Midrange rivals top dog


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Service and support
Price, performance and replication software are the major factors users consider when choosing among different midrange arrays; all things being about equal, a vendor's service/support offerings and price usually tip the scale on a buy or no-buy decision.

Cirelli realizes he paid a premium for HDS' storage arrays, but wants field engineers who understand his shop's configuration. When he made his decision to stay with HDS, Cirelli looked at a competing storage array, but didn't feel confident that the vendor understood his situation or what he was trying to set up. "If I ever need to recover from a huge failure, it is likely going to result from a human error," says Cirelli. "I need to have confidence that the support engineer understands my environment and can help me rebuild it."

Louis Skelton, VP of technical services at Scientific Games Racing in New York City, chose HP's StorageWorks EVA5000 and EVA8000 midrange arrays mainly because of HP's service organization. Scientific Games Racing processes approximately $11 billion annually in pari-mutuel wagering for events such as horse and dog racing and jai alai in North America, with additional revenue generated by overseas events like Korean bullfights. Because races or fights occur only once and at any time, a service interruption or failure is catastrophic.

Scientific Games Racing's operations need to operate 24x7x365, and Skelton must ensure their system

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is architected to handle peak loads at different hours. Although admittedly an HP shop, this combination of difficult-to-predict variables prompted Skelton to place a higher priority on infrastructure stability rather than on midrange array feature functionality. "HP's ability to design an end-to-end solution for our environment was more important than the price or even the feature set on other midrange arrays," he says.

Yet there are cases where specific midrange array features close the sale. Todd Rayl, VP, managed security services at Business Vitals in Columbia, SC, was initially skeptical about the quality of service (QoS) feature of Pillar Data Systems' Axiom 500 midrange array, which places data requiring higher performance toward the outer bands of a disk drive and stores data needing lower performance on the inner bands. He was also concerned about Pillar's relative newcomer status as a storage array provider, but was more concerned about how EMC and Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. priced their software licensing upgrades. For Rayl, these were unnecessary costs he couldn't justify paying. Exponential growth rate in the services business could quickly take him to the capacity limits of a NetApp or EMC product line, and then force him to upgrade the SAN hardware and purchase all new licensing. "Pillar's simplified software licensing model was a key factor in our decision-making process," says Rayl.

Because Pillar required only one license for its Axiom 500 midrange array, there was no additional expense for software features that EMC and NetApp categorized as optional. And after using the QoS feature, Rayl found the Axiom 500 outperformed his existing EMC Symmetrix 8430.

The good news is that there are a growing number of good midrange storage arrays to choose from and it's a buyers' market. Some buyers are finding it hard to ignore the savings that midrange arrays from new companies offer. In many cases, these new-company arrays perform as well as better-known products, and offer features and functions that cost substantially less.

This was first published in May 2007

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