Thursday, December 27, 2012

Customer Designed Storage

Last week I met with a number of our customers in the Boston area and the issues they were dealing with illustrate the problems that many storage administrators have - tight budgets, limited storage capacity for anticipated storage growth and limited staff.

 I met with the team at one of our oldest customers and they are trying to stretch their budget to handle requirements for onsite production and offsite storage. Their FAS3050’s are running fine and still have capacity to handle more storage. There is no budget to upgrade these FAS3050’s as NetApp would like them to do so they are going to keep these high reliability heads running for as long as possible with Zerowait supporting them with parts and service. Additionally, they have been using our SimplStor units for a few years now and find they are an affordable and reliable way to archive, so they are going to use an additional SimplStor as an offsite remote tape replacement.

Another customer I met with has a large user who has recently purchased a large Linux Cluster with projections that it will double its storage requirements in 2013. Additionally, the nature of the modeling requires a lot of writes which slows down the NetApp infrastructure to handle the concurrent demands of VMware and Oracle for their business requirements. During our discussion of options for the big Linux cluster the customer asked if we could build our SimplStor with Solid State Drives. He prefers to work with a company he knows that has been providing service and support for over two decades as opposed to some VC backed Startup Company with no history at all. I told the customer about our new SSD version of SimplStor and how we are carefully rolling it out to select customers to make certain that each unit works flawlessly in their datacenters. Over the holidays our engineers will be working with the customer looking at his logs and discussing his system usage to come up with the best solution. As a service and support business our engineers are encouraged to spend the time to help the customer understand the nature of his bottlenecks and find the best solutions.

 Another Boston customer is in the midst of a corporation wide shift in their data system architecture and needs help moving their petabytes of data to different locations. This is a big job and they want us to help them by providing storage resources and engineers to assist at the various sites.There is storage strategy, logistics, security, and technical expertise needed for this job and our customer knows he can depend on our engineering staff to help them make this big project go as smoothly as possible.

 2012 is ending a lot like it began for Zerowait; helping our customers find affordable solutions to their biggest data storage problems. Zerowait has grown in 2012 and we expect to grow again in 2013, and based on the quotes we have out I think we are going to have a very busy first quarter.

 Thank you all for a great year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When Seconds Matter, Hendrick Motorsports Depends on Zerowait Storage Solutions

Applying Storage Technology used in Movie, VFX, and Oil and Gas Exploration Applications to Win Races. Hendrick Motorsports Relies on Zerowait SimplStor for High Availability Data Access.

Wilmington, DE (PRWEB) December 12, 2012

Who wins the race is often decided by hundredths of a second. Great racing teams are dedicated to finding those hundredths in every part in their performance. With all the information recorded at both the race and during development, Hendrick Motorsports understands that data availability needs to be fast and uninterrupted. Zerowait’s storage technology, solutions and support provide them the edge they need to keep winning.

Finding the Elusive Second
Along with all of the performance data gathered by Hendrick Motorsports engineers, they record many aspects of race events to review while searching for ways to improve their track performance. When the team decided that it needed a storage solution for its HD video archives, they knew that Zerowait was working with the leading international companies in the Film and VFX business. Chris Newsome, Operations Manager at Hendrick Motorsports, says, “We’ve been working with Zerowait for the better part of a decade. Their team has relationships in the VFX business, and we knew they understood the required storage technology better than anyone. Zerowait provided us a turnkey, affordable storage solution to handle our fast-growing requirements.”

Matt Cochran, IT Manager at Hendrick Motorsports, added, “Zerowait’s SimplStor is easy to expand and has the performance we need. It allows us to increase performance by simply adding additional memory and NIC (Network Interface) Cards for bandwidth. The engineering team at Zerowait has always been available to help us with our NetApp equipment, and we recognized that with SimplStor Zerowait had put together the winning solution for our High Definition Video archive.”

Designed by Customers
SimplStor was developed based on conversations with large database users, including the Movie, VFX, and Oil and Gas companies who helped Zerowait design the equipment to meet their needs for a dense, affordable and scalable solution with outstanding performance. Offering 68TB in a 4U server and 90TB in a 4U add-on module, SimplStor offers a petabyte of storage in a single rack. When Hendrick Motorsports started to produce their own High Definition Video, they knew they could trust Zerowait for the storage solution they needed while saving their budget for other improvements to their systems.

