Friday, August 31, 2007

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. Theodore Roosevelt


I always thought that manufacturer registration programs were a bit shady, and now the government is looking into the practice. According to the Wall Street Journal...

"Justice Department filings in the cases don't specify how much the kickbacks may have cost the government. However, in the case the department filed against Hewlett-Packard, it cited numerous payments that H-P refers to as "influencer fees." According to the court papers, H-P in 2004 paid $611,969 to Accenture; $599,962 to Capgemini, a Paris-based outsourcing and consulting company, and $514,238 to GTSI Corp., a Chantilly, Va., systems integrator. Capgemini said it hasn't been charged and doesn't comment on investigations into other companies. GTSI didn't respond to emails.

In a statement, H-P said it "is confident its business practices are appropriate. We plan to vigorously defend this action and look forward to demonstrating that H-P has done nothing wrong."

The Justice Department says such fees undermine the contract process. For example, the government says companies that Sun called its "Government Alliance Partners" received "a back-end rebate of 2% in return for" a Sun sale. Sun also paid 10% rebates under its "competitive knock-out program" if a partner persuaded a government organization to replace a customer's systems with Sun products. The government said Sun paid "millions of dollars" to its partners in 2003 to 2006 under these programs, which weren't revealed to the government.

In a statement, Sun said it "has not paid kickbacks" and that the rebate and discount programs at issue "were conducted in an open and aboveboard manner."

But the government disagrees...

"The government argues such fees and discounts are kickbacks, which are illegal under the Anti-Kickback Act of 1986. The act defines kickbacks as money or "compensation of any kind" provided to a government contractor to "improperly" reward favorable treatment. The act says it's illegal to give or solicit such payments and to include any kickback amount in the contract price."

Registration programs lock out competition for accounts, and inevitably favor friends of the manufacturers against the end user. Registration does nothing to help the end user and stifles competition. It is a bad idea and it should be stopped.

Either you have a competitive environment or you don't, you can't have it both ways.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

“Agility means that you are faster than your competition. Agile time frames are measured in weeks and months, not years.” Michael Hugo


Recently we have heard from a number of customers that NetApp has been taking notice of our services and support. Last week at a government health agency the NetApp sales rep tried to convince the IT manager that NetApp's support was far superior to Zerowait's. From what we hear the manager told the sales rep and her experienced engineer, with less then three months of NetApp knowledge and who did not know how to read an autosupport, that Zerowait's support had been excellent and that he recommends us to his peers.

A few weeks before that , at a large private medical practice in NC, NetApp reduced their price to meet the support price that Zerowait had quoted the customer. The customer says that their rep told them that the first price that NetApp provided them was their best price. After he received our quote however NetApp came in with a new lower ' best' price that matched ours. I guess the new price was better than their previous best. Why not just tell the truth and give your best price in the first place?

And this week we were told by a customer at well known CRM technology company, that NetApp had reduced their price to a support price below ours. That's competition!

All of these customers were told in one way or another by their NetApp representatives that there was not competition to NetApp for service and support of NetApp equipment. Why then is NetApp reducing their prices when a customer shows them a quote from Zerowait for our independent maintenance, monitoring and management services?

Their actions speak louder than their words and validate that Zerowait provides an affordable alternative to NetApp for service, support, and upgrades.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I like it when people tell you "the facts, and just the facts".

That is why it is refreshing to read Jeff Browings' blog entry's on storage. Today, I noticed that he clearly described the current fad of 'Thin provisioning" in an Oracle environment. Link

"This makes thin provisioning completely useless nonsense for Oracle data. Anyone who tells you otherwise should be viewed with deep suspicion. I say this without any bias whatsoever, since my employer sells arrays that provide thin provisioning too. I am simply telling you the way it is here."

The trade press just regurgitates the press releases provided by the storage manufacturers, and does not seem to challenge the assumptions that the manufacturers make very often. Let's give people the facts and let them make rational decisions on their strategic storage purchases.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Expect everything? Are you ready for the power of a mobile Celeron for your enterprise storage? Rumor has hit that NetApp's FAS2020 uses the chip for its processor.

