Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A step at a time

Last week I was in New York City visiting with customers who are trying to figure out how to affordably manage their vast and growing data archives. They have tried a variety of solutions from start ups and established vendors but nothing seems to solve the problems of data storage and management in a way that they need to.  They use NetApp for their tier one storage and have a home built archival solution which is reliable and affordable, but not a great long term strategic storage solution.

Our customer likes the reliability of their NetApp equipment, but it is hard to justify the cost of support and license renewals. Zerowait can provide off lease NetApp filers to them with transferable licenses and additional storage for their filers to reduce their costs, and like so many of our  commercial customers they have to find a balance that provides them the NetApp licenses along with the storage from Zerowait that works for their Tier one storage.  Commercial customers are looking to trim any operational expenses they can while maintaining the reliability they need.

A lot of our customers have built secondary and tertiary storage solutions on their own, and I always enjoy conversations with customers that have done this to learn how they chose the combination of Operating systems, file systems, disk drive types, and a cornucopia of other choices that have to be made to create an affordable storage solution that is adaptable and supportable into the future. The issues of sparing, support, and patches typically become problematic as the months and years tick by. SimplStor came about because some of our NetApp support customers recognized that they needed an affordable archive alternative, but they recognized that they could not support the product for the 5 year term themselves. Out of that idea, a niche storage product was born and now it is an international success story.

Our New York customer is an innovator like many of our customers, and they have some great ideas on how to manage their storage issues. Balancing end user requirements with the limitations of networks and storage management can create some interesting one off solutions to problems. But looking into the future our customers realize that they need a partner that understands storage and networks and is looking for affordable ways to help them achieve their long term goals.  Does your organization have a storage strategy on how it is going to support its current infrastructure in three years? Or are you going to simply select the most expensive solution offered by your current supplier? Zerowait can help.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Archival data like old soldiers, never dies — but can’t be allowed to fade away.

This week I was visiting some of our North Carolina customers. Our customers have some pretty diverse business models, but one thing they all have in common is the desire to cut the costs of their operations to increase their profit margins.  Only the government considers a slowdown in the rate of the increase in expenses to be a cut.

I heard a number of times this week that Zerowait is helping our customers meet their goals. Our staff is dedicated to customer support and we listen to what are customers are saying so we can provide solutions that answer their specific needs. We can usually meet or exceed the service levels that our competitors are providing while offering significant savings. For example, when it comes to Archival storage a lot of our customers are very satisfied with using their legacy NetApp equipment for their tier 2 and tier 3 archival needs.  Our savvy customers recognize that their legacy NetApp equipment is not suddenly less reliable just because a new model is out.  They recognize that purchasing new equipment for archival solutions is cost prohibitive and if they can maintain their older NetApp equipment it will work perfectly well for their archival needs. And the savings can be applied to other IT priorities in today’s always stretched budget. For these Zerowait customers, our service and support provides a real value easily calculated as the savings over new equipment and migration costs.

One of the customers I visited is using LUSTRE in a big storage environment. In their case they don’t need high performance; they just have a lot of data. SATA drives are fine and they use massive arrays of inexpensive disks to build out their environment.  They were one of the customers who helped us put together our SimplStor product, and they are always doing something interesting that is pushing the boundaries. I learn something every time I visit them, and this week’s visit was no exception.

It’s clear that the amount of data being generated continues to grow, even as companies find it harder and harder to delete anything, whether for regulatory, legal or business reasons. Whether the solution is repurposing your older NetApp systems, or moving to SimplStor for low cost, highly dense disk archive, Zerowait provides the most cost effective solution. Please give us a call so we can help you implement the best solution for your archive requirements.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flexibility and Adaptability

Last week I was in the DC area visiting with customers and I met with a company that is trying to build an affordable and scalable data infrastructure that can be collocated in N+1 data centers to provide fault tolerant delivery services. Using virtualization technology, global load balancing and NAS storage they are trying to build an adaptable infrastructure that offers several advantages over their competition. 

Their challenge is that they need to build a test rack with servers, switches, storage and components and debug the infrastructure before they send it to their remote collocation centers. They asked our engineers to help them specify the components, build out the architecture and help them with testing and debugging. They have also asked for our help with shipping and the logistics of getting equipment to the right place so that the data transitions can be accomplished without any downtime. 

