Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dell to Manufacture Vordel’s XML Networking Appliances

Dell which has built systems for many smaller companies for years is rapidly expanding the service and support for the appliances it bulds for companies.

Katherine Bennett, Director, Dell EMEA ISG said: “This announcement today with Vordel is another example of Dell’s innovative approach of working with companies to enable them to achieve greater supply chain efficiencies, enhanced global support and ultimately, offer significant value to their customer base.”

What is interesting is that there are companies like Tallmaple that are making it easier and easier for companies to build appliance solutions based on their platform.

Creating an internet appliance typically takes your development team the better part of a year just to design, implement, and test the software elements. Significant time is spent handling the base operating system, build system, packaging, licensing, and manufacturing the product, and as new features are added they further extend the base appliance’s functionality.

It is interesting to see the convergence of these developments, where a company can use a development package to accelerate the development process and use Dell or a similar company to create the marketable product.

It is an interesting time and I think that there will be a lot of storage companies embracing this technology and convergence to create :
NAS and SAN Storage Servers
Database and Data Warehouse Network Appliances

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Data Security in a Recession

There are quite a few articles in the news today about the vulnerability of corporate data in light of the downturn in the economy. One of the highlights was that former employees may try to use their downloaded information to try to secure a new position.

• More than half the workers surveyed who admitted to already downloading competitive corporate data said they would use it as a negotiating tool to secure their next post because they know the information will be useful to future employers.

This does not surprise me because one of the first things mentioned when a salesman is looking for a job is that he has a "Roladex of information of names and addresses". It is still common that when a Senator or Congressman leaves office, they quickly get jobs with defense and government contractors, because of their contacts.

I recall hearing about a former VP at a big storage vendor that got a new job recently and was using his contact list to sign up new resellers, and also hiring sales people that had a great list so that they could quickly ramp up sales.

When a company hires a new CEO, they typically look for someone who can bring with them the trust relationships that are required to move a company forward.

I don't think this is a new story, perhaps the technology has changed, but when folks leave they take data with them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shrinking storage budgets projected for 2009

According to a press release this morning storage budgets are expected to decrease in 2009. It will be interesting to see what happens with acquisitions and maintenance budgets in 2009.

Fortune 1000 Enterprise Organizations to See 14% Decrease in 2009 Storage Budgets -- New Research From TheInfoPro
Last update: 9:01 a.m. EST Dec. 18, 2008NEW YORK, NY, Dec 18, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- TheInfoPro (TIP),, an independent research network and leading supplier of market intelligence for the Information Technology (IT) industry, today announced new findings on 2009 storage budgets among Fortune 1000 (F1000) enterprises. According to this new research, the average F1000 organization is facing a 14% decrease in its 2009 budget.

In addition, 68% of companies expect to spend less in 2009 -- with only 21% of those interviewed planning to spend more than $10M, an almost 10% drop from 2008. Financial Services continues to be a weak sector, with 68% of respondents expecting to decrease storage spending. However, 75% of Technology organizations and 63% of Manufacturers also cite significant declines in 2009 spending levels.

Key Findings include:
-- Thirty-two percent (32%) spent less in 2008 as compared with the amount that had originally been budgeted, bringing the average 2008 spend to $10.7 million.

-- Only 32% of clients expect to spend the same or more in 2009 vs. 2008
-- down from 81% in the 2008 vs. 2007 period.
-- The average 2009 budget cut vs. actual 2008 spending represents a 14% decrease.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bad signs for a 2009 chip recovery

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the forecast for the chip business next year, and it is pretty grim.

Many semiconductor makers were suffering from plummeting prices and excess production capacity even before the recession's impact began to be felt in September. Conditions appear to have worsened significantly through the fall.

Gartner forecast Tuesday a 4.4% drop in world-wide semiconductor revenue for the year, based on a sudden drop in orders that it expects to trigger a 24.4% plunge in revenue for the fourth quarter. In mid-November, the firm had projected industry revenue would grow 0.2% this year.
Gartner now expects revenue to decline 16.3% in 2009, marking the first time sales have fallen in back-to-back years for chip companies.

"It's just like falling off a cliff," said Amy Leong, a Gartner analyst, of the shift in order rates.

A survey of 85 semiconductor executives by KPMG, scheduled for release Wednesday, reinforces the pattern. The firm, which provides accounting and advisory services to chip makers, says 52% of those surveyed in November predicted revenue to fall in 2009.

Some 70% of the executives surveyed in November expect their companies to decrease their global work force in the next 12 months, and 48% see research and development spending falling.

Quite a few chip manufacturing companies and chip design companies have been our customers over the years, because modeling chips takes a lot of storage. Therefore, Zerowait has been working with chip companies for many years to support their storage infrastructures. During the last downturn in their market we helped a few of them weather the economic storms. It seems like industry is entering another rough period now, and we are working with some of them to help them through 2009.

2009 may be a hard time to be in the electronics commodity business.

"The key for a recovery in the global chip sector is demand, not supply. Unless the amount of global chip supply is cut to more than half from the current level, it looks hard to expect a turnaround in chip prices without a recovery in demand," said Kim Hyun-joong, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

NetApp closing Haifa development center

NetApp to close Haifa development center

Shmulik Shelah9 Dec 08 14:39
Network storage solutions provider NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) is set to close its Israeli development center in Haifa, which has 60 employees. The center is based on start-up Topio, which NetApp acquired in 2006 for $160 million in cash.

The following article on the purchase of Topio was published on 11/08/2006. Times certainly have changed.

NetApp Grabs TopioDrops $160 million,
following EMC's recent data protection pickupsNetwork Appliance moved to beef up its data protection software today by acquiring replication startup Topio for $160 million. (See NetApp Pockets Topio.)

Topio is NetApp's answer to EMC's $153 million pickup of replication and CDP startup Kashya last May. (See EMC Coughs Up for Kashya.) EMC plunked down another $165 million on data de-duplication vendor Avamar last week. (See EMC Picks Up Avamar.)
Topio's Data Protection Suite (TDPS) enables replication between different vendors' hardware, a capability NetApp plans to use to let customers replicate and migrate data from EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Hitachi Data Systems arrays to its own. ......

Apparently, NetApp's management sees an opportunity to grow a promising product line. "We can accelerate the growth of this technology," Rogers says. "What's most important is the development team. They come from the IBM mainframe world, and they're good at doing efficient wide area replication." Rogers says NetApp can put more resources into sales and developing future releases of the product that Topio would be able to on its own.

Regarding the value of Topio, one source with knowledge of the company says it was generating "a few million dollars" in revenue each quarter, mostly through a partnership with IBM Global Services, which is likely to continue under NetApp's management. Topio had $21.1 million in funding over three rounds, with the last round of $8 mllion coming in April of 2005. (See Topio Taps $8M.)

"NetApp paid a lot," says the source. "But they may have been feeling the pressure after EMC got Avamar."
NetApp expects the deal to close in December. Rogers says Topio's 60 employees, including founder and CEO Yoram Novick, will be offered jobs. NetApp will retain Topio's R&D site in Haifa, Israel, and the employees in Topio's Santa Clara, Calif., office will move to NetApp's Sunnyvale office.

I wonder what happened to the promise of the technology, as it does not look like any employees were added in the last two years to the operations in Haifa.