According to Wikipedia
"Celeron is a brand name given by Intel Corp. to a large number of different x86 microprocessor models that they produced and marketed as a budget/value CPU line. The Celeron family complements Intel's higher-performance (and more expensive) product lines (currently Core 2 Duo and formerly Pentium). Introduced in April 1998,[1] the first Celeron was based on the Pentium II core. Later versions were based on the Pentium III, Pentium 4, Pentium M, and Core 2 Duo. These processors are suitable for most applications, but their performance is somewhat limited when it comes to running intense applications, such as cutting edge games or graphical modeling programs, as compared to that of their high-end counterparts.[2] "

Personally, I can't understand why NetApp would go cheap on the processor, since only a few dollars more would get a real chip for the unit. But maybe they are looking to only provide customers with limited performance? Maybe this product should be sold with the marketing line, "Shut up, Expect less and be satisfied!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

You can't make this stuff up!

"Leonardi said the heat causes already dry surfaces to dry further — which in turn creates more heat. " link

My question - Is this a new scientific breakthrough?

"Norwegian newspapers, citing research from Norway's technical university, said a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit as much CO2 as a moose does in a year."
Link

My question - How many people would want to drive a moose to work and back every day?

"NetApp built a cogeneration system that provides both power and cooling to its data center, but volatile energy prices have greatly changed the economics of the system since it was first installed four years ago. The lesson: combine heat and power (or CHP) systems may be green, but the payback can be unpredictable." Link

My question - Hasn't there always been an economic link between the raw commodity material costs and Return on Investment?


"There is a common misperception about how methane gets into the atmosphere," Michael Abberton, a scientist at the Aberystwsth's Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, said Monday. "It is actually through belching rather than the other end."
Link

As we are all customers at some point we knew that there was a linkage between sales, marketing and Bovine. But Science has proven that we had everything backasswards
Partnerships and NetApp are an ever changing kaleidoscope of storage characters -So how long can they work with their biggest competitor on joint sales efforts?

Long term commitment has never been a strong point of NetApp, as can be confirmed by looking at the shattered partnerships with Dell, Hitachi, and many of their integrator partners. NetApp's Brendon Howe now thinks that their partnership with EMC / VMware will be a long term success for their customers. See below

"The partnership will definitely have its sales side. "We see no end in sight for pursuing joint sales opportunities," said Howe, downplaying the suggestion that this creates an awkward situation with VMware's parent company and NetApp rival EMC."

NetApp is usually very protective about its account information, but in this case they are giving EMC all their customer contact information. So it should come as no surprise to see EMC sales growing in the NAS accounts that NetApp introduces to VMware sales reps. I would expect that sooner or later NetApp will have to file for a divorce from VMware to protect it's accounts.

Looking into a CIO's crystal ball for guidance may leave him with some questions .... Where will this divorce leave NetApp customers who have a VMware installation? EMC probably won't support NetApp equipment. I suspect that NetApp won't support VMware on their platforms after a divorce. Looking at a strategic time frame this may leave a CIO with some concerns in the 3 to 5 year time frame.

Recently some of our customers are asking us to help them with their NetApp VMware support, I think it may have something to do with our long term commitment to customers and their high availability infrastructures.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bowling with Avatars....

Perhaps this article from the New York Times is on to something ?
"I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims."

Because there seems to be a disconnect in the Computer technology business - a disconnect between their customers and the reality of business today. For example, a few months ago NetApp began using avatars ( cartoon characters) - NetApp uses Avatars - to simulate their customer interactions and get a better idea of how to work with customers. We now learn that NetApp's sales have not been up to par, and they are going to have to cut back on some hiring. Perhaps their cartoon characters misled them? " Sufferin' Succotash!

More recently I experienced an epiphany when I learned that another Silicon Valley company views the effectiveness of their partners by their bowling and golf skills. I wonder if they use avatars, too?


Many of our customers have told us over the last few years that they like that when they call Zerowait a person answers the phone and that we really care about our customers. Computer technology helps us all do our jobs better, but just because something is high tech does not mean it is going to help you and your company be more efficient. If you want to provide high availability service to customers you have to understand the customer's problems and how appropriate technology will solve their issues.

Perhaps someday cartoon characters will be going bowling together to solve our customers thorny high availability network and storage issues. But I don't think it will be anytime soon!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

They don't call it Silly Con Valley for nothing...

