Monday, September 28, 2009

Storage is a commodity,service is not

A friend of mine wrote me the following "Storage is the last bastion of high margins for IT vendors that make proprietary products. Ethernet, fiber channel, wireless and even operating systems have become commodity products. Storage is a commodity and should be priced accordingly." He was wondering why the storage vendors can charge so much for their products when all the components are a commodity.

William Wang the CEO of Vizio wrote " Anything that's popular will become a commodity. We're not here to build a cheap product; we're here to make the product affordable.

At Zerowait we understand why our customers and friends are perplexed by the price of commercially available storage. Everyone should recognizes that the parts are commodities, but integrating them into a High Availability solution that can withstand contact with hundreds of customer environments is tricky.

If you want a purpose built custom built solution built out of commodity parts, you can take a kit builder's approach and stitch one together fairly inexpensively. But if you want an integrated service and support solution that supplies automatic replacement parts and 24 hour technical support that will add to the cost of goods. Every company determines what risks it can afford to take in a slightly different way. Vendors of high priced storage arrays have worked hard to build their reputations for product reliability.

Zerowait's customers are looking for long term value and don't expect commodity service and support. They are looking for outstanding service and support for their high availability storage. Now in our 20th year, we provide an affordable alternative to high priced storage vendors support solutions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another long trip

I have been traveling around the USA visiting customers for the last two weeks. It has been a long trip and I have heard from a lot of large storage customers that budgets remain constricted. Adding storage capacity that is affordable remains a problem, as does adding staff when corporations are looking to shrink payrolls through attrition. I spoke to a few companies in California that are hiring in other states and countries, but not in California anymore. Staff shortages are creating problems for the folks responsible for data storage managment . Some are looking at outsourcing some of their storage management, but that also costs money which is unavailable.

I spoke with many business owners along the way, and their was not much enthusiasm for investing in infrastructure or people in the current business environment. Almost universally the folks I met with are looking to find incremental savings within their organizations. However, most companies are now running very lean.

It remains an interesting business environment.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Scalability, Predictability, Affordability, Reliability

My goodness the guys at Backblaze have gotten people talking about storage value. This morning I heard from one customer of ours who likes the BackBlaze price points who asked if we could provide an enterprise service and support model for a system like the one they talk about in their blog. The answer is "yes we can", but whether it makes sense to a customer depends on how they value the risk and reward for each of the following topics.

Scalability -How a customer views the issue of expandability and the related islands of storage is important to how they determine how much they are willing to spend on putting their storage in one basket. The Backblaze type solution makes sense in certain places in a Hierarchical Storage Model, but how customers value storage accessibility is a question that is very hard to answer. There are certainly customers of ours that find this price point a viable solution.

Predictability - What is the MTBF of the BackBlaze solution? There are many components in their solution that are not hot swappable. This works in their specific environment, but our customers seem to want a bit more and so the price point goes up marginally for hot swap parts.

Affordability - Our customers want a long term solution that is affordable to acquire and inexpensive to maintain. We are known for our high availability service and support and the BackBlaze type of solution could fit very easily into our business model.

Reliability - Adapting a set of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) components that are built for a specific solution can create a solution that meets the required reliability of the application. It is relatively easy to integrate a solution that meets a market need if it is defined very tightly.

As the leader in independent NetApp service and support, we recognize that there is interest in a solution like the BackBlaze product. But customer conversations that we have had today show that there is more interest in a storage model that has the price point of their product combined with a high availability service model.

We will be looking into this more over the next few weeks.