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Vendors try to hide the price of support in a number of ways. They might break it into separate components, such as fixing broken hardware and firmware upgrade support or, conversely, fold it into the acquisition cost. However, folding the price in only obscures service and acquisition costs. Breaking apart hardware and firmware support won't save you anything unless the vendor is willing to let you buy one without the other.
The warranty that comes with the array can also be used to obscure the cost of service. Some vendors include free support during the warranty period, but charge extra for higher service levels, such as 24/7 response or onsite visits.
"We took the Nexsan [Technologies Inc.] arrays in part because their three-year warranty includes free hardware and firmware support," says Eugean Hacopians, senior systems engineer at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), a NASA project based at Caltech in Pasadena, CA. The organization maintains half a petabyte of storage divided among several groups; Hacopians' group relies primarily on Nexsan arrays under warranty. "Because of the free warranty support, we don't purchase maintenance programs," he says.
That isn't the case, however, with the 40TB-plus of storage other groups within the organization still have on EMC and Sun Microsystems Inc. arrays. "We tried to warn the groups that bought the EMC that the support would break their back," says Hacopians.
This was first published in May 2007