A certain Vendor in Silicon Valley - (Campbell , CA ) announces a VAR conference and they tell resellers that they will pay for hotel and airfare if we come. I sign up for the conference and fulfill all their requirements. We have been resellers of theirs for over a year and it would be good to meet them. So I fly out to California for the Conference. I even flew Southwest to save them money! Then at the conference, they give me a coop-certificate and tell me that they will pay us back for the airfare when we submit this form with our next order. We do that within a week or two of returning to Delaware.

But when we try to get our refund.... we learn that there were unwritten rules, that I was not given.


Hi Mike,

I received your airfare co-op credit information, but according to our records, you did not attend all of the events at the conference and therefore are not eligible for airfare co-op credit. Please let me know if there is a discrepancy.

VendorRep1
Marketing
Vendor Networks, Inc.
--------------

From: Mike lxxxxx [mailto:Mike@zxxxxxxx.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 5:17 AM
To: VendorRep1
Cc: VendorRep2; VendorRep3; VendorRep4
Subject: Re: airfare co-op credit

Good morning VendorRep1:

Are you serious? If you are. I seriously need to reconsider our relationship with your company.

Mike

---------------

To: mike@zxxxxxxxt.com ; VendorRep1
Cc: VendorRep2; VendorRep4; VendorRep3
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 11:14 AM
Subject: RE: airfare co-op credit

Mike,

Our investment in the VAR Partner event is evidence of our commitment to our partners. We ask for an exact level of commitement from our partners in advance of the event. Please let us know if you think we have made an error in our attendance records.

Thanks

VendorRep2
--------------------

From: mike lxxxxx [mailto:mike@zxxxxxxx.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 9:24 AM
To: VendorRep2; VendorRep1
Cc: VendorRep3; VendorRep4; VendorRep5
Subject: Re: airfare co-op credit

Hello VendorRep2:

Since you were sitting behind me at the conference, and VendorRep3, VendorRep4 and various salespeople spoke to me at the reception and at the conference how possibly could I have not been there? Also, I filled out VendorRep5's survey, further testament to the fact that I was there. You and VendorRep3 may even recall VendorRep4 introducing us and that you said were interested in purchasing our domain of www.techstuffyousell.net which we spoke about at the
reception. VendorRep3 spoke to me at length at the conference about your technology, at one point in our conversation we were told that we were speaking too loudly.

Commitment from partners is a two way street, as I have written you before. We have been turned down at every turn by your company for coop marketing, signage, opportunity registration and mailings.

Does Vendor judge its partners by the amount they drink, and our bowling and golf scores? If that is the case, then I agree with you, Zerowait is not a worthy partner for your company. Our qualifications are more in the realm of selling High Availability networking equipment and storage to customers throughout the USA and Europe.

Which we have been trying to do with your equipment since your conference, against very great resistance from your company.

Finally, since the rebate forms were handed out at the conference how could I have gotten one if I had not been there? I remain absolutely nonplussed.

Regards,

Mike

--------------------------------

From: VendorRep4
To: mike lxxxxx
Cc: VendorRep1;VendorRep2; VendorRep3
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 12:55 PM
Subject: RE: airfare co-op credit


Mike, no question you were present during the day. However, presenting information to you as an audience participant is only "one-way". Engaging in conversation is the "two-way" street we were hoping drive down with you, which is the primary reason we hosted extracurricular activities and expected your attendance. We're all a bit offended by your reference to us judging partnerships by drinking and bowling/golf scores. Perhaps this is your way of indicating you were in fact not in attendance at the Thursday evening or Friday (pre-paid) events. Again, correct us if we're wrong.

Also, unless your proposed activities made absolutely no business sense, you would not have been turned down for co-operative funding. We hope you can understand our position. We're open to a discussion if you would like to continue.

Regards,

VendorRep4

Director of Marketing
Vendor Networks, Inc.

------------------------

From: "mike lxxxxx"
To: VendorRep4
Cc: VendorRep1;VendorRep2;VendorRep3
Sent: 8/15/2007 10:20 AM
Subject: Re: airfare co-op credit

Hello VendorRep4:

In my extensive conversations with VendorRep3 at the conference and at the reception there was never any mention of a condition put on the rebate for the flight.

