Thursday, April 27, 2006
This is what a former NetApp customer told me as they were trying to sell us their old NetApp system which they loved. And since his Purchasing Agent did not write ' Transferable licenses required" on their PO when they purchased their system from NetApp, they only have a residual parts value.
So many people call us up after they have turned off their filers. They complain about the price of continuing maintenance from NetApp & how NetApp's pricing forced them to move to another system. Although they love their filers, they have gone to an inferior product that is affordable.
When we speak to them and they hear that Zerowait provides an affordable alternative to NetApp for service and support they are quite dismayed, because they did not call us sooner. Before you give up on your filers CALL ZEROWAIT 888.811.0808 . We offer affordable service and support for NetApp.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
On Monday, we had a customer call us up because they were having a NetApp problem in their New York City Data Center. They wanted us to take care of their problem for them because they are physically located in Russia.
We sent an engineer up on the train on Tuesday morning and took care of their problem. Taking care of problems with NetApp systems is what we do, so it all seemed pretty routine to us. Imagine how happy we were to receive the following comment from the customer via email this morning.
As of yesterday afternoon EDT, NYDR is back in operation.
I would like to point out the service we received from Zerowait was prompt,
flexible, and 100% professional -- they truly met our needs the best it can
be done. The downtime was minimized as much as possible.
Providing an affordable alternative to Netapp for Service, Support and Upgrades is what Zerowait specializes in, and we really appreciate it when customers notice.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Lately NetApp ( nat-184.108.40.206..netapp.com ) has been stopping by a lot, and so has their attorneys Bowman and Brooke. (220.127.116.11) . The folks at Hitachi stop by a lot also (px2.hitachi.co.jp ) , we also see a lot of visits from EMC (psuedo-nat -29.isus.emc.com). The most popular site that people hit us from is www.netapp.org, and second is www.drunkendata.com. Google is the most popular search engine that sends people our way.
I am always amazed at the number of hits we get from overseas. And how many people are interested in my opinions. I appreciate your visits and also your comments, and I hope that you find my perspectives worthwhile. I remember that John Wanamaker said something like his advertising was 50% effective, he just did not know which 50%. Sometimes I feel the same way.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Zerowait and many of our customers will be at the summit. At Zerowait we use load balancing and mirroring to protect ourselves from data loss. Although, we also use our Spectra Logic library for a weekly backup. You can't be too careful!
By the way, customers also need to be aware of the ways to cleanse their disks when they get ready to dispose of them. The other side of data protection is knowing how to cleanse your data.
I am not certain whether there will be a session on Disk cleaning techiques or not. But I hope that in the future these will be included. There are many aspects to data protection, this summit is a start in the right direction. I look forward to seeing you there!
Saturday, April 22, 2006
These answers below give a great perspective on the switch back to 512 sectors, from 520 sectors. And it is worth reading all the way through.
But I still think NetApp should release reliable, repeatable and verifiable performance data so that customers can make informed, economical business decisions based on the costs and risk factors of storing D/R data on ATA disk as compared to FC disk. Additionally, since there are costs associated with additional disks and wasted disk space due to the penalty of running Dual Parity disks to protect from a parity disk failure, customers need to know what are the percentages of wasted disk space and their costs in these configurations? Is it possible that because you don't need to run DP with FC disks that in certain smaller raid configurations it could be cheaper to run FC than ATA on NetApp filers?
Finally, is there a read or write penalty to running databases on ATA disks with Dual DP and ZCS formatting, as compared to the faster Fibre channel disks with BCS formatting?
April 22nd, 2006 at 10:57 am
Cross Posted from the previous thread: From Dave Hitz, CTO, Network Appliance:
Let me take a shot at this. I asked one of our engineers to take a look at this thread as well, so if I mess up the details, hopefully he can set me right. (Hi Steve.)
Reformatting the disk drives from 512 bytes blocks to 520 byte blocks and putting the checksum right in each individual block is the best solution, because it doesn’t take any extra seeks or reads to get the chunksum data you need. This is called BCS or Block Checksum. (Most high-end storage vendors have something similar. EMC and Hitachi certainly do.)
Unfortunately, we aren’t able to format ATA drives with 520 byte blocks. Maybe someday, but not yet. So with ATA we use a different technology called Zoned Checksum (or ZCS) where we steal every Nth block on the disk and use it for the checksums. (I think N is 64, but can’t remember for sure.) This is less efficient because you have to read extra data, but it allows you to get the reliability benefits of checksums even with ATA drives, which is important because ATA drives are less reliable.
And what about the RAID-DP (DP = “double parity”)? I think that RAID-DP is a wise choice for all drives, Fibre Channel or ATA, but given that ATA drives are less reliable we make RAID-DP the default there. I’m wondering if it’s time to make it the default for Fibre Channel drives as well, but as far as I know, we haven’t done that yet.