UPDATE -- 12/11/08
NetApp discontinues replication app December 9th, 2008 by Dave Raffo
NetApp today quietly pulled the plug on its SnapMirror for Open Systems (SMOS) heterogeneous data replication software, acquired from startup Topio for $160 million in 2006.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Interesting interview with Sunoco's CIO

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on how Sunoco's CIO is trying to stretch his budget dollars.

I have cut and pasted some parts of the article here.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: How is the economy affecting the information-technology world?

MR. WHATNELL: It's having a huge impact. Basically you've had to throw away any plan you've put together prior to the end of August and start over again. It's caught a lot of people by surprise and now we have to quickly adjust our plans for next year [because much less money is available for new projects], not just for the state of the overall economy but for our individual companies' outlook.
[The Journal Report: Technology] Julian Puckett

WSJ: How do you decide which projects make the cut when you're tightening your budget?

MR. WHATNELL: They tend to be those things that save money rather than those that make money. It's not that you don't want to make money. It's that cost-saving projects tend to be easier to measure and are more predictable because you are not dependent on the vagaries of how a customer is going to behave to a new product or how a distributor is going to react to a new channel. I think that is the reality of working [in] tough times.

WSJ: What is a project that you are cutting?

MR. WHATNELL: We have a standard refresh rate for equipment: every four years for desktops; every three years for laptops. We stopped doing that in May and we won't resurrect that plan again probably until the spring of 2010.

[Refreshing computers] improved our reliability and our ability to have standardized rollouts. It was only when we were trying to tighten our belts earlier this year that we asked ourselves, "What would happen if we didn't get new PCs for 15 months? And was anyone actually complaining that they couldn't deliver a product, that they couldn't get cash to a bank, that they couldn't execute a trade because their computer was too old?" Of course not.

WSJ: How important is it to network with colleagues in the industry?

MR. WHATNELL: I think it is critical. It's where a lot of ideas come from. It doesn't even have to be your industry. You could hear someone from a health system talking about how they use mobile devices to enable doctors to access medical information and you think, "I could use that same approach to help engineers who are working on a refinery site."

WSJ: Are you forthcoming when you talk to colleagues or are you worried about protecting competitive secrets?

MR. WHATNELL: I think there is a realization now that competitiveness does not derive from the raw technology. The competitive advantage doesn't come from having the same set of Lego bricks that everyone else has access to. It comes from taking that set of Lego bricks and understanding how they can be put together to understand specific issues that your business is facing in your industry. And how you put them together will be very different from someone else in a different company, even though they are a competitor.

The source of competitive advantage is knowing how IT can help your business. You should to be able to ask any CIO: Are you able to describe in three minutes or less how your company makes money? To me that's where it starts. And the answer isn't "we're in retail" or "we're in the insurance business" or "we're an oil company," because everyone is in retail or the insurance business or is an oil company.

WSJ: What is your biggest challenge and how are you using technology to do something about it?

MR. WHATNELL: The biggest challenge for us is that we are a commodity business in a mature industry. So the challenge is how we can, over the next 15 months, focus on our core activities so that we can be the low-cost provider in our industry. At a time when people are looking to reduce and to cut, how can we create an environment where the business wants to listen to IT about what we can do to cut expenses, to reduce their cycle time and improve their agility. Rather than just have them say, "You have to cut as well." We have an obligation to look at ourselves to find all the places where we can take cost out of the organization. The instinct in challenging times is to cut, cut, cut. But what is much more challenging is doing that and then leaving yourself in a position to talk to the business about how we can help.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Competition for quality service & support

Providing high quality service and support for NetApp equipment is a hard business. Even the folks at NetApp admit that it is hard.

“There was nothing about this part of our business that was working,” says Rusty Walther, senior vice president of global support for NetApp. “The costs were out of control. The performance was bad. Support training was bad. There were no incentives to do well and no penalties for poor performance.”

“On a daily basis, we would get angry messages from customers telling us what a bad job our TPMs were doing,” Walther says.

NetApp decided that the best answer was to outsource its support to IBM, and it seems to work for them. Meanwhile, our business keeps growing which may mean that there are still some customers not satisfied with the OEM service and support, or the pricing models, that the NetApp IBM team is using.

I wonder how the NetApp resellers feel about having their competitor - IBM - provide service and support to their end user customers. Perhaps it doesn't matter because NetApp has a history of nasty divorces from their partners as is evidenced by their agreements with Dell, Hitachi, Eurologic and so many others. The question to ask is: How long is this marriage going to last?

Zerowait provides outstanding support, as the reference letter below sent by an old customer to a new one shows .

We have been a Zerowait customer for approximately three years and I must say the service is second to none. We switched from NetApp to Zerowait and the differences were stark. Zerowait not only cut our costs substantially, but the talent, knowledge and willingness to assist was superior to NetApp (at least that was my experience). Don’t be suspect of Zerowait’s references as when I checked them out, the feedback was so glowing that I wondered if these were really legitimate customers. After switching, my suspicions were unfounded as I began experiencing what the others were telling me and to my surprise; the service was indeed exceptional. I have used them to go on-site, recover data from drives that was thought to be unrecoverable, training and remote technical support. If Zerowait says they can do something, you can take that to the bank. In my opinion, the switch to Zerowait is not a risk at all. I hope this answers your question.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a great time of the year to say thank you to all of Zerowait's customers and friends. It is also a good time to look back and recognize how lucky I was personally to grow up in Delaware and have the ability to start a company with just an idea. My idea has grown into an international company thanks to the hard work and determination of our team members to satisfy our customers needs.

Often the hardest part of getting any company off the ground is learning how to communicate your ideas clearly. Dave Hitz, the founder of NetApp was featured in Entrepreneur magazine recently and noticed the same thing, and states in the magazine that communication skills were very important to growing his company.

When a company is little, there's just a handful of you. It's relatively simple to get that group of people to figure out where they are going. As the company grows, one of the biggest challenges is to get all of the people headed in the same direction. To accomplish that, you need to be a loudmouth, and I mean that broadly. You need to talk, you need to write. Writing is an extremely powerful tool. It helps you test your thinking. Writing is also a great way of communicating to lots of people at once. I started a blog and I've written papers that I call future histories, which are my best attempts to describe how I think the world is going to look three years out, sometimes further.

Dave clearly is a visionary and a very good writer, it is a good time of the year to say thanks to Dave for helping to create a new market sector.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I am in Canada for a few days of visiting customers here. Just like so many of our customers, the Canadians know that NetApp makes great products, they call Zerowait because they need an affordable way to expand and maintain their storage infrastructure. As things tighten in the world economy more companies are calling us to maintain their Filers, and so even in this strange economic time our business is good.

As companies begin to watch where their budget dollars go, they look for easy ways to cut costs. And our company offers a very easy way to cut the costs of your storage maintenance budget. Our history and references prove that we are the best high availability alternative to the OEM for service and support.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A setting Sun?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sun Microsystems is planning a 15% cut in its workforce. Perhaps one of the major problems for Sun is that its sales force and margins are based on selling proprietary hardware. And like most products their customers pushed for commoditization over time. Linux was a commodity priced solution that pushed Sun over the edge. Economic models that go back to to Adam Smith's have made sense for hundreds of years because they keep passing the test of time. If Sun can figure out how to make money with its Thumper products selling them as a commodity solution they may re emerge in a stronger position.