Backed by Trust
Mike Linett, Zerowait’s President, added, “The Hendrick Motorsports organization and Zerowait have a lot in common. Both are family owned, have grown from ideas into successful companies, and are dedicated to improving performance. We’re proud to be celebrating our 21st year of providing exceptional support and solutions to our customers through open and honest relationships dedicated to their success.”

Headquartered in Wilmington, Del., USA, and with offices around the world, Zerowait is the worldwide leader in independent service and support of NetApp filers. Zerowait solutions include off-lease fully licensed NetApp systems and the new Zerowait SimplStor line of single-name space archive storage. Storage administrators throughout the world rely on Zerowait to provide affordable solutions to the skyrocketing costs of data storage.

Founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports has earned more than 200 race victories and a record 10 car owner championships in NASCAR’s premier division, the Sprint Cup Series. The organization fields four full-time Chevrolet teams on the Sprint Cup circuit with drivers Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Headquartered in Concord, N.C., Hendrick Motorsports employs more than 500 people. For more information, please visit or interact on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Keep It Simple Storage

I have met with a lot of customers over the past few years, and after hundreds of customer visits and thousands of phone calls and emails, I think I’ve learned what customers really want from storage. It should be: 1 – Easy to deploy.  2 - Affordable. 3 – Straight-forward to manage.  4 – Uncomplicated to expand.

Why is enterprise storage so hard to deploy and so difficult to migrate data to and from?  A lot of storage issues are caused by patchwork networking and storage protocols that have grown over 20 years into a mix of open source and proprietary solutions. Politicians often say that making laws is like making sausage, and the same can be said for enterprise storage. There is no one ‘right’ answer for all storage as there are so many special requirements and applications. After thousands of conversations with storage engineers and managers I have come to the conclusion that storage is simple to define in the macro environment, but difficult to define in the small, user environment. Whereas the Big Boss views his storage issues as simple to understand, the storage admin experiences a kaleidoscope of complexity. This leads to problems, one of which is that the Big Boss is often confounded by the acquisition costs and ongoing maintenance and management costs of their tier one arrays.

When storage managers try to explain that storage costs can be managed by migrating less critical data and information to less expensive arrays, management gets interested. But who wants to admit that his division’s data is not as important as another division’s data? Of course every bit of every department’s information is mission critical. If it wasn’t, then perhaps their division could be considered not critical--and in today’s economy, who wants to admit to that? The next step in that train of thought is the unemployment line.  Ego and fear play into the cost of storage and therefore every department’s data is mission critical and on expensive tier one arrays.

We all seem to agree that storage should be easy to manage and that Human Nature creates an environment where every department and user thinks their data storage and network access is mission critical.  How, then, can you prioritize resources for users in network and storage environment where everyone wants and requires priority access? The only solution is to get ever faster switches, routers and storage—which, unfortunately in a lot of cases, are not compatible with the existing architecture. This leads to glitches and hold ups in deployment, more headaches for the admin, and the whole storage infrastructure turns into an unmanageable monster, much like Frankenstein—cobbled together from disparate parts.

Then there is expansion. Tier one storage should be easy and affordable to expand, but can’t be because of proprietary software and legacy hardware. Unfortunately, proprietary software and legacy hardware needs to be kept running: data migrations are difficult and costly, something most companies can ill-afford in today’s economy.

Human nature, technological change and proprietary products all conspire to make storage hard to manage and expensive to maintain. Our customers tell me that Zerowait support is the best available and saves them time and money when compared to OEM support. They also tell us that our SimplStor product provides them the flexibility they need at an affordable price point, if they want new equipment. Successful companies will need to master the details of their network and user requirements in an ever growing mesh of complexity.

Zerowait can  help you with this difficult task.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lessons from 21 years in business

This week Zerowait is celebrating its 21st year in business and we have been looking at where we were and trying to figure out what we can do for our customers over the next 21 years.  A lot has changed in the international business environment over the last two decades, and Zerowait has changed along with it. We have operations world-wide now, and have developed our own storage product, SimplStor.  Some might say the key to our growth is the ubiquity of the Internet. That might be part of it. However, the real key to our success is our Zerowait team and our customers.
Throughout  Zerowait’s history we have kept our commitment to providing our customers the best service and support that we can. My feeling is that our customers should be respected and treated the same way that we want be treated by our vendors.  As an example, when a customer has a technical question they are able to call a senior engineer and get an answer without having to go through an IVR system. When a customer wants a quote, we try to get them one within 1 business day. It seems our customers like the individual service we provide them and they recommend us to their peers which has helped our business grow into the international business it is today. Lesson learned – Companies are made up of people, and personal relationships and memories last many decades.

