What storage should I use? (was: FisherPrice of storage arrays)

The first SAN I worked on was an old Dell-branded EMC that Dell called the PowerVault 550 (=EMC AX100?). It had several interfaces that were all required to manage it, was complicated as hell and rock solid no matter what you did to it. Then we tried to trade it for a PowerVault 660 (a Dell-branded Dell) and all hell broke loose.

Did you know Murphy’s Law has a storage platform sponsor? The PV660 was everything you never wanted in a storage array in one neat package – Complexity, incompatibility and instability. Who needs redundant spare disks when replacing a bad disk can take down the entire array? Each. time. I’d even take a Xiotech over another PV660. Maybe.

But I digress.

Years later I got sent to NetApp boot camp. Hmm, HTML management but a command line that’s much preferred? Sounds complicated. But I learned it and loved it especially when I went into clients who had had them for years and just kept moving the old filers down the “tier” as new ones came out. I put NetApps in at Fortune 100 and Fortune 1000000 companies, and really appreciated the fact that all of them had the same interface, management and very similar hardware.

Fast forward to my current position. I’d started hearing about iSCSI years back and it certainly seemed viable for SMB. Then I heard rumblings that *gasp* SATA was being deployed in production. What clown would put a desktop hard drive in an enterprise array?
Then I started doing my due diligence and found (http://www.usenix.org/events/fast07/tech/schroeder.html) that SATA had come a long way since it’s debut in 2001.

Then I met my first Equallogic. iSCSI, SATA, low-cost, very few parts (ever order a NetApp FAS? the part# spreadsheet has thousands of options), a 5min setup and very simple (and pretty!) JAVA GUI interface.

FisherPrice
Equallogics should come with a big “My First Storage Array” sticker on them. I don’t see how they could get simpler w/o losing functionality (not that the functionality is that great, if you really need storage-based snapshots for Exchange or SQL go demo Equallogic and NetApp back to back). I’ve tried Drobos, Qnaps and others and Equallogic is easier to figure out plus comes with all current ant future features bundled in. They are also very easily upgraded.

My main issue is Equallogic goes too far to make them simple. I would love to have more control over, say, replication (not to mention only needing one snapshot for local and replication use) but the GUI does doesn’t have it. The snapshots also are not nearly as efficient as NetApp and please can I get VLAN control and iSCSI initiator groups? In a large environment I don’t really want to have to type the initiator name of every VMware server into each LUN created and redundant broadcast domains would be nice.

But all that aside, I sell a lot more Equallogics than NetApp, mostly just by demonstrating system management. I tell them “NetApp” looks better on a resume, but most people prefer FisherPrice.

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