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Quality Awards V enterprise arrays: NetApp alone at the top

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The long run: Product reliability

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Time is the truest test of any product, especially workhorse systems like enterprise storage systems. Reliability is measured on the Quality Awards surveys by how well the systems meet service requirements, how easily and nondisruptively they can be upgraded, and how long they can chug along without major hiccups. "Never been powered off since we got them -- which is as it should be!" declared one EMC user responding to the survey. That enthusiastic endorsement was joined by many others to propel EMC to a win in the reliability category with a 6.89, the highest rating we've ever seen for enterprise array reliability. EMC flirted with scores of 7.00 for four of the five statements in this rating category and nailed it with a 7.02 for the critical "This product experiences very little down time" statement.

This category again featured solid scores for all vendors, with only two barely racking up ratings below 6.00. NetApp's 6.66 was good for the second spot, and Hitachi Data Systems posted consistent scores across all statements to come in third with a category rating of 6.53. Hitachi users were succinct in their praise; one simply noted, "99.999% reliability" while another said "They just plain work."

When help is needed: Technical support

Back when we ran our first Quality Awards for enterprise arrays -- five surveys ago in 2005 -- the top score for the technical support rating category was 5.76. Not only wouldn't that score be a winner in the current survey, it would trail six other products. IBM picked up its second category win with a 6.51 rating as it battled once again with EMC (6.40) and NetApp (6.35).

For IBM, it was the third time in a row that the company had the highest score for technical support. It's an impressive string of wins and a strong testament to IBM's support teams and infrastructure. EMC and IBM, along with Hitachi Data Systems, had ratings of 6.00-plus for all of the category's eight statements. NetApp came close to that level with only one rating barely missing the 6.00 mark -- a 5.99 for "The vendor provides adequate training" -- and matched its third-place finish from the previous enterprise arrays survey. "NetApp problems have been resolved before we were even aware there was a problem," said one respondent. "Replacement drives show up before we know there has been a failure."

Enterprise array encore

In each survey we also ask respondents, empowered now with the gift of hindsight, if they would make the same storage system purchase again. Often, these "buy again" responses seem to run counter to the category and overall rating results, but this time NetApp capped its overall win with the highest percentage of respondents we've seen to date in this product category (91.4%) saying they would opt for NetApp again. Hitachi Data Systems, which came in fourth place overall, apparently has loyal users as well, with 87% saying they would buy its product again.

Taking the last two Quality Awards for enterprise arrays together, it's clear storage vendors have made great progress on all fronts and that their customers appreciate the results. And considering the commitment those customers have made to land that big iron on their data centers' floors, it's sure to account for some peace of mind all around.

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

This was first published in March 2010

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