Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cyberwar fiction and reality.

A lot of folks have been writing about the situation in Estonia. I think the graphic above pretty much sums up the situation. People are real concerned about the security of their data, but what happens when your data becomes completely unavailable to your worldwide sales and accounting staff?
Denial of Service software that is easy to get and easy to use, it sounds like the business & world economy may be in for some rough times ahead now that we are all wed to the internet.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Which way is NetApp going to sell more product through its resellers? Will threats increase sales more than sales incentives? Won't sales incentives merely be passed through as lower prices to customers anyway?

NetApp's CEO said that he wants Resellers to concentrate on NetApp and not any other products.
Solution providers who do not take advantage of NetApp run the risk of being left behind as that company continues to grow rapidly, Warmenhoven said. "If that doesn't happen, you will be a less significant partner of ours," he said last week. "Let's scale together."

But the worlwide sales manager said that they will work with Resellers who sell other products without any issues as long as it is to displace a competitors products.

"If the partners sells us and Hitachi Data Systems, we don't want them to drop Hitachi," Iventosch said. "We talk about what it will take to take out EMC in an account. Or if the partner sells NetApp and EMC, we'll talk about how to take out HDS. What we don't want to do is go to a partner with a significant business and do share-shifting."

Does NetApp want it both ways? Is what is good for NetApp good for Resellers? What is the best long term strategy for Reseller integrators and their end user customers? I doubt that short term sales incentives will ever be the best thing for end users, although it will produce lower prices.

The best solution for a NetApp customer who is looking for a new storage solution remains to call both NetApp and IBM and get competitive quotes. Sometimes NetApp salesman partner with a reseller for a sale, which means a customer can typically get a better price out of the IBM sales person, because there are less hands in the profit pie . Sometimes the NetApp salesperson and the IBM sales force partner, so getting different corporate divisions in different states to ask for similar systems can also produce large price differences, because of the way NetApp registers sales opportunities and different sales people are getting different sales incentives. If you are buying new NetApp storage - you should certainly get multiple quotes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another holiday weekend of catching up.

Reading the reports of NetApp's sales problems you would think that the storage industy was in a slump. But Zerowait's service and support contracts for NetApp legacy equipment continue to grow. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of them come down to an analysis by each individual customer that buying new NetApp equipment can't be price justified by the nominal increase in storage performance that buying new equipment from NetApp will provide them.

Additionally, many NetApp Nearstore (R100, R150, R200) customers are coming to Zerowait for service and support because NetApp's support prices are so high.

So when stock analysts say things like this:

"Though we subscribe to NetApp's macro-economic commentary, and our checks do coincide with company comments that an upward trend took place in April, we believe competitors will question whether competitive headwinds are incrementally surfacing for NetApp," said A.G. Edwards analyst Aaron Rakers, in a guidance note released today.

From our viewpoint the problems with NetApp's hardware sales have more to do with a lack of innovation and performance to justify the cost of their new equipment. Customers may be asking " Why not just keep the old equipment running and invest our money in our engineering staff" The enterprise storage market continues to commoditize, can NetApp compete in this market over the long term? Only time will tell.

Unlike NetApp, our business is booming & and our future is brilliant, so we will be catching up this weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Is new NetApp equipment more of a maintenance and support hog than Isilon?
According to this Wall Street Journal Article it might be.

For some companies, buying tech gear from a start-up is a first. Geophysical mapping firm Arcis Corp., for one, has always purchased its technology from big tech firms. But last year, it chose start-up Isilon, a Seattle-based network-storage company, to help improve how it stores and processes two-dimensional and three-dimensional images. Arcis, in Calgary, Canada, captures and analyzes images below the Earth's surface for oil and gas exploration. Over the years, the amount and size of data the company analyzed grew until it became difficult to maintain.

Arcis initially examined gear from large companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Network Appliance Inc., which both visited and conducted hour-long presentations about their equipment. But the products would have required Arcis to hire more information-technology personnel for maintenance. In contrast, Isilon's system was newer and didn't require much maintenance. "Their [Isilon's] technology was more innovative than all the other things we had seen, so we took a leap of faith," says Rob Howey, who oversees data processing for Arcis.

Many of Zerowait's customers have chosen to maintain and upgrade their NetApp storage using our service, support and parts upgrades. I wonder what were the people and performance factors that Arcis used in its evaluation of their different storage options. Did Arcis evaluate upgrading their NetApp using third party service and support? How much more efficient is Isilon then NetApp and where did Arcis go to get reliable comparison figures? Where can anyone go to find a formula that objectively evaluates Personnel, Price, Performance, and Power consumption for a storage subsytem?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Remote monitoring for the dispatch and deployment of parts and people.

Over the past few months the Zerowait staff has been very busy working on our ASP solution for remote monitoring. Remote monitoring and parts replacement has become more important as companies around the world are attempting to manage complex infrastructures built out of emerging technologies. As the number of discrete component parts increase each of these parts may become another single point of failure - and becomes another part of the solution and the problem.

