Friday, February 21, 2014

A storage sweetener

Since NetApp’s introduction of OnTap 8.2 several months ago, Zerowait has been receiving a steadily increasing number of requests for staff augmentations and help in planning data migrations, often to more affordably priced storage arrays.  Migrating mixed NFS and CIFS NAS volumes can be tricky.  These migrations typically require a significant time investment and cost a princely sum when handled by the OEM of high-priced, first-tier storage. Zerowait has developed a recipe to sweeten the mix when customers want to refresh and augment their data storage infrastructure.

The upgrade to 8.2 OnTap is leaving a bitter taste in many customers’ mouths, and who’s to say that OnTap 8.3 will even have a “7-mode”?  The upgrade involves training customers on Clustered OnTap, which contradicts NetApp’s messaging that customers would only need to learn OnTap once and never learn it again.  The conversion is a lengthy process as all data needs to be copied from the 7-mode system to Clustered OnTap without any means for an in place upgrade.  Regardless of OnTap mode, once a customer’s upgrade is complete, all of the customer’s licenses will be reissued to a new code that is node-locked reducing the portability of OnTap that NetApp always championed.  While some customers may like the new feature sets, there are many who feel the 8.2 upgrade is going to add unwanted complexity in both solution engineering and day to day operations.
This is a fork in the road for NetApp’s customers. A sizable number of customers like the simplicity, reliability, and compatibility of their current equipment with 7-mode.  Additionally, customers have to engage NetApp directly to get 8.2 licenses for older systems, which requires an expensive NetApp support agreement.

 Our customers like NetApp’s original messaging that allowed customers the freedom to upgrade their filers simply, on their own schedule, and without a professional services engagement.  Now you have to ask permission for an upgrade from NetApp.  What people have traditionally liked about NetApp is that it left administration of the filers in the hands of the administrators.  This was a big differentiator from EMC, who controlled even the simple task of swapping out of bad drives!  Trading that freedom in and being forced into a box is a bitter drink to swallow for many NetApp aficionados.

Zerowait’s customers have asked us to sweeten the storage cocktail they’ve been offered, and we have come up with a recipe which leverages a customer’s NetApp equipment with our SimplStor hardware to provide an affordable and easy to manage tiered storage strategy.  Using our approach, customers will be able to put their primary storage on whichever current equipment they choose, and then using standard migration methodologies, move their lower tier data to NetApp equipment, which Zerowait supports, on a second tier.  For even greater cost savings, SimplStor can be rapidly deployed for archival storage needs.

Zerowait’s customers like the flexibility to choose their storage equipment’s support model while most are questioning how NetApp’s new licensing scheme will benefit customers.  If you are considering an upgrade to OnTap 8.2, but aren’t sure about it, give us a call and we will review the options with you. Our expert engineering staff can help your staff upgrade or migrate your data and afterwards they can enjoy a refreshing glass of lemonade using our recipe of lemons, sweeteners, and a few drops of our secret sauce.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How many data migrations can your company afford?

Banana_Fruit Over the last few weeks I have been visiting with customers in the Southwest. The common theme of the meetings since the beginning of January has been that it is very hard to make strategic decisions on long term storage requirements when your hardware and software vendors are working with very short product and support life cycles. Since Zerowait is in the legacy support business for NetApp equipment I get into a lot of very interesting discussions of how companies can make plans for archival storage in such an environment.

One of the customers I spoke with last week compared the product life cycles of NetApp’s products to the shelf life of a banana. We laughed at the comparison but it’s not far off. We have many customers who live in a regulatory environment where their storage has to be immediately accessible for decades. Over time these regulations have enormous costs in both time and money to ensure that the storage is available and that the networks are well-documented. One of our Radiology customers informed me that typically the images are reviewed a few times in the first 90 days, but must be kept spinning for 21 years. His question is how many storage platform manufacturers around today are going to be supporting their equipment and proprietary software two decades from now? And government regulations for the Tobacco industry require data accessibility for perpetuity.

These compliance storage requirements are seeping into other business sectors and the unintended consequences are going to cost companies a lot of money in managing archival storage. One of our Oil and Gas customers has taken the approach that proprietary storage software is time-limited by its DNA in that the software writer has to constantly update their code to stay in business. His approach is open source, which will provide support for legacy software for decades. I think this makes sense, but the process of migrating data between proprietary high availability primary storage resources to high reliability secondary and tertiary storage is still a costly process in time and money--and it will remain one for decades.

It seems that many customers are starting to realize that they need to put their primary storage on systems with the shelf life of a banana, and then migrate their data to a long-term affordable archive solution. Because of our expertise in legacy NetApp equipment and open source storage solutions many of our customers are asking Zerowait to help bridge the gap between the requirements of high availability storage and affordable long term archiving. It is this long-term business support model that led to our SimplStor product, and is only going to grow.