Getting off the NetApp train at cDot Station

netappTrainEvery 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. 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.

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The Opportunities are Endless.

DSC_0283 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.

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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”



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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

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Similarities between the DMV and your OEM Support?

amphicar rearWe 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?


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The Reality of QoS and SLA’s on Legacy Filers

Many NetApp customers around the world have both new and legacy systems and are trying to maintain high availability in a mixed storage infrastructure of different vintages, with different OnTap and firmware versions.

A history of NetApp Service and Support

A history of NetApp Service and Support

In most cases the newer equipment is still covered by the manufacturer’s hardware support warranty, but the older equipment which is also storing critical databases and information is unsupported and maintained with parts that have accumulated in a closet or a desk drawer. Although highly affordable this method is hardly highly reliable; administrators and engineers know that it is not sustainable in a NetApp infrastructure where the firmware versions are critical and different vintages of filers are not compatible with each other.

ClosetFinalZerowait has been working with and solving customers’ NetApp issues for over 17 years, longer than many of NetApp’s support and engineering employees  have been in the storage  business, and we have a global reputation for helping customers meet their critical storage requirements. Zerowait provides many Global 2000 companies that have a legacy NetApp infrastructure with a highly respected service and support alternative to the manufacturer. We provide their engineers and admins the Service Level Agreement  (SLA) they need to fulfill the Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees their organizations need to compete in the global marketplace, where access to their data is critical to success.

If you are looking for affordable support for your legacy NetApp equipment, the boxes of old parts in the basement really aren’t the solution. Give us a call and you can have an affordable SLA from a reliable partner you can depend on for your legacy NetApp equipment.

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Big Oil – Big Data – Big Savings

Williams 2011During the boom of the last few years the oil and gas business bought a lot of storage equipment.  Zerowait has several oil and gas clients that use our NetApp ZPA legacy support, and some have supplemented their NetApp storage with our SimplStor equipment. Now, as the price of oil is declining company IT staffs are looking for efficiencies and easy ways to cut costs and to extend the life of their storage systems; all without affecting uptime or their quality of service. Zerowait has been supporting the NetApp storage of energy resource companies for over a decade and  as their IT budgets get tight they know they can depend on Zerowait for our NetApp service and support and our SimplStor hardware for innovative, cost effective solutions for  their big storage requirements.

The Geographic diversity of our Energy resources clients is pretty amazing.  We are now working with Energy companies on their NetApp legacy storage support in Australia, Europe and North America.  They all need high availability storage systems that are affordable to maintain and we expect this business niche to grow for us in 2015.

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Peak Performance

ZW_PeakPerformance_smallThe end of the year is a time for reflection on this year’s events and planning for next year’s business opportunities. Our customers faced a lot of challenges this year and so did we as the economy changed, the internet faced new challenges and new regulations took effect.

As the economies of Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the USA changed this year our business changed to meet the demands of companies and governments with tighter budgets and growing storage requirements. To meet the demand many of our old and new customers wanted to expand their legacy NetApp infrastructures. With tight budgets they needed a partner who would work with them to provide cost effective solutions for NetApp equipment and support, and Zerowait’s business grew to meet these needs. On the operations side, we had to work with a new bank that specialized in foreign currency exchange to meet the needs of one of our customers with many international divisions. The bank we have been using for two decades was unable to help us because of new Dodd Frank regulations. Interestingly, the new bank we are using offers better credit card processing rates than our old processor, so while Zerowait experienced some unexpected consequences because of the new regulations, our new banking partner had a better credit card solution which was an unexpected benefit.

Our customers around the world depend on the internet for their business success and so does Zerowait. We all recognize that all business is now global and our partnerships span the world. The issues of cyber liability and data breach raised their heads this year and the changing insurance landscape and vulnerabilities that corporate networks face have caused everyone to take another look at the centralization of storage in corporate networks and the security of on line data. As storage grows with the expansion of the internet of things, every company needs to have a business continuity plan that includes strategy for data access to critical files like accounting and operations if their network is breached. Perhaps silos and private cloud still have their place in modern storage architecture.