The product which we call the ZHA Exception Reporter grew out of our own requirements. But as more products are calling home, and networks get more complex some of our customers began to ask if we could monitor their products also. In the last few weeks companies suddenly seemed to realize that their products need to call home also, and our ZHA Exception Reporter is really affordable and adaptable to monitoring autosupport messages from almost any component.

And so the product is beginning to blossom. If you are interested in a remote monitoring solution please give us a call, we would love to talk to you about our new product. Give us a call at 888.811.0808 - you will be glad you did!

Monday, May 21, 2007

My week in the United Kingdom was very interesting. The problems customers there have when dealing with NetApp on data migrations, upgrades and licensing are very similar to those that are experienced by NetApp customers in the USA. The customers we met with had all thought that NetApp had a monopolist's hold on parts, support and upgrades until the started working with Zerowait. One customer we met with checked with NetApp about transferable licensed filers, and much to the chagrin of his NetApp sales person found out that everything that we had been telling about transferable licensing was absolutely true.

Since most of Zerowait's business is the support of NetApp legacy equipment, which they no longer support we can't understand why they view us as competition. It was obvious to almost everyone I spoke with that NetApp makes money on Software support even if we provide the end user with hardware support. But NetApp is in the business of selling new disk drives, not maintaining support on older equipment or making older equipment more efficient. NetApp salesman on not paid commission on storage or energy efficiency but on selling more and bigger storage arrays.

When NetApp talks about how green they are, is it a statement of their salesman's commission check, their customers budget savings, or how much energy they are saving with their new storage solution?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

From The United Kingdom
Over the last few days I have been on a whirlwind tour of England visiting with our customers over here. I spent the last three days visiting customers in and around London, and tomorrow I will be visiting some customers up around Manchester. It has been a great trip so far, and everyone has been extremely friendly, and is interested in our legacy services and support for NetApp equipment. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the transferability of licenses and many of the people we met with have been given misinformation on license transferability, I tried to clear the issues up as much as I could. A lot of the folks I met with this week work for the European division of companies in the US that we already do business with. It was great to hear in person how they had heard about us and how happy they have been with our service and support.

Up until this trip I thought the most confusing street signs were in the city of Boston, however I think London is clearly tied for confusing building numbers and street signs. By the way, I recommend the Dog and Duck for some beers with customers and then a trip down the street to GoPal for some Indian food.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Secrets & Privacy are all things of the past. Digg is publishing software keys. Google is cataloging our private lives, and the banks are losing our private data. The articles below point to the problems with protecting your data, and your intellectual property. Who can you trust to keep a secret when everything is public information?

Update: Digg.com CEO says site is 'aligned with the users'
Users battle site, decrying 'censorship'; Digg executives bow to pressure
May 02, 2007 (Computerworld) -- Digg.com, the popular site where users determine the placement of new stories by voting, yesterday found itself in the center of what some are calling a test case for the power of user-generated content on social networking sites.

The brouhaha erupted when executives at Digg began removing posts that contained a software key needed to crack the encryption used to limit copying of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. Digg, which began removing the posts after it got a cease-and-desist letter from another company asserting that the posts violated its intellectual property rights, also began deleting user accounts of those posting the key.

April 30, 2007
Google Seeks Clearer Path to State Data

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 — Four states have joined forces with Google to make information from their Web sites more directly accessible through Internet searches.

Much of the public data on government Web sites — things like school rankings, contractor and real estate licenses and information on emergency and public health services — is easy to access through the sites themselves, but is not always readily available through Web search engines.

Google has been working with officials in Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia to make some of that information more broadly available, using a technological standard for exposing previously hidden Web pages.

The company said that over time it hoped to extend the partnership to other government agencies at the federal, state and local level. Since the Web standard has recently been recognized by all major search engines, like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask, the information would also be accessible through those services.

While the newly searchable data is already public, its wider dissemination could add fuel to a debate over how to balance personal privacy with the public’s right to access government records.

“These partnerships are among many that Google is pursuing with government agencies to better serve the public,” Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Internet users searching for jobs in Utah through a search engine may now find links to individual job postings that previously were available only through a database search on the site of the state’s department of work-force services. Similarly, a search on Virginia’s colonial history may deliver links to specific titles available at the state library.

In the state of California alone, more than 100,000 new Web pages, including some from extensive databases, will be available through search engines, said Clark Kelso, the state’s chief information officer.

Paul Taylor, chief strategy officer at the Center for Digital Government, a research and consulting company in California, said that the effort fits into a 40-year trend toward more transparency in government.

“I think it is good public policy,” Mr. Taylor said. “And it helps redeem a lot of effort that people have put in to make things accessible that haven’t been readily findable.”

But the increased exposure of government records through Web searches is likely to raise privacy concerns. A search for an individual, like perhaps a corporate executive, a celebrity or even a long-lost friend, may yield links not only to the usual public pages but also to property records, campaign contributions or court filings.

“It will be easier to collect disparate facts about a person which, bound together and aggregated, can present troubling problems,” said Chris Hoofnagle, senior staff lawyer at the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic, at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

J. L. Needham, manager of public sector content partnerships at Google, said that the company was sensitive to privacy issues, but noted that the new information that will be accessible through Web searches was already public.

