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How To Add 5.5 Petabytes and Get Banned From Costco 273

Posted by timothy
from the you-need-the-executive-membership dept.
concealment writes with this extract from GigaOm: "'We buy lots and lots of hard drives . . . . [They] are the single biggest cost in the entire company.' Those are the words of Backblaze Founder and CEO Gleb Budman, whose company offers unlimited cloud backup for just $5 a month, and fills 50TB worth of new storage a day in its custom-built, open source pod architecture. So one might imagine the cloud storage startup was pretty upset when flooding in Thailand caused a global shortage on internal hard drives last year. Backblaze details much the process in a Tuesday-morning blog post, including the hijinks that followed as the company got creative trying to figure out ways around the new hard drive limits. Maps were drawn, employees were cut off from purchasing hard drives at Costco — both in-person throughout Silicon Valley and online (despite some great efforts to avoid detection, such as paying for hard drives online using gift cards) — and friends and family across the country were conscripted into a hard-drive-buying army."
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How To Add 5.5 Petabytes and Get Banned From Costco

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  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:03AM (#41596655) Journal

    Seriously, what a bunch of assholes.

    So instead of doing the capitalistic thing and gouging with insanely high prices, the shops instead started rationing drives for a sane price so everyone could get a little bit of the very limited supply.

    That was actually a really good thing to do. Instead of profiteering, they tried to make the best of a bad situation for everyone.

    Then a bunch of dicks like this figure that they're more important than everyone else and that they should be able to get more than enyone else.

    Selfish bastards. Nothing but scum.

    After reading this I will not be giving them my money.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:05AM (#41596695) Homepage Journal

    Costco gets such a good deal by buying in massive lots and handling distribution themselves that in fact it is worth the actual cost. I've been a costco customer off and on over the last few years and by remarkable non-coincidence I pretty much always check HDD prices. As well, I bought a pair of 1TB MyBooks when they were the big disk that Costco sold, and more recently I've bought a pair of 3TB GoFlexes. I like the return policy, and I can back up one disk to another (I disco the backup) and the two disks have very different service profiles so they're not entirely likely to die at the same time. And the prices were significantly lower than anything I could find from an even vaguely reputable retailer online.

    People have complained bitterly about how hard it supposedly is to get a disk out of a MyBook, I've never tried. I don't know anything at all about how hard it is to get the disk out of a GoFlex enclosure. But I do know that until very recently the prices on these external disks were actually better than buying internal disks online. I know (personally) a couple of people who went that route when building a desktop system, decasing externals from costco.

  • I don't get it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JobyOne (1578377) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:06AM (#41596701) Homepage Journal

    I'm confused. Was Costco selling these drives at a loss or something, just to get people in the door?

    I can't think of many good reasons that they would look at customers coming in and buying assloads of their merchandise and say "NO! Get out of here and don't buy stuff from us ever again!"

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:10AM (#41596753)

    Unlimited storage for $5/mo? I have to get on this shit.

    Run the numbers. 50 TB a day sounds like a lot, if they've only got one customer. But they're probably got "a zillion" which would imply your very thin slice of the upload bandwidth is going to be choked to like a gig per day. The upgrade in my basement from (full) 1 TB drives to 2 TB drives took around overnight, less than 24 hours anyway, but over the net at a gig per day would be about 3 years to fully convert. Even if they're not limited I would have serious problems shoving more than 100 gigs/day thru my cablemodem, so thats at least 10 days.

    Another interesting thing to analyze is $5/month is $60/yr, so subtract $5/yr for electricity to spin a drive, assume a drive lives 2 years (probably much longer) that means if you can buy a drive big enough to hold everything you want for less than $110, just stick a drive in your basement. Better bandwidth and latency too, I have gigE at home but only ten or so megs of cablemodem. $110 at tiger direct will get me 2 TB. So 2 TB is approximately the tipping point, use less and you're better off "self hosting" in the basement, use more and you're better off using their service (and they're likely losing money if you use more than 2 TB).

