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Quality Awards: What are the best midrange arrays?

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Product features
The product features section determined how well each product meets a user's needs based on their perception, rather than on a list of functions. Our survey inquiries focused on software functionality. StorageTek's 7.03 was not only the highest score, but was more than a half-point higher than second place NetApp (see "

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Features ranking of midrange arrays," previous page). StorageTek was almost a full point higher than IBM and 1.11 points higher than Sun, even though the respective hardware is basically the same. For the statement "Overall, this product meets my needs," StorageTek's 7.24 score was more than a full point higher than for IBM (6.10) and Sun (6.17). In fact, StorageTek scored a 7.0 or higher on five of the seven evaluated items in the category; no other vendor reached the 7.0 mark on any item in this section.

Ease of use is a key consideration for any storage subsystem. "The [HP] EVA [5000] is just very easy to administer," says Bob Ambrocik, a technical consultant at Enron Corp. in Houston. "We set it up, got it going and it kind of just runs," he says. And HP's introduction of upgraded EVAs couldn't have come too soon for Ambrocik: "We've already ordered two 8000s."

Scalability appears to be less of an issue for midrange users than for users of enterprise arrays. For the statement "This product's capacity scales to meet my needs," all of the products scored a 6.0 or higher, with StorageTek topping the group at 7.15, easily beating out HDS and IBM (who notched solid scores of 6.39 and 6.38, respectively).

Initial product quality
The initial product quality section assesses how easily a product is installed, configured and put into production. In this section, one key statement, "This product delivers good value for the money," generated a 7.35 for StorageTek. NetApp and HDS tied for second with a 6.13. IBM, however, had a relatively low score of 5.51, which was the lowest of the group (see the related graph "Quality ranking of midrange arrays," above).

About the survey
The Diogenes Labs–Storage magazine Quality Award for midrange arrays complements our Quality Award for Enterprise Arrays (see "Quality Awards: Enterprise arrays," Storage, August 2005). The Quality Awards identify and recognize products that have proven their quality and reliability in actual use. It's important to note that the awards aren't based on the subjective opinion of a few individuals, but are derived from a survey of qualified Storage readers that assesses products in five main categories: sales-force competence, product features, initial quality, reliability and technical support. Our methodology incorporates statistically valid polling that eliminates market share as a factor. Indeed, our objective is to identify the most reliable product on the market regardless of vendor name, reputation or size. Products were rated on a 1.0-to-8.0 scale, where 8.0 is the most favorable possible score.

The midrange array survey was completed by 339 respondents. Respondents were allowed to evaluate more than one array if they indicated a qualification to do so. Thirty-six percent of midrange respondents evaluated only one system vs. 26% in our earlier enterprise array survey. The study's margin of error is +6% with a 95% confidence factor.
Product reliability
Although product reliability generated the fewest number of average scores of 6.0 or higher, every vendor among the finalists scored a 6.0 or higher on the statement "This product meets my service-level requirements." Interestingly, every vendor, except for IBM, had its lowest score in this section in response to the statement "Patches can be added non-disruptively." HP, which had respectable scores on most items, scored a surprisingly low 4.95. However, most vendors scored well for the statement "This product does not require unplanned patches." From these results, it's clear that users aren't unhappy with product stability; however, every vendor would be well served to improve its patch management process.

With both NetApp filers and HP EVAs in his data center, Enron's Ambrocik is pleased with both offerings. "From a reliability point of view, we run a lot of litigation data through the [NetApp] filers and we also run Exchange on the filers," says Ambrocik. "From an uptime perspective, we're very happy."

This was first published in November 2005

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