Wednesday, May 28, 2008

it's nice to get feedback like this!

Every day we work hard to make certain that our customers are satisfied, and it is great when we get feedback like this.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 6:26 PM

You guys are great!
Thanks again!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Starting the summer season

Summer is starting and with higher energy prices there might be some incentives for raising the thermostats in your Data Centers. However, one thing we have noticed over the years of supporting hard drives in the field is that higher temperatures cause disks to fail more often. When it comes to cost control, keeping a balance between disk failures and higher temperatures seems to be a question we are asked about often.

There seems to be a correlation between disks that are higher in racks and failures, although it could be a coincidence. Most people have a hazy understanding of their Data Center airflows , other than they notice hot spots and cooler spots within them. But hard drives need to be kept cool, so keeping your shelves of hard drives in the cool spots might help your drives last a bit longer. Unfortunately, moving your cabinet of drives to a formerly cool spot might make it a hot spot.

One thing is certain and that is heat rises. Keeping your data center on a lower floor and moving your servers and drives closer to the floor will keep them slightly cooler. Consolidating your storage islands onto fewer platforms and trying to rationalize your storage onto appropriate platforms for their usage patterns may save you money, buying new systems may look good, but often just consolidating you current storage will save you money by saving energy and extending the lifespan of your systems.

There are no magic solutions to the cost problem of cooling your data center. Consolidating and rationalizing your storage configurations will save your company money. If you have any proven ideas, send them our way and we will post them.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NetApp to increase Direct Sales Force

There is an announcement today that NetApp plans to increase its direct sales force.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP), a data storage company that employs roughly 700 in the Triangle, plans on boosting its sales force by hundreds of workers in the next few months. The move is important so that NetApp can pick up market share, CEO Dan Warmenhoven told analysts in a late Wednesday conference call.

A bigger direct sales force would seem to create an area of potential conflict between NetApp's inside sales force and their channel efforts . Perceptions of the channel can be different depending on where you stand, Somehow I don't think a bigger direct sales force will be good for channel sales even though the channel seems to do well for NetApp.

About 64 percent of revenue in the period came from the channel, compared to about 60 percent last year. "We were hoping to hit the two-thirds mark, but didn't quite make it," said Dan Warmenhoven, chairman and CEO of NetApp, of the growth in channel revenue.

And how will the new Direct sales force work with their OEM? IBM may not be thrilled...

This rollout of fresh support for NetApp products comes amid some buzz among Wall Street analysts of increasing channel conflict between the two companies. "We are hearing of some increased pressures in the direct sales vs. IBM channel side of the business," wrote Wachovia analysts Aaron Rakers, in an email to clients.

Storage consumers should have more parties to negotiate prices with as the NetApp sales department grows. I wonder if that will lessen conflict any?

Monday, May 19, 2008

New England customers

Last week I was in New England visiting some of our customers . It was a great trip and it looks like we will picking up some more business from our clients. All the folks I met with are trying to save on their storage costs, and they recognize that our pricing model saves them a lot of budget dollars while allowing them to maintain their high reliability storage infrastructures.

A few of the customers I met touched on the costs of energy as part of their infrastructures. With budgets tight, and operational costs rising, purchasing new equipment has been pushed back and so our legacy support policies and pricing help them in a couple of ways. They can stretch their equipment lifespan and still afford their rising utility bills.

Teddy Roosevelt said in his autobiography
"Americans learn only from catastrophe and not from experience."

Data centers and their operating costs may be a leading indicator of a looming problem. It seems that it may be time to start drilling and mining our domestic energy resources, as the costs and political intrigues of importing energy may be getting unsustainable, if costs continue to escalate. Outsourcing our data centers to other countries where energy is less expensive may happen if we don't get energy costs under control.

