Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Disaster recovery or disaster prevention?

This week there is a conference in Tampa about preventing a catastrophic loss of data. Although the conference's focus is based on FEMA types of events, every enterprise needs to be aware of the costs of lost data.

Companies in this market niche break down the possibility of disaster and the recovery of data into as many facets as there are in a prism. The daily concerns of data deliverability to your customer or clients desktops and the security of the data so data does not end up on your competitors desktop breaks down into a few specific areas.

Network security and vulnerability - Can your users access data easily while preventing unauthorized viewers from seeing your data?

Data tape storage vulnerability- Is your off site tape vault secure or are there vulnerabilities to tape loss and theft in the process.

End of Life of Disk and subsystems - How does your company dispose of disks at the end of life or end of lease of your storage subsystems? Some of our customers keep all of their disks at the end of lease but this is very costly, but many are uncertain as to how to clean disks before returning them or disposing them.

At Zerowait we are recognized for providing High Availability networking services & storage services to our customers, so many of our customers have adopted our thoughts on disaster prevention instead of disaster recovery. Using a combination load balancing switches, VPN's and data mirroring we keep our data in two separate locations, and many of our customers do the same thing now. It really does not cost any more than implementing a D/R site and strategy, and the advantages during data migrations and network changes are numerous. But a Secure VPN between multiple locations introduces a whole new set of issues about virtual site location security.

Some of our customers have been the targets of the tape loss scandals that have recently been covered in the media and it should come as no surprise that these losses occur, in a competitive environment the low cost provider will win some business, but to lower their costs they must forgo some security. You get what you pay for. Implementing a Disaster prevention site strategy could have prevented these data loss stories from hitting the media.

Recently many customers been asking us to help them clean their disks. When using a subsystem like NetApp there are a whole bunch of challenges to doing this. And this has become a growing part of our business. But at the lowest common denominator you want to be certain that there is no visible proprietary data on your disks when you are done with them.

I hope to cover some of this during my time on the panel discussion at the conference, and I hope to see you there.

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Extraordinary Claims require extraordinary proof" Carl Sagan

When it comes to reliability and uptime there is no doubt that NetApp has some of the most remarkably stable storage equipment in the marketplace. It is not unusual to have customers that have uptimes of three and four years. This unblemished reliability is what is so remarkable about the NetApp F700 series in particular. And since NetApp is ending support for these units why so many customers are coming to Zerowait for their continuing F700 parts replacement & support.

Over the last several months NetApp customers have been coming to us to support their F820's, F840's , F880's R100's and R150's also, and now we are are starting to take over support of the FAS900 sereis also.

If you love your NetApp's but are looking for an affordable alternative for your ongoing parts support, why not give us a call - 302.266.9408? We have hundeds of filers under parts support and are adding many more every week.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Has NetApp peaked ?
Server storage company Network Appliance Inc. announced Wednesday that its fiscal 2006 fourth quarter net income dropped 6.6 percent.

Our company has seen a surge in our support business over the last year and as many NetApp legacy companies look for more affordable alternatives to NetApp's service, support, and upgrade business. Currently we are finalizing our discussions to set up our European service division which should happen in the next 60 days.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

He should have called Zerowait for his NetApp support!

NetApp's midrange storage quality up for debate
By Beth Pariseau, News Writer
22 May 2006 | SearchStorage.com

It may have been a blow to Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) that its traditional sweet spot, enterprise NAS, went to Hitachi Data Systems Inc. in Storage magazine's most recent Quality Awards survey. (See HDS wins enterprise NAS, May 3.) But NetApp still made a strong showing in midrange NAS among survey respondents, a fact which baffled one midrange user who heard the results of the survey announced by Storage editors during last week's Storage Decisions conference.

"I was amazed when I saw that rating," said Nick Suranyi of Press Ganey Associates, which processes patient satisfaction surveys for hospitals and healthcare providers.

Ganey has 20 terabytes of NetApp midrange filers and needs to add about 20 more terabytes of storage this year as new regulations in many states are forcing healthcare providers to conduct the kind of surveys Suranyi 's company stores and processes. Suranyi himself said he is new to the company and inherited the FAS270s, R100s and FAS810s that compose most of Ganey's environment.

"We're seeing disk failures running rampant across every one of our filers," Suranyi said. "We've had disks failing as often as two or three times a week -- now it's down to about once every three weeks, but for awhile there my desk was like shipping and receiving with replacement disks coming in." Some of the crashes, he said, have resulted in data loss and system corruptions requiring more repair than simply replacing one drive.

Suranyi said he is confident he's ruled out a version problem with his OnTap OS, or a problem with his environment in part by comparing notes with former colleagues and acquaintances in a test lab at Notre Dame University located in Indiana.

"I'm pretty sure, at this point, there's something wrong with the way NetApp's filers identify which disks are failed," he said.

*****Perhaps he could use our ZHA Exception reporter?*****

And, he said, even if configuration problems were causing disks to crash, he'd never seen it happen so often or with such disruptive results.

"I've had Dell [Inc.] DA PowerVault 220s running for three years without seeing a failed disk," he said.

