Monday, August 31, 2009

An affordable archive

Did you ever notice that there is an inverse relationship between data archiving budgets and data archiving growth. Data that is accessed once on a blue moon is expensive to store on spinning media, and it is hard to keep track of tapes that seem to get lost, misplaced or erased whenever there is a reporter around.

Lost backup tape prompts IT changes at NY bank - Network World (June 2008)
Officials at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. late last week said it has launched a new policy to encrypt data held on all storage devices and to limit the amount of confidential client data stored on tape drives. The policy was launched after unencrypted backup data tapes were twice lost by third party couriers this year.
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Clients' data missing, Harvard Law warns - The Boston Globe (November 2008)
A technician lost the tape while traveling by subway between the Jamaica Plain office and the law school in Cambridge. It was one of six tapes he had put in his backpack for the trip.
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Info on 3.9M Citigroup customers lost (June 2005)
Citigroup, the nation's biggest financial services company, said that UPS lost the tapes while shipping them to a credit bureau in Texas.
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Missing backup tape prompts identity theft fears for JC Penney customers (Jan 2008)
GE said the tape was discovered missing last October by a worker at a warehouse run by Boston-based data-protection and storage company, Iron Mountain Inc.

Cloud based storage is also risky for secondary and tertiary storage, because there is always the possibility of a third party having a business issue, or a malicious employee.

Frequently we are asked by customers if we can help them, and the answer is "yes". When budgets are tight and mandatory compliance issues are making choices difficult, Zerowait can help with our storage options. We can help put together archiving systems of hundreds of TB's for a fraction of the cost of most hardware vendors. We have the equipment in stock and ready to configure.

If you need an affordable archiving solution give us a call. High availability storage does not have to break your budget!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deficits, Dollars and Storage

The Wall Street Journal has an article today on the growing deficit and the possibilities of inflation that it will cause. If the Dollar's value drops I would expect that the US cost of obtaining storage components from Asia will at some point begin to rise.

This portion of the article frames the issue well:
In a new twist to an old refrain among economists, who have long worried about the effects of growing U.S. debt, they say that the huge liabilities the U.S. is taking on to dig its way out of crisis could ultimately undermine faith in the dollar.

"There has been a lot of disappointment with the way the U.S. credit crisis was handled," says Claire Dissaux, managing director of global economics and strategy for Millennium Global Investments Ltd., a London investment firm specializing in currencies. "The dollar's loss of influence is a steady and long-term trend."

On Tuesday, the Obama administration added fuel to concerns about the dollar, saying the U.S. will run a cumulative budget deficit of $9 trillion over the next 10 years, $2 trillion more than it had previously projected.

"That's going to be negative for the dollar," says Adam Boyton, a currency analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in New York. President Barack Obama also reappointed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose efforts to rescue the economy have won praise, but have also entailed pumping large amounts of freshly created dollars into the financial system.

And this part of the article shows that there still is a diversity of opinion about what will happen because of the deficits.

Mr. Buffett, for example, worries that U.S. policy makers will fail to move decisively to curtail the nation's ballooning net debt, expected by some to rise to more than 75% of annual economic output by 2013. Instead, policy makers might tolerate higher inflation, which makes existing debts more manageable but would hurt the U.S.'s creditors, including China and Japan. In this scenario, investors would demand much higher interest when lending to the U.S. government, raising its borrowing costs and making further budget deficits harder to finance at a time when an aging population will sharply boost the costs of social security and government-sponsored health care.

Investors are also growing more comfortable with the idea of emerging economies like China, Russia and Brazil playing a bigger role in shaping international finance. Some analysts, including Pimco portfolio manager Curtis Mewbourne, say emerging economies have a unique opportunity to use the crisis to reduce their reliance on the U.S. dollar., which tends to account for the lion's share of their foreign-exchange reserves.

"Investors should consider whether it makes sense to take advantage of any periods of U.S. dollar strength to diversify their currency exposure," Mr. Mewbourne wrote in a recent note.

Earlier this year, China's central-bank governor called for moving toward a "super-sovereign" reserve currency, one not belonging to any particular country. Analysts generally see such an option as unrealistic, since the U.S. wouldn't want to give up its status as the main currency in which the world's central banks hold their reserves, and any new reserve currency would require a deep and developed market where it could be traded.

There aren't yet many signs that investors are leaving the dollar. China and Japan, the biggest foreign creditors to the U.S., loaded up on longer-term Treasury debt in June, according to the latest Treasury data. China, for example, bought $26.6 billion in notes and bonds, its biggest monthly buying on record.

"The Treasury rally suggests the U.S. is facing neither an inflationary explosion nor a crisis of confidence," analysts at French bank BNP Paribas SA said in a recent note.

