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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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Nuts on the Fence

Have you ever noticed that when you focus on the details of an issue that you often loose focus on the big picture, and when you focus on the big picture you end up not getting the whole story?  We all make decisions and prioritize based on the way we filter data to meet our own particular view of reality. In making our strategic business decisions at Zerowait we try to get as much information from our customers, employees, and vendors as we can, and then if needed ask our attorney, insurance broker and accountants for their advice.  Business decisions depend on a lot of factors.  Our successful customers do the same thing.

Recently we worked with an energy resources company on taking over their support services for their NetApp equipment.  We had been working with them for many years on support of various parts of their NetApp infrastructure, and they liked working with our engineers. NetApp tried to force them to upgrade to cDot and they could not see any advantage to the upgrade.  Plus, they had quite a lot of legacy equipment working in tandem with current equipment.  So when it came time to get a support renewal, NetApp’s quote was an Excel nightmare.  Certain shelves renewed for the one month until their EOS date and then were dropped off, while other parts went for the full year.  Understanding the NetApp quote was almost impossible. Whether you focused on the details or the total it just did not make any sense.  It certainly was not customer-friendly. Our team, on the other hand, focused on what he customer wanted—support for all of his equipment for the full year--and we built a policy that reflected his needs and budget.  After we won the deal, we learned that NetApp contacted the customer to ask why he selected a third party support company.  We don't know what the customer told NetApp, but it must have been interesting!

Speaking of interesting, just this morning I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about some of the issues with Cloud computing.  Many of our customers like the idea of getting rid of capital expenditures and outsourcing parts of their infrastructure, but when you focus on the details your need to be aware of the Cyber liability risks and ask your insurance carrier what is covered and what is not. And then you have to find a carrier that will cover the risk that you want to take by outsourcing your data and data infrastructure.
When we did this for our own internal systems, the research took a year, and we reviewed the policies with our lawyer and our engineering team to see how we could make sure we met the coverage requirements and kept our data secure.  The Wall Street Journal article points out that the savings may be illusory and that more investigation may be needed before jumping in.

“When on-demand enterprise applications emerged about a decade ago, they were touted as a cheap and more flexible alternative to buying software outright—a move that comes with upfront infrastructure and licensing costs, on top of ongoing fees for maintenance, support and upgrades. But in practice, these promises have been hard to fulfill.”

Outsourcing business critical data services is a risk that many of our customers don’t want to take.  But with budgets tight and compliance and data sovereignty rules getting tougher it is hard to keep all the resources you need inside the corporation.  Costs are driving data to outside sources.  If you focus only on the details of capex costs of storage you risk opening yourselves up on the limits of your cyber liability insurance and different nations' rules over data sovereignty. Do you focus on the nuts or the fence?

A few weeks ago we were at the SEG show in New Orleans.  The takeaway: The Oil and Gas sector is tightening their belts.  We spoke to a lot of folks about how we could help them maintain their NetApp Legacy equipment and also how we could use our SimplStor to help them reduce their infrastructure costs.  Many of the technical folks we talked with are going to be at the Super Computer show in Austin next week and we will be there because we are trying to help our clients balance their requirements of data storage, security, and costs. It seems that Zerowait has the unique ability in the industry to focus on what is important to our customers. And that is why we continue to grow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Express train to Flexible Opex

I spent the last week in Australia visiting some of our customers and our business partners at Forum Group in Sydney. Our customer base in Australia continues to grow and we are now working with many different business segments. The folks at Forum Group started out as a customer of ours but we noticed that we were doing business with many of the same customers in closely related business segments, so it just makes sense to work together. Forum Group has NetApp equipment and we provide them support on their infrastructure and they also are using our SimplStor in their cloud offering for customers. Over the last few years Theo Popescu, the Forum Group CTO has become a friend of ours and a trusted business partner, he wanted to add to the discussion we have been having on our blogs about some of the things we are working on and our question and answers are below:

 Question 1)  What do you like about working with the Zerowait team and how does it help your customers?

Answer 1) In our modern world of online & self serve it can often be very difficult to find a partner that is willing to go the extra mile and be quick to respond when things go wrong. Zerowait do not only surpass expectations for Forum and our Australian customers but do so from the other side of the world. I don’t know of many partners where the President is so attentive and accessible as Mike is at Zerowait. The net result is our customers receive a premium level of solutions and support they otherwise may not receive elsewhere.

Question 2)  How does SimplStor fit into your product offerings?

Answer 2) Customers always face an interesting challenge it’s time to review their need for disk storage, be it a green field implementation or an upgrade path from an EOL legacy system such as NetApp7. Usually they tend to side with the options they’re used to because it’s what they know. The adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” certainly rings true which is why when educated on the quality, functionality and most certainly the unrivaled cost of a SimplStor solution it quickly becomes the preferred option especially when coupled with renowned Zerowait support.

Question 3) Can you explain how your Flexible OPEX works? And how it helps customers who are migrating storage.