Worse, he said, when the disk fails, if the filer does not detect a spare, it shuts the entire array down. And NetApp has repeatedly failed to meet its service level agreements (SLA) in response to the drive failures, often taking as much as three times the four-hour agreement time to deliver and install a new drive.

"When I complained to NetApp about it," Suranyi said, "they told me the shutdown of the array was a feature to force me to protect the data better. And their only response about failing to meet the SLA was to do it again."

He shook his head. "I couldn't believe it. And how are they No. 1 in the midrange when they have all these problems? These are midrange filers we're using."

Suranyi said he plans to replace the NetApp filers completely this year with a SAN, probably from Xiotech Corp.

Meanwhile, however, Suranyi was overheard by James Jancewicz, storage administrator for a large health insurance provider based in New England, who asked that his company not be named.

"We love NetApp," he chimed in. "It's very transparent from the user's perspective," but he admitted that his company does see disk failures about once a month. "But six drives a quarter in half a petabyte isn't all that bad, and we can fix it quickly," Janceqicz said.

"To me, that many drive failures is unacceptable for an array," said Suranyi.

"We also have yet to do a code upgrade on NetApp," Jancewicz also conceded. "Whenever we buy a NetApp box, we just leave it there. We've had some of their boxes for three years without touching them."

Jancewicz added, he'd received "very good support" from NetApp in general, a comment that surprised Suranyi.

"Look at what kind of company he works for, though," said Bonnie Reif of LaPorte Hospital, herself an EMC user, pointing to the household name on Jancewicz's conference name badge.

"That's why it's strange that they won for the midrange," Suranyi said. "I had worked for some value-added resellers before that were also bigger and never experienced these problems."

NetApp did not return calls for comment by press time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

We are made wise not by recollection of the past, but by the responsibility for our future - George Bernard Shaw

When choosing an enterprise storage device many organizations make their decisions based on what their sales person says and by reading the manufacturer's marketing brochures and paid analyst studies. However, if these same folks were looking at making a purchase from their own personal budget for a large ticket item they might do some further research. When buying a car many people research in consumer reports, when looking at houses people with children usually check out the school district and the property taxes. When making an investment in storage where can you look for unbiased reports on reliability and performance? The Internet helps in these searches, but it is very hard to find reliable sources of information that can predict the performance of a particular piece of networking or storage equipment within your organization's IT infrastructure.

Predicting equipment longevity from looking at past performance of the company is much easier, you can ask people how their equipment is performing and what is the parts availability and service and support costs for equipment. Some companies provide excellent legacy service and support, and some companies like to force their customers to upgrade to new equipment every couple of years.

Zerowait provides affordable legacy service and support for NetApp equipment. This can lower your ROI on storage equipment substantially, there are other companies that specialize in EMC support and HDS support. Each company has a niche is specializes in. A little research can provide you with an enormous amount of storage investment wisdom.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fighting Vendor lock in with outstanding Performance, support and reliability

Over the last week I heard many times about how much NetApp's customers appreciate Zerowait's service and support. They were tired of paying high prices for their service and support from NetApp and are really happy that they found our affordable alternative to NetApp for service and support. Surprisingly, I heard from one customer that a competitor to NetApp recommended us as an alternative. This customer really did not want to buy the Brand 'E' unit, and their salesperson told them to contact us for legacy NetApp support. It really sort of makes sense, because the Brand 'E' salesman fights the NetApp lock in by suggesting us, and also gains points from the customer because the customer appreciates the advice.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

California trip

I have been in California visiting some customers this week and a few of our customers are looking at or testing things with VMware and filers. Keeping virtual machine copies of your desktops and servers makes a lot of sense on filers. If you have a machine problem load up another server with the VM copy. Also, it makes the testing of various versions of software on different operating systems a lot easier. Just keep VM copies of the software on your filer and download them to the desktop or server as you need them.

It might make keeping your remote users on the network a lot easier also, simply have them run a VM that has the exact settings for your VPN.

Friday, May 12, 2006

License transferability

Someone recently asked what they should write on their PO to get transferable licenses.

Something like this should work:

This Purchase order (agreement) includes the specific intent and the legal right to transfer software by purchaser to other entities. Copies of license agreements, and legal rights of transferability for all software, and protocols must accompany equipment upon equipment delivery.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

EMC seems to have NetApp's customers in their sights

The new Clariion products allow users to replace disk drives, power supplies, cooling fans and small form-factor pluggable optical transceivers on their own. A new Disk Replacement Utility wizard guides them through the process, checking each step to make sure data is protected, according to EMC. In the third quarter of 2006, the company will add processes and utilities to enable qualified customers and partners to perform their own installation of the CX3 arrays. "VARs [value-added resellers] can put together services on top of the Clariion without having to call in EMC and customers that want to can install the systems themselves," said Barry Ader, senior director of Clariion marketing at EMC.

