Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Storage stimulus

I was in DC the past few days visiting with some of our federal customers. One of our customers told me that there were some sweeteners in the Stimulus Bill regarding storage purchases. I thought that this was interesting, so I went on line this morning to see if I could find the aspects that may have a direct impact on our business.

I could not find anything that directly referenced what we do, but it looks like there is some more data going to be stored.

Here is the link:

S.336 (S.1) Senate Democrats Bill Text 1/27, Page 305:
(6) human-computer interaction and information management technologies; and (7) the social and economic implications of information technology. Subtitle C—Incentives for the Use of Health Information Technology PART I—GRANTS AND LOANS FUNDING SEC. 13301. GRANT, LOAN, AND DEMONSTRATION PROGRAMS. Title XXX of the Public Health Service Act, as added by section 13101, is amended by adding at the end ..

S.336 (S.1) Senate Democrats Bill Text 1/27, Page 36:
... $8,650,000,000 shall be expended pursuant to section 201 of this Act, of which: not less than $200,000,000 shall be available for competitive grants for expanding public computer center capacity, including at community colleges and public libraries; not less than $250,000,000 shall be available for competitive grants for innovative programs to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service; ...

House Democrats 1/23/09 Bill Text, Page 438:
... 1991 (15 U.S.C. 5511) shall coordinate Federal research and development programs related to the development and deployment of health information technology, including activities related to— (1) computer infrastructure; (2) data security; (3) development of large-scale, distributed, reliable computing systems; (4) wired, wireless, and hybrid high-speed networking; (5) development of software and ...

House Democrats 1/15/09 Committee Report, Page 71:
... structures, signals and communications, power equipment and substations, passenger stations and terminals, security equipment and systems, maintenance facilities and equipment, operational support equipment including computer hardware and software, system extensions, and preventive maintenance. Funds will be distributed through the existing fixed guideway formula. It is estimated that the state-of ...

axman 1/16/09 Tax Provisions, Page 181:
... TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM.—The National High-Performance Computing Program established by section 101 of the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 (15 U.S.C. 5511) shall coordinate Federal research and development programs related to the development and deployment of health information technology, including activities related to— (1) computer infrastructure; (2) data security;

House Democrats 1/15/09 Committee Report, Page 64:
The Social Security Administration (SSA) National Computer Center (NCC) is nearly 30 years old and it will soon be unable to support the critical systems necessary to SSA’s mission. The construction ... to meet the growing needs of SSA for the processing of retirement and disability claims, and storage of wage and medical records. An estimated 400 jobs will be created during the construction process. ...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being part of the Solution

Over the last few months a lot of customers have told us how much they appreciate our storage support solutions. As networks and storage grew in complexity and amount of storage under management, companies often found their support and maintenance costs getting out of control. But when times were good not many people cared about the spiraling costs of support and maintenance.

Times changed, now there is a recognized need to stretch infrastructure to get the most out of capacity and performance. While manufacturers typically want you to upgrade, many companies are now finding out that they can maintain their old equipment and get enough performance and capacity to get by if they use an alternative maintenance and support company.

Zerowait has a history of successful high availability support in networks and storage. We are now in our twentieth year in business, and have a reputation for excellence. Over the next quarter we will be introducing some new services based on the requests of our customers.

If your OEM won’t support your legacy equipment don’t be afraid, there is an alternative available that can provide you the support, parts and services you need to keep your High availability storage running reliably for many years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cisco is moving into servers

It was inevitable, margins are shrinking in the router and switch business and they are still quite comfortable in servers and storage. Cisco will be entering the server business and I think they will quickly get into the enterprise storage business also. Silicon Valley Capitalism is entering another phase of creative destruction.

.... companies like Cisco see an opportunity to produce a new, potentially disruptive class of hardware and software management systems that span an entire data center. With customers looking to manage their data centers as a single entity rather than separate units, the world’s largest technology companies must now fight to secure the most prominent, central position possible.

Cisco’s newfound aspirations stretch well beyond the $50 billion server market to include management software and possibly even storage.

“Our vision is, how do we virtualize the entire data center?” Ms. Warrior said. “It is not about a single product. We will have a series of products that enable us to make that transition.”

We are living in interesting times.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The CFO's take over

For the last couple of days I have been in New England visiting with customers. The economy is on every one's mind here, as are the arctic temperatures. Several clients are interested in how we can save them money on their storage infrastructure. There is a recognition that storage does not stop growing because the economy slows. Although, if there are fewer email recipients in a company, the pace of storage growth does seem to subside.

