Friday, October 30, 2009

Doing customer research

Over the last several weeks we have been talking to customers about what they like and dislike about their storage providers. Listening to the stories of what they are told by their OEM salesman and engineers and comparing that to the reality of service and support after product delivery reveals a startling comparison of promises versus reality.

Dealing with the big Storage OEMS's reminded one customer of The Star Trek scene of Fizzbin. I like that comparison.

Fizzbin - The Rules of the Game
Kirk: The name of the game is called... Fizzbin. Each player gets 6 cards, except for the player on the dealer's right, who gets 7.
Thug: On the right.
Kirk: Yeah. The second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays.
Thug: Tuesday.
Kirk: Ohh! Look what you've got- 2 jacks. You got a half-fizzbin already.
Thug: I need another jack?
Kirk: No. If you got another jack, why you'd have a shralk.
Thug: A shralk?
Kirk: Yes, you'd be disqualified. No, what you need now is either a king and a deuce, except at night, of course, when you'd need a queen and a four.
Thug: Except at night.
Kirk: Right. Oh, look at that, you've got another jack! How lucky you are! How wonderful for you! Now if you didn't get another jack, if you had gotten a king, why then you'd get another card except when it's dark , when you'd have to give it back.
Thug: If it were dark on Tuesday.
Kirk: Yes, but what you're after is a royal fizzbin, but the odds of getting a royal fizzbin are astron - Spock, what are the odds on getting a royal fizzbin?
Spock: I have never computed them, Captain.
Kirk: Well, they're astronomical, believe me. Now, for the last card, we'll call it a kronk. You got that?
Thug: What?

Compare Captain Kirk's exchange with the response you get when you are trying to navigate the RMA process or find out where your 4 hour parts guy is.

Repeatedly we are told that Zerowait provides easy to understand service and support, and no hassles. Things don't have to be confusing, so why do manufacturers make it that way?

Monday, October 19, 2009

A cloudy definition

A lot of the trade press is talking about cloud computing and even the Economist has gotten the bug. That surprised me because the cloud is a fairly technical concept.

"Granted, there are hundreds if not thousands of firms offering cloud services—web-based applications living in data centres, such as music sites or social networks. But Microsoft, Google and Apple play in a different league. Each has its own global network of data centres. They intend to offer not just one or two services, but whole suites of them, with services including e-mail, address books, storage, collaboration tools and business applications. They are also vying to dominate the periphery, either by developing software for smart-phones and other small devices or by making such devices themselves."

I speak to customers about cloud services on a daily basis, depending on the definition of "cloud computing" we are all using some or maybe using a lot. But for enterprise storage security reasons most of the folks we work with are leery of the amorphous cloud as their depository for critical company data. At Zerowait we don't consider remote access of data cloud computing, since most of the companies we deal with have remote data sources and applications.

If remote data centers, web enabled applications and Citrix type access are defined as part of cloud computing, then it is ubiquitous. It seems to depend on the definitions and the expectations of the users and whether they consider the cloud to be third party hosted applications and storage or not.

I think the question should revolve around who owns and runs your organization's critical databases and applications. If the lines of ownership of the hardware assets and the data are unclear you may be a cloud user already.

Wikipedia
says this... "A technical definition is "a computing capability that provides an abstraction between the computing resource and its underlying technical architecture (e.g., servers, storage, networks), enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." This definition states that clouds have five essential characteristics: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service."

Whatever your opinion is, I think everyone will agree that some stuff should not leave your organization's control.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Super Computer show in Portland

A lot of our customers and friends will be at the SC09 show in Portland this year. I have been invited to the show, and will be working with a few of our customers on how to mange and reduce their costs of storage on their 100TB- 1PB storage archives.

Over the last 20 years Zerowait has built a reputation for providing outstanding service and support to our customers. Over the last few months we have received a series of requests to help our customers with extraordinary data sets and tremendous volumes of data.

Outrageously large data sets and constrained budgets should create an atmosphere for some very interesting discussions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interesting article

ESJ has an interesting article that I suggest folks looking into cloud computing read. The author, Henry Newman, lays out quite a few issues with bandwidth and recovery time using a cloud storage provider.

An excerpt:

The bandwidth problem isn't limited to enterprises. In the next 12 to 24 months, most of us will have 10Gbit/sec network connections at work (see Falling 10GbE Prices Spell Doom for Fibre Channel), while at home the fastest connect available as the current backbone of the Internet is OC-768, and each of us internally is going to have a connection that is 6.5 percent of OC-768. That will be limited, of course, by our DSL and cable connections, but their performance is going to grow and use up the backbone bandwidth. This is pretty shocking when you consider how much data we create and how long it takes to move it around. I have a home Internet backup service and about 1TB of data at home. It took me about three months to get all of the data copied off site via my cable connection, which was the bottleneck. If I had a crash before the off-site copy was created, I would have lost data.

The issue that our customers are running into is in managing the backup and archiving requirements and data restoration time over the web. Henry Newman touches on these issues. Every organization values its data assets differently and needs an affordable strategy to archive data. Although cloud storage may be affordable, it may not provide the data recovery access that your organization needs to satisfy your clients.

Where is your bottleneck, and what can you do to accelerate your data recovery to provide your customers the service they need? If you can't help your customers when they call because your data is unavailable, you will be providing your competitors an opportunity to take some business away.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Software licensing

I thought this was an interesting article -

By Nicole Kobie, 5 Oct 2009 at 12:28
Confused man with his head in his hands

Microsoft knows its licensing is a problem, but don’t expect it to get any simpler anytime soon, chief executive Steve Ballmer has said.

At a Microsoft event today in London, the boisterous Ballmer was put on the spot when a question regarding the complexities of the software giant’s licensing gained enthusiastic applause from the audience of customers and journalists.

While he acknowledged the problem, Ballmer said it wasn’t likely to be solved anytime soon. “I don’t anticipate a big round of simplifying our licensing,” he said.

Ballmer admitted that Microsoft's licences had some “gotchas” in the fine print, and said that “our people” shouldn’t necessarily be hassling companies over issues in that fine print. “I’m sure we have fine print we don’t need. We’re not saints,” he said.

Licensing is a complicated issue, but it seems that vendors make it harder than it needs to be.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Unemployment & Storage Budgets

Today's news confirmed what I heard during my recent trip across the country visiting with our customers. Budgets are tight, and investment in hardware and human resources is going to be slowed by the uncertainty of what the costs of employees will be in the next couple of years.

U.S. Sept non-farm payrolls plunge 263,000

* On Friday October 2, 2009, 8:32 am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employers cut a deeper-than-expected 263,000 jobs in September, lifting the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent, according to a government report on Friday that fueled fears the weak labor market could undermine economic recovery.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was the highest since June 1983 and payrolls had now dropped for 21 consecutive months.


There should be no surprise that when costs are going up enterprises need to find efficiencies. Whether it is stretching the lifespan of their legacy storage equipment to control costs, or finding creative ways to increase storage at a reduced cost with new equipment. In a global economy the most efficient and low cost suppliers will win business.

Over the years many of our customers have been asked why we don't create our own affordable hardware and software solution. And our answer to that question is that when the time is right we may. For 20 years we have been providing High Availability solutions to our customers problems. If we can bring an affordable High Availability product to market that meets our customers requirements we will.