The toughest part of growing a business is finding, hiring, and retaining great employees. As a privately owned, entrepreneurial business in an industry dominated by Venture Capital backed start ups it is difficult to compete with the packages that these companies offer. However, we have found that the great folks that join our company do so because they see the personal and career growth path we offer, and see that they have tremendous independence performing their jobs and helping our customers. Every Zerowait employee knows that their primary job is to keep our customers happy. Our employees can see what they have accomplished every week when we do our wrap up report, and it helps the team see how each person and department is critical to our customers’ success and ultimately our own success. Lesson learned – you need to build a great team to provide your customers the best service, and your team must understand that the success of the company depends on satisfying the customers.

Outsiders may think that the complexities of our technology business are some of the most complex things we deal with but the reality one of the most time consuming aspects of business today is dealing with the different and often contradictory rules and regulations by the different government agencies we deal with. There is not a week that goes by now that we are not working with our attorney to figure out what some agency rule that a Federal, state, county, or city government has done and what we have to do to comply with the new and inane rules. Currently we are working with our Attorney to figure out what to do since the State of Delaware has created a rule which conflicts with the New Castle County rules on essential personnel driving in a weather event (Thank you Hurricane Sandy). As we have grown into an international company we have had to retain Attorneys in other countries where we operate to make certain that our contracts are in compliance with their Governmental rules. Since we have no common knowledge of the laws or accounting rules of other countries this had led to some very funny conversations & misunderstandings. The frustration of dealing with all of the governmental regulations is getting worse and the costs of compliance in time and effort are a very big impediment to business today.  Lesson learned – The costs of regulatory compliance are similar to storage requirements over time – they both grow more than you expect. My suggestion:  Relocate to a place that has less onerous rules and regulations, as it is better for everyone—you, your employees and your customers.

We have been working with some of our customers for over two decades. I was in California a couple of weeks ago and one of the engineers we have worked with for a very long time told us that whenever he changes companies he tells them that Zerowait always provides outstanding, service and support and the best solutions available.  This is best advertizing we could wish for!  In our opinion, success in life and business depends on personal integrity. Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing, but in the long run it is always worth it.  Over the last 20 years we have dealt with several vendors and companies that have had difficulty living up to their end of a contract, and we have learned that it is better to work with folks that you can trust for the long term than to chase the new hyped solution that has no history of integrity or the staff with integrity to support it. Lesson learned - repeatedly over time - If the employees of a new hyped company will do wrong to a customer to keep their jobs, find another vendor.

Corporate success of 21 years owes a lot to the fact that we listen to our customers. Our customers told us that they wanted us to help them with an independent service and support solution for their NetApp equipment. We listened and did what we were asked and that business grew into an international business. In 2008 our customers asked us to work with them to create an affordable, reliable, big storage alternative and that led to the creation of our SimplStor product line. SimplStor is an international success story and it continues to grow as corporate IT budgets tighten. Lesson Learned – Our customers know what they want; our job is to help them.

Forecasting the future is always difficult, and in today’s globally integrated economy it is getting harder. We are optimistic about the next 21 years and what Zerowait can help our customers accomplish. For example, as the proportion of corporate budgets increases to pay for onerous governmental compliance costs our customers are asking for Zerowait’s help to control their acquisition and management costs of their expanding storage infrastructure in their shrinking IT budgets.  Lesson learned – Profitable companies create jobs by being efficient. If our company can help a customer’s company become more efficient, then both companies have growth potential.

Zerowait has grown from a small town business in a small state into an international company by staying true to our small town values. As the internet has grown it has created an international small town atmosphere in our storage niche. When we get together, the air is filled with folks gossiping and telling the same familiar and funny stories from years ago. Everyone knows who the go-to guy is for this or that, and with Linkedin you can see how closely related we all are in this business niche. After 21 years everyone in storage knows our name and reputation, and that speaks to the quality of our staff, customers, and friends.

Thank you all for 21 great years.

Friday, November 09, 2012

SEG 2012 Show

This week was pretty busy for Zerowait's  European and American Sales teams.  We were all attending the SEG show  in Las Vegas and we were busy the whole time.  The Oil and Gas business represents a major portion of Zerowait's Global business and the SEG show allows us a chance to catch up with our customers and friends from Europe, Australia, Asia and throughout North America.
 Just about everyone we spoke to is trying to deal with managing expanding storage requirements and very tight budgets and our customers are embracing both our Legacy NetApp Support and also our SimplStor products.

