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 support.netapp.com. 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.