    Also I'm curious if its "unlimited" like cellphone or internet access is "unlimited" in other words they'll cut you off if they're losing money on you.

  • 3.96$ a month... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geschild (43455) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:14AM (#41596789) Homepage

    ... is pretty cheap (5$ is for a family account). But as BB itself says, you can only upload 2 to 4 GB per day.

    They should be making a mint on that service! They use home-brew storage pods and are very open about it, too!
    http://blog.backblaze.com/2011/07/20/petabytes-on-a-budget-v2-0revealing-more-secrets/ [backblaze.com]

    Anyway, be careful to read all the gotchas:
    http://www.backblaze.com/remote-backup-everything.html [backblaze.com] (hint: 'everything' for a certain definition of everything. No virtual machines, ISO's and NAS storage by default.)
    http://www.backblaze.com/internet-backup.html [backblaze.com] (hint: not all OSes are treated equally.)

    (Full disclosure: I work for a storage manufacturer that sells de-duping storage so I think I understand their cost model a bit better than most.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:27AM (#41596919)

    Pretty much.

    Besides that, anyone that thinks they can run a company with this business model and survive is a business moron, or a scam artist trying to make a quick buck. This is 90's dotcom level idiocy at it's finest. Unlimited storage for $5/mo? Unlimited bandwidth too I guess? Completely 100% unsustainable.

    So I would expect slimy people like this to pull stuff like trying to scam more quantities of hardware than allowed. Getting friends and family to buy stuff? Uh, did you have them on payroll? I'm sure the IRS would like to look at their records.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:51AM (#41597173)

    Seriously, what a bunch of assholes.

    So instead of doing the capitalistic thing and gouging with insanely high prices, the shops instead started rationing drives for a sane price so everyone could get a little bit of the very limited supply.

    That was actually a really good thing to do. Instead of profiteering, they tried to make the best of a bad situation for everyone.

    Then a bunch of dicks like this figure that they're more important than everyone else and that they should be able to get more than enyone else.

    Selfish bastards. Nothing but scum.

    After reading this I will not be giving them my money.

    The hard drive sellers weren't doing this altruistically. They made their call, figuring that rationing drives was the best for their businesses and best fulfilled their duty to their shareholders.

    The cloud storage company also did what they thought best benefited their business and fulfilled their duty to shareholders/backers/etc.

    It does not benefit us as individuals to assign a moral motive to the actions of a company. Whatever they do, it's for a business purpose. If it seems like one company is the good guy, it's just that that's what they think will help them return value to the owners. We must realize that they are all "selfish bastards" by the very nature of the capitalist system and not be fooled into personifying them.

    What I've written in no way implies that you can't spend your money wherever you want -- or withhold it -- based on anything you want to base it on. If you find a business' actions to be detrimental to society or just contrary to your ideals, you can certainly boycott them. In fact, I think you should boycott if you feel as strongly as you appear to. In this way -- if you're not alone -- those actions on the part of the company may turn out not to benefit the shareholders and therefore force them to change.

    You could also pursue a legislative approach, maybe convince your representatives that legal rationing is in the public interest. The US rationed commodities during wartime before, perhaps you can appeal that adequate storage space for all is sufficiently important for legal intervention.

  • Re:House burns down? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:53AM (#41597201)

    I would say at your parent's house

    That's exactly what I've done. I set up some scripts to rsync data from my computer to a server in my mum's garage, and also the reverse.

    That way, we both have important data (mostly photos) backed up off-site in different cities, and the photos are available to browse through a web interface.

    but this being slashdot that's probably not offsite.

    A friend went with an encrypted backup program, and set up more-or-less the same thing with another friend.

  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @12:04PM (#41597349)

    I agree that it's a pretty selfish thing to do, although I would probably have done the same in their place.