During the trade show we also launched   a  Press Release with Dial America which is one of our  SimplStor customers in NJ. Dial America is not in the Oil and Gas business, but our customers at the show could relate to the issues of storage costs and capacity that our friends at Dial America are dealing with .

“Our old tape backup solution was painful to deal with because it was complex to reliably restore files and expensive to maintain” said Gerhard Lindenmayer, Information Security Officer at DialAmerica. “It would take hours to perform recoveries from tape - it was a 20th century solution for a 21st century company. Zerowait’s SimplStor disk archive provided an easy way to reduce cost and complexity while increasing backup and recovery performance.” 

With data center space always at a premium, DialAmerica knows the storage density of Zerowait’s SimplStor (338TB raw in only 16U) will help them reduce their raised floor space and increase their operating efficiency. Thomas Conway, DialAmerica’s CIO says “Zerowait’s SimplStor provides us with cost efficient storage for our big data, and is backed by a company we have worked with for a decade”. 

If you are looking for an affordable  storage  alternative to the high priced OEM solutions our SimplStor product line is worth a look. SimplStor is  being embraced by customers around the world for a variety of applications in Video FX business, Manufacturing businesses, Oil and Gas sector, and Hi Tech niche businesses. 

It was great seeing our Oil and Gas  friends in Las Vegas, we are looking forward to next year's SEG show in Houston. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Eye of the Storm

Yesterday, Hurricane Sandy came through our area and I’m sure you’ve seen all the reports of damage. Fortunately, here in Wilmington, Delaware, while we experienced rain and heavy winds it wasn’t as bad. Our office Disaster Prevention preparations worked as planned to keep our staff safe, our customers satisfied, and provide for our business continuance.

The most important resource of Zerowait is our staff, and they need to remain safe and take care of their family and property. We recommend our staff take Personal Time Off during a weather emergency and concentrate on keeping their family safe. If there is an incidental business question, we can contact them by cell or email. That allows us to check on staff safety as well as provide our customers with the service they expect.

Making use of the Internet, our remote engineering and sales support teams allowed us to seamlessly move our support services and sales to other regions of the country. This allowed our local staff affected by the hurricane to concentrate on taking care of their families.  The staff that was in the office yesterday was able to prepare our facilities in case high water entered our building. We spent quite a few hours moving things around, and making sure that our equipment was safe. The system our team has built over the last decade harnesses the power of the internet to create a virtual environment for the Zerowait staff to provide for our customers, and quite a few were surprised to find we were working yesterday.

We’re back up and running this morning in our main location because the Zerowait team takes storm preparations seriously. We take notes after each weather event to improve our response to events as they occur.  The only way to improve is to learn from your past and study what others have done to avoid issues. We learned quite a few things from this storm, and we are reviewing our notes and adding a few new pages to our Disaster Prevention Manual.

There is always room for improvement, even at Zerowait  : ).

Friday, October 19, 2012

We are Optimistic

This week I traveled to the ICANN conference in Toronto  and also visited several of our customers in and around Toronto. The amount of construction going on in Toronto is incredible and the Ontario economy is doing very well according to the customers I visited. The ICANN events were interesting and it was great catching up with my friends and customers from around the world that were attending the conference. The folks I spoke to at ICANN are optimistic about the future growth opportunities that the new Top Level Domains will bring about, and it is good to talk to people who are enthusiastic about the opportunities that are unfolding in their business sectors. Coincidentally the Canadian press has an article today that points to the optimistic view of the Canadian business folks I met with this week:

"Canadian manufacturers are feeling optimistic about their futures as they foresee a sales shift over the next three years towards Europe and developing countries, according to a study released Thursday by their industry's main association.
Sales within their home provinces, to the rest of Canada and to the United States will remain the dominant markets for Canadian goods, but most companies expect to expand their reach to other markets, according to the survey of 649 Canadian companies released by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association.
"Companies expect globalization pressures will propel a shift in where they do business," the analysis conducted in August by a coalition of 52 industry associations found."

All of the customers I met with have tremendous storage needs in multiple global locations, and they are looking for ways to cut costs on their data storage. Zerowait has provided many of them with NetApp storage support for many years, and they are also embracing our SimplStor products for their archiving and image/graphics storage requirements.

