Note to RIM: Buy Some Zetera

For those of us who continue to use our BlackBerry smartphone/PDAs, the recent outage on Blackberry services is starting to seem all too common.  According to this source and others, the cause of the problem was a storage capacity upgrade.  They took down servers and storage, added capacity, and re-started:  BOOM!

I would respectfully suggest trying Zetera technology for your storage.  This weekend, I put three additional TB drives into my Zetera cabinet, added the new capacity to an existing volume, and — voila! — I have a 4 TB volume.  Didn’t have to take anything down.  No outages, just additional space.  That’s how storage is supposed to be.

FYI, this form of scaling is enabled by the simple volume virtualization created under UDP/IP.  The new disks are represented by IP addys.  I just add the addresses to an existing “subscriber group” (aka volume) and the new capacity is available.

Should be just what the doctor ordered to prevent other mishaps of this kind, no?

15 Responses to “Note to RIM: Buy Some Zetera”

  1. han_solo says:

    >would respectfully suggest trying Zetera technology for your storage.

    Um…unless they are using any non-Windows servers in their operation since Zetera is a WINDOWS ONLY product it only has limited usefulness.

  2. chuckcort says:


    Zetera MAC drivers are in Beta and Linux is in Alpha.

    “A journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step”.


    Chuck from Zetera

  3. joncollins says:

    Say “Zetera” and I think of the quite awful, unreliable Netgear SC101, which used it. I don’t know whether it was just an inappropriate form factor or use case, but either way, the (much simpler) approach of Intel’s storage station – which uses standard protocols, doesn’t require a client to run on each computer and (therefore) works on multiple operating systems out of the box.

    Chuck, this isn’t to diss the technology. However the general feedback (gleaned from the Web) was that the SC101 was either a nightmare, or it just worked. Unfortunately I fell into the latter camp, as did a colleague. Once there, it was only about 18 months later when Netgear released the appropriate firmware/software combination to get the thing working – by then I’d already moved on.

    Cheers, Jon

  4. jhutchins says:

    …and imagine how great the upgrade would have been if RIM only needed 4TB of storage.

  5. jhutchins says:

    better yet…

    …and imagine how great the upgrade would have been if RIM only needed 4TB of storage of RAID 5 storage. With every email I send, I would have to hope they aren’t doing a RAID rebuild.

  6. sasher says:

    Chuck: Zetera MAC drivers are in Beta and Linux is in Alpha

    This is great news!

    We’ve been looking at Zetera for more than a year, now, but lack of Linux support was a show-stopper. Some questions:
    o Do you have an ETA?
    o What distributions of Linux are you planning to support?
    o Any chance of VMWare ESX support?


  7. Wow! Look at all the feedback on this simple observation. Truth be told, jhutchins, you can build pretty large infrastructures (well beyond a few TBs) using UDP subscriber groups. Given the low cost of raw disk versus the mark-up on disk with “value add” from other vendors, you could effectively mirror everything for less money than it would take to RAID — though I believe that one of the Zetera engineers addressed their RAID support in a previous post, if that is the way you prefer to go.

    Glad to hear about the forthcoming general release of Linux support, Chuck. The problem with Linux is all of the distributions and how many different Linuxes you ultimately need to support. That inhibits a lot of folks from doing Linux at all.

    I just threw it out there based on the great success I am having with fairly large buildouts of arrays based on Zetera technology, and on the success that MIT is having with its multi-petabyte build out.

  8. TomTreadway says:

    “…you could effectively mirror everything for less money than it would take to RAID…”

    Mirroring is RAID-1. I believe you were referring to RAID-5/6.

    RAID-5/6 would be significantly cheaper than RAID-1 because it requires fewer disks for the same capacity. (A 16-disk RAID-5 array has almost twice the capacity of a 16-disk RAID-1 array.) The reason for not using RAID-5/6 is the poor write performance and additional complexity to implement it. So I don’t disagree with Zetera’s stance to support only RAID-1. (BTW, I assume it’s actually RAID-10, but that’s just a detail.)

  9. I know the RAID levels (even the nonstandard ones), Tom. My original point was only that you could scale volumes seamlessly. My concern about RAID 5 and 6 is the problem of multiple concurrent or sequential drive failures in a RAID set. I have just had this experience personally with a series of drives from WD that had the same problem. Ten drives failed within a couple of days of each other — which would have played havoc with any RAID scheme you have.

    By the way, it is great to hear from you!

  10. By the way, mirroring can be accomplished in Zetera without a RAID card or software. It is done by adding an additional subscriber group and just doing copy on write. They support some other schemes as well, but this is one that I like and use a lot.

  11. jhutchins says:


    If you’ve noticed from my other posts, I’m generally supportive of your views. However, on Zetera, I feel that I have to call you out (or at least try to understand what you are talking about).

    The biggest Zetera box appears to be 9TB raw capacity (I hunted around the site and this is the biggest I could find). I’ll assume the functionality is outstanding but at RAID 10 you get, at best, 4.5 usable TBs. To get 20TB’s usable (about the point where SMB creeps into medium/large size for some folks), I would need 4 enclosures totalling 8u. Besides the power and other enviornmentals, that’s an incredible footprint for 20TBs and doesn’t seem very practical.

    That said, vthe olume virtualization as you describe it is VERY attractive.

  12. brad says:

    Note to the Author: Please read your sources more carefully. The (one) source you point out nowhere indicates that the problem was due to storage capacity upgrade. The source mentions a capacity upgrade, but nothing about storage specifically.

  13. Brad, you are right that the piece cited did not specifically refer to storage. However, I was pinged several times by several storage folks from the industry encouraging me to write something about this. From what I have read since, there were storage capacity scaling issues involved.

    Do you know something that I don’t?

  14. brad says:

    The storage industry folks pinged you to write about Zetera or about RIM’s service outage? Can you share with us what you have read since? I’m interested to find out if the most recent outage was a storage issue, but not so interested in the speculation of such a cause. I only know what RIM’s PR department has disclosed.

  15. I am reading the same trades that you are. While no fingers have been pointed by RIM at storage in what coverage I have read, many insiders are commenting that it was indeed storage related. The blogosphere might be wrong on this one (as it sometimes is), but I suspect there is a kernel of truth in what the commenters are saying.

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