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Quality Awards IV: HP and IBM unseat NetApp

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Reliability ratings

Among midrange products, HP finished on top for the reliability statements with an excellent 6.53, but EMC (6.48) and Dell (6.46) were hard on its heels, and IBM and NetApp weren't far behind as both posted scores of 6.40. In the most closely contested midrange rating category, EMC and IBM each ranked highest on one statement, with EMC picking up a 6.70 for "The product meets my service-level requirement" and IBM coming out on top for "Vendor provides comprehensive upgrade guidance." Still, despite the narrow range in total scores for this category, HP led for the other three statements, which relate to limited downtime, unplanned patching and being able to apply patches without disrupting operations.

On the enterprise side, IBM and NetApp once again went toe-to-toe, with each scoring highest for two statements in the reliability rankings and finishing in a dead-heat tie for the fifth category statement. Overall, IBM's 6.40 rating outpaced NetApp (6.34) and third-place finisher Hitachi (6.29). IBM showed its strength with a 6.55 for the key reliability statement "This product experiences very little downtime," while NetApp's best showing was a 6.53 for meeting service-level requirements.

The measure of support

HP completed its grand slam with a 6.48 rating in the technical support category among midrange products with a relatively comfortable margin over a cluster of contenders, including IBM (6.37), Dell (6.34)

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and EMC (6.31). Of the eight statements in this evaluation category, HP notched the highest scores on five and was bested by EMC by a hair (6.48 vs. 6.45) for the support statement "Vendor takes ownership of the problem."

NetApp scored high for meeting support expectations with a 6.72 for "Vendor supplies support as contractually specified," and Dell stood out for sending smart techs to solve its customers' problems with a 6.53 for "Support personnel are knowledgeable."

Among enterprise candidates, the NetApp-IBM brawl was overshadowed in the support category as HP nosed out Hitachi, 6.28 to 6.25, for the top spot. But only 0.08 points separated the top four, with IBM (6.23) and NetApp (6.20) rounding out a very closely bunched group. HP's strengths were for training and documentation, while Hitachi received top marks for taking ownership of problems, timely problem resolution, knowledgeable personnel and delivering as promised.

Repeat customers

In every Quality Awards survey we ask respondents whether they would buy the same product again today, having had some experience with it and knowing what they know now. Often, the "buy again" rankings sync up pretty closely with the overall ratings, but just as frequently, they seem to run counter to the general scores. When the latter occurs, it's assumed that users, having worked through their ups and downs with a product, are more comfortable sticking with what's now familiar. That appears to be the case with the latest NAS midrange tallies: Hitachi, lowest in the overall rankings, nonetheless has apparently built customer loyalty, as 92% said they would consider buying the Hitachi product again. For enterprise NAS systems, the "buy again" numbers followed more closely to form, with 97% of both IBM's and HP's users saying they'd do it all over again.

The repeat-buy numbers for enterprise NAS systems were particularly high across the board, indicating that these vendors are ultimately delivering when it comes to customer satisfaction. With so much focus lately on the rapid growth of file-based storage, it's a promising sign that NAS system vendors are doing a good job of meeting users' requirements and expectations.

BIO: Rich Castagna (rcastagna@storagemagazine.com) is editorial director of the Storage Media Group.

This was first published in January 2009

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