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Plug and play, or plug and pray?
The old saying "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" holds true for network-attached storage purchases, too, although our enterprise NAS respondents seem to be a little more forgiving. Initial installation and power-up experiences often shape overall perceptions about the quality of a product. Apparently, HP's midrange NAS systems made a very good first impression among our survey respondents. HP didn't quite match its dominating performance in the sales-competence category, but it came awfully close for initial product quality, snagging the top ratings for five of the six statements, although for one -- "This product was installed without any defects" -- Dell matched HP's leading score of 6.80. Dell also kept HP from another sweep with a 6.68 rating for "This product was easy to get up and running" compared with a nearly-as-strong 6.61 for HP.
HP's 6.83 for "This product is easy to use" was the highest rating for a single statement among all products (midrange or enterprise) in the survey. "It's very easy to set up, and it's very easy to maintain," NMG's McMorran said of their HP NAS box. "It came with everything it needed."
Click here to view a full-size PDF of Storage magazine's enterprise NAS results.
Among enterprise NAS systems, NetApp prevailed with a 6.35 in the initial product quality category with top scores for three of the six statements. IBM continued to duke it out with NetApp and finished a close second with a 6.30 rating. Hitachi, which scored the highest for "This product was easy to get up and running" (6.37), wasn't far behind the two leaders with a category rating of 6.26. Respondents' comments bolstered Hitachi's strong showing, with one indicating that expectations had been met: "Works as they claim."
Even though IBM offers "to rack it for you and do the initial setup," Cross Country Healthcare's MacNeill eschewed the help. "The actual setup once you power it on is 15 or 20 minutes," he said. "We did it ourselves this time because it's that easy."
A good sales experience and an uneventful installation are certainly important, but the rubber truly hits the road when it comes to a product's feature set. HP's 6.50 for this category in the midrange group was highlighted by a 6.62 for "This product's capacity scales to meet my needs" and nearly the same score (6.61) for "The product's management features meet my needs." Overall, HP was top dog on four feature statements, with NetApp and IBM taking the other three. NetApp's extensive snapshotting capabilities were acknowledged with the highest rating (6.45) among the midrange group for "This product's snapshot features meet my needs." IBM's two leading scores came on data protection-related statements: "This product's mirroring features meet my needs" (6.48) and "This product's remote replication features meet my needs" (6.56).
Continuing their duel in the enterprise group, NetApp's 6.41 for features just bested IBM, which received a 6.39 rating in the product feature category. HP finished a strong third by scoring highest on three of the category's seven statements for a total of 6.34. NetApp prevailed on the strength of a 6.66 for "This product's snapshot features meet my needs" and a 6.59 rating on the general satisfaction statement "Overall, this product's features meet my needs." "Very satisfied with the product," noted one respondent, who, with an eye to an upgrade, added, "Looking forward to the new features from Ontap 8.x."
IBM's good showing in the product features category hinged on top scores for scalability (6.47) and interoperability (6.33). For Cross Country Healthcare's MacNeill, manageability was an important factor in the product decision process, and the IBM/NetApp combination was a winner: "With the IBM/NetApp, we've seen a huge increase in productivity just using the management interface."
This was first published in January 2009