Answer 3) Let’s analyse the aspects of conducting a storage migration project. You have you legacy storage which until decommissioning will need to have support, capital outlay for the new hardware to be implemented, the migration which with a certainty will run twice as long to conduct then as planned due to unforeseen circumstances, professional services for assisting or conducting the entire migration which rise as the project endures delays, then finally support for the new platform ongoing.  

There are variable costs associated each of these segments. What if there was a way to provide a plan that combined all of the aspects of the migration under an overarching umbrella at one single Flexible OPEX cost per month, is that something worth investigating?

Here’s how the new world migration looks under the Flexible OPEX model where hardware, software, professional services and support are included in a fixed monthly cost over a 5 year period. You receive support for your legacy storage whilst the migration plan is hatched. The hardware is delivered at the time as per the planned implementation which could be in the 1st, 5th or any years in between as delays to the project blow outs have no monetary impact. The entire migration has already been included as has the corresponding professional services whenever they are utilised. Once migration has been completed support is transferred to the new production equipment with decommissioning, removal and destruction conducted on the old. The real power is that at any stage the Flexible nature of our OPEX agreement means we are able to add or modify the equipment without penalty over the term because in reality if your business doesn’t change in 5 years you probably won’t have a business.  

With noncapital outlay, cash flow is maximised and opportunity cost is minimised, professional services fees are fixed while support is maintained throughout. Forum and Zerowait, in partnership, have laid the tracks for the express train to storage migration, don’t get stuck with an all stops ticket.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Is the next station ZFS?

Effrem Norwood is a good friend of mine and one of the smartest and most capable folks I know in the storage business. I have known Effrem for over 15 years and we have a lot of technical discussions about storage and he often talks with our engineering team about things we are working on. When we were initially designing our SimplStor unit in 2008 Effrem Norwood helped us with the design and testing. He has been working on a special ZFS / Solaris installation for the healthcare business for a few years and has over 10 PB running on a version of our SimplStor hardware. It is a pretty impressive solution set and quite affordable for customers that are not going to upgrade to cDot, but want a powerful and adaptable solution with affordable hardware and software support. We are working with Effrem’s team at BlueRing to help our customers who want the features and benefits of ZFS without the hassle of constant upgrades from a hardware manufacturer. Several of our customers are interested in ZFS as an alternative to migrating to cDot, and below are the 3 questions that have come up in our conversations with customers and the Bluering answers. 

Zerowait  Question - Can you please tell us how you came to select Solaris and ZFS as the solution set for your Healthcare customers? 

Bluering Answer - ZFS is an incredibly powerful filesystem that provides an unmatched feature set that can be deployed on standards based x86 hardware. Oracle provides world class support for this, making Solaris the obvious choice to supply ZFS. All non Oracle Solaris ZFS implementations are a fork of the last build of OpenSolaris, build 134 and I can tell you, a lot has changed with Oracle Solaris ZFS since then that the open source community just can't match. There are major data loss issues waiting for people in that old code base. For healthcare applications then, ZFS plus Oracle's comprehensive support on x86 hardware makes it the best overall choice. As healthcare begins to escape the vendor silos it has been stuck in for years, these customers want reliable, Enterprise class storage at a low price. Zerowait SimplStor and Bluering  provides this with demonstrated low risk and best results.

Zerowait Question - Can you tell us why the adaptability of the SimplStor hardware is an advantage for your customers and Folks considering migrating from NetApp rather than upgrading to cDot? 

Bluering Answer - Solaris is a complete Unix operating system with ZFS included. This means that for your ZFS deployment, with SimplStor hardware you can scale your in memory cache size (ZFS ARC), solid state tier cache size (ZFS L2ARC) and write cache size (ZFS ZIL) to accommodate your specific use cases. Not only can this be done per workload, it can be done while the systems are in production. You don't need to try and do one size fits all here. You determine your workload and then implement the system. As things change, you only need to make minor adjustments to low cost hardware to handle more data. It's an entirely different approach that yields superior results, better performance and low cost.
Zerowait Question - Can you provide the top 3 reasons you chose to market your solution with Zerowait as your hardware platform service and support provider?

Bluering Answer -
1. Value
2. Service
3. Relationships
 If you're going to deploy x86 hardware for storage purposes, it takes a lot to make it work correctly. There is no chance of being successful with ZFS in the Enterprise space without having the system be right from day one and there's a lot to that. Once it's deployed, having access to fast parts replacement is critical. Without it, even the best initial deployments will fail. When and not if something does go wrong, your vendor has to have the right level of relationships with their vendors to make support fast and reliable. Zerowait has spent years developing those relationships so they are only a phone call away for them. That is so important. Try to call say Seagate yourself for a drive firmware issue. Good luck even knowing that's what the issue is. And most importantly to us was that we got all of this, the whole package, at a better overall 5 year cost than just the servers from any other vendor.

If you have other questions you would like answered please send them our way. The Blue Ring website is