Why sell less reliable drives? ATA drives are cheaper! If you’ve got the money, then by all means keep buying Fibre Channel drives and keep using block checksums.
On the other hand, if you want to save money, and your application can get by with a bit less performance, then the combination of RAID-DP and Zoned Checksums can make ATA drives very safe. We used to recommend ATA only for disk-based backup or for archival storage, but now that we have RAID-DP and ZCS, we see lots of customers using it for primary storage, which is why we are starting to support ATA through the entire product line, and not just in the R-Series.
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I agree with Jon on this, I guess it is my turn to invite Dave out for dinner to thank him for clarifying the issues so well.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Jon Toigo asked me to respond to a post on his blog .
I find PQ65's comments very interesting, but I don't understand the reasoning behind his comments. If BCS (520) is better then ZCS (512) and NetApp uses ZCS on their Nearstore products, doesn't this mean that customers D/R and backup drives are more vulnerable to corruption? It would seem so, because NetApp recommends Dual Parity on ZCS drives. This seems to leave customers relying on a less resilient technology for their backups. How much less reliable are ZCS systems than BCS systems, and is it worth the risk? That is what my customers and I are trying to find out.
Can NetApp provide reliable, repeatable and verifiable data to show their consumers that the Nearstore products that use ZCS drives are as reliable as NetApp's products that use BCS technology? Does NetApp keep its financial data on ZCS drives or BCS drives? Why not allow consumers to judge their cost to risk ratio by disclosing test results that can be duplicated and verified?
Clearly there are performance and cost advantages to each technology and drive type. NetApp could easily disclose accurate and repeatable test results, consumers could then make informed and economical decisions on where to store their D/R and back up data. And everyone would be a winner.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I explained that he was not alone, and we agreed that NetApp is much more focused on profitability then reliability. Anyone can read NetApp's founder's Blog and see that he writes about the size of the company, moving engineering to India, and avoids issues related to reliability.
But what do I know? NetApp is growing, so perhaps customers don't care about reliability anymore.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I have been confused for years about the benefits of 512 (ZCS)Sector drives as compared to 520 (BCS) sector drives. And as one of our clients pointed out the R200 uses the older inferior 512 sector (ZCS), according to NetApp ZCS technology is inferior. So why would a newer unit, for example the R200, use superseded technology? I was confused and could not find an answer to this question from anyone at NetApp or from anywhere on their website. So I wrote a note to the guys at HDS. Since HDS works with NetApp on their Gfilers, I figured I could get a clear answer from them.
According to the HDS engineer
"There is no measurable difference in reliability between 512 byte and 520 byte sectors.
SCSI and FC drives can be low-level formatted with different sector sizes (within a small range with 512 at the low end).
The reason for this is that the payload of 512 bytes is sometimes augmented, as it is in Hitachi's case on the RAID and DF, by additional check byes appended to the end of the sector. I think Hitachi calls these CRC check bytes, but they also identify which sector it is, (perhaps by an "ID-less" technique where when the CRC bytes for the 512 byte sector are computed, a virtual ID field is included in the check bytes. That way, that sector will only read correctly when it is read from the right place.
So the bottom line is that this is a case of a subsystem vendor applied redundancy code applied on top of what the disk drive already supplies."
It leaves me with a feeling that all this drive jargon that NetApp has been marketing to us for several years is simply marketing spin. And another way to make their systems more proprietary.
Comments - from Jon Toigo on this post
Hey Mike, the really interesting thing to me is that NetApp contacted me through two different routes to describe how popular their solutions are for data protection. One fellow claimed that their gear was more popular than anyone else's for disaster recovery. When I invited them to make their case as a sponsor of the Disaster Recovery and Data Protection Summit, they demurred. Guess they were afraid that you would be there...
Toigo Partners International
Data Management Institute
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
According to an article in the Economist April 15, 2006 edition on page 78 - Physicians and Lawyers wives have much fewer surgeries than the general population. The article says that this is because Surgeons have better information than the general population, and that Surgeons fear operating on Lawyers wives. This same article points out that Real Estate agents on commission sell houses cheaper than they would their own house.
If customers had complete information about NetApp's hardware and software policies inevitably their cost of storage would fall. And while there is competition for NetApp in the general storage market. Once a customer buys into the NetApp value proposition, Zerowait is the only viable option for transferable licensed filers , and service and support for NetApp's equipment.
The best time to purchase from NetApp is at the end of the quarter or the end of their fiscal year. This is because the sales department wants to make as much money as possible so they will cut their prices to sell more equipment. Additionally, the NetApp salesperson is into his Commission Accelerator period at the end of the year, So his commission rate is higher. Just like a real estate agent NetApp's sales folks will cut price to sell more product, and raise his income.