Reacting to this globalization of our business niche, and the requests of our Australian customers for a local office, Zerowait opened our Australian office in 2011 and our business is thriving in Australia.  Over the next few years we expect our global business to grow to about 50% of Zerowait’s revenues. Working internationally has challenges, but our customers like that we help them control their enterprise storage costs around the world with our affordable storage support and hardware solutions.

The Oil and Gas industry has always been global, and has always required vast amounts of storage. During the first week in November, Farat Buta, our EU sales manager, will be traveling from the UK to the SEG show in Las Vegas to work with us in booth 107. Farat will be working with many of our international clients who will be there, helping them meet their storage growth objectives with our affordable storage products and services. 

Finally, in November Zerowait will be celebrating its 21st year in business. When I look back over the past 21 years and see what our team has accomplished and how we have built the company from my dream into an international company I am very impressed with our staff.  But more importantly, I am very optimistic about the next 21 years and I know that we can help our customers in new ways as technology improves and globalization increases.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If you like NetApp, you’ll love Zerowait!

NetApp customers are extremely loyal to the brand and they love the performance, scalability, and reliability that NetApp provides their user community. There are, however, two aspects of doing business with NetApp that annoy their customers, and those are the rapid supersession of models and the costs of service and support. But as many loyal NetApp customers have found out, combining NetApp hardware with Zerowait support provides them with an affordable high availability solution.

Zerowait has been working with NetApp Filers since 1998. We still are supporting legacy filers for organizations that were built in the ‘90’s. That is longevity! Many organizations struggling with the uncertain world economy take the approach “if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it.” And for those companies Zerowait’s affordable support provides a lifeline for their NetApp storage.

Over the last few weeks we have helped some of the best known organizations in Biotechnology, Video Effect (VFX), Media and hosting meet their growing storage requirements without busting their budgets. Like many of the IT organizations we work with, some of our new customers are in budget lockdown due to reduced quarterly earnings, and upgrading to the latest NetApp head is out of the question. But that doesn’t mean they can’t add more NetApp storage. They know that Zerowait provides storage upgrades and shelves to customers around the world, and our current specials make adding storage to their current reliable, scalable NetApp infrastructure easy and affordable.

In this economy, outstanding service and support has a value which can be measured by comparing the cost of new equipment and required data migration to the cost of adding to your current NetApp highly available and scalable storage infrastructure.  These bottom line costs savings can be measured by CFO’s and the folks in the executive suites, with no impact to the quality of service you now provide.

If you like your NetApp equipment, you will love Zerowait.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Competition Leads to Lower Prices!

I was speaking to a customer last week who we had quoted and I was told that they were staying with NetApp for their support because NetApp met our price. The customer felt it was better to stay with the OEM for support, since the price was the same. I told the customer that although I was sorry that I did not get his business, I was happy that I was able to help them meet their budget needs by creating the competitive environment which incentivized their NetApp representative to meet our price point for service and support. The customer agreed that it was our competition that reduced their cost of support.

We work with customers all over the world, and many of our customers say that we provide better service and support than the OEM does for their own equipment.  Many customers keep their NetApp systems long enough that NetApp’s representatives will no longer provide support quotes for equipment and Zerowait is the only global company providing high availability support for these legacy systems.  We think that NetApp makes great hardware and software and we have been working with NetApp hardware since 1998. Over the last decade we became an independent service and support organization, and that transition has allowed us to provide a competitive business model to NetApp for the support of their equipment. Our customers include commercial organizations around the globe, and many state and federal agencies.

In a turbulent world and uncertain economy, many organizations are fighting with extremely tight IT budgets and looking for ways to save on their storage costs. Over the last month I have met with customers in TX, CO, NV, and AZ to discuss the many ways we can help them stretch their IT dollars, whether by extending the service life of their NetApp equipment or by using our SimplStor as an  affordable data archive or tape replacement solution. If you are looking for an affordable storage solution, Zerowait has the answer!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Great racing!

Last weekend I went to the Reno Air Races and met a few friends and customers who are interested in this niche of racing.  It was great weekend of air racing and Strega won the unlimited category.  Strega is the white plane going by in the video .

Strega has been dominating the niche of unlimited air racing for a few years, and their team deserves a lot of credit for the dedication they put into keeping the aircraft competitive. After all, there is not a lot of money to be won and Unlimited Air Racing has a very small following.

