Monday, November 26, 2007

Heading to Chicago

This week I will be in Chicago meeting with customers in the area and attending the RSNA show. Radiology creates large storage archives and managing these can stretch the budgets of healthcare IT departments to the breaking point. When budgets get tightened healthcare IT departments start to call Zerowait for an affordable solution to the costs associated with their storage infrastructure.

IT departments are beginning to recognize that keeping their HIPAA compliant images on spinning media for the long term is getting very expensive because there is an upward spiraling cost of administration and system upgrades, but there is also a recognition that the costs of maintaining and keeping disks spinning costs a bundle of money also.

This week at the conference we will be talking to our customers about how to stretch their budgets using transferable licensed filers, and switching to our third party hardware support and services. Nothing new here, just trying to help our customers get the most out of their IT budgets.

It should be an interesting conference.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NetApp Changes Course again,

Happy Thanksgiving!

NetApp is redefining its Channel Commitment again. Does anyone see a pattern here?
3:11 PM EST Wed. Nov. 21, 2007
That lack of services commitment to the channel has hurt partners, said one major NetApp solution provider who asked to not be identified.

"Their professional services people have been competing with VARs for the last four years," the solution provider said. "We've been almost in direct competition. We have four fully certified engineers who every time they turn around they see NetApp selling services direct. So it's good news if things are changing."

Things are indeed changing, Iventosch said.
NetApp's Boundary Lines
Mar. 04, 2005
Network Appliance (NSDQ:NTAP) is defining which customers can and cannot be approached by its direct-sales reps, CRN has learned.

Under the forthcoming Hard Deck program, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor of SAN and NAS products will work with its channel managers and district sales managers to determine which customers throughout North America will be named accounts targeted mainly by direct sales and which will be channel-exclusive, said Leonard Iventosch, NetApp's vice president of Americas channel sales.
DATE: 17-SEP-2007
Channel Programs Need to Be Designed for Solution Providers, Not Vendors

Network Appliance is hoping to change the foundation of how it works with the channel. Other vendors' channel program executives should watch carefully.

The second compelling aspect of the program is that NetApp is piloting a professional service program designed to empower solution providers to sell their own services under a NetApp logo. NetApp is building out a series of services methodologies that it will certify its partners on the end customer knows they can have confidence in the services provided by the solution provider. Longer term, NetApp plans to increasingly compensate its own services people based more on partner satisfaction in order to stimulate the right kind of approach to the channel."

Maybe a real change of direction is needed? How about putting Dave Hitz back in engineering and deciding on either a channel strategy or a direct strategy, the competition between the two competing sales forces is not good for anyone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Troubles in the financial world may be hitting the technology sector

As a business owner I am often given the responsibility for trying to make a forecast based on information I am receiving from my employees, customers and vendors. Having had some background in Economics, I always try to remember that Economists have forecasted about eight of the last three recessions : ) .

I am leery of making forecasts only on News reports, because the media makes sales by telling us how bad things are, which I understand is why local news starts with the latest murders in a city like Philadelphia. Telling us how beautiful the leaves are with pictures might not keep people glued to their TV sets as long, and ad sales may suffer.

But even while keeping this in mind , there seems to be a steadily increasing level of news about technology layoffs.

Finance's Troubles Infect Tech
As Wall Street's giants take massive writedowns, fears are growing about the impact on technology budgets
by Heather Green
How hard are the troubles in the finance sector going to hit tech? Since technology companies rely heavily on Wall Street, it's been a growing question as financial giants have taken one massive hit after another.

Now, the answer is starting to emerge. On Nov. 7, Cisco (CSCO) reported fiscal first-quarter earnings and CEO John Chambers disappointed investors with a softer-than-expected outlook for the rest of the year, in large part because of the financial sector. "In the U.S. and the enterprise [markets], we did see some softness," Chambers said. "The finance vertical was the one hardest hit."

E-Loan Eliminates 400 Jobs
Posted by Keith C. Smith on Nov 13 2007 06:49:01 PST
The floodwaters of the mortgage crisis have swept onto the internet’s shores as E-Loan announced yesterday its layoff of 400 employees.