As I have written previously, there is a customer niche for the product.

The Silicon Valley computer maker said the moves, which include organizational changes aimed at bolstering its software business, will reduce costs by approximately $700 million to $800 million annually. It expects to incur total charges in the range of $500 million to $600 million over the next 12 months from the restructuring, of which it expects to incur approximately $375 million to $450 million within its current fiscal year 2009.
Sun has been struggling to reverse sagging sales, a depressed stock price and other problems. Sun reported a $1.68 billion loss in its fiscal first quarter ended in September, and has faced pressure from Wall Street to make substantial cost cuts. The company's revenue, which dropped 7%, was triggered partly by a drop in sales of its high-end server systems, which use a proprietary chip technology called Sparc.
Sun is battling to find a consistent formula for growth since the Internet boom, when it supplied computers to power Web sites. But most of that business shifted to lower-priced systems that use x86 chips, designed by Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Sun now sells those machines, too, but its growth with those products has not been able to make up for slowing growth of its Sparc line.
More recently, Sun was among the first technology companies to feel the effects of the slump on Wall Street. The company has long relied heavily on sales to the financial services industry.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A new type of network appliance

One of my friends sent me this patent to see if it was something that our company would be interested in. After reading the abstract and summary it reinforced my belief that there are several applications in the world where a network appliance fits in to a high availability architecture, but there always needs to be a balance between infrastructure complexity and stability.

If you are interested in what another California inventor has conjured up, read on.

United States Patent Application 20080016570


The method analyzes unauthorized intrusion into a computer network. Access is allowed through one or more open ports to one or more virtualized decoy operating systems running on a hypervisor operating system hosted on a decoy network device. This may be done by opening a port on one of the virtualized decoy operating systems. A network attack on the virtualized operating system is then intercepted by an introspection module running on the hypervisor operating system. The attack-identifying information is communicated through a private network interface channel and stored on a database server as forensic data. A signature-generation engine uses this forensic data to generate a signature of the attack. An intrusion prevention system then uses the attack signature to identify and prevent subsequent attacks. A web-based visualization interface facilitates configuration of the system and analysis of (and response to) forensic data generated by the introspection module and the signature generation engine, as well as that stored in the processing module's relational databases.


One or more embodiments of the invention are directed to an improved method and system for protecting computer networks. In one embodiment, the invention comprises a modular decoy network appliance, which runs fully functional operating systems on client hardware modules. The modular arrangement comprises front-end fully functional operating system modules and a separate processing back-end module.

The front-end presents a standard fully functional operating system, such as Windows® or a flavor of Linux®, or Sun Microsystems Solaris® that returns a standard operating system fingerprint when it is scanned by tools that attackers typically use to identify vulnerable systems. The attacker is thus lured into accessing the identified operating system and running custom or known exploits on that system.

The front-end module includes a sentinel kernel driver (or a more generalized executable module) that is hidden from system scanners as it is removed from kernel module listings or registry in Windows. Thus, the kernel does not indicate the sentinel kernel driver is running. The sentinel kernel driver monitors connections to the operating system as well as activity on the operating system and activity on services running on the operating system. When an attacker connects to a port, the sentinel kernel driver captures the data coming through the socket. Generally all relevant data coming through the socket is captured. In most cases this means whatever data is received as part of an incoming attack is captured by the sentinel driver. Captured data is sent as a slew of common UDP packets to the back end processing module over the fabric network connection separate from the vulnerable front-end modules. In this manner, there is no way for the intruder to know that his or her communications with the operating system are being analyzed.

The captured data, which contains the attack-identifying information, is sent to the back-end or processing module though the backplane fabric of the appliance using Layer 2 Ethernet communication protocol. The processing module is separate and independent from the client operating system modules and communicates the processed information to security administrators through a network port connected to the private and secure VLAN. Unbeknownst to the intruder, the exploit is thus captured, transferred and analyzed.

With the received data, the processing module generates a report of the attack. The report consists of user-friendly information that paints a picture of the attack for a system administrator. This may include information on which sockets were accessed, what happened at a particular socket, the key strokes entered or bytes transferred to the port, what files were transferred, registry changes, how the attack was run, what happened on the primary network, on its servers or how the network services were affected. The report may also include information on the location of the attacker or the attacker's service provider. Graphical representations of key information and interactive mapping of the attack locales by region or country may be utilized in one or more embodiments of the invention.

The processing module is used to generate an attack signature by analyzing all the data passed through the socket. The signature is generated by analyzing the attack payload including the keystrokes or transferred bytes and any files uploaded to the client operating system of an ASCII or binary nature. The files uploaded are assumed to be of a malicious nature created to deliver a malicious payload in the form of a compiled program or an interpreted script. In the event that no malicious files are uploaded to the operating system, the signature generation engine analyzes all the keystrokes or bytes delivered through the socket and creates a pattern signature which when applied to an IDS or IPS system, enables the IDS or IPS systems to detect the attack if repeated on production systems. Once generated, the attack signatures can be viewed by a system administrator to determine the appropriate course of action. The system administrator can instruct the signature to be uploaded to the intrusion detection system (IDS) or intrusion prevention system (IPS) for the protected network where it is added to the IDS's or IPS's library of signatures to protect production systems. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the signature may be uploaded or saved in a third party system that maintains all known exploits. In this manner, other systems may be notified through secure channels of an impending threat. For example, by transferring the signature to a centralized server that communicates with multiple installations, the intruder may be thwarted before attacking other systems in other companies.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sun's Amber Road ZFS solution

The Wall Street Journal today has a short article on the Sun ZFS solution. We have some customers who have switched to the Sun Thumper solution and for their smaller storage applications they seem to like it. Other customers are working with home brewed ZFS on BSD solutions and finding a few places where it fits into their infrastructure.

With budgets tightening more customers are looking at ways to cut their storage acquisition and maintenance costs and the Sun solution seems to fit for a portion of these customers.

I think the following points from the article are the most interesting:

1) Sun Monday is introducing its latest family of hardware based on a concept it calls "open storage," which avoids proprietary technology in favor of standard components and open-source software that can be modified by users. Sun says the "open" approach, among other things, makes its products less expensive and more flexible than competing offerings.

2) Sun's storage hardware relies heavily on what it calls the Zettabyte file system, which is software that manages how data files are named and stored. By offering ZFS as a free open-source program, Sun hopes to build a community of companies and developers, such as exists for the open-source Linux operating system.

3) Sun earns revenue by selling services around it's open-source software, which is free to download and use, as well as by selling related hardware.

Time will tell what the marketplace thinks of the solution. Based on customer comments that we have heard over the last year about ZFS, I think there is a market for a commodity based solution for enterprise storage.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An interesting data point

John Chambers of Cisco is forecasting a decline in sales.

Sales will decline as much as 10 percent in the second quarter, which ends in January, Chambers said yesterday on a conference call. In August, he predicted a gain of 8.5 percent from a year earlier.
Business changed course after the credit crunch hit, pushing October orders down 9 percent, Chambers said, adding that his comfort level with the forecast was the lowest since the dot-com bust in 2000. Chambers plans to save $1 billion in
costs over the next three quarters by curbing hiring, business travel and relocations.