This is where the Strega team and Zerowait have a little in common. Outstanding service and support for storage networking equipment is also a niche market.The Zerowait team is dedicated to providing the absolutely best service and support that we possibly can to our customers. And our customers continue to tell us that we provide them the best service service and support . Our  engineering and support staff understands our niche better than our competition, and it helps our customers remain competitive in their markets.

Every organization has to have a competitive edge  and the dedication to keep its customers satisfied. the Strega team has a great pilot, and a great team of mechanics and engineers  that are dedicated to keep it winning.  Racing and winning at Reno  takes extraordinary efforts.

Congratulations Strega team, and thank you to the Reno Air Racing Association for putting on an outstanding event.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Opps... Hey that is a good idea!

The other night I was having dinner with a fellow who works for an Intel subsidiary and we were talking about how Zerowait continues to grow in this wavering economy. I told him that I am willing to try things that make sense; sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t, but we always try to learn from our mistakes. I told him that we listen to our customers and if something sounds like a good idea we will discuss it within the company to see if it makes sense to give it a try.

Oscar Wilde famously said that “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”, and that is one way to look at trying new things and burning new synapses. Over the last two decades we have tried many things to build our business into the international business it is today. I can assure you that not everything has gone smoothly, but our goal has always been to provide increasingly better service to our customers as we fulfill their technical service requirements. John Wooden is remembered for saying “If you are not making mistakes, then you are not doing anything.” I have to admit that I make mistakes, just like everyone else. From personal experience I have learned that it is better to recognize the mistake and correct it right away. As a business owner, I have learned that mistakes often lead to inspiration and creative solutions. Therefore, mistakes can create the nexus of an idea for a new product or service for our customers. And our growing customer base seems to want us to continue to try new things which will ultimately provide them even better and unforeseen products and services. 

At Zerowait, our staff recognizes that we can learn from our mistakes; therefore we admit them, document them, and laugh and learn from them so the company can do better in the future. We’ve built a global business because together we are willing to try new things, and we take the approach that even when they don’t work, it’s better  to try and fail than to remain stuck in the status quo. The market is constantly evolving – are you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zerowait goes to Washington, DC

I visited Garth Spencer from Senator Carper’s staff Monday in the Hart Senate Building, and while there had the opportunity to photograph this very small “Senate Waste Receptacle”. I found it rather ironic that I was there to speak about the huge amount of waste the government incurs each year by allowing government IT groups to specify “OEM only” or “New only” for IT purchase and support contracts. Over the last 10 years Zerowait has built an international business by offering exceptional deals on off-lease NetApp systems with transferable software licenses and top notch NetApp support. Along the way we’ve sold and maintained systems for various government and military agencies, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is a very small percentage of the Federal Government’s IT support expenditures. For the last decade the majority of our hardware, service,  and support business has been with commercial customers, but perhaps the time has come for  Federal Government  departments to tighten their belt also?

During our discussion we discussed the multiple ways that Delaware’s Senator Carper and the Senate IT Committee could  easily reduce Federal  IT costs, without effecting reliability.   Sequestration offers the government the chance to reset many of the wasteful spending habits it has fallen into. By  taking full advantage of the commercial IT marketplace for service and support alternatives  the Department of Defense and other Federal  departments could affordably maintain and grow their  IT assets even as spending was reduced.  

Allowing competition for hardware support for all Federal IT equipment is an easy place to start saving money. The Federal Government could easily stretch their IT budget if it would follow the lead of our Gobal commercial customers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

OK Dr Dedupe, but what about the future?

I met Larry Freeman, Dr Dedupe, when he used to work with Nathan Thompson at SpectraLogic and I have not heard from him in a number of years. When he worked at SpectraLogic he seemed like he understood what the enterprise storage community was looking for. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following comments from Larry Freeman to last week’s blog:
Larry Freeman has left a new comment on your post "Increase your storage efficiency, or else!":

Hi Mike, nice post and good points raised. But you didn't say what you advised this customer to do. Here are a few tips:

1) Upgrade to the latest version of ONTAP, volume limits have been raised (assuming this customer has a fairly recent NetApp unit that can be upgraded)
ML Answer: Upgrading to NetApp’s version 8 is expensive as it requires moving to 64 bit hardware, forfeiting all of the investment that the customer has in their legacy 32 bit NetApp high availability hardware.