410 employees at the company’s Pleasanton, Calif., headquarters were notified last Friday that they would be dismissed after 60 days. The headquarters currently employs 925 people.

E-Loan intends to jettison 410 of the roughly 925 jobs at its headquarters in the East Bay, said Laurie Azzano, a spokeswoman for Pleasanton-based E-Loan.

AOL's Falco Says 2,000 Layoffs
By Tammi Marcoullier at 11:34 a.m., October 15, 2007 (Updated at 1:58 p.m., October 15, 2007)
Over the next couple of months, AOL will lay off 2,000 people out of a worldwide workforce of 10,000, according to a letter to company employees sent by CEO Randy Falco today. These staff reductions begin tomorrow, as have long been rumored throughout the company and in the blogsphere. The Associated Press is reporting that about 750 staff will be cut from Northern Virginia offices, including former headquarters in Dulles; 1,200 total in the U.S.

Boston Scientific starts planned layoffs of workers
Boston Scientific Corp., which recently said it will eliminate 2,300 jobs worldwide, has begun letting workers go. But both the Natick medical device maker and the state have declined to say how many of the cuts are being made in Massachusetts.

Lawrence Livermore Lab will lay off 500 workers
LIVERMORE - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be laying off 500 employees over the next month as the nuclear weapons research facility trims costs following a change in management, a lab spokeswoman said.

Reports: Seagate to lay off 900 workers in Ireland Seagate Technology Inc. said it will lay off more than 900 employees in its Northern Ireland operations, according to reports Monday.

In this atmosphere it is refreshing to know that our company's growth is solid and I forecast that it will continue to grow. Because as budgets tighten companies look for an affordable reliable alternative for their hardware service and support.

Monday, November 12, 2007

How a recession can affect your storage infrastructure

Many storage clients are worried about how they will manage increasing storage demands when their budgets get cut. This is a legitimate concern, because purchasing new equipment will get harder as Capital Expenditure budgets get pinched in a recession or by inflation.

"A Wall Street superstar this year who runs Balestra Capital Partners, Jim Melcher, says he's "worried about a recession. Not a normal one, but a very bad one. The worst since the 1930s. I expect we'll see clear signs of it in six months with a dramatic slowdown in the gross domestic product."

"Noting that consumption is already slowing, Mr. Melcher figures sharply rising unemployment is inevitable. Another of his worries is that central banks around the globe, America's included, are debasing their currencies, which is setting the stage for a new round of higher inflation."

Maintaining older equipment may pay for the time being, because of the leveling of processor speeds as seen in this WSJ article ,

"The great plateau has had a drastic effect on chip sales. There is less reason for computer users to replace their hardware and little reason for hardware companies to buy the most advanced chips, which are the most profitable for chip makers. "

Legacy NetApp users may actually be able to provide better database performance by keeping their older equipment running longer. The best example is the FAS980 customer who can keep adding 72 GB and 144 GB spindles all the way up to 674 disks, and save a bundle over a newer unit. If you are looking for a long term storage solution and your company is worried about the risks of inflation and recession, perhaps it is time to review your current storage infrastructure. The question to ask your storage vendor is how can you provide our company more storage with less money to invest?

Zerowait has some of these answers.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Now when I buy the latest and greatest, the performance goes down," Mr. Singleterry said. "This has never happened in the past."

Storage is not the only computer application where vendors are unable to take advantage of ever increasing speeds of processors as the Wall Street Journal notes:

"Other users are running into problems already. Robert Singleterry Jr., a researcher at National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Langley Research Center, studies the potential effects of space radiation on astronauts. His software depends heavily on each chip's clock speed -- a contributor to computing speed, measured in gigahertz -- and has seen disappointing test results based on quad-core chips with slower clock speeds than dual-core chips.

"Now when I buy the latest and greatest, the performance goes down," Mr. Singleterry said. "This has never happened in the past." "

The urgency to purchase new equipment from manufacturers has diminished without the steady speed increase. This change provides a great bargaining chip to the purchaser of new storage equipment.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Archive solutions will require a long term commitment.