When Cisco has to tighten its belt, people notice. Zerowait can help lower operating costs for companies and we look forward to working with many more companies to show them how they can operating costs while maintaining their High Availability Service levels.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cloud computing can be stormy

Cloud Computing seems to be the 'hot' term now. But it seems like it might turn into another way for vendor's to lock customers into their services.

Service providers won't admit this, but once they've got your data, they'll try to find ways to lock you in and keep you from switching to another provider. Ultimately, we users may have to make a trade-off -- sacrificing some degree of freedom and control in exchange for convenience. If the alternative is the mess we have today, that trade-off may look appealing.

Before you let your data get locked into a service provider, you better make certain that the company that has your data can meet your data recovery requirements and your data security requirements. For example not all clients will feel comfortable with their data being mixed in aggregates with other customers' data. Providing security for your corporate data may be more important than the convenience of the solution pitched to you by the Cloud storage provider. How can you be certain that your Cloud storage provider's employees meet your personnel screening requirements?

Everyone should ask their Cloud storage provider the following questions:
1) "Who has the keys to my company's most valuable data?"
2) " Do the employees meet our company's security requirements?"
3) " Do they meet the requirements of any government contracts we have"
4) " Where is the data physically located if we need to take possession of it quickly"
5) " What is the cost if we need to take possession of our data "

Clouds often mask the important visual clues that you need to make informed decisions, without a good set of instruments it may be hard to interpret the information you are given by the Cloud storage provider.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NetApp Cancels Conference, why not make it a Job Fair?

Everyone seems to have noticed that NetApp has canceled its much hyped Customer Conference. The NetApp folks are blaming the economy. It is interesting that NetApp is saying that their customers are unable to travel to the customer conference, because of travel restrictions caused by the economy.

"NetApp said in a statement that the cancellation was caused by "customer feedback about increasing restrictions on corporate travel," as well as "today's climate of economic uncertainty."

Admittedly Zerowait's customer conference in Reno in September was a smaller event than NetApp was planning. But our customers had a great time and learned from each other how to maximize their NetApp infrastructure and get the most out of their storage investments. At the conference we had frank discussions on how to extend their NetApp equipment's life cycle and get more value from their storage. So by traveling to our conference our customers learned new techniques for saving their companies substantial amounts of money.

In light of the economic situation that caused NetApp to cancel their conference perhaps they can recast it as a job fair for customers who are losing their jobs, or a conference that will show their clients how to save their budgets? At the least a Job Fair would be a great way for NetApp to help their loyal customers that understand their technology find new positions in commercial sectors that are still growing.

Zerowait is still growing, and we are always looking for qualified candidates to help us with the service and support of NetApp equipment around the world. If you are a highly qualified NetApp engineer please send us your qualifications, we may be able to help you and a customer of ours.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Correlation or coincidence?

Why is it that so many of the big companies that are getting into trouble in the current economic environment are NetApp customers? Is there a correlation or is it just coincidence? Below are three examples which illustrate the linkage:

First, let's look at Yahoo which is currently experiencing some difficulties....

Yahoo is laying off 1500 employees and they are a big user of NetApp.

"Yahoo is bracing for a deep downturn likely to extend well into 2009 by trimming $400 million from its annual expenses of $3.9 billion. Besides shedding 1,500 workers during the next two months, Yahoo may close some of its U.S. offices and assign more jobs to lower-paid contractors in other countries. "We are going into what is very clearly a recession mode," Blake Jorgensen, Yahoo's chief financial officer, said in a Tuesday interview. "

NetApp has been very proud of its long relationship with Yahoo

"NetApp is proud to be the network file server of choice for Yahoo! e-mail. If you'd like more information about NetApp file servers or web caching solutions"

Would a reduction in NetApp's service and support costs have helped Yahoo reduce its operating costs and saved some employees their jobs?

We could ask the same questions about the situation at Goldman Sachs.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs Group is looking for a way to trim expenses as it transitions to a traditional bank holding company. To 10.0% of its employees, cost cuts spell unemployment.
Goldman Sachs Group (nyse:
GS - news - people ) will cut 3,260 of its 32,569 employees worldwide, according to a Reuters report released Thursday.

An easy way for the folks at Goldman to trim expenses would be to lower their support costs for their NetApp storage. Goldman has not gotten as much press as some of NetApp's other customers on their storage infrastructure, but there is a lot of equipment there.

Third, is the sad affairs that occurred at Lehman Brothers. Lehman was a big user and a fan of NetApp equipment before they ran into big trouble.

"Now, he says sales to finance have fallen even more, to a run rate below 10% of NetApp’s sales. He even notes that Lehman owes NetApp money (“We’ll see if Barclays makes good or not,” says Warmenhoven.)"

Things can change quickly in the marketplace. I wonder if NetApp's CFO knew of any difficulties when he was a featured presenter at this Lehman conference less than a year ago?

Sunnyvale, Calif. - December 5, 2007 -- Network Appliance, Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP), a leader in advanced networked storage solutions, today announced that Steve Gomo, Executive Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer, will present at the Lehman Brothers Global Technology Conference in San Francisco, CA on Friday, December 7, 2007, at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Perhaps the NetApp CFO should have tried to collect on their outstanding debt which Mr. Warmenhoven mentioned above prior to speaking at the event? Shouldn't the NetApp CFO have been watching Lehman's deteriorating credit situation, and shouldn't he have mentioned it to the folks at Lehman who invited him to speak? Now NetApp may have a questionable receivable on its books. Coincidentally, Lehman helped bring NetApp public .

Neither Yahoo, Goldman Sachs or Lehman Brothers were ever customers of ours. I wonder if their storage procurement people ever looked into ways in which they could reduce their NetApp support costs? Perhaps now is the time to review their service and support costs?

Our business has been strong these last few months and there seems to be a correlation between the state of the economy and the growth of our independent NetApp service and support business within larger companies . As our growing family of customers knows, Zerowait provides high availability NetApp support at an affordable cost.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A week in Southern California

I am returning home to Delaware from San Diego today after a very busy week of visiting our customers in Southern California. We met with customers in publishing, entertainment, micro electronics, aerospace and defense. Every customer is looking at how to consolidate their storage to get by without breaking their budget. Maximizing storage to the capacity of their current NetApp systems is one way of making their budget dollars go farther because they can avoid a system upgrade. A couple of customers are looking at Equalogic storage and some were looking into home brewed BSD solutions running ZFS.

The paradigm has changed and high priced arrays are not a priority anymore. The priority is maintaining high availability without breaking the budget. Because of tightened budgets some customers are comparing their quotes from different divisions and have noticed that their pricing was different from NetApp for different divisions within the same company and were sometimes different within the same building for systems and support. One company that I met with that has a European division noticed that NetApp pricing was substantially different and that the Europeans could purchase the identical equipment for substantially less then the US division could. This might have something to do with the opportunity registration that NetApp uses, but with many companies today the lowest acquisition cost is the most important aspect of a purchase, and the vague logic of the pricing that customers are getting seems to be an issue.

