Monday, April 27, 2009

Affordable Long Term High Availability.

Over the last few months our business has been holding up well, we have seen an uptick in business over the same quarter last year and we have picked up quite a number of new customers. Many of the new customers have known about us for years, but when times were flush they did not need to cut back maintenance costs. But the economic winds have shifted and while many people are busy pointing fingers and assigning blame we are concentrating on helping our customers get through the rough patch. Zerowait is a service business and the longer we keep our customers happy, the better our business will be. Most of our new business is still gained by word of mouth referrals, which means that we must be doing things right by our customers.

As a service business we are concentrating on the long term, and not the unit sales going out the shipping dock's door. By using our service and support our customers can concentrate on their long term issues, because they know that we will keep their Filers running reliability for them for the foreseeable future.

Today's news...

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The economy shrank at a worse-than-expected 6.1 percent pace at the start of this year as sharp cutbacks by businesses and the biggest drop in U.S. exports in 40 years overwhelmed a rebound in consumer spending.

The Commerce Department's report, released Wednesday, dashed hopes that the recession's grip on the country loosened in the first quarter. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 5 percent annualized decline.

Instead, the economy ended up performing nearly as bad as it had in the final three months of last year when it logged the worst slide in a quarter-century, contracting at a 6.3 percent pace. Nervous consumers played a prominent role in that dismal showing as they ratcheted back spending in the face of rising unemployment, falling home values and shrinking nest eggs.

April 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy will continue to contract “for some time to come,” said Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council.

“I expect the economy will continue to decline,” with “sharp declines in employment for quite some time this year,” Summers said today on “Fox News Sunday.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

D/R Planning in the Clouds

What is your D/R plan when part of your business critical data is in the cloud and the fiber lines are cut?

How do you make a smooth landing and keep your critical business data running if you don't have access to your cloud resources? How do you make a D/R plan for data assets which are physically not in your hands?

Here is an article that is worth reading completely...

"Just after midnight on Thursday, April 9, unidentified attackers climbed down four manholes serving the Northern California city of Morgan Hill and cut eight fiber cables in what appears to have been an organized attack on the electronic infrastructure of an American city. Its implications, though startling, have gone almost un-reported.

That attack demonstrated a severe fault in American infrastructure: its centralization. The city of Morgan Hill and parts of three counties lost 911 service, cellular mobile telephone communications, land-line telephone, DSL internet and private networks, central station fire and burglar alarms, ATMs, credit card terminals, and monitoring of critical utilities. In addition, resources that should not have failed, like the local hospital's internal computer network, proved to be dependent on external resources, leaving the hospital with a "paper system" for the day.

Commerce was disrupted in a 100-mile swath around the community, from San Jose to Gilroy and Monterey. Cash was king for the day as ATMs and credit card systems were down, and many found they didn't have sufficient cash on hand. Services employees dependent on communication were sent home. The many businesses providing just-in-time operations to agriculture could not communicate."

Imagine if your business critical data was housed in a data center that was no longer accessible, not just for a couple of hours, but for a significant amount of time. How would you make a D/R plan to recover the data that was housed remotely? How much time and effort will it take to build new servers and storage and migrate the data to another location. These are the types of questions I will bring up as a panelist during tomorrow' s Cloudslam 09 virtual conference at 2PM.

The last lines of the article make a good point, how will enterprises recover their data assets if there is a wholesale migration to the "Cloud providers" for housing critical business data, but there is no connectivity?

"Will there be another Morgan Hill? Definitely. And the next time it might happen to a denser community that won't be so astonishingly able to sustain the trouble using its two-way radios and hams. The next time, it might be connected with some other event, be it crime or terrorism. Company and government officers take notice: the only way you'll fare well is if you start planning now."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upcoming Events

Over the next few weeks the Zerowait folks are going to be at some trade shows and also I will be featured on a panel on cloud computing. The events start this week on Friday with Cloudslam09 the virtual conference on cloud computing. If you want to learn more about cloud computing sign up for Cloudslam09.

Next we will be doing a small government show in the DC area at NRL on May 14th, and the following week we will be at the EMC World Conference in Orlando May 18th - 21.

A lot of customers can't go to trade shows this year because of budget constraints, which has caused the Zerowait staff to travel more than we normally do. Business has to go on, and savvy businesses are embracing our high availability services to maintain their legacy equipment for longer periods than in the past. The upgrade cycle pushed by their storage vendor is often cost prohibitive and for today's budget minded enterprises. Vendor's with punitive support pricing models are causing customers to review their strategic storage purchases, and our company is there to help customers maintain their service levels while they review their future storage purchases.

It is going to be a busy few weeks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Brilliant idea

Oracle buys Sun, this is a brilliant tactical and strategic business move by Oracle and they should be commended for it.