Does VendorRep3 recognize that conversing with him does not constitute a "two way discussion" within your definitions because we talked for quite a while and I was asking very specific questions. Also I spoke individually with many of your staff members at the breaks, it must be that only nocturnal conversations are real.

After your conference I was pretty excited, and worked dilligently with my staff to revamp our techstuffyousell.net website to sell your products. Since that meeting we have started an inbox marketing program specifically about your products.

Whatever.

----------------

From: VendorRep2
To: "mike lxxxxx" ; VendorRep4
Cc: VendorRep3;VendorRep4;VendorRep1;VendorRep5
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 1:31 PM
Subject: RE: airfare co-op credit


This conversation is over.
Your reseller status is revoked


*******************************************************
You just can't make this stuff up...


If you want to see the complete text without the names redacted - email me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Disruptive business model from Google coming soon.


Google is now offering bulk storage services, that may be a lot cheaper than buying your hardware and managing it yourselves. Google can probably buy drives at deeper discounts than the largest array manufacturer, so the old Storagenetworks model of outsourcing your secondary and tertiary storage may make sense if Google can drive the prices low enough.

The issue becomes one of whether corporate IT folks trust Google with their data and data security. If they drive the prices low enough, IT folks are going to have a hard time justifying the cost of expensive storage arrays for storing data that nobody looks at. Data security may become the trump card for outsourcing secondary and tertiary storage.

This article is interesting reading if you apply the pricing to the cost of storing and managing TB's of aging data.

"Google is initially offering four storage plans, starting with six gigabytes for $20/year, and culminating with a whopping 250GB - this is similar to a lot of people's hard drives - at $500 per year. On the middle ground, there's 25GB for $75 and 100GB for $250. The space is shared by your GMail account and "Picasa Web". As more and more people put their high-res digital photos online, and as megapixels go up and people become used to leaving everything in "the cloud", I'm sure this will be a healthy source of Google revenue.

In that sense, Google is competing now with hosting companies. But if you intend to use Google's space only for Picasaweb pictures, I humbly suggest you do the maths, as I think hosting companies still have an edge. The hosting provider I use for one of my domains has, for instance, a 110 GB plan - yes that's gigabytes of storage, and 5TB of data transfer per month - for $5 per month (that translates to $60/year for 110GB vs Google's 100GB for $250, in other words $0,54/GB vs Google's $2,50/GB)."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

NetApp invests in Qlusters.

I thought this is an interesting development because NetApp, HP, and IBM are all partners of this company that former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins is running. See here

"Qlusters, the Linux-based clustering operating systems start-up, has raised $10.36 million in Series C funding from NetApp, Benchmark Capital, Charles River Ventures, DAG Ventures and Israel Seed Partners. That makes $33 million. NetApp is a new investor."

I wonder how much longer it will be before Hitachi and EMC invest? : )

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Brocade's former CEO is going to jail, he focused on personal short term profits, and not long term company value. And he is going to pay the price for it.

I put together some random thoughts on this issue below.

I guess they found one of the witches NetApp's CEO was talking about here ...

"I think it's become a witch hunt. I think the government is looking to find some egregious examples [of wrongdoing] and to publicly hang people for them. That's fine. But where does it stop? I'm not saying the past practices were all good. But I thought the SEC's role was to build investor confidence. What they're doing right now is destroying it, and I don't see the purpose."

In Silicon Valley the worry is what will happen to the NHL Sharks.
"Reyes conviction could threaten Sharks' ties
By David Pollak
Mercury News
Article Launched: 08/07/2007 07:24:21 PM PDT
Greg Reyes's conviction Tuesday could end his role as a major investor with the ownership group that operates the Sharks.

"There is no hard and fast rule on the `felon' issue, but it would likely disqualify him," said Frank Brown, NHL vice-president for media relations, in an e-mail response when the issue was raised during the course of the trial."


The Storage consumers of the world may be interested in other aspects of this, and how it affects companies that are represented in their data centers....

From the San Jose Mercury -
"The defense has repeatedly argued that the practice of back dating was widespread in Silicon Valley and hundreds of companies had misunderstood complex accounting rules.

"These stock options back dating issues are not that complicated," said Schools. "These cases, although they sound complex and they sound difficult to understand, come down to pretty basic principles."