Just like the banking challenge we faced in 2014 led us to a better solution in another part of our business, we expect that many of the challenges in 2015 will also bring innovative solutions for our customers willing to look outside the box to solve their problems. We look forward to working with you to make 2015 a success

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Breaking: U.S. Government Funding Bill Delays IANA Transition

On the evening of Tuesday, September 9th, Congressional leaders unveiled a 1,603 page, $1.01 trillion FY 2015 appropriations bill to fund the U.S. government through the end of September 2015. One provision of the omnibus bill would delay the IANA transition until after the September 30, 2015 expiration of the current contract between the NTIA and ICANN.
Language in the bill states:
SEC. 540. (a) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to relinquish the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration during fiscal year 2015 with respect to Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone file and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions.
(b) Subsection (a) of this section shall expire on September 30, 2015.
That language, a modified version of the “Duffy Amendment” that was contained in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, would allow NTIA to start spending funds on a transition after exercising its first option to extend the contract.
In addition, the explanatory report language of the Commerce-Justice-State portion of the omnibus spending bill, in which the above language is contained, states the following:
Internet governance.-The agreement reiterates House and Senate language regarding the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) matters and modifies Senate language by directing NTIA to inform appropriate Congressional committees not less than 45 days in advance of any such proposed successor contract or any other decision related to changing NTIA’s role with respect to ICANN or IANA activities. In addition, NTIA shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations within 45 days of enactment of this Act regarding any recourse that would be available to the United States if the decision is made to transition to a new contract and any subsequent decisions made following such transfer of Internet governance are deleterious to the United States.
This language appears to require NTIA to inform Congress 45 days prior to extending the IANA contract or taking any other decision in regard to it; as well as to submit a report to Congress within 45 days after the spending bill’s enactment regarding whether the US would have any post-transition recourse if subsequent decisions were deleterious to the U.S.
This final bill language has already been negotiated with and accepted by Senate Democratic and House Republican leaders and is likely to be enacted and sent to President Obama by the weekend. It is unlikely that the White House would veto the bill and risk a government shutdown over this IANA language (although other provisions could become sticking points between the Administration and Congress).
Rumors were already circulating in Washington that NTIA was prepared to extend the current IANA contract by at least six months in recognition of the fact that it may be impossible for the ICANN community to design and stress test enhanced accountability measures by the end of the current contract term, much less have them in place by then. So the bill may have little effect on the actual timetable for the transition. It remains to be seen what reaction to its enactment comes from ICANN, the ICANN community, and other nations.

Philip S. Corwin, Founding Principal
Virtualaw LLC
1155 F Street, NW
Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20004

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Customer Conversations and Product Development

I will start this blog by mentioning that I travel a lot; as a business owner I believe that it is important to visit our customers, and as our business has grown internationally this requires me to travel a lot of the year. By visiting our customers I learn a lot about what our customers are thinking. For example, our SimplStor Product Line was developed based customer requests in the USA, and one of our Australian customers encouraged us to develop a CCTV storage version. That Niche has become a major part of our US SimplStor business.

Over the last year, many of our NetApp CIFS customers have been asking for a SimplStor alternative for who do not want to upgrade to OnTap CDot 8.2+.  They are looking for a High Availability windows based storage solution that has the support they depend on from Zerowait. So over the last few months we have developed a SimplStor HA storage solution and based on customers’ suggestions we’ve built it to be used with VM’s and Veeam to work in  multi location infrastructures. We’ve installed and tested this solution in our own environment with our own data and app servers. Vmware’s SRM and Windows  Storage Server 2012 R2 have worked very well. As part of our testing we included mirroring to a slow cable upload connection to test it as if it was used on a remote rural site. It worked perfectly, and as one of our engineers said – “The SimplStor R2 storage server rocks!”


Over the last month I have been in Australia and New Zealand and traveling around the USA to visit our clients. Our customer base in Australia and New Zealand continues to grow as more people look for affordable solutions for their legacy NetApp support. Additionally, our SimplStor storage line continues to grow and the Australian market interest in our CCTV storage and SimplStor with Windows R2 is strong and we expect 2015 to be a very good year in the region.

As the Zerowait team travels the world and works with our Global customers we continue to discover new market opportunities for our NetApp support and SimplStor products, and as a storage and networking company we continue to grow by delivering solutions that our customers want.

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