J.P. Morgan Loses Clients' Data
May 1, 2007; Page D2

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has alerted thousands of its Chicago-area millionaire clients, as well as some of its own employees, that it can't locate a computer tape containing their account information and Social Security numbers.

The tape, which was in a locked container, was being transported from a bank location to an off-site facility last month when it went astray, a J.P. Morgan spokesman said. It isn't clear if the tape arrived at its destination or was lost along the way.

The tape contained data from J.P. Morgan's private-client services business, which provides financial services to clients who have a net worth of between $1 million and $25 million, the spokesman said. The tape also included data belonging to J.P. Morgan employees. Some 47,000 accounts were affected.

"There is no indication that data has been or will be used inappropriately," the spokesman said. In letters to clients, the bank also said that the data on the tape can't be read without special equipment.

Still, J.P. Morgan is offering clients a year of free credit monitoring and is advising them to pay close attention to their account statements.

It is the big bank's latest incident involving data that have gone astray. In September, the bank's credit-card unit notified 2.6 million current and former Circuit City account holders that computer tapes containing their personal information had been mistakenly thrown out. J.P. Morgan, which bought the Circuit City card portfolio in 2003, said at the time that it believed the tapes had been destroyed and buried in a landfill.

Over the past several years, companies and universities have been increasingly losing track of data contained on computer tapes. Often, though, these incidents don't result in criminal activity.

In February, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University said backup tapes containing personal data on more than 135,000 patients as well as current and former employees had been lost.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sun is getting ready to fight NetApp.

Watching the development of ZFS for the last few months this announcement was inevitable.

Sun to fry NetApp with FISH
Smells like NAS, dude
By Ashlee Vance in Mountain View

Sun Microsystems has a near-term NetApp assault in store code-named 'FISHworks.'

The FISH stands for “Fully Integrated Software and Hardware” and comes from work done by some of Sun's top software engineers over the past year.

The first run of the technology will see Sun bundle Solaris, the ZFS file system, DTrace and a number of other software packages together on a NAS (network attached storage)-like hardware system. Sun hopes to kick NetApp where it hurts, banking on the theory that no one wants a complex, proprietary storage OS in this day and age.

This could become a very interesting battle between Sillycon Valley companies, I wonder if NetApp will pull out all of the Sun equipment it has in its data centers? A lot of NetApp's resellers sell Sun Equipment. Will NetApp let its resellers sell competitive products from Sun?

It might be the time for NetApp's resellers to clarify the following comments from NetApp to see if they can sell Sun equipment and NetApp equipment as the Sun equipment comes to market.

Solution providers who do not take advantage of NetApp run the risk of being left behind as that company continues to grow rapidly, Warmenhoven said. "If that doesn't happen, you will be a less significant partner of ours," he said last week. "Let's scale together."

On Wednesday, he clarified his comments by saying that a lot of channel partners have the tendency to sell less value-added products. "There's quite a bit of disparity as to which partners take advantage of the opportunities and which do not," Warmenhoven said. "We want our channel partners to be representatives of NetApp. It's up to them to take the whole product line. Some, however, want to just flip the hardware, just take the P.O."

As NetApp's software sales continue to grow, solution providers who do not make software a part of their sales will lose out on many of the incentives NetApp offers, including training and rebate credits, Warmenhoven said. "We'll see more and more of our programs tilted that way," he said.

NetApp has no plans to punish or drop solution providers who don't focus more on storage sales. "They'll stay in the program because they do have a certain value to us," Warmenhoven said.

What is a solution provider to do if Sun makes a similar statement to them? At the end of the day, the customers will get a better price because of the competition between these two titans. Perhaps NetApp will be forced to remove the software storage limits on it Filers to meet the competition. That would be a smart move!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"Many a long dispute among divines may be thus abridged: It is so. It is not so. It is so. It is not so." -- Benjamin Franklin

Over the last few weeks we have experienced a substantial increase in NetApp customers calling us to see if they are getting the best value from NetApp for new equipment. We are fans of NetApp equipment but think that they certainly should lower their prices to remain competitive in the marketplace. In my opinion , Computer Storage is commoditizing and NetApp is still trying to sell their equipment at a premium. It reminds me of the pricing models of companies like WANG, DEC, and SGI, who went into a sudden decline.

According to Search Storage end users are starting to turn away from NetApp equipment based on value and price - and talking about it in public.

Arias evaluated 3 terabytes (TB) iSCSI boxes using SATA drives from Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), EMC Corp. and Siafu Software LLC on recommendation from his local value-added reseller (VAR). Siafu's Swarm IP storage area network (SAN) appliance stacked up well in pricing against an offering he got from an IBM reseller offering a NetApp box priced at between $50,000 and $60,000. "That was with refurbished drives, too, at a pretty deep discount."

Whether NetApp can change into a commodity storage vendor depends on whether they can cut their costs more. If they can't, they will join so many other companies that had a proprietary operating system that couldn't compete with cheaper solutions that emerged over time.

Only time will tell who wins this debate on storage valuations -Will NetApp win, or will their customers? In the long run I would bet on the customers and the marketplace.