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Software functionality differentiates storage arrays more than the underlying hardware. Thus, our survey places an emphasis on software features, including snapshots, mirroring, remote replication and management tools. Respondents are asked to evaluate a product based on how well it meets their needs in these general areas, rather than by simply comparing products' feature lists.
EqualLogic scored well in this category with a 6.26 rating—its second highest category score (see "Product features"). PS Series users particularly like its snapshot functionality, giving it a solid 6.47 for the statement "This product's snapshot features meet my needs." It also received a 6.40 for "This product scales to meet my needs." In fact, EqualLogic scored 6.0 or better for all statements in this section. This category generated the highest scores across the group, with even the low score—Dell's 5.15—still quite respectable.
Compton Petroleum's choice of an EMC Clariion was based largely on features. "The EMC had more flexibility for replication and allowed us to do better DR planning," noted Trevor Rickards, server and storage administrator at the Calgary, AB-based company. Daily operations were also a key consideration. "Their management interface seems quite intuitive," he said. "Their grouping of hardware monitoring is excellent—in a lot of ways much more detailed that what the IBM provided."
Sun's FlexLine received a 6.11 rating in the product feature category. FlexLine users responded to the statement "This product's mirroring features meet my needs" with a 6.63. This was the highest statement score for any product; even though it was higher than any score posted by EqualLogic in this category, FlexLine's overall category score was offset by four sub-6.0 ratings, the lowest of which was a 5.77 for "This product's management features meet my needs." These scores are still very solid, but substantially lower than FlexLine's 7.03 average last year.
"It's been extremely easy to expand," said Kern Weissman, director of network systems at Velocity Express in New York, of his firm's Sun FlexLine. "We went from 2TB to 4TB." He also likes how he can reconfigure without disrupting production. "One of the best things about it is how you can dynamically change your settings without taking anything down," he added.
Initial product quality
The initial product quality section brought out both the highest and lowest category scores of any section. Scores ranged from EqualLogic's 6.30 down to Dell's 4.67 (see "Initial product quality"). EqualLogic had very consistent scores across the category, ranging from a low of 6.13 for "This product was installed without defects" to a high of 6.40 for "This product offers good value for the money." Scores for Sun's FlexLine were similarly consistent across the range of statements. As with EqualLogic's PS Series, Sun FlexLine recorded its highest score for the statement "This product offers good value for the money" (6.30).
Dell prides itself as a low price "value" leader in the Windows server and PC markets, but this perception apparently hasn't translated into the storage array market. In our survey, Dell scored a 4.64 on our "value" statement, which was lower than EMC's rating of 4.77 for the same statement with identical hardware. The value perception might be influenced by Dell's other scores in this category, all of which were below 5.0 except for the statement "This product installed without defects" (5.00). In the survey, the overall perception of value very closely matched the overall order of finish.
Would the surveyed users buy this same system again? Find out on page 3.