Another take from Robin Harris -
"This has no impact on the Brocade of today, other than their culture is a direct descendent of the company that Mr. Reyes built. Like EMC, Brocade was a sales-focused culture with a “whatever it takes” mentality. They achieved fast growth for a time but are floundering because they handed their future over to storage OEMs who could care less if Brocade lives or dies. Their strategy is in worse disarray than EMC’s while their core fibre channel business is starting to decline.

I hope they can turn it around, but I’m more than dubious. Most of the world doesn’t need fibre channel and there are better places to buy Ethernet and Infiniband."


IMHO
- When any company's executive staff is focused on short term personal gain rather then long term shareholder and customer value decisions are going to be made that attempt to lock in customers to a proprietary technology. When dealing with this type of company customers need to understand what the objectives of the executive and majority shareholders are. Investing in technology that will not be supported for the long strategic term will eventually cost customers more money after they are forced to upgrade.





Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why independent monitoring & review is so important.

Over the last few weeks a couple of very large companies have embraced our ZHA Exception Reporter monitoring tool. There are a few reasons for this but the primary reason is that these companies realized that NetApp monitors their autosupports with a different perspective than the customer does. NetApp uses Autosupport to help them convince their customers to purchase more equipment or a system upgrade. Zerowait and our customers use ZHA Exception Reporter monitoring to help them get the most ROI out of their current NetApp storage.

Zerowait's business is the maintenance, management and support of NetApp filers. We do not sell new NetApp equipment - our focus is on the long term support of Filers. Therefore, our business focus is on providing the most ROI from your storage investment. Our independence allows us to help you maintain your equipment for the long term at a very reasonable price.

If you want to learn more about our ZHA Exception Reporter monitoring you can go to this link.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Customers are our best sales people

Last month I was visiting with a customer in California, and he told me how much of a pleasure it is to work with Zerowait. We were having dinner at a very nice restaurant, and the customer went on to tell me that he knew he was not our largest customer, but he felt that he was always given priority service and support whenever he called us about a service issue or about an upgrade. He wanted to tell me how much he appreciated the efforts we put into servicing his account. As the dinner went on he wanted to know where he fit into our account structure. I told him that many of our accounts are Fortune 100 accounts and that several of our accounts are in the 6 figure a year range, and indeed he was a smaller account for Zerowait. I explained that it is just as important to have long term customers as big customers, and we really appreciate his telling his friends and system administrator peers about our company. Most of our business growth has been through referral and recommendation and this organic growth has been very good for us.

As the evening went on he wanted to know how we developed our expanding NetApp monitoring, maintenance and management services. I told him that most of the ideas for the monitoring and maintenance service came from our customers, and that one of our semiconductor customers actually helped us to formalize our services and come up with program names so they would smoothly fall into the customer's capital and operational budgets. The management programs we developed are based on the needs of a variety of customers who wanted us to manage their upgrades and systems at remote sites. Managing data migrations has become a very big aspect of our service business, and it is growing because people know we do it well.

As dinner wound down he wanted me to make certain that I thanked our engineers when I returned to our offices for all of the help they had provided him. He told me that with Zerowait support, storage is not a problem and the costs of storage growth are quite reasonable. He also told me that he had been talking to a friend of his and they were going to request a quote from us soon. Sure enough the next day my office had a Request for Quote from his friend which we bid on.

Customers really are our best salespeople, and we really appreciate their help!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Now one Appliance can Toast, Griddle and make your Coffee! Buy one today!

Last month I was visiting with a customer who has a considerable investment in his NetApp storage infrastructure. Management of his storage is becoming cumbersome because it has become a general purpose storage appliance. Storage is growing inversely to the staff's ability to manage their storage resource. All they can do is continue to buy more raw storage and incorporate it into their general purpose volumes.

How many storage administrators are stuck storing everything and anything that is sent their way? Can an appliance do everything well? Of course not! But when storage administrators are forced to run a storage landfill specialization and performance seem to be of tertiary importance. Keeping the line of trash running and making certain there are no leaks is primary .

Jon Toigo speaks often about the need for Storage management, I think the time has come to start paying attention.

In many ways storage has become a landfill, that works good enough for most applications. Specialized appliances for High Availability and High performance storage will be coming soon, because people keep storing their trash with their customer, business & accounting records.