As NetApp's end of year is fast approaching, the best way to get price concessions from NetApp will be to show them competitive quotes. Either from Zerowait or from one of the other storage vendors. And remember to insist on getting your transferable software licenses from NetApp.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Why does NetApp tax their users more to manage 24TB of data on an R200 than 12TB of data?
In short NetApp charges more because they think they can, but in the long run they will lose customers to lower cost alternatives. It is the way of the world.
One of our customers asked us this the other day, and I had to tell him that I could not figure out a reason NetApp would charge more to manage more data. It is the same software, and it has the same amount of programming. So why does it cost more?
Perhaps NetApp views software the way the IRS views income? The more you have the higher the tax on it. It seems ironic that NetApp would put a progressive software tax on storage, since the one thing all enterprises want to do is lower their marginal tax costs.
How can a NetApp user lower their marginal storage tax burden? There are a few of ways:
1) Purchase transferable licensed systems and then max out the storage on the systems.
2) Use storage systems that don't tax storage as much as NetApp does.
3) Get a quote from companies like Zerowait and show it to NetApp, that usually has a downward effect on NetApp's priocing.
Over time NetApp's high marginal tax rate on storage will cause customers to look to other sources of storage which are cheaper to maintain. Think of it as the gloablaization of storage. Just as NetApp is using India for engineering, customers will sooner or later embrace lower cost alternatives to NetApp.
Friday, April 14, 2006
A few years NetApp swtiched to 520 sector drives because they were more resilient . But on their Back up and Archiving units they currently use 512 Sector drives. Are the Maxtor ATA drives less error prone then the Seagate FC drives?
NetApp Disk Formatting: ZCS and BCS
Network Appliance filers in the early days came with with "normal" 512 sector disk drives. But the drive firmware's built-in check summing occasionally caused parity inconsistency, or data corruption.
So NetApp created their own method of check summing and introduced it in Data ONTAP 6.0. With this new method, every 64th strip on disk was a check sum of the previous 63. Unfortunately, performance suffered terribly, some say up to 30% overhead, until the engineers remembered the mainframe technology of old, where there were 520 sector disk drives with the check summing built right in to each sector. No more 64th strip and the performance was vastly improved.
As a result, the old, "normal" 512 drives became ZCS or Zone Check Sum--named after how the program slips the drive into zones of data stripes and check sum stripes. The new drives with the 520 byte sector became BCS or Block Check Sum drives because the check summing is "built-in".
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Jon Toigo's group is putting on a Disaster Recovery Conference and we will be there! Although we like to advocate Disaster Prevention techniques, rather then waiting for a problem to occur.
It looks like it is going to be quite an event and the interest that we are getting from our customers is quite good. I think a good cross section of our customers will be there. If you want to attend you can go to the website that I have linked to at the top of this entry.
I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Additionally, our customers are embracing our ZHA exception reporter. During this morning's staff meeting I was told that yesterday my staff received two calls from customers who are using it to improve their filers performance. If you are using NetApp filers, you should try our exception reporter, it is really a useful tool.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Last night I phoned Jon Toigo because of the search storage article and we chatted about it at length. This morning I read his blog. It seems that the press and the competition is now starting to ask the same questions that Jon, Zerowait, and our customers have been asking for a couple of years now.
When is NetApp going to provide reliable, repeatable and verifiable performance numbers? Competition in storage is strong and growing, and I predict that NetApp's well funded competitors will soon start to push for Verification of NetApp's claims.
It is not only Zerowait and our customers who are looking for real numbers, but also the trade press.
Monday, April 10, 2006
It is eerie to watch the decline of NetApp. Here is company that spends hundreds a millions of dollars to purchase Spinnaker, Alacritus, Decru and yet does not spend money on listening to its customers. It is like watching GM's decline in many ways. GM thought that by purchasing Hummer, part of Fiat, and Saab they could stop the decline of their company. But the problem is not the brands it is that the company does not listen to its customers. NetApp likens itself to a New Economy company, but it is really the same old story. Listen to your customers, they will tell you what they want and what they are willing to pay for it.
So what will happen over the next few years? Competition will force NetApp to lower its prices, I predict that because they have a very high overhead they will slowly cut into their currently very high gross margins. As their current customers smell that their salesman are getting more desperate the customers will demand higher discounts. This will cause NetApp to reduce its workforce and offload unprofitable divisions and projects. Will NetApp's shareholders ever see a return for their investment in the Spinnaker purchase? I strongly doubt it.
It will take a couple of years, but competition will reduce NetApp to a memory, just like Wang, DEC, Compaq, and so many others.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
They love their NetApp equipment, but they get heartburn when they look at the prices NetApp wants to charge. So they called us, and they are very happy with our affordable alternative to NetApp.