Scratch My Back

Scratch My Back Our foul-smelling columnist is back with answers on EMC, NetApp, Cisco, and more

March 1, 2003

6 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Your friendly, fuzzy, foul-smelling columnist from the Big Apple is back! Much has happened since my unbelievably successful debut column (see Dear Byte and Switch...).

For one thing, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) launched its mega-hyped Symmetrix DMX box. Yeah, the numbers on this baby look impressive and what not. But seriously, I won't be blown away unless it can sell this thing to customers that aren't among the EMC faithful (see EMC's DMX a Slow Starter?, Bandwidth Brawl, and Byte and Switch's interview with Joseph Tucci, President and CEO, EMC).

Remember to send me email at [email protected]. I promise to write back to anyone who sends me quality material and that's pretty remarkable for a friggin' beaver, dontcha think? Anyway, let's get to the As to your Qs.

Dear Bob the Beaver,

What exactly is Joe Tucci doing over there?! There is a tidal roar of stillness at EMC, a pause that is ending just before it begins, every gear in the universe suddenly reversing with a clang... Is he ever going to make this goddamn acquisition or what!!? AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!— Stymied Wall Street Guy

Dear Stymied,

I must admit, it's hard for me to have sympathy for you. If you didn't box these public companies into thinking only in terms of quarter-by-quarter results, they might be more open to talking about their plans and less petrified of how you will react to them. But I get your drift. Joe is dragging this one out. Last time he and I had a chin-wag, he said he was willing to pay decent money for good value... nice lingo, no? So does that mean EMC is ready to go in for Legato Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: LGTO)? My furry forest sources say it could happen as soon as next week. Stay tuned.

Dear Bob the Beaver,

There's supposedly a high-availability issue with the clock module in the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) MDS 9000 switches. What's the deal?— Andy Ammo

Dear Andy,

Oh, man, you again??? OK, here's what I dug up.

The MDS 9000 has two clock modules – a primary one and a backup one – that regulate the status of the switch's backplane. According to the MDS 9000 configuration guide, if the first clock module fails the switch shuts down and restarts, at which point the second one takes over. The issue is, that would obviously cause the switch to become temporarily unavailable.

Cisco's response: Yes, it's true the switch would be temporarily unavailable if clock module A died on you. But the company says each clock module has a MTBF (mean time between failures) of 3 million hours -- or about 351 years. "Taking a step back, 351 years ago, Louis XIV (Louis the Great) was the king of France," says Cisco's John Noh. "A lot can happen in 351 years, the least of which being a clock module failing." Actually, according to my math, 3 million hours = 342.5 years... but who's counting?[Ed. note: Technically speaking, MTBF is calculated by dividing the total operating time accumulated by a defined group of components within a given time period by the total number of failures recorded in that time period. It doesn't mean that a component with an MTBF of 3 million hours will operate for 3 million hours on average without failing. Rather, it means that if you had 3 million Cisco clock modules running in the prime of their useful service life, you could expect one to fail per hour from that population. All clear?]

But bottom line, this does not appear to be a serious issue. And I should point out that a relatively bigger deal vis-à-vis HA is nondisruptive code load, which Cisco does support – as do McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) and Inrange Technologies Corp. (Nasdaq: INRG). Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) says it will have nondisruptive code load for the SilkWorm 12000 this summer (see Brocade Puts Up Q1 Loss).

Dear Bob the Beaver,

What's up with TrueSAN Networks Inc.? That company was on borrowed time months ago. Are they finished?

— Self-Confessed Disgruntled Former TrueSANerDear Ex-TrueSAN Dude,

I hear ya. Times are hard for everyone. You're right, TrueSAN is clean out of cash. I hear they get a wire every month to cover the expenses for payroll and debt from its initial lead investor, Woodside Fund, which has taken sole responsibility of the company. Apparently some guy by the name of Mark Hoover is running the show now. Former CEO Tom Isakovich is-a-gone-o-vich. Bye-bye, TrueSAN. It was nice while it lasted.

Dear Bob the Beaver,

I used to work for Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) as a field sales engineer – until they laid me off two weeks ago. They are laying off groups of us, 20 to 30 at a time, but I don't see it being reported in the press anywhere. How come? And what if this is the real reason the company reported a profit, rather than that business is actually growing?

— Nigel No-JobDear Nigel,

You raise an interesting point about these incremental layoffs. If it's under 5 percent of headcount, public companies don't have to formally announce the reduction – which is why you aren't seeing it reported anywhere (until now!). NetApp's Eric Brown, director of public relations, told Byte and Switch this: "We have made decisions that certain individual positions were not optimally organized for our business as it looks today." He really said that!

Legato Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: LGTO) and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) have also caught on to this trick (see Legato Thins the Herd). On the growth issue, I'm not a numbers beaver, but if I find out anything I'll tell you.

And sorry about your job. I, too, once got "optimally organized" but look at me now! Super Star Columnist for Byte and Switch. Dreams can come true, et cetera...

Dear Bob the Beaver,What's going on at InfiniBand switch startup Paceline Systems Corp.? Have they found a buyer? (See Paceline Angles for Buyout.)

— Hex-It Strategy

Dear Hex,

Not yet, and they may be down for the count. Yesterday I heard from my buddy in the Boston area (he's only a woodchuck, but quite clever nonetheless), who said there were only two cars in the Acton, Mass., company's parking lot. "Looks like it's just the CEO and his secretary," he says. I dropped Paceline CEO Barry Kallander an email asking him what was up; Barry wrote back a one-line response: "We continue to execute our M&A plan." Here's hoping against hope something good happens.

Dear Bob the Beaver,What are your thoughts on who's leading the Oscar buzz in the best actor category? My money's on three-time Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson.

— Ndugu

Dear Ndugu,

Personally I'm so pissed the Academy ignored Richard Gere's mind-blowing tap-dance number in Chicago that I don't even care. As some of you know, I am a huge fan of tap dancing and have been known to strap on the tap shoes myself on occasion.

On that note, I'm outta here. Smell you later, people.

Figure 1:

Bob the Beaver

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights