An Alternative to NetApp's high prices for Storage upgrades and extended, out-of-warranty support  888.811.0808

Zerowait High Availability Blog

Zerowait is an international 3rd party provider of Parts, Services, and Support for Network Appliance equipment. Zerowait is not a partner of, nor affiliated with, Network Appliance Corporation. Offices in USA,UK & AUS.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Getting off the NetApp train at the cDot station

Every week we receive inquiries from NetApp customers who are not going to upgrade to cDot. They are looking to extend the life span of their 7 Mode Filers until they can find a viable solution to migrate to or they just want to keep their current infrastructure running for the foreseeable future.  Sometimes organizations just need more time to decide what to do, and often there isn’t the staff with the expertise available to handle intricacies of a data migration.

The forced migration to cDot has caused NetApp customers to reevaluate what they should do as new technologies become mainstream. Data migrations are rarely easy, and often take longer than predicted. Time is money.

Are you getting off the NetApp Train at the cDot station, or are you staying on-board the NetApp train to the next stop? There are lots of options available and over the next few weeks we will review some of them on this blog to help you make your decisions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Opportunites are Endless

Over the last couple of months I have been in Australia, New Zealand, and all around the USA meeting with customers and business partners. Keeping connected with our customers is how we stay focused on providing the NetApp and SimplStor products and services that our customers need. A lot of the customers I met over the last couple of months are concerned about migrating to NetApp cDot and are looking at the three alternatives that are available to them; maintaining what they have, upgrading to cDot, or migrating to another storage platform.

The first group of NetApp customers that we work with are very happy with the performance and features of 7-mode and don’t see any benefit in upgrading to a newer platform from NetApp. For these customers Zerowait’s legacy support services are a great alternative. With our experienced and credentialed NetApp engineering staff and Exception Reporter they are assured that we will be able to provide them the service and support they need to meet their uptime and budget requirements.

The second group is looking for a reliable partner to help them maintain, migrate and decommission their equipment when their NetApp migration is complete. For these customers we can provide the support and swing gear for as long as the project takes. At the end of the project we can then decommission, sanitize, and dispose of their older NetApp platforms whether they are migrating to a cDot NetApp filer or another storage vendor’s equipment.

The third group of customers is moving forward into the NetApp cDot environment and need to use our swing gear in the short term for their migration and then is looking to maintain their older NetApp equipment in an archival or secondary storage mode for an extended period. This group combines the needs of the first two groups with similar solutions.

Savvy customers recognize the value of a company that can help them gain the breathing space they need to make a data migration decision and then help them through the process. That is why customers rely on Zerowait around the world for the expertise and service that we provide.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

What I would do as NetApp CEO

The first rule of a successful business is to listen to your customers and give them what they want. NetApp has a great product and a loyal customer base. However, it seems that NetApp has become a self-absorbed company that has forgotten that its mission is to provide products and services that customers want. Instead they are alienating the customer base. This has not proven to be good success strategy. Instead, I would try embracing the customers who are loyal and asking them what they want and need. For example, customers really like 7 mode, so the first thing I would do is allow customers to keep the product they like. If some customers like cDot and others want to keep 7-mode why not support and improve both Ontap versions?

The second thing I would do is turn the Software Support model around and stop creating barriers for customers to maintain older equipment. Does NetApp really think that raising the price of legacy support for systems is a successful strategy in a competitive world? High legacy support prices have the same effect as high taxes: they are a deterrent to new investment and create an incentive to look for alternative solutions. In the case of NetApp, customers are given the choice between exorbitant legacy support pricing or a costly migration to cDot. Rational customers will chose the least costly solution to solve their problem and that includes the learning curve for their admins. Since the marginal cost of an additional software license is essentially $0.00, I would empower loyal customers and offer them an affordable software support package for their legacy systems.

As NetApp’ s new CEO, the third thing I would do is look over our past history of acquisitions and see how successful they have been. Warren Buffet says something like “invest in what you understand”, which seems like pretty good advice. Especially when it seems that the history of NetApp acquisitions has been marked by one failure after another. And so I would review the strategy and try to invest in technologies that our customers want.

I have been working with NetApp equipment and customers since 1998, and our company has grown because we listen to what NetApp customers want. I recognize that NetApp probably won’t select me as their next CEO, but perhaps they should look at their recent history and take some advice from George Costanza :
“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
– Jerry, to George, in “The Opposite”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Perhaps it is time for NetApp Classic to be released

 Many of you remember the highly anticipated/marketed release of New Coke and the subsequent release of Classic Coke after it was determined that many customers really liked regular Coke. There seems to be a similar reaction to the Release of NetApp Cdot 8.3. So maybe it is time to release Classic Ontap?  If you want to see evidence of unhappy customer reactions to a new product, look at the comments on this Blog:

Every company and person makes mistakes, even the innovative and creative ones.  Long term success requires that a successful company face up to a mistake and correct it for its customers, otherwise the customers will find another solution that is more to their liking. 

Every day as individuals and groups working together we make choices large or small based on incomplete information and intuition about the future. Most of our choices are guided by past experience and input and influence from our peers. When deciding upon a service offered by a vendor or contractor we need to assign uncertain values to the price, quality, and service. Those values are different for each of us, based on past experience and the perception of the value provided by the service or product offering.

In the face of customer’s comments like those in the blog, and many others we have heard in speaking with our customers, I would think it is time to at least consider a return to seven mode as the OnTap classic. NetApp’s quarterly results recently have been flat; to continue growing, a company needs to have a happy customer base.

At Zerowait we provide support to legacy NetApp customers around the world who prefer their NetApp OnTap Classic.  That said, if you are one those who like new, we can help you migrate to CDot or another system with our rental Netapp hardware and the many versions of our SimplStor customizable storage hardware.  Our aim is to make our customers happy. However you like your storage, we are there for you.

I never liked New Coke.

Picture source

Friday, April 10, 2015

Similarities between the DMV and your OEM Support?

We have houses in two states.  We therefore have cars in two states.  However, we can only be a resident of one of those states.  This month one or our cars came due for registration renewal, so we turned to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  So far, so good, right?   Not so fast!  In the state where we are no longer residents, a required document to renew a vehicle registration is that state's drivers' license--which we no longer have!  So we contacted the DMV multiple times to see what could be done.  Answers ranged from "you need to take the vehicle to the other state to get inspected then bring it back here" (1400 miles away), to "you need to register it in the other state", to "it can't be done period, if you don't have an in-state license".  This does not seem like an out of the ordinary question: surely we are not the first people with this situation!  However, trying to get an answer from the DMV is not an ordinary experience.  We finally got it resolved through dogged persistence, but this episode made me ponder the role of service providers in general.  Making customers suffer a Kafkaesque experience shouldn't be the model.

Have you ever called technical support and gotten what you consider a nonsense answer, and when you call back the second answer you get is not only different, but does not make any more sense than the first one?  It is similar to our experience with the DMV.  On our state's official DMV website there is no mention of how to get an automobile registered if you have an out of state drivers' license; there is plenty of information on how to register a boat if you are not a resident, though.  So I called the number on the site and after being put on hold a nice person told me that what I wanted to do was not possible.  I asked why you should be able to register a boat with an out of state license but not a car.  Turns out, it's because a boat is using the waterways, but a car is on the roads.  Of course it is: how could I be so stupid!  Ahem.  That did not answer the question as to why my identification was good enough for a boat but not an automobile, though.  My wife called and got a different answer to the question:  all we had to do was get an inspection and pay the fee (which turned out not to be true).  How could two people have gotten such different answers to the same question?

One way to deal with this is to ask your peers what they would do.  They have likely also experienced a frustrating technical support call, and maybe they have found a workaround (i.e., escalate right away) or perhaps know of another vendor that actually fixes things without the hassle.  With the DMV being the only game in town, we were stuck.  But we did try our own advice.  We asked our accountant and insurance agent.  They both said that their customers tell them they sometimes just go in to the DMV and it works and other times it doesn’t and they end up registering the car in another state.  Sigh.  It seemed like explaining how to set up a wireless network: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Signals come and signals go. Magic.

Another idea:  When you finally get a technician that actually seems to know something, write that down.  Remember that person for next time!  On the DMV issue what we did was take copies of every utility bill we had and went to the DMV.  After the interminable inspection lines we had to wait another hour in line to get to the registration window.  Once there we were asked if we could provide the out of state registration card for one of the vehicles we own in the other state to verify that we had cars in another state.  Er, what?  Not quite knowing how to respond to this, we instead kept waving the bills around, pointing to addresses and... a miracle happened.

After thinking about the process we went through it became apparent to me that the reason that our business continues to grow is that OEM service and support uses the DMV model and Zerowait goes in the opposite direction. When a customer calls in with an issue they speak to an engineer that knows what they are talking about. The customers information is verified and the problem is worked based on the idea of let’s get this working right now.  At Zerowait we know that no two storage networks are the same, but they all need to provide data to clients.  Instead of creating roadblocks to solutions like the DMV, our goal is to create pathways to the successful restoration of data.  Make the customer happy. Is that the goal of the DMV or your OEM service provider?