    The magic of Adverse Selection, when you discover the Golden Rule has a discount rate...

  • by neminem (561346) <neminem@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @01:01PM (#41597989) Homepage

    Well, that -is- how it works, sadly... Great quote from this season of Leverage:
    "I mean, you and I kill a guy, we go to prison... my company kills a guy, we pay a fine."

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @02:33PM (#41599045)

    I have a RED camera which shoots 18megapixel raw photos at 24+ frames per second. Backblaze hasn't throttled me at all and I have 20mbps upload speeds.

  • by Score Whore (32328) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:42PM (#41600689)

    I'm not sure who you are disagreeing with, but it's not me. My point was that there is a difference between consumer and enterprise grade drives. Not that enterprise grade is more reliable than consumer grade. The main differences I listed have to do with performance and the ability to get one's data off the drive.

    Here are some basic facts about storage for you. A 5400 RPM drive has an average rotational latency of 5.5 milliseconds. A 7200 RPM drive averages 4 milliseconds. A 10K RPM drive, 3 milliseconds. And 15K RPM averages 2 milliseconds. This is just basic math -- any particular block on the drive will sometimes be right before the head and sometimes right behind the head. On average the platter has to spin halfway around to bring that block to the head.

    But that's only a portion of the performance of a drive. The other part is how long it takes the head to move from track to track. This is much more design dependent. But in general enterprise drives are expected to have a seek time in the 3-5 millisecond range and consumer drives run 5 and up, typically 5-10 milliseconds.

    Add these up and a typical 15K RPM drive will have about 6 ms latency and a typical 7200 RPM drive will have 11 ms latency. Which means that a 15K RPM drive can do approximately 165 random IO operations at it's typical latency (normally measured in terms of 4k, 8k or 16k IOs.) A 7200 RPM drive can do approximately 90 random IOPS. This is a big deal when dealing with multi-user server applications.

    Additionally, all SAS and FC drives are dual ported and SAS and FC fabrics are multi-initiator. Which allows them to be deployed in fully redundant and fully active configurations (two paths between server and array, two controllers in the array, two mirrored caches and two paths from each controller to each disk.) A SATA drive has one port. There are port multiplexers that can be inserted between the drive and the chassis, but because the drive itself is natively single ported, only one of the multiplexed ports can be active at a time and thus are limited to having fail-over between the controllers rather than active-active controllers.

    As far as RAID performance goes... Two mirrored 7200 RPM drives do not provide the equivalent of a 14.4K RPM drive. Minimum latency is limited by the speed of a single drive regardless of RAID of any type. Here's what a two drive RAID1 gets you: one redundant copy of your data. Twice as many read operations at the same latency as a single disk. And the write performance of a single disk. Because you can do twice as many read operations, you get double the read bandwidth. Yes you can add more drives to your mirror, but there comes a point where the rest of your storage subsystem becomes less redundant that your drives. RAID5 (or RAID6, or RAIDZ, or RAIDZ2, etc.) gets you redundancy to the level of however many disks worth of parity your system implements. For a standard RAID5 that is a single disk failure, for RAID6 it's two disks, etc. Read performance increases as a multiple of the number of drives in your raid group. Write performance is a read and a write of your data block plus a read and write for each parity block. For RAID5 that means that each write will do four IO operations into the raid group. So an eight drive raid group should get double the write performance of a single drive. Of course any array that one would use in an enterprise environment will have at least two battery backed up caches, which makes any write penalties moot as all writes are cached.

    As far as reliability goes, that's an interesting question. The fact is hard drives die. However the premium I pay buying hard drives from my storage or server vendor includes 4 hour replacement SLAs in western countries and in less developed areas it's typically 24 hours. I don't know what Costco's policy is, but I'm sure it doesn't involve bringing the HDD to me today and I'd be surprised if I could show up three years later and have them replace my HDD with a matching device. Additionally consumer grade drive

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