Bits & Bytes: When searching for the right SAN solution expert Chris Poelker suggests steering clear of vendor hype and do your homework. Find out what your challenges are, your requirements and your budget. He points out that a good place to start is to put out an RFI (request for information) or if you're further along in the process, an RFP (request for proposal).

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Question: We are currently in the process of meeting with SAN vendors to start the process of building a SAN solution. As we meet and discuss the technologies, I am growing increasingly confused.

One stumbling point is trying to understand how disk space is allocated. HP claims that the way to go is to let its software/controller handle the disks "virtually." EMC says that's OK if your only concern is management, but if performance matters they suggest its technology works better.

I am really looking for reference materials that can help me sort out facts. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Ahhh, the vendor "he says, she says" conundrum! Yup, trying to get through vendor FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and deciding whose claims are real and which one is right can be a real challenge!

One way to get around all of this is to put out an RFI (request for information). Or, if you are further along in the process, an RFP (request for proposal) to see who is more in line with your specific business challenges and who can provide the best solution that fits your needs at the budget you have allocated.

The RFI is a tool that allows all the vendors you are considering to put their best foot forward and tell their story of why their solution is better than everyone else. The RFI should ask specific information about what technology they would employ to meet your needs. I have a sample RFI in Chapter 15 of my book "Storage Area Networks for Dummies." Here is a sample:

A Request for Information (RFI) is a tool used for gathering information from independent storage vendors for the purpose of finding out which vendor has the products and capabilities to meet your needs. You use the responses from an RFI to help you create a short list of companies that meet your needs.

This chapter covers the things to ask your vendors in an RFI document.

Developing the RFI

Several common issues are part of the decision-making process in every storage acquisition. These include:

* Product descriptions
* Company viability
* Supported platforms
* Performance
* Connectivity
* Disaster recovery
* Reliability
* Power consumption/floor space requirements
* Product lifecycle
* Guarantees
* Warranties
* Costs
* Service/support
* Training

When you create your RFI, try to include as much information as you can about your current environment and what you're trying to achieve to help the vendor to make a more informed proposal. An RFI is a two-way street. The more information that you can provide, the better responses you are likely to receive.

CLICK for part 2.

This was first published in May 2003

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