If the costs of US business borrowing increases because of the competition for funds, I would expect there to be an increase in belt tightening in IT budgets which eat up a lot of Capital Expenses. Many IT businesses view the US as their primary marketplace and charge a premium for goods shipped overseas to Asia, Australia and Europe. But if those markets start to grow faster than US markets for High Technology, perhaps overseas prices might fall faster than the inflation discounted dollars would justify by themselves.

Our international business continues to grow nicely, and exports might grow for us if the dollar's value declines relative to Euros and Asian currencies.

Business remains interesting.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Visiting the Northeast

Last week I visited customers in NH, MA and NY. None of the customers were talking about any green shoots in their budgets. As a matter of fact, all the customers were looking for ways in which we could help them reduce their costs of operating their storage and networks. One customer is looking into building his own ZFS storage solutions using open source software, another customer is seriously considering outsourcing their storage infrastructure and asked for our helping checking and confirming vendors claims.

It is not only customers in the Northeast that seem to be battening down the hatches on storage and networking expenses.I visited our Southeastern customers a couple of weeks ago and they are also looking at ways to save money. And while our VP of sales was visiting customers in the Northwest last week he ran into more customers that were tightening their budgets and asking for Zerowait support options and ways in which we can save them money.

Companies have figured out that they can get by without upgrading based on manufacturers obsolescence schedules. And Zerowait is growing as more companies learn that they can rely on us for high availability service and support. No matter which way you think the economy is going I think the lesson that IT departments learned is that certainly Legacy equipment can be maintained for quite a long time and save quite a lot of money.

Give us a call if you would like us review your support costs, we will be happy to help .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Perception


Many folks in the data storage industry associate Zerowait with independent NetApp service and support. But many of our customers know that we do much more than just NetApp service and support.

The picture is supposed to illustrate that Zerowait's services include Network and Storage management, security planning, installation and configuration. I admit I am not much of an artist : )

Our Professional Services team is recognized by customers around the world for our engineering excellence. Zerowait customers never sacrifice quality to reduce costs. Our team typically exceeds customers' expectations.

Our customers know they can trust Zerowait to be their high availability partner for their network and storage needs. We bring a history of high availability technical expertise and an understanding of business processes to every transaction. Our support model offers companies a quick, integrated solution for achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

Storage is a big part of our business, but we do a lot more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Moving data to the lowest cost location

Energy and power costs are a big part of the decision process when it comes to locating data storage or a complete data center for a company. An MIT PHD student has just created an algorithm to help companies serve and store data based on energy prices.

An Internet-routing algorithm that tracks electricity price fluctuations could save data-hungry companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon millions of dollars each year in electricity costs. A study from researchers at MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and the networking company Akamai suggests that such Internet businesses could reduce their energy use by as much as 40 percent by rerouting data to locations where electricity prices are lowest on a particular day.

Modern datacenters gobble up huge amounts of electricity and usage is increasing at a rapid pace. Energy consumption has accelerated as applications move from desktop computers to the Internet and as information gets transferred from ordinary computers to distributed "cloud" computing services. For the world's biggest information-technology firms, this means spending upwards of $30 million on electricity every year, by modest estimates.

Asfandyar Qureshi, a PhD student at MIT, first outlined the idea of a smart routing algorithm that would track electricity prices to reduce costs in a paper presented in October 2008. This year, Qureshi and colleagues approached researchers at Akamai to obtain the real-world routing data needed to test the idea. Akamai's distributed servers cache information on behalf of many large Web sites across the US and abroad, and process some 275 billion requests per day; while the company does not require many large datacenters itself, its traffic data provides a way to model the demand placed on large Internet companies.

As Cloud computing and Storage as a Service become ubiquitous, data centers will market themselves as low cost power providers, and high tech jobs will probably follow the equipment to locations that provide the lowest energy costs.

The Energy grid and the connectivity grid will probably begin to grow towards the lower cost providers as more organizations recognize the price advantages. As the grids mature the low cost areas will end up with a set of competitive advantages in connectivity and power over the current high cost power provider areas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The need for legacy support

Zerowait is in the legacy service and support business. It is a niche business, that is expensive for OEM's to handle, but it is important to the end users we support. Legacy systems are inevitable because networks are never completely upgraded and often systems and networks are left as islands to be upgraded later. For example, the US Government is often left with legacy network issues as this article points out.

"HUD's problems start with its IT infrastructure. The agency has multiple grants management systems that can't share data, still renews about $7 billion in low-income grants using an inefficient paper-based system, maintains at least 16 financial management systems, and has IT systems that are, on average, 15 years old. Historically, only a small percentage of IT spending has been set aside for new development, including 2% in 2008."

Providing high availability service and support for legacy systems is a very specialized business. Many of our NetApp service and support customers can no longer get support from the OEM. The OEM has decided that these legacy customers are not worth maintaining, and their sales and engineering resources are better utilized pursuing new product opportunities. But with budgets tight and resources limited some customers are forced to maintain legacy equipment. Our job is to keep the older equipment running reliably, so when the customer can afford to upgrade he can.