American Heritage Dictionary -
ar·chive (är'kīv') Pronunciation Key
1. A place or collection containing records, documents, or other materials of historical interest. Often used in the plural: old land deeds in the municipal archives.
2. Computer Science
1. A long-term storage area, often on magnetic tape, for backup copies of files or for files that are no longer in active use.
2. A file containing one or more files in compressed format for more efficient storage and transfer.
3. A repository for stored memories or information: the archive of the mind.

Will NetApp partner with anyone for the long term? It is a reasonable question to ask from a company that wants to provide you with a long term data archive solution. A simple search on Google reveals a few contradictions as to whether there is a long term commitment from NetApp regarding partnerships.

10:41 AM EDT Mon. Jul. 21, 2003
"CRN Interview: Dan Warmenhoven, Network Appliance
By Joseph F. Kovar
Last week, Network Appliance said it would for the first time sell products through distribution--via agreements with Arrow Electronics' North American Computer Products group and Avnet Hall-Mark--to serve the bulk of its existing solution provider community and to attract more channel partners. Company CEO Dan Warmenhoven spoke to CRN Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar about the distribution move, the channel and EMC/Legato.

CRN: Why the push through distribution?

Warmenhoven: It's the next stage in expanding our channel partnerships. Over the last few years, we've developed a set of global partnerships with firms like IBM Global Services and Accenture. Last year, we got into what we consider 'Star' partners like Forsythe, Datalink and a few others. And we just felt it was time to move on to the next stage.

We've had a number of regional VARs, probably in the neighborhood of about 100, that we have developed in parallel with our Star partners. And it was really time to provide a consolidated way to interface with them and provide additional support to them. "

05 November, 2007 12:38:14
"NetApp cuts distribution ties with Avnet and Lan 1 in favour of a sole partnership with SAN Systems"

kayleigh bateman, CRN 05 Nov 2007
"NetApp looks to boost channel sales
Vendor looks to increase 60 per cent rate"

A data archive is going to take a long term commitment to parts and service, therefore researching your storage solution vendors commitments to long term partnerships should reveal whether they will be able to provide parts and service for the long term.

Therefore I suggest 2 simple questions that you ask your storage archive salesperson....
1) How long will I be able to purchase parts for this system after I put it in service, will you commit to parts availability for 7 or 10 years?
2) Mr Vendor does your service and support commitment match the American Heritage definition?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"I paid too much for it, but it's worth it." Samuel Goldwyn

I was visiting with some customers in North Carolina for the last couple of days and each of them is very satisfied with their current NetApp hardware but they are experiencing indigestion when they look at what it will cost to buy new NetApp equipment.

One customer is looking at purchasing a PACS system for their medical image archive, but they are quite concerned about the cost of software and hardware from EMC and NetApp. Most of the medical image archive systems we have seen over the last year or two don't seem to use much processor and have very low OPS requirements. That is because the nature of a medical image is to be looked at soon after it was taken and then exponentially looked at less and less over time, unless there is a lawsuit or a research project a few years after the image was taken it probably will never be looked at again. So why keep these images on energy eating spinning disk?

What this type of client wants is a stable system that can be supported for the long term, 10 years into the future or more. But the storage array manufacturers they have spoken to so far want to put them on the 24 month or 36 month upgrade cycle. Over ten years that means at least a few data migrations which are quite costly. But these clients also need to know what is it going to cost to keep all these disks powered up over ten years? And where can they get a accurate reports on how SATA disks will hold up for a ten year life span?

Maintaining images on near line disk storage is going to get costly as these archives grow. Someone needs to address the costs of power and the failure rates of drives and electrical components over the long term. Where will the storage archive manager get a 300 GB SATA drive 9 or 10 years from now when one of his disks fails?

How many 10 year old NetApp filers are still running? It is hard to get certain power supply parts for the NetApp F630 which are ten years old. We have heard that NetApp doesn't ship 10K 72GB drives anymore. What makes people think these manufacturers will support 10 year old image archive equipment?