This trip was enjoyable. I met with many customers and friends that we have been working with for over 10 years. We discussed the growth and maturity of the networks we have been working on and looked at the new challenges that occur because of rich media and compliance issues. Storing data for compliance can get quite costly and our customers were asking what types of solutions we could provide them that can provide reliability without breaking the bank. And we have some solutions that are a perfect for for today's budget constrained IT environment.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Helping our local business community

The financial panic has hit Wilmington, Delaware. Many of the companies in the news have offices here - AIG, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, etc. As a member of the Delaware business community we are offering to help the local financial institutions by helping them lower their costs of support and maintenance for their NetApp storage infrastructures. The employees of these companies are our neighbors and friends. If we can help these companies to reduce maintenance costs perhaps these large companies can retain some of their highly trained IT staff who are our neighbors.

Tough times call for creative solutions and Zerowait has been providing an affordable alternative to NetApp for service and support for many years for some of the largest companies in the world. Since the Dot Com bust NetApp has focused on the financial sector, and their business grew over the last few years. But now these financial companies are hurting, and their workers are looking for reliable solutions that they can afford.

We recognize that a lot of local companies are hurting right now, and we have solutions that can help them maintain their high availability storage while they are cutting their budgets. Let's work together to solve today's problems and let other people assign blame. If you work for a financial institution with offices in Delaware, give us a call and we will give you an additional 5% off our already low prices.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Don't Panic! Zerowait has the answer

Today the news reports are all about the financial panic. The great sell off and the doom that is coming. But there are always ways to economize and people are at their best when things look bad. Today people are looking at Zerowait as an option on how they can save money and not sacrifice the high availability service and support that their NetApp storage infrastructure provides. There are always options, and in hard times Zerowait can provide an affordable alternative for high availability service and support for your NetApp infrastructure.

Don't Panic! Zerowait has the answer! Call us and we will calm your nerves.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"How come NetApp charges so much?"

Yesterday morning a Purchasing Agent for a big company that we have been working with for many years asked us to review a quote that NetApp sent to them. The Purchasing Agent could not understand how come NetApp's prices were so high.

We were asked if we could provide the equipment and we told her that we could and our price for the equipment would save her about 40%-60% of what the NetApp quote was. Every Purchasing Agent knows that you need to have two suppliers to keep prices down. And Zerowait helps companies worldwide keep their NetApp equipment acquisition and maintenance costs down.

NetApp understands that they need two suppliers for their disk shelves and drives and is forcing Xyratex to accept a secondary supplier. NetApp is doing this to keep Xyratex's prices down. They are forcing their supplier to lower costs through competition.

According to the transcript of the recent Xyratex earning call, NetApp is looking for a secondary supplier of storage shelves.

"My true feeling is at least in the short to medium term NetApp and ourselves have been discussing for a long time their desire from a risk perspective to have a second supplier,so I think it’s driven by that but I think the fallout of it will be to see whether things can be done more cheaply in that way. And I guess to a degree Xyratex should invite that because to the extent that we can get product to our customers more cheaply while not increasing our own production capabilities but by looking to CMs to do more for us, then it should actually be positive for us as well if that is the case."

It is good to know that NetApp understands the reasons to have two sources for parts and services. And their executives validate the business model whereby NetApp customers invite Zerowait in to provide support for some NetApp systems within their storage architecture. Many times companies buy shelves of drives from Zerowait and we support the shelves we sold on a system and NetApp supports the shelves which it sold.

Whenever a company has all its eggs in one basket the purchaser and the supplier are tied together, and that is usually cause for mischief on the suppliers part.

If you are asking the question " Why does NetApp charge so much?" Call Zerowait. We have the the answer. Competitive quotes for NetApp equipment will make NetApp sharpen their pencils. Just like NetApp is causing Xyratex to do.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Credit Crisis & Storage Administrators

Today storage administrators are wondering:

Why do Seagate disks cost so much from NetApp?
Why do yearly software downloads from NetApp costs tens of thousands of dollars?
Why do I have to upgrade my underutilized equipment that is working perfectly fine?
How am I going to support my storage infrastructure when my budget is cut?

Storage administrators see the forced upgrades and ridiculous software download pricing as crazy. They recognize that their vendor's support costs are out of control. And they are trying to rein in costs because their budgets are being locked down. Storage vendors are not working with their clients and can be patronizing to them when they are having some troubles.

"Daniel J. Warmenhoven, CEO of data storage company NetApp (NTAP) (formerly Network Appliance), counts himself lucky that neither Lehman nor AIG was a big customer (though Lehman did take the company public). He says tech spending is holding up so far—in part because it lowers operating costs. 'The analysts are always 'woe is me,' because their industry is getting hammered,' says Warmenhoven. 'Well, go cry in your own beer. Don't ruin mine.' "

What happened to long term business commitment to create loyalty between customers and vendors? Why are so many vendors willing to throw their customers "under the bus" as the saying goes?

At Zerowait we have worked hard to build an indivdualized long-term relationship with each of our customers. We understand that companies go through rough patches, and we find creative ways to work things through with them. High availability storage is a long-term business. We all know that you can't throw away your documents and records.

Who is standing by you in these times?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another NetApp EOL announcement

NetApp seems to be getting ready to try to force some more customers to upgrade when they don't have to. In tough economic times many companies are trying to extend the life of their storage and infrastructure assets, but that does not fit in with NetApp's game plan. They sell boxes, and they need to sell more, so upgrades are being sold.

" The 3020, a smaller and older array than the 3140, will be end-of-lifed soon though, reducing the number of models in the FAS range by one and, we could read it this way, creating a space in the range for a new mid-range model."

Zerowait understands that many customers are having a hard time currently, and we are working with them to try to keep their storage running at a cost they can afford. NetApp takes a different view of customers that are having trouble because of the financial shakeout.

Daniel J. Warmenhoven, CEO of data storage company NetApp (NTAP) (formerly Network Appliance), counts himself lucky that neither Lehman nor AIG was a big customer (though Lehman did take the company public). He says tech spending is holding up so far—in part because it lowers operating costs. "The analysts are always 'woe is me,' because their industry is getting hammered," says Warmenhoven. "Well, go cry in your own beer. Don't ruin mine."

We look forward to helping the folks at AIG and Lehman, or the companies that acquire their storage assets, and we know that we can support their NetApp infrastructures at a cost they can afford for many years to come.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Oracle moving to take more NetApp business?

Over the last several years I have been watching Larry Ellison's storage company Pillar Data Systems to see how they leverage their unique Oracle connection. It seems they have been very careful to not upset the applecart for the storage vendors EMC and NetApp. But after reading a few press reports today it may be that Larry's companies are about to package a hardware and software solution to compete with NetApp and EMC.

Article 1

Pillar Data Systems, which offers what it calls application-aware storage systems, introduced "profiles" for integrating its systems with Oracle databases, VMs, and the Oracle Unbreakable Linux program. They said the profiles will produce improved utilization and performance, better system availability, and centralized management of storage in Oracle environments. The company is backed by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

Article 2

... users often need to wait too long for disk storage systems to transfer those terabytes of data into Oracle's database software. The Oracle-HP storage server is meant to address that problem by performing some of the computer processing closer to disk drives. The Database Machine server can speed up processing of financial transactions or data analysis. Oracle has also taken aim at the nascent market for "cloud computing," which lets companies run software in large, remote data centers, accessing it over the Internet. On Sept. 23, Oracle and Intel (INTC) announced joint work on database performance and security for cloud computing environments.