In our view keeping reliable equipment running is not competing with new product sales, since the customers are not in a position to upgrade the legacy equipment. Our customers trust that Zerowait will continue to provide them with honest answers and well thought out solutions. As the Wall Street Journal editorial points out today:

"Most importantly, trust will become the critical factor. Without the luxury of time, trust will be the new currency of our times, whether in news sources, economic systems, political figures, even spiritual leaders. As change accelerates, it will remain one true constant."

Do you trust your Storage vendor to provide you with honest assessments of performance and ROI calculations?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Is NetApp going to be acquired?

Whenever NetApp acquisition rumors start I get customers and analysts calling to ask what I think of the news. Yesterday afternoon it seems another rumor was floated and folks wanted to know my thoughts.

Tech Rumor of the Day: NetApp Touted as M&A Bait
James Rogers
08/04/09 - 01:41 PM EDT

Storage may offer a bright spot for investors in the slowly-recovering economy, as M&A chatter again swirls around NetApp(NTAP Quote).

"We do believe it would make sense for a larger IT company to acquire NetApp as it would be attractive from a product portfolio and accretion perspective," wrote Brian Marshall, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, in a note released Tuesday. The storage specialist could be particularly attractive to a "more mature" IT company like Cisco(CSCO Quote), IBM(IBM Quote) or Hewlett-Packard(HPQ Quote), he added. Although not exactly the tech sector's equivalent of The Graduate, there has already been speculation touting NetApp as a possible target for the cougar-like IBM.

These things come in cycles and I imagine eventually something will happen which is why it concerns our several hundred NetApp support clients. Customers are looking for a safe harbor for the continuing support of their equipment, they want to make certain that their storage strategy is secure, and these rumors force them to look at other storage companies who may be able to provide a longer term solution. No one wants to have a proprietary storage solution that competition has eliminated from the path of storage evolution.

In my opinion, these rumors may help NetApp's larger storage competitors because their sales people can leverage the uncertainty about NetApp's future into sales of their products, or at least by planting the seed of doubt into their competitive sales pitch.

On the other hand, the smaller competitors like Isilon and 3Par can leverage the uncertainty about NetApp to customers who ask about whether they are big enough to compete. They can spin a story about how NetApp's future is as uncertain as theirs is, anyone can get acquired and products can get eliminated from support.

Zerowait can and will continue to provide service and support for Filers if NetApp is acquired, just as we have been supporting the NetCache line since it was sold. We will assist our several hundred customers in migrations if required, and help them with the disposition of their superseded storage assets. Our customers know that they can trust us to provide them with an honest, well thought our migration path. If there is an acquisition, and they are forced to move to a competing technology, our intention is to help our customers with a long term service and support solution that will help them migrate to a competing technology as smoothly as possible, when they need to.

Thanks for the link

Monday, August 03, 2009

In Sourcing Zerowait

Over the last few weeks I have heard from a number of companies that they are cutting back on staff. They want to know if Zerowait can assist them with their storage network management on an ongoing basis. And the answer depends on getting an understanding of their business plan, requirements and expectations.

A company that is tightening its belt has a much different set of storage requirements than does a company that is experiencing rapid expansion. If a company is tightening its belt it may be very interested in how Zerowait can help them extend the life cycle of their current network and storage environment. Our experience has shown that it is usually substantially cheaper to maintain legacy equipment than it is to replace it with newer equipment. However, often there is a bit of tinkering and tweaking required to maximize the current infrastructure. Extending the lifespan of equipment can save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is a great way to free up budget dollars for a company that is still tightening its belt. Expanding companies also benefit from reviewing the abilities of their legacy equipment though. By maintaining older equipment budgets dollars can be spent on other revenue generating projects.

If your requirements are forcing your organization to look at new equipment for secondary or tertiary storage, why not look at re purposing your older storage equipment? It is still high availability and if maintained correctly will provide many more years of service. What are your requirements and where does your performance requirements bisect your cost of equipment curve? Legacy equipment has no acquisition cost, and only has a support cost. Low cost and adequate performance are often all that is required for secondary storage applications.

Finally, what are your organization's expectations of the performance requirements. Secondary and tertiary storage may not need a two hour support and service contract. Next Business Day Parts requirements may be good enough to meet the requirements and control your costs.

In sourcing Zerowait into your planning allows your organization to look at the costs of maintaining legacy equipment against the cost of purchasing new equipment. The latest equipment might have more features, but are these benefits tangible and do they outweigh the costs? TCO studies by new equipment vendors rarely show the true savings of maintaining equipment for a year or two extra before replacing it.

Why not In Source Zerowait into your network storage decision process?