2) Turn on dedupe, compression, and thin provisioning. All are free and will likely reduce storage requirements substantially. The cheapest storage is the one you already own, use it wisely.
ML Answer: We agree with Dr Dedupe that “The cheapest storage is the one you already own”, which is why we work with customers to get the most from their legacy NetApp systems. Whether adding storage, optimizing density, or adding complete systems, using transferable licensed equipment is a great way to get the utility of NetApp without the high cost of new equipment. 
3) Turn on My AutoSupport. It’s also free to all registered NetApp users via the support site This tool tells you how efficiently you are managing your storage and provides more tips to reduce your storage footprint.
ML Answer: Autosupport is a great tool, but for security reasons many customers don’t feel comfortable with ‘Big Brother’ reading their ASUP’s. For those looking for more information on their systems, Zerowait offers our own Exception Reporter program which provides our customers with a quick glimpse of storage utilization statistics. Additionally Zerowait offers a free version of our Exception Reporter to the entire Filer community.



Beyond helping our customer optimize his current NetApp infrastructure, our engineering team is working with him to see if a SimplStor with either Red Hat XFS or Solaris and ZFS will provide the best combination of affordability and performance at acquisition and into the future. There are upsides to both solutions, and these solutions are far less costly than upgrading to NetApp 8.X hardware and software. 

There seems to be a consensus among the storage engineers that we speak with regularly that over the next 5 years there will be an adoption of generic storage solutions and a gradual phasing down of proprietary storage solutions that lock clients into a particular vendor’s offerings. We believe that there will always be a segment of the market that requires the top vendor’s offerings for their tier one solutions, but that off the shelf hardware and open source software will be a major part of most customers’ storage infrastructure in the coming years.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Increase your storage efficiency, or else!

This week I received an email from a customer asking for help. He wrote:

“I’m looking for deep, dense, and cheap. We currently archive to 1TB SATA drives on NetApp with a 4 TB volume size limit.  I have share farms on the back end through the ARX that are 18 TB Volumes.  I can’t keep spending the amounts of money I’m spending today on storage with our growth rate.  So Simplstor looks really good because I don't need to front end it with any server, I can just plug it into my network, add it to the ARX and start moving data to it.”

This client is not alone:
According to the Chicago Tribune “Firms are going to be a lot more cautious in terms of how they increase spending’’ said Michael Hanson, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America in New York. In this environment a simple way for an IT department to increase storage capacity is to use third party service and support and also to acquire off lease certified parts for their infrastructures.

In an uncertain economic environment increasing the life cycle of your trusted IT equipment makes business sense, if you can insure the risk of aging high availability equipment. There is no disruption to your user community due to upgrades and migrations, you can contain your costs and your administrators don’t need expensive and disruptive training since they are already familiar with the environment. And tiering, as our client is doing, allows you to add lower cost archival storage without affecting your clients data access expectations.

For the majority of our customers their organization’s storage growth is a constantly growing cost burden similar to the costs of medical care expenses. The reasons for the cost growth are similar also. The costs of Medical insurance are borne by indirect payment entities (insurance companies or the Government) and the costs of storage are borne by IT departments- which act like an IT insurance company for most organizations.  In both cases the person using the service typically does not pay directly for the service. Thus there are no market costs or perceived value exchanged between the supplier of the service and the user of the resource.  Since the user of Storage is not directly responsible for its acquisition costs, maintenance costs, and ongoing support, the IT department – like a medical insurance company - must find a way to reduce costs to increase efficiency. Unlike the insurance companies, most IT departments cannot raise their budgets (rates) when they can’t reduce their expenses any further. In their case they take the hit instead of the end user. Since the recession started, IT departments have lost personnel and delayed equipment purchases as they reached the limits of efficiency and still had to reduce their budgets.

 Storage and network requirements and associated costs are going to continue to increase until there is a way for IT departments to charge their users with actual cost information for their Infrastructure usage. Without direct feedback on the values and costs of Network and storage resources there will always be a disconnect between the providers of the infrastructure and the users of the IT resources.  The company that figures out how to capture the costs accurately and price them to the end users accurately will certainly be an investment opportunity to look into.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DoD Sequestration

 A lot of my friends are involved in the Military and in Defense related businesses. They are getting quite concerned about the effects of the DoD sequestration and what it will do to the economies around the bases and facilities where there may be huge layoffs.  It will be an anxious few months as we wait to see what happens. In these conversations with my friends, and as the owner of a third party support business, I have identified three ways the DoD could minimize the effects of sequestration and reduce their ongoing IT expenses. 