As costs rise markets will find a solution, which is why customers come to Zerowait for an affordable support solution as compared to their OEM's plans. Similarly, as energy costs increase, we need to find cheaper alternatives to our current suppliers. Affordable energy is a keystone required for economic growth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

IBM & NetApp channel conflict reported in media

Since IBM started reselling NetApp products a few years ago savvy customers have been playing the two companies sales organizations against each other. Now it seems analysts are noticing this is causing some consternation in the competitive channel organizations.

This rollout of fresh support for NetApp products comes amid some buzz among Wall Street analysts of increasing channel conflict between the two companies. "We are hearing of some increased pressures in the direct sales vs. IBM channel side of the business," wrote Wachovia analysts Aaron Rakers, in an email to clients.

I am certain that IBM reviewed the history of NetApp's failed relationships with Dell and Hitachi prior to getting involved with reselling Filers. Reviewing a company's history with partnerships can't predict everything, but it certainly pays to do research prior to getting involved with a company that has such a well established history of making tactical partnership decisions to the detriment of end users. In our experience it makes end users feel secure when they know they can depend on a strategic partnership which guarantees them long term service and support for their high end storage equipment. IBM knows the way things work, how do their new acquisitions figure into their long term strategic view of their NetApp relationship and enterprise NAS sales overall?

Wall Street Journal article on IT belt tightening

To say that many enterprise IT departments are cutting back on their IT expenditures would not be surprising to many of our customers. But it is interesting to notice that the Wall Street Journal has written an article on the issue. Many of our customers are asking us to help them Tweak and Tune their NetApp storage to make the equipment last longer and provide more usable storage to them. The WSJ mentions how companies are reviewing their infrastructure.

"Mr. Rapken met with his lieutenants and decided he could trim his budget for 2008 by 10%, an amount between $10 million and $20 million. The savings would come from replacing employee PCs every four years instead of every three years, delaying a payroll-software upgrade, reducing the company's use of contract workers, and leaving vacant positions unfilled while laying off a small number of workers.

At the same time, Mr. Rapken had ideas to use technology to improve his company's overall efficiency: He is spending less than $300,000 to tweak software that YRC already owns, so that it better automates how freight is moved and tracked. The change is expected to improve workers' productivity, ultimately lowering overall costs."

There are many ways to unlock your storage system's potential and also to extend the lifespan of the equipment. Most companies have ever expanding computer storage requirements, but only a limited budget. Extending the lifespan of your systems and unlocking their storage potential is a great way to stretch your budget dollars.

Before you buy new, why not check to see what your legacy systems can do? They are not outdated just because the vendor's sales team and engineering staff tell you it is.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is Fujitsu Siemens tired of NetApp?

An interesting note in today's Byte and Switch caught my attention.

Pacific Growth Equities analyst Kaushik Roy discussed a possible Fujitsu/Exanet deal in a report on NetApp last week: “We are concerned that NetApp’s second largest OEM customer Fujitsu Siemens may buy high-end NAS vendor Exanet, which would be incrementally negative for NetApp,” he wrote. “If they do not buy privately held Exanet, we believe Fujitsu Siemens might at least resell Exanet’s high-end NAS solution.”

If this rumor is true, and viewed in conjunction with IBM's recent acquisitions as detailed by Andy Monshaw in this article . It may be that NetApp is about to lose two very big reseller OEM customers. Mr Monshaw certainly seems to understand how to bring together the pieces of a storage solution.

"This idea that hardware is commoditizing and the value is moving to software and services, which is sort of a mantra, is complete nonsense. Elements of hardware commoditize, elements of software commoditize, elements of services commoditize, as they move to global resource pieces of service capabilities.

So I think evidence of investment in the IBM storage business speaks for itself: XIV, Softek, Novus, Arsenal, FileNet--all around this space in the last two years we have had a series of very specific investments. And I wouldn't call any of these niche, point-play investments. These are real, honest-to-God capabilities that we're bringing to this portfolio. "

Whether the storage business in commoditizing or not, there suddenly seems to be a lot of interest from big players in building a solution that fits squarely in NetApp's market niche.

