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. "

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Crossing the Petabyte line

I remember in 1998 and 1999 when we were selling new NetApp F740's and F760's and it was a big deal to sell a system that went to 1 TB. It was not that long ago. This week we are working on a couple of Petabyte systems. Back in 1999 we were building 1 TB systems with 18 and 36 GB drives. Now we are building Petabyte systems with 500GB and 750 GB drives.

The funny thing is that even NetApp's engineers are saying that up to 90% of storage is rarely looked at once it is put on disk. System administrators see this all the time. Which is one more reason that savvy storage adminstrators recognize that Zerowait allows them to keep their legacy systems running affordably, so they can buy a newer system appropriately sized for only the high performance storage that requires it. When budgets are tight reviewing how your storage is used makes more sense than ever.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is the media talking about the same person

Last night I was reading an article in the Economist that was praising the CEO of VMware, Diane Green. I thought it was a particularly interesting article, This morning I read an article by Adam Lashinsky which had a distinctly different spin on her abilities.

You be the judge ... Did EMC make the right decision?

The Economist

The opposite of Steve Jobs

With her thinking on competition, however, Ms Greene may be onto something. To be sure, in the high-tech industry, competition and co-operation have always gone hand in hand. The phenomenon has come to be called “co-opetition”, but in the end, the competitive forces have always been stronger. However, as computing migrates into the cloud and becomes a service online, and as different pieces of software become ever more interconnected, then there is likely to be much more of a premium on co-operation. If computing used to be mainly about defending the citadel, it is now more about huddling with partners.

In which case, you would expect more high-tech companies to appoint leaders like Ms Greene. Indeed, that is one way of looking at the retirement of Bill Gates as Microsoft’s “chief software architect”, and his replacement by the more amenable Ray Ozzie. It is hard to imagine Mr Ozzie getting into public fights with Eric Schmidt, Google’s equally level-headed boss, the way Mr Gates did with Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive. Mr Jobs, by the way, will probably always remain something of an exception: his firm’s business today is still much more about control of the brand and the users’ experience than it is about co-operation. Interestingly, of all his colleagues in Silicon Valley, Mr Jobs is said to be particularly fond of Ms Greene. After all, opposites attract.

Adam Lashinsky

Adam Lashinsky's dispatches on finance from the West Coast
EMC to VMware CEO: Buh-bye

VMware (VMW) announced this morning that its co-founder and CEO, Diane Greene, is leaving the company, “effective immediately.” Her replacement is Microsoft (MSFT) retiree Paul Maritz. At the same time, the company lowered its financial expectations for this year in the last line of its news release: “While VMware is not updating guidance for Q2, we expect revenues for the full year of 2008 will be modestly below the previous guidance of 50% growth over 2007.”

"I wrote a feature about VMware’s CEO Diane Greene last year in which I wrote about her friction with EMC. It was a wrought situation. EMC controlled VMware, but VMware was the golden goose, giving Greene a great deal of power. Until, it seems, she couldn’t deliver. The executive quoted in VMware’s release noting Greene’s departure is VMware’s chairman, Joe Tucci, also EMC’s chief executive."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why upgrade, when 90% of data is untouched?

According to a study partly done by the good folks at NetApp, "most data in enterprise networks rarely gets accessed" If this is the case , why should a customer put these rarely accessed files on the newest storage array? That is the question many storage administrators are asking themselves after they hear the latest FUD filled presentation from their OEM storage sales person.

"Statistically speaking, most data on enterprise networks rarely gets accessed after it is written to network storage, according to researchers from NetApp Inc. and the University of California. Evidently, we are too busy writing new data to go back over old data.

Andrew Leung, a computer science researcher at the University of California, presented the findings at the USENIX conference in Boston last week. Given those results, organizations might want to consider moving much of their data to slower but less expensive storage units since it rarely gets accessed, he said."

Often when customers review their storage access patterns they see that maximizing their old arrays is the cheapest way to keep these rarely accessed files on line, which is reinforced by this study.

"The team studied the traffic that flowed through NetApp's enterprise file servers, which manage more than 22T of material relating to all aspects of the company's business operations.

Leung said the study is the first large-scale examination of network traffic patterns. "How people have been deploying network file systems has been changing over the past five to 10 years,” he said. “They are being used more commonly for different kinds of things. So what we would like to know is how this affects the workloads of the network."

During the three-month period that the network was under scrutiny, more than 90 percent of the material on the servers was never accessed. The researchers captured packets encoded using the Common Internet File System protocol, which Microsoft Windows applications use to save data via a network. About 1.5T of data was transferred.

"Compared to the full amount of allocated storage on the file servers, this represents only 10 percent of data," Leung said. “[This] means that 90 percent of the data is untouched during this three-month period.”

In a tight budget environment a little storage analysis can go a long way toward saving your company money while keeping your highly accessed storage highly available. If you are only migrating your highly accessed data to the newest storage array you may be able to buy a smaller system. Maintaining rarely touched data on your older storage arrays makes sense to everyone but the commission based sales force selling you the new equipment. How much does it cost your company to migrate and maintain rarely touched data onto new equipment? How much does it cost to only migrate highly accessed data to the new storage array? How much money can we save by buying a smaller system? Asking yourself these questions can save a lot of money for your IT department.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

NetApp Selling through CDW

Rumors have been circling for some time about an expansion of the NetApp / CDW partnership. And from what I am hearing it is now official and NetApp is unveiling a big marketing push to support CDW as a primary sales agency. How this will impact NetApp current VARS is open for discussion. But CDW is recognized as a broad market distributor with little technical support. Will they be able to sell high priced arrays? Only time will tell.

Interesting times.