First, the DoD should require that their IT vendors give them license transferability on all of their software and firmware products. This would allow the DoD to move their licenses around to other departments and facilities and thereby reduce their costs of upgrades and support.  License transferability is provided to leasing companies from the manufacturers to protect the leasing companies’ residuals; why shouldn’t the DoD receive the same financial benefits?

Second, the DoD should require all service and support bids be opened up to qualified third party independent support organizations rather than restricted to the OEM service and support organizations. Currently, the DoD support and bidding process favors the OEM’s and this costs the DoD a tremendous amount of money. The manufacturers systems of opportunity registration further restricts competition amongst their dealers, and the lack of open bidding supports inflated pricing by the OEMs.

* "The Federal Government spent $2,034,269,948 on new equipment while only spending only $9,114,676 on refurbished. A resounding 99.6 percent of Federal IT dollars was spent with OEMs and OEM authorized resellers."

* "Still others [OEMs] issue fictitious list prices. These can be a much as 200 to 300 percent higher than what they will charge a good customer, i.e., they can offer the perception of huge discounts to end customers while asking independents to pay much higher list prices for the same product or part."

Third, Congress could require that the DoD maintain IT systems for a 7 or 10 year life. This would force the IT vendors to extend their product life cycles or encourage the manufacturers to  partner with legacy service companies to take over the extended support  contracts for their older systems. If fully implemented, this would encourage manufacturers to concentrate on technological improvement while service companies focus on providing outstanding technical support, creating an environment of both IT innovation and sustainability.

So there you have some good solid savings that could come out of the DoD Sequestration situation without affecting our Military readiness at all. Perhaps this could turn out to be an opportunity for the DoD to become a more efficient organization in the way it acquires and maintains the IT equipment that it purchases and maintains.  While it seems unlikely, there exists the possibility that at least one segment of the DoD bureaucracy can be changed into an affordable and efficient organization.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A great article Independent support

Jeff Klein, a  long term customer of Zerowait's, recently wrote an article for tech zone about independent third party support and refurbished parts for legacy Information Technology equipment.  It is a well written article and I think it is worth your time to understand the issues involved. Here are some interesting excerpts.
* "The Federal Government spent $2,034,269,948 on new equipment while only spending only $9,114,676 on refurbished. A resounding 99.6 percent of Federal IT dollars was spent with OEMs and OEM authorized resellers."
* "Still others [OEMs] issue fictitious list prices. These can be a much as 200 to 300 percent higher than what they will charge a good customer, i.e., they can offer the perception of huge discounts to end customers while asking independents to pay much higher list prices for the same product or part."
Jeff's article ends with this :
"The solution is simple. Corporate IT buyers must join with their independent suppliers to demand that manufacturers:

 1. Stop their attacks on independents.
 2. Call on the U.S. Department of Justice to commence hearings to  determine if AGMA is in violation of anti-trust laws.

Without coordinated action, competition will continue to be curtailed, prices will rise, choices will be limited and free trade in America will be a little less free. "

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A busy week in Australia

Over the last few days I have been in Sydney, Australia visiting with our staff and clients here. Zerowait Corp. PTY has been in Australia for just over 18 months and we have quite a few customers in the media and financial services business sectors here.  Every time I come here I am more impressed with the engineering and technical staffs of the companies we visit. There is a lot of ingenuity here, and our Simplstor Products and  independent NetApp support are doing well here.

Last night I was at a gathering of VFX folks in Newtown at the Marly bar and I was talking to folks about robotics and developments in camera technology for film and animation. The VFX community here includes customers of ours in the commercials business, movie business, and the TV business, and I really enjoy coming to Sydney for these evening gatherings. I wish that we could put events like this together in the USA. As mentioned previously in this blog the Aussies have great beer and it is hard not to enjoy a few of them when you are out in the evening with customers and friends.

Laurence Jones, who runs our office in Lane Cove West has pulled things together over the last year and a half  and set up an excellent office. Our business in  Australia is  doing really great thanks to his efforts. It is really pretty amazing to think back to November of 2010 when one of our customers asked us to set up the  Australian operation and to see that  18 months later we have a growing business that is gaining more customers every month.

Finally, I can't say enough good things about our Attorney's in Sydney. As an American, dealing with the rules and regulations of setting up a company in Australia and keeping things consistent between the two countries  different business law systems has been an education.  After 18 months we have finally gotten things figured out.  Based on what we have accomplished we expect that over the next 18 months we will  substantially increase our business in Australia.