will become a requirement even for Fibre Channel drives.

Perhaps Dave is suggesting that the best protection against a poor implementation by the manufacturer of the storage subsystems and drives is to waste storage space. I guess that makes sense for the storage companies, because to protect yourself you need to waste storage space which means they sell more storage. But according to their sales and marketing campaigns their systems are extremely reliable. So why is Dave Hitz suggesting that customers buy more protection against disk failure?

Either their complete systems are reliable out of the box or they are not. Don't worry though, Zerowait knows how to make NetApp systems reliable. Zerowait provides affordable alternatives to NetApp for Service, Support and Upgrades.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Reliable, Repeatable and Verifiable

“You don’t understand how we calculate price/performance,” NetApp says.

Over the last few months it has become quite apparent that the performance numbers provided by NetApp are not in any way verifiable. Jon Toigo's request for verification of their performance claims have gone unanswered by NetApp and the slow trickle of comments we used to receive from NetApp users asking for reliable performance figures has become a daily request for some sort of performance verification criteria. I think Jon Toigo's test lab is the best place to get this information generated, since his company has the facilities to produce the data.

In past discussions with Jon, I have stressed that the information that he produces should be able to be reproduced by any user in their own lab set up. NetApp has fudged the test criteria in their SPEC.ORG tests by changing all sorts of parameters to make their numbers match their claims. Customers have noticed and I am surprised that EMC and Hitachi have not started to point out the inconsistencies in NetApp's claims. Perhaps it is the nature of the beast. But our clients need reliable performance numbers to make their enterprise storage decisions. If their vendors won't supply reliable performance numbers who can they trust?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Data Migrations

Earlier this week, one of my engineers and I went to see a customer in Virginia that is getting ready to migrate their NetApp data to new data center. They wanted to know what our recommendations were and how long we expected it to take. Since they have Snap mirror licenses already the procedure will be pretty simple and the time will be determined by how fast their systems can transmit and write the data. Using snap mirror to migrate data is a great tool, and really can save you a bundle of time and money.

After our morning visit to Virginia, we stopped in to see a Government customer in DC. They are also about to migrate their data to a new platform and wanted our advice. We have been working with this group for several years and we discussed how we were going to migrate their volumes and data, as well as the lack of verifiable performance numbers from NetApp, these are some pretty sharp guys and they have learned over time not to trust the marketing numbers their NetApp sales folks provide.

The lack of any verifiable, reliable and repeatable performance numbers is real problem when customers are trying to select an enterprise storage platform. Sooner or later customers are going to notice that the manufacturer's marketing numbers are often quite arbitrary.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

End of year sales at NetApp.

We have been getting calls from lots of folks saying that their NetApp sales folks are getting particularly aggressive lately. You can thank the end of year for that and add in that most of the NetApp sales folks are now into their commission accelerators. So the more you buy the more they make!

Remember to always write 'license transferability required' on your PO to NetApp and also you do not have to accept their sales contract. A sales contract is negotiable, simply make amendments to their contract and mention them on you Purchase order. One enterprising company called us recently and said they had included a no increase in service and support prices for the life of the equipment clause, it will be interesting to see if NetApp honors that.

We have also heard about a lot of technology refresh sales being made, I am confused by this sales terminology since it is arguable that the newer Jabil Circuit built units are not any better than the older boxes built by NEC. The Spec.org tests are not convincing for a variety of reasons including the changing of data set size, Changing to switches that handle jumbo frames and increasing the server capacities that run the tests.

Jon Toigo has been waiting since 8/15/2005 for the NetApp Performance data - Sooner or later customers are going to expect that NetApp is not going to provide reliable, verifiable and repeatable performance data.When this happens NetApp will have a hard time convincing people to believe their marketing claims again.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Future of Storage:

This week's economist has a fascinating article on the future of Disk Storage. If the article is correct enterprise companies who are considering their strategic storage initiatives should look at a 4 -5 year life for their hard disk storage. What all of this means for the future of Companies like EMC and NetApp I can't foresee, but perhaps they should start concentrating on Storage management instead of striping disks.

http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5571544

A radically different approach to storing data is the Ovonic Unified Memory (OUM), pioneered by Stan Ovshinsky, a highly successful and eclectic serial inventor. OUM is based on so-called chalcogenide materials, the atomic structure of which can be changed reversibly from a well ordered crystalline state to a disordered, amorphous state by applying a burst of electrical current. These two states can then be used to represent zeroes and ones. The technology is faster than flash, has a lifetime of trillions of cycles, and its performance increases as the size of the memory cells is reduced (since less energy is required to change the state of a smaller cell). Mr Ovshinsky's firm, Ovonyx, has already made prototype chips in conjunction with STMicroelectronics, a big chipmaking firm, and the results are said to be very promising.

OUM is just one of the candidates in the race to create a “universal” memory, the holy grail of the storage industry, which would combine the speed of RAM with the non-volatility of flash and the low cost and high storage-density of hard disks. Ed Doller, chief technology officer at Intel's flash-memory division, says the company is following the progress of OUM technology closely. Although it is not in a position to threaten flash in the next couple of years, he says, “beyond 2010, it has legs”.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Is remote hosted storage ready for your tier one storage requirements?

Amazon seems to think so.
"This is intended to be very flexible to support any application a developer might build," says Adam Selipsky, Amazon's vice president of product management, adding that there is no limit to the amount of storage to which users can gain access."