It would make sense for HP to work with Oracle on breaking the hold in customer environments that EMC and NetApp have. But finding a strategic partner that will remain loyal for the long term in Silicon Valley seems very hard. If HP, Pillar and Oracle can work out a long term arrangment it would be good for customers, because competition in the storage business always brings down prices.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Riverbed a threat to NetApp?

It must be hard to pick your strategic partners these days if you are a storage vendor. For example, Riverbed is a partner of NetApp , but it looks like Riverbed is about to release a very competitive product offering to cut the growth of storage.

Riverbed calls its new product Atlas, and says it can eliminate up to 95% of redundant data in corporate storage systems. In a release earlier this week, the company asserted that the Atlas appliance “will do for its customers’ data at rest” what the company’s Steelhead products “have done for their data in motion,” eliminating redundancy “which typically burdens IT infrastructure by slowing down access to data and applications and increasing costs and operational overhead of data management.”

"Wolford makes the eye-opening claim that alpha testers are finding they can increase primary storage by 300%-1,000% by using Atlas. That sure makes Atlas sound like a big threat to the storage vendors, don’t you think?

Riverbed said it plans to start shipping the product in the 2009 first half.

Not sure if the Riverbed news this week is responsible, but it is the case that storage stocks today are under pressure: NetApp today is down $1.70, or 7.8%, to $20.10; EMC is down 83 cents, or 6.5%, to $12.01; RVBD is down 18 cents, or 1.4%, to $12.77."

NetApp's executive suite seems to be getting ready for some sort of change in the storage marketplace and may be preparing their own golden parachutes.

Attached to the 10-Q NetApp filed on Sept. 3 were amended change-of-control severance agreements for CEO Daniel Warmenhoven and other unnamed executives that were effective on June 19

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Zerowait Places at Reno

Zerowait sponsored Racer 94 at the Reno races and we placed second in the Bronze T-6 Class. As a first time sponsor with a new pilot, Ott Claremont, we did very well in the Bronze T6 race. Our western customer conference was a success and we wish you could have joined us. Jon Toigo was our guest speaker on Friday night and he fostered an open discussion between our customers on the challenges they all face in satisfying the demands of the growing need for storage management in a world of tight budgets.

It was a great event, we look forward to next year.

Friday, September 12, 2008

NetApp rumors

Recently the Executives at NetApp have been extemely quiet, which may have contributed to new rumors of a takover possibility for NetApp. One of our customers sent me this link and asked what I knew.

Could Takeover Rumors On NetApp (NTAP) Have Some Meat?

Michelle Leder's highlighted recently amended change in control agreements for NetApp, Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) CEO Daniel Warmenhoven and other unnamed executives. The changes come on the back of rumors the company could be the target of a takeover bid.
Michelle said it is possible the change was simply routine, but she is obviously noting this because amendments to change in control agreements sometime precede takeovers.

This was the first time I had heard of this rumor and all I can tell our customers and interested parties about this is that Zerowait will continue to provide the high availability service and support they expect from us for legacy NetApp products whether NetApp is acquired or not.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sun is going on a FISHing trip

According to the New York Times, Sun is getting ready to unleash new Storage products into the Enterprise space. Although NetApp does not think they will be any threat, I have spoken with many customers who are thrilled with the price point and performance of their SUN Thumpers.

According to the Article.

With these difficult lessons behind it, Sun thinks it now has a chance to disrupt a different part of the hardware sector and make life tough on rivals. In November, Sun plans to release new storage hardware and software that takes aim at a part of the storage market dominated by NetApp and EMC. Playing off the same trends that shook its server business — less expensive hardware and software — Sun is looking to undercut the competition and sink their margins.

But NetApp does not see the new products as any problem.

As for NetApp, the main target for Sun, the company sees customers continuing to pay a premium for software that delivers more sophisticated functions than what Sun is discussing. “The larger companies out there will not go with the Sun type of solution,” said Patrick Rogers, a vice president at NetApp.

One of the commenters on the article has this to say....

We moved entirely away from NetApp product, and are running large storage farms on Sun’s Thumper products. We are seeing dramatic performance increases, and significant price reduction.
I am curious why NetApp doesn’t see this as a threat, it surely looks to be exactly that.— Banking Customer

Zerowait has seen our business grow over the last few years because NetApp customers are tired of the high prices for support and maintenance of their equipment. I would think that customers that are used to Sun in their server farms would be willing to take a chance on these new products, especially is they are less expensive than NetApp. Competition works and customers will benefit by lower prices.

With low prices as bait, Sun may have a great fishing trip.

In November, Sun is set to show off new storage gear that has been part of a project code-named FISHworks (FISH stands for Fully Integrated Software and Hardware).

I'll be watching, to see what they catch.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Compliance issues

Most of the time when issues of compliance come up within our industry it is about meeting standards for data integrity and security. But because of the recent spikes in energy costs for running and cooling data centers fire code and electrical code compliance issues are starting to creep into conversations with network and storage managers. Today I saw the first article in the press that detailed some of the issues managers face. It is worth reading the whole article.

"The hot aisle is just too hot," Sacco said. "If you're going to exceed 110 degrees, you could actually exceed the [National Electric Code] standards."

Forgetting about the fire code issues, Menuet added that you have to think of your employees.

"It will be over 100 degrees in the hot aisle," he said. "It certainly isn't comfortable for technicians that have to get in there and work on the equipment."

Using vinyl curtains for separation
Using vinyl sheeting, much like what you'd find in a meat locker, is one method that data centers have used to contain their hot aisles. Storage vendor NetApp uses them and says the curtains alone save it 1 million kWh of energy per year. Yahoo uses them in one of its data centers as well.

But there are fire suppression issues with this method as well. If you have plastic sheets over your racks and don't have sprinklers in the contained area, how can a potential fire be squelched? Most companies that manufacture this sheeting say it melts at 130 degrees, thus eliminating the aisle containment and allowing the sprinklers to work from there. But what if for some reason the curtains malfunction?

"The curtain attaches to the ceiling with heat-sensitive fusable links," Menuet says. "If there's a fire, the heat melts the links and the curtain falls. But if I was the fire marshal, I'd be concerned about a curtain hanging from some fusable links. Most places would have trouble with that. If I were proceeding with good hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment, I would design a fire system around it and put enough heads in the hot aisle and enough in the cold aisle."

Never mind the aesthetic ramifications. Menuet said he was working on a project in Minnesota, where discussion included using freezer curtains to contain the hot aisle, "but it didn't show well." In other words, company executives might not like the fact that their data center looks like the back of a butcher shop.

Inform the local fire inspector
Sacco added that one of the most important things is being in line with local fire authorities, because if they conduct an inspection, see something they weren't notified about and don't like it, they could shut you down.

"Many people deploy these systems in ignorance of the law," he said. "Many people do it and manufacturers are manufacturing the pieces. But the local inspector is the final authority. If the local inspector doesn't realize what's going on, the whole job might not be compliant."

This last statement is worth remembering when you are tinkering within your data center.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

customer service

Last week we had a customer who called with a problem. While working with the client we decided that the best way to solve the problem was to go on site. So we told the customer we would fly up to see him and should be there in a few hours. I filed a flight plan and one of our engineers and I went over to my plane and flew up to the Boston area to solve the customer's problem. Gaining new customers is hard, and at Zerowait we like to try to keep our customers happy. This customer is now convinced that we really do care about customer service.

