Q

Sorting SAN facts, part 2

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?


CLICK for part 1.

Tip:

Use the RFI wisely and pare down your selected list of vendors to at least three. Have those vendors create proposals for the solution that you seek. Look over each proposal carefully and choose the best two. Have those two vendors ship some equipment to your site for a try-and-buy. Tell the vendors that if you like what you see and if their products live up to the hype, you'll buy them. If you get the book, you can pull most of the questions you need to ask directly from that chapter.

As for finding out whether the vendors' claims are real and which technology is the "better" technology, you can do a couple of things:

1. Try it out for yourself: Have each vendor ship in its solution and do a POC (proof of concept) in your data center. This would require an investment of time and resources on your part to actually test out each vendor's solution but in my humble opinion it is time well spent. You and your team will be able to determine the manageability, performance and ease of use of each solution tested. While you're doing the POC, you should try and break something...push the solution to its limits. This way you can tell for yourself if the virtualization method used in the HP solution is faster and more manageable than the solution EMC claims is faster and more manageable. Use REAL applications for the test. Doing so will give you a feel for the "real-world" attributes of each solution.

2. Get the industry scoop: Folks like Gartner, IDC, the Evaluator Group, etc. have reviews available for almost everything out there in storage land. Some of the reports are free of charge too. You can get research on each solution from sites like this one (SearchStorage.com) by asking folks in the chat section about their experiences with the choices they have made. Also, you should ask the vendors for references, so you can ask end users in your particular business segment about their experiences. Remember, up-front cost is only one of the factors when choosing a SAN solution. Make sure you are fully aware of any ongoing fees or licenses needed. That may ultimately make the total cost of ownership higher.

3. Use a consultant: Let's face it. It's tough to become an expert in this stuff overnight. There are folks out there, who for a small fee, will help you in your decision making process. Perhaps down the road, you may be thinking of implementing a disaster recovery solution. Will the technology used in your vendors' solutions meet your needs when you have to start implementing DR? Without in depth knowledge of each specific platform, you may find yourself stuck with a "boat anchor", when down the road the vendor comes back to you and says "I'm sorry but it will cost you and we don't support that particular widget you're using to connect your data centers together."

Investing in a centralized storage solution by using SAN technology will in the long run, save your company a LOT of money. But it's an investment and just like the stock market, you need to make wise choices.

I hope this gives you some insight to get started with making the right decision. Ultimately, your vendor should become a trusted partner who adds value to your business.

Chris

Editor's note: Do you agree with this expert's response? If you have more to share, post it in one of our .bphAaR2qhqA^0@/searchstorage>discussion forums.


This was first published in May 2003

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