I wonder why that is?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Is virtualization cheaper?

What does virtualization mean anyway?

"[Virtualization is] a technique for hiding the physical characteristics of computing resources from the way in which other systems, applications, or end users interact with those resources. This includes making a single physical resource (such as a server, an operating system, an application, or storage device) appear to function as multiple logical resources; or it can include making multiple physical resources (such as storage devices or servers) appear as a single logical resource."

I had a conversation with a buddy of mine who works in the financial industry and is looking at some directory virtualization software. After listening to the benefits of the software I asked a simple question - " is virtualization cheaper than what you are doing now?" At first it looks like it is, but that may be marketing ROI's and not based on the real world. It seems that there is a lot of expense involved in buying the software, migrating data, and managing another layer on your storage network. But, is it any less expensive then running your old storage as an archive, the old stuff is usually already paid for. Are virtualization vendors adding complexity to your already tangled network infrastructure? How much is it going to cost to remove the virtualized layers of obfuscation when 'Simplificaton' becomes the hyped buzzword in the industry press.

What ever happened to keeping things simple? When has complexity ever been cheaper to install, run and maintain for the long term ? When has complexity ever simplified debuging anything? How long will these Virtualization engines be supported? How do you untangle your Data if they go away or you change vendors?

Sounds like Virtualization really is a way of locking you in for the long term to a chosen vendor.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Saying thank you

This morning one of our customers in Texas called me to tell me to thank our engineering staff for helping them solve a thorny issue with one of their clusters. Our staff worked on Friday, and over the weekend they monitored the situation. The customer really appreciated all the support he had gotten from our staff, and wanted to tell me about it.

This particular semiconductor customer came to Zerowait for our third party service and support after NetApp tried to force them to upgrade their perfectly good systems by raising their price of support to ridiculous levels in 2003 . NetApp's dedicated sales team wanted the company to buy new equipment, and they wanted to keep their legacy systems running. Zerowait provided a support policy for them that has maintained their High Availability systems in top shape at very reasonable costs for 5 years now.

High Availability storage systems do not get cranky just because the OEM has come out with a newer model. So why does NetApp charge so much for legacy storage support? Only the suits at NetApp know for sure.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Taxing the internet

New York State seems to be trying to drive more business away according to this Editorial in today's Wall Street Journal.

Return of the Web Tax
Wall Street Journal May 1, 2008; Page A16

New York Governor David Paterson is not repeating the worst mistakes of his predecessor. That's too high, or perhaps we should say too low, a bar. Still, the new Governor has resurrected one of Eliot Spitzer's least popular ideas, a tax on Internet sales that he hopes will raise more than $70 million a year. Despised by consumers and constitutional scholars alike, this new tax will hit e-shoppers within weeks.

By signing the state's budget, Mr. Paterson is now attempting to do what Mr. Spitzer only threatened: Force out-of-state retailers such as to collect New York's sales taxes, which approach 9%, including local levies. A 1992 Supreme Court decision called Quill bars exactly this type of money grab. The Supremes ruled that forcing such obligations on companies with no employees or buildings in a state could cripple interstate commerce. Without Quill, small Web merchants would have to answer to 7,500 state and local tax collectors.

New York's spendthrift pols are desperate for revenue, however, especially given that their current budget increases spending by 5% despite the pinch on Wall Street that will hurt state coffers. The Governor apparently believes he can get to companies like Amazon through New Yorkers who run ads for Amazon on their Web sites. In fact, if nonemployees with some business relationship with a company were enough to establish physical presence, then Quill would essentially be meaningless.

The courts may well ax the Paterson tax on these grounds. But until they do, some companies will feel pressure to pay instead of doing battle with a state government. New York's overall business tax climate ranks 48th among the states, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. Paterson's money grab could make New York the biggest loser when it comes to tax competitiveness.

When will politicians learn that companies act just like people and move to locations that provide an affordable atmosphere in which to grow?