If NetApp's customers are looking for a low priced alternative this EMC equipment might be the ticket. I have also heard that NetApp is going to release a FAS270 with SATA disk, at a really low price point. So, we could see a price war emerge at the high end of the storage marketplace and also at the low end of the marketplace. That will be great for consumers, but it will be bad for NetApp's resellers because they may get squeezed out of profitability, because EMC sells through Dell on the low end. Many years ago NetApp and Dell had a relationship, but when it went south, Dell and EMC got together. It should be interesting to see what happens at the low end of the market. I don't think IBM will sell it rebranded NetApp equipment into the low end of the marketplace, so there might become a real stratification in the sales channels for NetApp equipment. Perhaps NetApp will even look at a lower price point reseller than Dell soon, and you will be able to go to Best Buy soon and buy your filers! Stranger things have happened!

Monday, May 08, 2006

NetApp releases new filer

Upgrading to the new kit should also be straightforward, according to Hargreaves. “Customers can upgrade an existing system by replacing the controller,” he said. “The upgrade does not involve changes to the data.” Hargreaves also argued that NetApp could be cheaper to use because all NetApp kit uses the same operating system and management tools.

This sounds great! I wonder if NetApp is going to release reliable, repeatable and verifiable performance tests for this unit? Jon Toigo has offered his lab to NetApp on multiple occasions to perform some independent testing. Maybe with this new system NetApp will provide the equipment to Toigo for testing.

Also of interest, from this statement it looks like NetApp is no longer selling the Spinnaker OS in addition to the NetApp 7.0 Ontap software.

SAD NEWS SGI files chapter 11

Friday, May 05, 2006

An Article worth reading in Computerworld

I have written about this issue many times before, but it seems that the Main Stream Tech Media is finally picking it up.

Most savvy enterprise storage customers understand that to get a decent ROI they need to get a usable life of at least 5 years. So, how come the big three storage vendors raise maintenance costs exponentially for systems that are more than 3 years old? A lot of our customers have read the big three's ROI spreadsheets and calculations that show customers how if they spend hundreds of thousands now to replace their out of maintenance equipment with new, that over 3 years (the vendor desired life of the new equipment) that you'll actually save money. Then they call Zerowait, and they see a whole new world on what ROI means.

The hardware vendors make money by forcing you to do a forklift upgrade after 3 years. Zerowait's business model works because we help our customers extend their ROI calculations well beyond 3 years. When a customer extends their systems lifespan they also don't need to purchase new or upgraded Backup software or monitoring software. There is no additional employee training, or implementation costs. Our customers save on maintenance costs and all of the secondary & tertiary costs also.

So how come vendors don't include all of these additional infrastructure costs in their little spreadsheet from the marketing department? How much money would you save if you get 3rd party support (for a fraction of OEM support cost) and keep the old stuff around for another 2 years? Certainly that "enterprise class" system you bought 3 years ago is still a good system. It was enterprise class when you bought it, did it stop being enterprise class when the manufacturer's new model came out?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Real Integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did or not - Oprah Winfrey

In the long run I think people figure out that certain companies have integrity and do the right thing over and over again. For instance, I like ordering from L.L Bean. I get what I want and satisfaction is guaranteed. My Dad used to order from them because once he got a shirt and somehow it was just not right, they took it back, and replaced it with a new one - no questions.

Working with High Availability technical equipment and storage we have to spend literally hundreds of hours documenting how we do some things so we can repeat them over and over again. This is because we need to constantly improve our processes and procedures as the technologies we work with change. Very few of our customers realize how much we do in the background to document, test and improve our procedures. But I think all of them recognize that the Zerowait staff is dedicated to providing them with the parts they need, and that the engineering support we provide will be excellent every time they call.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Character is much easier kept, than recovered. - Thomas Paine

Company reputations are gained and lost one customer at a time. Because our company deals with NetApp's customers who have lost the faith, or can no longer afford the cost of NetApp maintenance we hear a lot of grumbling about NetApp. They come to Zerowait because they want an Affordable Alternative to NetApp that provides service, support and upgrades and can be depended on. And we work hard to build our reputation one customer at a time.

It saddens me to get a note from a NetApp customer trying to sell us his equipment that says " ...
we have already purchased another SAN product, we would just like to put the NetApp behind us."

When NetApp totally alienates a customer everyone loses. NetApp won't get any more software revenue from the customer, the customer won't have the great features a NetApp filer provides, and Zerowait won't get a continuing service and support contract. It is one of the strange things about our business, the more business we do, the more OnTap software revenue NetApp gets to keep from our customers.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Getting together

This weekend there was a fly in and chili feast at a local grass strip (MD1). A whole bunch of us flew in. As you can see there was a great variety of aircraft on the field. And although the airplanes look a lot different from each other, when you get down to the engines and instruments , we all use the same parts from the same manufacturers. Although Cessna and Piper assemble them in different ways.

So the similarity with a storage network is there, the underlying bits and pieces all come from the same vendors. Hard drives, cards and so many other parts. But each of our diagrams is a little different.

Cross referencing parts can be interesting, but next time you are negotiating with your storage vendor ask them where they get the cards I'll bet it' s Intel and Qlogic. And the Hard drives are likely to be from Seagate.