Today I had an experience that shows me that not all companies care about their customers. AT&T is our cell phone provider and we have a corporate account, which means that the account executive wants the last 4 digits of an FEIN number not a Social security number to verify the account. But the customer service reps I spoke to kept asking for my phone number, name and social security number. I tried to explain that my social security number and our corporate FEIN number are not the same and I didn’t know the FEIN- but two different reps could not understand that. Finally I got a rep that would agree to let me speak to a supervisor. I explained the situation to Mike the supervisor and he laughed and agreed that good help is hard to find.

The situation reminds me of when I go up to the airline counter and they ask me if the bag has been in my possession since I packed it. Well the reality is that the bag has been in a shuttle bus and sometimes at a concierge desk and many other places. So when asked what are we to say? If I say that the bags have been in my possession that is not completely true. Should I tell them the truth that the shuttle bus driver put the bag in the back of the bus, and the concierge put it in a closet while I was out visiting clients after I left the hotel room but before I had to get the bus to the airport? In a completely interrelated world of commerce, business and our personal lives we are being forced to tell companies half truths to fulfill the needs of their databases, before we get the customer service we deserve. This is backwards. We should be able to create systems that verify who we are when calling with two pieces of information. AT&T had my name and phone number. Their DB keeps a FEIN number instead of a SSN; that is not my fault.

Customer service is a primary responsibility of every company - there is competition for every company’s service. When AT&T technicians call Zerowait for help with their filers should we ask them for their FEIN number? Will they know it?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New England bound

I am going up to New England to visit with some of our customers for the next few days. The New England area has been a good area for our business for many years. At one time in 2000 our largest NetApp customer was based in Boston. They used to buy 760's from us with 1TB of storage which filled a cabinet with FC9 shelves filled with 18GB drives. It is amazing how much has changed since then, now we are offering DS14 Shelves with 1 TB for $1000.00.

Over the next few weeks we will be traversing the country and going overseas also. All leading up to our customer conference in Reno in September. We only have a few openings left for this event, so if you want to join us , drop us a line.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is IBM's XIV product aimed at NetApp?

According to an article in Computerworld the product does not match features with EMC, but what if IBM is testing the waters with XIV to see if it can slowly turn their N Series customers into XIV customers. IBM's OEM version (N-series) of the NetApp Filers can't be as profitable for them as selling their own products. And know that they understand how to sell into the Filer market space it would make sense for them to introduce their own product offering.

You can read IBM's product announcement here

"The IBM XIV Storage System (2810-A14) provides the hardware platform required for the IBM XIV Storage System Software. The combination of hardware and software enables a revolutionary grid-based architecture designed to provide an exceptionally easy to use, high performance, scalable, reliable enterprise disk system for UNIX, Linux, Windows, and other supported distributed open server platforms. It can provide a platform to address the need for reducing complexity while keeping pace with midrange to high-end disk capacity demands. This system is a great addition to the IBM disk storage family, core products in the IBM Information Infrastructure. It is a good fit for clients who want to be able to grow capacity without managing multiple tiers of storage to increase performance and reduce cost. These users also may want to improve their backup capabilities, as well as reduce the task load on storage administrators. The XIV system is especially well suited as a consolidated utility storage for fast growing, dynamic mixed, and emerging workloads.
Statement of general direction

IBM intends to provide best practice configuration guidance, change management, asset awareness, capacity utilization, performance trending, and operational reporting capabilities via IBM TotalStorage® Productivity Center software support for the IBM XIV Storage System.

In addition, IBM intends to provide single sign-on capabilities for many IBM devices, including the IBM XIV Storage System and storage software applications that enable the administrator to use a single set of secure credentials to authenticate across all products via a single centralized point-of-control.

IBM plans, during the second half of 2008, to add support for XIV as a disk system managed by IBM System Storagetm SAN Volume Controller. This additional support will provide connectivity for XIV systems to the very broad range of operating system environments supported by SVC.

This statement of direction is based on Tivoli's current development plans and is subject to change without prior notice.

All statements regarding IBM's plans, directions, and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice. Any reliance on these statements of general direction is at the relying party's sole risk and will not create liability or obligation for IBM."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NetApp quarterly profit rises, outlook disappoints

NetApp has hit a rough spot. They are increasing the size of their sales force but sales are not growing that fast yet and they risk alienating their reseller channel:

"They feel like if they can put more people on the street, they can gain a lot of market share," said Pacific Growth Equities analyst Kaushik Roy. "The problem is, they're not competing with the little Chinese vendors from Taiwan. They're competing with the big guys... To gain market share from EMC (EMC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and HP (HPQ.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), it's a struggle."

Perhaps this explains why their reseller channel management is in disarray?

"In a surprise move, popular channel sales leader Leonard Iventosch suddenly left NetApp, where he'd worked for more than eight years. Company officials say it's business as usual for partners while they search for a replacement."

It may be getting hard to provide NetApp resellers incentives while they are simultaneously growing their internal sales force to put 'feet on the street'.

For customers buying new equipment from NetApp this should mean that there is opportunities for negotiation between the competing sales channels. Why not get competing sales quotes from the NetApp, IBM and your reseller channel, which now includes CDW. If you are buying new equipment why not see how well competition works?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Support costs poll

Are you considering Zerowait for NetApp filer or NetCache support?
Are you happy with your NetApp support costs?
Yes - NetApp support costs are affordable.
No - NetApp support costs too much.
I am considering Zerowait for our NetApp support free polls

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Another trip to Dallas

I have been visiting customers for the last couple of days in the Dallas area, and last night 8 members of our customer family met for dinner at Del Friscos. We had a great time talking tech and trading ideas. It is always fun when we can get together with a group of customers so that they can meet each other and discuss their common network and storage problems. Last night we really had a great time.

As I write this, I am at DFW waiting for a flight back home. You can certainly learn a lot about bad customer service techniques at an airport. It seems that all the employees are unhappy and the customers are unhappy. The TSA lines and techniques are a fiasco. It does not look like there are any quick solutions to all the problems in the airline business, but it certainly makes me glad that I am a pilot and can fly to many places on my own without the hassles of airline travel. A few weeks ago I flew to Charlotte, Atlanta and St. Petersburg to visit clients. At every airport FBO the folks were happy to help arrange cars and hotel rooms. The difference is night and day in attitudes and customer service. Smaller companies just seem to give better service in the aviation busness, perhaps it is because they are service oriented?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Starbucks Effect

A few months ago people we saying that Starbucks would not suffer in tough economic times because folks will always have enough money for a luxury item like Coffee. But now we see that Starbucks is having a rough time of it because their customers are cutting back, causing a loss for the company.

In a conference call with analysts, Mr. Schultz said customers remain loyal, but "they're visiting us less frequently as a result of economic pressures." He said Starbucks will promote value for the fall and holiday seasons, though it will stop short of bundling products at discounted prices. "We're not going to go down the fast-food lane," Mr. Schultz said.

There seems to be a correlation between luxury coffee purchases and luxury storage purchases. Zerowait has seen a significant up-tick in our service and support business this year. Bigger companies are asking us to take over legacy support for their filers, and the installations we are providing support for are larger.