NEW YORK – Information technology company Oracle Corp. said Monday it is buying Sun Microsystems Inc. in a cash deal the company valued at $7.4 billion after IBM abandoned its bid to buy the networking equipment maker.

For the storage business it will be an interesting few years as HP and Oracle have a partnership and Oracle runs on EMC, Hitachi, IBM and NetApp. But Oracle has been able to solve these contradictions in its business before and they continue to grow. Strategically, it would seem that Oracle will have to marginalize its hardware partners over the next few years to rationalize the purchase of SUN. I expect to see them do it.

This may be a precursor to other OS and DB companies buying major hardware manufacturers. Creating proprietary hardware and software solutions is the best way to lock clients into your solution long term. In tough economic times I expect we will see more companies try to lock in their customers this way.

"Right now, it looks like Oracle is going to stay in the hardware game, meaning they're going to be competing with their biggest partners," said Brian Babineau, senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). "EMC and NetApp are going to have to work even harder to convince customers that an integrated application stack isn't the way to go."

Monday, April 13, 2009

That is a lot of Coffee!

IT budgets are under pressure and shrinking in many companies, but according to Computerworld one company is focusing on the price of coffee cups their IT department uses.

Companies are also looking beyond technology and personnel to cut IT costs. For example, Herbalife is saving $70,000 annually just by eliminating the purchase of Styrofoam coffee cups for IT workers, said Hansen.

These guys must be drinking a tremendous amount of coffee, and I wonder how many folks are in the IT department.

Uline sells coffee cups for $41.00 for 1000 12 oz cups. I calculated this out and if the $70,000 figure is true .... $70,000.00 / $41.00 = 1707.317 packages of 1000 cups (1,707,317 cups) with 250 working days a year 6829 cups a day... That is a lot of coffee and must be a huge staff. Imagine what they are paying for the coffee itself!

I don't know how much storage and infrastructure these folks manage, but they must have excellent coffee and one great plumbing system. How do they get any work done?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Storage efficiency

It is not just electricity usage, maintenance, square footage, information density or response time that defines storage efficiency it is all of them and viewed from different perspectives depending on the application using the storage resource.

If one solution fit all situations we would be all driving the same cars and all our houses would look the same. And there would be no innovation at all. When things get hard, it is a good time to look at your storage infrastructure and rediscover the inefficiencies, and concentrate on solving those bottlenecks. Actually, now is a good time to review all of your infrastructure costs.

By the way, I hope you can join us at EMCworld this year in Orlando May 18 - 21.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Takeover Target

I received a few calls over the weekend about takeover rumors regarding NetApp. People want my opinion as to what I think will happen. I have no special information nor do I see any particular strong synergies between any of the companies said to be interested in a purchase and NetApp. The IBM / Sun merger talks seem to be hitting some snags, but that could be last minute bargaining. Since IBM is a NetApp distributor, I think there will be some fireworks if the merger goes through, since IBM is a big part of NetApp's sales and Sun and NetApp are tied up in legal wrangling. If there is a purchase, it might be a reaction to an IBM / SUN merger, more than a long term strategic match up.

The history of NetApp's own acquisition strategy seems questionable - but maybe there was some hidden value in the Spinnaker, Topio, and Decru purchases that are not visible from my vantage point. It might be that NetApp is a niche player, and does not fit well into the jigsaw puzzles of larger companies.

NetApp's enterprise storage products remain reliable, and a lot of our support customers are looking to maintain them for a long time. The enterprise storage customer is always looking for balance in long term value, scalability, and reliability, and as long as NetApp focuses on these attributes they should remain a viable niche storage company.

And remember that "NetApp CEO Daniel Warmenhoven said in an interview last month that he wants NetApp to remain a stand-alone company. "

Friday, April 03, 2009

SGI and NetApp

The purchase of SGI by Rackable has a lot of interesting aspects. SGI was started by Jim Clark and Kurt Akeley. Kurt and I knew each other since we were teenagers and flew Radio Control Airplanes together here in Delaware. Kurt went to the U of D and so did I. After graduation Kurt went to California and met Jim Clark at Stanford. together they started SGI which became a big company, and Kurt and I lost touch for many years. I caught up with Kurt again in 2002 after a friend of mine in Palo Alto asked me if I knew him, because the friend had worked for Kurt at SGI. Small world.

NetApp had hired a lot of folks that used to work at SGI over the years, and as in every market niche there are a lot of folks that know each other and have worked with each other. SGI was a great company, with great technology but somehow they lost their ability to respond to market conditions and myopically stuck to their view of what the market should be. Some of the great folks that SGI attracted over the years migrated across town to NetApp as SGI unwound.

I hope NetApp does not suffer the same fate as SGI over the next few years, and I hope they can adapt to the rapidly changing market landscape. Time will tell.