A few years ago when everyone's darling was Storagenetworks. The Media thought that it was a great idea, customers were more hesitant. We ended up getting a lot of their NetApp equipment for our parts business, most of it was never even turned on. I always wondered why a Fortune 500 company would rely on a company like Storagenetworks to hold their most valuable databases. And it seems like a lot of other people were worried also, becasue they had very few customers for their service.

The problem is a matter of trust, who can you trust with your Data and its security and access? Would you trust Amazon more than Google with your customer data? Who has access to that data? What is your database worth to you, is it only a storage cost? Most companies view their corporate data as an asset, not only as a cost. I think that will remain an issue for the valuations of remote data storage services.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Website hits

It is really amazing where our hits come from on our Websites www.zerowait.com and www.thezerowaitstore.com . About 50% of our hits come from the USA and usually between 5% and 10% are from the San Francisco bay area, and about 15 % are from the area between Boston and Richmond. We always get a few hits from Ohio and Illinois, and then we get hits in and around Atlanta and Florida. Three cities in Texas always show up, Houston, Dallas and Austin.

The hits from Europe and Asia are fascinating. Every day we get hits from Beijing and Bangalore, we get hits from London, Paris, Rome, and Cairo. Helsinki and Moscow show up occasionally as do Damascus and Athens.

Currently we do about 10%- 15 % of our business with Asia and Europe, but the majority of our business is still located in the NFL cities of the USA. Over the years, we have noticed that the NFL teams seem to pick locations which have a lot of NetApp storage. Which is good because these cities usually have very good airports from which we can travel to and from when visiting our customers for sales or technical service calls.

Over the next few weeks we will be traveling to these cities quite a bit to help our customers with data migrations. Some are moving up from F840's to FAS940's some of which we sold them with transferable licenses, others are moving data centers and need our help to help with the migrations. March Madness in the NetApp storage business has arrived.

Monday, March 13, 2006

How many technology companies have been able to manage four big projects at once successfully?

Currently it looks like NetApp is trying to manage two operating systems, a sales distribution relationship with IBM, the integration of the Decru security business with its core storage business, and storage virtualization. It might be that they can run two or three but I see serious trouble ahead for NetApp.

In the operating systems they have been telling us for years that they were going to be able to integrate their Ontap and the Spinnaker stuff, but that seems to have been a dream as can be seen by NetApp's Steve Gomo's statements.
Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Semiconductor and Systems Conference in Dana Point, California, this week, NetApp CFO Steve Gomo promised that it will be a long time before GX, which is aimed at data intensive applications such as seismic research, converges with 7G. "It could take years," he said, adding that, over time, the two products will eventually share more and more features.

The Distribution agreement with IBM is running into trouble at the street level where savvy customers are playing the sales reps against each other, and the sales reps are selling what they can get the highest commissions on.
How is the IBM/NetApp deal working out? I hear it's going nowhere. -- B.P., San Jose.

The integration of Decru is taking NetApp's best Sales Engineers and Sales reps as they move to a higher margin product, as is illustrated clearly b the migration of sales reps and SE's in NetApp's DC office for Decru

And finally there is the whole concept of integrating virtualization of name space into NetApp's products, which Hu Yoshida of HDS seems to think is going to be impossible with a PC based architecture.

NetApp should pick one or two initiatives to work on and do it well.

At Zerowait we specialize in providing an affordable alternative to NetApp's high priced Service, Support, Parts and Upgrades.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

How is the NetApp & IBM deal working out?

According to Steve Duplessie - Everything is going to be just fine.

But looking at the wonderful relationship that NetApp had with Dell's rebranding of the F700 series and the lovefest that ensued after the Gfilers that came from NETAPP & HDS combined efforts, I would say that NetApp is not one to play well with others. I am certain IBM knows this history.

It might be a great opportunity to get better prices on your NetApp hardware purchases though. Now you have two places to go to get exactly the same parts, perfromance and service contracts. And since NetApp's sales folks get a commission they might be very willing to let IBM's sales folks do their missionary sales work and then come in and take the ensuing deals. This has been the practice with NetApp's sales force and their channel - Let the local channel develop the account and then make it a house account for NetApp's direct sales force. It makes for a better margin.

In the past few weeks, Zerowait has gotten calls from sales reps asking what we would pay them for older NETAPP equipment they would like to replace in their accounts, so it seems that some brand replacement is happening. But maybe it does not matter to NetApp, since if IBM replaces older NetApp Models with rebranded models, NetApp is still selling more boxes.

It might be that IBM's management is taking a strategic approach, and they are learning all they can from NetApp. Once they have learned the marketplace they can set up a team in Bangalore to make a better Filer Head than NetApp does. Perhaps they can start with something like a FreeBSD kernel, buy cards from Qlogic & INTEL and ask NEC to make their head units.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Going to Boston

Next week I have to travel to Boston to meet with several customers about their NetApp hardware support. I always like going to Boston, because our customers in the area are all so close together that I can get to see everyone by using their subways. Several of our Boston and Cambridge customers know each other and we have gotten together at the Cambridge brewery a number of times. It looks like we might be doing that again on Tuesday night of next week. If you would like to join us just drop us an email.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More Bad Press for NetApp

"It was a dead product once NetApp got hold of it, and we knew that," he said. But he was unprepared for NetApp's lack of support for the product, which was still under maintenance and the company's disregard for the problems he encountered using the technology.

Many customers come to Zerowait for affordable service and support for their unsupported NetApp Filers . We are supporting more and more filers every week. Give us a call if you love your NetApp Filer but are a little dismayed by their service & support pricing.