Managing networks and storage in a contracting economy may get difficult. Will CFO's decide that (4) 9's reliability is more cost effective than (5) 9's reliability? Perhaps they will decide that 99% (3.65day/year) is good enough for networks and storage.
When it comes down to reliability of a multitude of components, people , Internet , electrical grid, and weather what is a realistic expectation of service from your network and storage infrastructure? And how can you put a value on up time when there are so many variables ?
From the discussions I have had this week, it seems that many people are looking at their networks and storage infrastructures and trying to define what is a realistic up time guarantee. I really don't think anyone thinks that data loss is acceptable, but the question did come up in one meeting of who is going to take care of a bankrupt company's data to make sure it is reliable. In a paperless world how will the next generation look back to see what happened, who will keep the architectural drawings and piping diagrams of chemical plants for example when the companies that did the drawings and their customers are gone, and the disks are unavailable?

Friday, January 09, 2009

A convenience which may make data security harder

Yesterday I read about the Cloud Engines Pogoplug in the Wall Street Journal. And as I read the article I kept thinking how this device will make it harder to secure corporate data.

Some consumers like the idea of storing files with a Web service, so they can retrieve and share them while they are on the go. But they aren't keen on the monthly fees some storage-services charge.

So a San Francisco startup called Cloud Engines Inc. has developed a way to do much the same thing with technology users keep at home. Just plug your computer's external disk drive into the Pogoplug, a nondescript little gadget the company has developed, using a familiar USB connector. Another plug connects using an Ethernet cable to a user's home router, which connects to the Internet. (The set-up allows the Pogoplug to be accessible to traveling users even when their PCs are not turned on). Once the device is installed, all the music, videos or other files on your hard drive are viewable through a Web browser.

Some external disk drives say they can do this now, but they require more setup, Cloud Engines says. And with Pogoplug, there are no monthly fees.

Imagine that you have a disgruntled employee who gets laid off because of the tough economic times. Articles already are pointing out that the disgruntled former employee may take your corporate data. Now all they will have to do is put it on the external drive or memory stick and there it is available on the web. Devices like the Pogoplug may finally spur corporations to encrypt their data, will they react before data thefts occur or after?

Friday, January 02, 2009

A Storage tragedy.

Imagine if your company, which survived the downturn in the market in 2008, was shut down because no one backed up the data which was the bread and butter of your company. It looks like a company has experienced this nightmare and is now going out of business.

JournalSpace lost all of its customer's data and is out of business. I was tipped off by a friend who sent me this article.

The Dangers of Casual Information Backup
JournalSpace, which has been around for almost six years now as a prominent blogger website, is done. Due to a catastrophic data loss, either due to software error or malicious intent, the website managers have lost the entire contents of the blogs stored upon it. Alexa places JournalSpace at a rank of about 100,000 among websites, and with nearly 14,000 viewers per month, JournalSpace was a relatively high-traffic website. The data loss is impossible to correct and JournalSpace is effectively destroyed.

On a technical side, what occurred is still unclear. JournalSpace maintains their server on what is known as a RAID configuration, where everything written to one hard drive is 'mirrored' to the other drive in a duplicate image. So if the main storage unit breaks down, all the data is stored on another duplicate and it's an easy enough job for an individual to simply switch over to the working drive. Most any computer can be configured for RAID with a minimum of effort.

JournalSpace had taken no other effort to back up their data other than constantly mirroring the drives. The damage that occurred then was not physical, but rather based in software. Whether due to a catastrophic operating system failure (OS X) or malicious intent, the contents of both drives have been completely overwritten. Akin to reformatting your hard drive, this means that the data is completely irretrievable.

Below is the content of the website and all it says now.



Journalspace is no more.

DriveSavers called today to inform me that the data was unrecoverable.

Here is what happened: the server which held the journalspace data had two large drives in a RAID configuration. As data is written (such as saving an item to the database), it's automatically copied to both drives, as a backup mechanism.

The value of such a setup is that if one drive fails, the server keeps running, using the remaining drive. Since the remaining drive has a copy of the data on the other drive, the data is intact. The administrator simply replaces the drive that's gone bad, and the server is back to operating with two redundant drives.

But that's not what happened here. There was no hardware failure. Both drives are operating fine; DriveSavers had no problem in making images of the drives. The data was simply gone. Overwritten.

The data server had only one purpose: maintaining the journalspace database. There were no other web sites or processes running on the server, and it would be impossible for a software bug in journalspace to overwrite the drives, sector by sector.

The list of potential causes for this disaster is a short one. It includes a catastrophic failure by the operating system (OS X Server, in case you're interested), or a deliberate effort. A disgruntled member of the Lagomorphics team sabotaged some key servers several months ago after he was caught stealing from the company; as awful as the thought is, we can't rule out the possibility of additional sabotage.

But, clearly, we failed to take the steps to prevent this from happening. And for that we are very sorry.

So, after nearly six years, journalspace is no more.

If you haven't yet, visit Dorrie's Fun Forum; it's operated by a long-time journalspace member. If you're continuing your blog elsewhere, you can post the URL there so people can keep up with you.

We're considering releasing the journalspace source code to the open source community. We may also sell the journalspace domain and trademarks. Follow us on twitter at for news.


Every company has to judge what the value of a backup is, and what strategy they are going to use to maintain their backup. How much insurance is too much? What is your D/R plan?