Is there a correlation between Starbucks coffee and NetApp storage? NetApp HQ is on Java Drive, and there are affordable alternatives available to Starbucks coffee and High priced NetApp storage support. Around here we go to Dunkin Donuts for Coffee, and even in Sunnyvale, CA customers come To Zerowait for NetApp support.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Customers are getting tired of "NyetApp"

Over the last few weeks we have been hearing from a lot of companies who are getting really tired of their NetApp Sales Reps and engineers telling them they need to upgrade their systems. When customers ask to see how the new equipment compares to their old equipment the salesman talk about capacity and bigger drives. But many of the customers we speak to have not maxed out their current storage architecture, so why should they upgrade? Customers are saying "Nyet, not now" - and calling Zerowait looking for affordable storage expansion options for their filers.

When NetApp's own engineers admit that a small percentage of files are accessed regularly, customers wonder why they need to upgrade their complete storage infrastructure? Why not just a little bit - the part that needs fast access? Our customers are saying Nyet to migrating all their storage to a new NetApp solution. At Zerowait we understand that budgets are tight. That is why we advise customers to upgrade just what they need now. Storage gets cheaper over time, why not wait until you need it.

Since NetApp's own researchers are publishing that most files are 'stale' , why are their sales engineers telling current customers to buy new equipment? Is it the technology or the commission schedule that excites these folks? Should customers pay attention to NetApp's researchers, or should they pay attention to the Sales teams? Currently many customers are confused and asking Zerowait's engineers for honest answers to their storage questions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Goldman Sachs says " ROI is the name of the game"

For many years our customers have been telling us that by using Zerowait for service and support of their NetApp equipment they can get a better Return on Investment (ROI) than they can get from the equipment OEM. And now it looks like a Goldman Sachs survey confirms the issue.

"ROI is the name of the game. CIOs have emphasized to us that they are buying on a need vs. want basis, are often downsizing deals to fit with current budget constraints, and are searching for solutions with a high and fast ROI," the survey authors wrote.

The spending survey indicated CIOs see the "greatest potential for cost reduction in IT in the area of networking equipment." A full 47% of the respondents said the most likely area where spending would be slowed would be on purchases of personal computer systems, servers and storage.

Spending cuts won't be limited to equipment: 42% of the CIOs indicated that "they are reluctant to spend money on third-party professional services." This is in keeping with the decline in interest for discretionary IT projects and could indicate more of a reliance on in-house IT employees.

The survey goes on to imply that the future of cloud computing is 'Cloudy'

Cloud computing may get buzz, but it won't get spend

The CIOs indicated that server virtualization and server consolidation are their No. 1 and No. 2 priorities. Following these two are cost-cutting, application integration, and data center consolidation. At the bottom of the list of IT priorities are grid computing, open-source software, content management and cloud computing (called on-demand/utility computing in the survey) -- less than 2% of the respondents said cloud computing was a priority.

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc., said that such hot-button technologies as cloud computing deployments may slow down. "The message here is CIOs are looking primarily to tested, well-understood technologies that can result in savings or increased business efficiencies whose support can be argued from a financial point of view," he said.

One reason for the low priorities of grid computing, open-source software and cloud computing may be that CIOs and business executives don't understand their value. "They require a technical understanding to get to their importance. I don't think C-level executives and managers have that understanding," King said.

When budgets get tight it makes sense to reevaluate where your company can cut costs without cutting quality. Zerowait provides an affordable alternative to companies that are 'locked in' to NetApp's storage solutions but need a reliable vendor to provide support. High Availability service and support does not have to break your storage budget.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Last week I went to see some of our extended family of customers in the southeast. I visited customers in Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; and St.Petersburg, FL. It is always great to get out of the office and meet with our customers. Each of the customers I visited, really likes the reliability of their NetApp equipment and appreciates our ability to help them meet their high availability storage requirements without breaking their IT budget.

One customer mentioned that we saved them almost $100,000.00 on support costs this year, without sacrificing any reliability. This customer recognizes that they are locked into NetApp's storage architecture, they like NetApp reliability, but they can't afford to buy their support from NetApp. Many customers that we support, continue to buy new NetApp equipment for their high performance requirements, and allow us to support their legacy equipment which needs to be reliably serviced.

Over lunch with another customer I was asked by the CIO if they could be a reference customer for Zerowait. I told the customer that I would really appreciate that.

We really have a great group of customers, and it is a lot of fun talking with them and learning how they use their NetApp storage, and how much they like working with our team at Zerowait.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another possibility for High Performance Storage

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are looking at an alternative to silicon SSD's . It could create an interesting new niche market for high performance storage.

"New Nanowire-Based Memory Could Beef Up Information Storage
by Laura Mgrdichian, Nanotechnology / Physics
A scanning electron microscope image of a cross section of a GeTeGesub2subSbsub2subTesub5sub nanowire (the arrow points to the Gesub2subSbsub2subTesub5sub core).
A scanning electron microscope image of a cross section of a GeTe/Ge2Sb2Te5 nanowire (the arrow points to the Ge2Sb2Te5 core).

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have created a type of nanowire-based information storage device that is capable of storing three bit values rather than the usual two—that is, "0," "1," and "2" instead of just "0" and "1." This ability could lead to a new generation of high-capacity information storage for electronic devices.

"The use of nanowires to create electronic memory is advantageous for several reasons, but a non-binary form of nanowire memory like we have created could allow for a huge increase in the memory density of potential future devices," said corresponding researcher Ritesh Agarwal, an assistant professor at the UPenn School of Engineering and Applied Science, to

Conventional nanowire-based memory schemes have so far been binary, as is traditional transistor-based memory. In addition to affecting memory density, a non-binary nanowire-based type of memory would allow fewer nanowires to be used to achieve impressive storage capacity. This could allow electronic devices with memory—and that's nearly all of them—to become more compact. Moreover, fewer nanowires to work with means that fabrication could be simpler.

The nanowires used by the UPenn group have a "core-shell" structure, like a coaxial cable, and consist of two phase-change materials. The core is made of germanium/antimony/tellurium compound Ge2Sb2Te5, while the cylindrical shell is made of germanium telluride (GeTe).

The phase changes are achieved by subjecting the nanowires to pulsed electric fields. This process heats the nanowires, altering the core and shell structure from crystalline (ordered) to amorphous (disordered). These two states correspond to two different electrical resistances: a low resistance for the case where both the core and shell are crystalline, and a high resistance when they are both amorphous. In turn, these resistances represent two of the three bit values.

The third value corresponds to the case where the core is amorphous while the shell is crystalline (or visa versa), resulting in an intermediate resistance.

Nanowires are excellent media for information storage, due to several factors. These include their often defect-free crystalline structures, which lead to superior behaviors that can be tuned by varying the nanowires' dimensions, such as diameter, and other controllable properties.

Additionally, creating information storage from nanowires can be done via "bottom-up" approaches—using the natural tendency of tiny structures to self-assemble into larger structures—that may be able to break free of the limitations faced by traditional "top-down" methods, such as patterning a circuit onto a silicon wafer by depositing a nanowire thin film.

In future research, Agarwal and his colleagues plan to investigate how the nanowires' size and chemical composition affects their electrical behavior, with the hope of finding new properties that could lead to electronic devices with novel features.

This work is described in the June 13, 2008, online edition of Nano Letters. "