I also visited a large federal government agency that is a customer and is trying to figure out how to get by without overspending their sequestered budget. As an old customer they recognize that Zerowait can save them an enormous amount on their NetApp support and we joked that if the Government simply switched their NetApp support to Zerowait’s affordable support they could probably keep the Blue Angels flying. 

Government moves slowly, but Zerowait is continuing to grow in the Federal sector and just like commercial businesses sooner or later government agencies will need to find a reliable and affordable support alternative to the outrageously expensive OEM support models.

Data storage continues to grow, and as the costs of storage continue to grow, more and more customers are looking to Zerowait to help them stretch their storage budgets. It has been a very busy first quarter, and I expect the rest of the year to be busy also.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Affordable, Scalable Performance and Encryption

Last week I was in Dallas, TX visiting with customers and I learned about the challenges faced by a company trying to deal with a combination of HIPAA, FIPS, and PCI compliance. Zerowait has a variety of scalable and affordable storage solutions and the performance of our storage is quite good. The issue is how to affordably comply with regulations that are not clearly written or understood on security. For a company stuck in the middle the only option is to find a solution that can address all three types of compliance and then figure out how to do it affordably.

Coincidentally, this morning in Wilmington, Delaware I was at a round table discussion with Senator Carper who is the chairman of the US Senate’s Homeland Security Committee and the issue came up in his remarks and I asked a couple of questions about the cost of compliance for the business community and the lack of clarity on the requirements. Cyber security is on everyone’s radar but the unintended consequences of the regulatory environment are not well understood. And the challenge for businesses is: Since the government regulation and rule making process is deliberately ponderously slow, how can a company’s engineers quickly stop a cyber attack while waiting to figure out how to comply with government regulations that have yet to be finalized?

During the meeting in Dallas we discussed file systems and archival retention policies, and how to apply encryption that would meet or exceed the government’s regulations without breaking the storage budget.  Our engineering manager had researched options and the customer’s engineers were also well-versed in the different issues concerning encryption and retention policies. Together we think we came up with an affordable solution which would address all of the regulations that must be complied with.

The biggest problem the customer is dealing with is regulatory uncertainty.  Without clarity the choices are limited to finding a solution that is adaptable to changing requirements and not locked into any one encryption solution. On our staff we have an Air Force Veteran who uses the phrase “no plan survives contact with the enemy”.  As we go into the future we need to make encryption decisions that are adaptable and agile enough to protect data, while meeting uncertain and changeable regulations.

A company can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on firewalls, intrusion detection systems and encryption and other security technologies, but if an attacker can call one trusted person within the company, and that person complies, and if the attacker gets in, then all that money spent on technology is essentially wasted.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Phoenix's Rising storage rquirements

Last week I was in Phoenix, AZ visiting with customers and I learned a lot about how the dynamics of video surveillance are changing and how our SimplStor products are becoming the solution of choice in this market segment.

One of our customers is looking for a solution for long term archiving of video data. The big storage OEMs are trying to convince them to use a cloud storage solution. Our customer noticed that in the cloud all storage is generic and is wondering why one OEM’s storage solution in the cloud is any better than any other. The customer recognizes that the big arrays are all filled by drives manufactured by Hitachi or Seagate in the OEM’s systems and since they are not using most of the features in cloud archival storage our customer is wondering why they should pay the cost delta for the tier one storage for archival storage in the cloud.

Another customer is looking at recording local video and wants an affordable month long video vault for their surveillance requirements. They have tried other vendor’s storage solutions and their needs don’t fit the big OEM’s standard solutions. Since SimplStor was designed to be adaptable to our customer’s requirements it is fairly easy to increase our memory or make small changes to meet our customers’ requirements.

Business in Phoenix is increasing for Zerowait SimplStor in Phoenix as customers are looking for adaptable and affordable storage solutions for their video requirements. Interestingly, we are also seeing an increase in this business niche in our Australian division. Outstanding support and an affordable quality storage solution seem to be a winning combination for customers around the globe.