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Quality Awards: What are the best midrange arrays?

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All in all, midrange array users are a satisfied bunch, but the winner of the Quality Award in this category might surprise some people.

Midrange storage arrays aren't just for smaller companies and remote offices anymore--they've earned their place in the data center right next to enterprise arrays. The trend toward tiered storage environments has taken root to the point that Diogenes Labs estimates 70% of Global 2000 companies have a defined multitier storage strategy. Although the cost of midrange storage arrays is 30% to 50% less than enterprise storage on a per-terabyte basis, many organizations have enough midrange storage that they spend in absolute dollars the same amount for midrange and enterprise storage. Moreover, based on conversations with users and vendors, we expect the share of midrange storage to continue growing to the point that the split between the two types will be 60% midrange to 40% enterprise by 2008 to 2009. In more than 50% of organizations, the midrange and enterprise array vendors are different, indicating little technical advantage to having a single supplier for both.

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Survey products
The following midrange arrays were included in the Quality Awards survey:
  • Adaptec Inc.'s FS4500 RAID*
  • Apple Computer Inc.'s Xserve RAID*
  • Compellent Technologies' Storage Center*
  • Dell Inc.'s CX Series
  • Dot Hill System Corp.'s RIO Xtreme*
  • EMC Corp.'s Clariion CX Series
  • Hewlett-Packard Co.'s EVA series
  • Hitachi Data Systems' Thunder 9500V series
  • IBM Corp.'s FAStT/DS4000/DS6000
  • Network Appliance Inc.'s FAS200/FAS900 series
  • nStor Corp.'s NexStor 4900 F Series*
  • Silicon Graphic Inc.'s InfiniteStorage TP9500*
  • Storage Technology Corp.'s D-series and FlexLine FLA200/FLA300
  • Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StorEdge 6920
  • Xiotech Corp.'s Magnitude 3D*
* Insufficient number of responses to be included in survey results
The Diogenes Labs-Storage magazine Quality Awards program evaluates primarily products, although the vendor is clearly a part of the overall product experience. In formulating the survey, we're as inclusive as possible, with all major products in the category represented. Midrange array vendors weren't notified in advance or asked to nominate products; we generated our list of 15 vendors and product lines from all products that fit the category (see "Survey products," at right). For midrange arrays, one key criterion was Fibre Channel (FC) support. In our survey, eight products received a sufficient number of responses to be ranked and considered for the Quality Award. They are Dell Inc.'s CX series, EMC Corp.'s Clariion CX series, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) series, Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS') Thunder 9500V series, IBM Corp.'s FAStT/DS4000/ DS6000, Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc.'s FAS200/ FAS900 series, Storage Technology (StorageTek) Corp.'s D-series and FlexLine FLA200/FLA300, and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StorEdge 6920. (At the time the survey was released, Sun's acquisition of StorageTek had been announced, but hadn't closed yet.)


The top midrange array is ...
Long recognized for its dominant market position among tape products, StorageTek doesn't necessarily come to mind when considering excellence in disk products. But that perception should change. In our survey, StorageTek not only won, it dominated the competition in achieving a No. 1 ranking in every survey category. (StorageTek's midrange disk products are manufactured by Engenio Information Technologies, as are several other vendors' products in our survey.) "StorageTek has always been kind of a trailblazer of technologies," says Dan Evans, director of technical services at Cleveland's St. Vincent Charity Hospital. "I think StorageTek has a lot of benefits to bring to Sun--it'll be interesting to see how those product lines evolve as a result."

NetApp finished a strong second, placing in that position in every category except sales-force competence (where it came in third). In fact, StorageTek and NetApp were the only vendors with products that placed in the top half in every category (see "Overall ranking of midrange arrays," next page).

This was first published in November 2005

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