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Evaluating vendors

We're in the middle of an evaluation pitting IBM Shark vs. EMC Symmetrix vs. the Hitachi 9900 platform. Our expectation is to share the disk storage across OS390, AIX (and non-IBM unix), VMS, NT and Novell. Major mission critical enterprise-wide applications reside on UNIX, MVS and VMS platforms (all across a WAN). NT and Novell are used across the WAN as well.

When evaluating these three vendors, what should I consider and where are the "gotchas"? They all are making claims about state-of-the-art performance and customer service (naturally, we are doing our reference checks, but they only tell half the story).

All I can say here is do your due diligence and test your production applications on each vendors solution BEFORE you make a purchase decision. Each vendor should be able to supply you with evaluation boxes to do your testing. I know Hitachi always does. Things to consider here are storage density, host connectivity, application performance degradation when using mixed environments, availability, and of course, cost. Everyone can make claims but I would use the nuclear arms protocol of "Trust But Verify."

In all honesty though, I have been through a number of similar benchmarks at quite a few customer sites and all being equal in everything else, Hitachi usually outperforms the others hands down, especially when connecting MANY hosts into a single subsystem. This is due to Hitachi having the only crossbar switch based internal architecture. But, don't trust me, do the testing yourself.

Other things to consider:

  • Ability to include NAS into the SAN for the remote WAN nodes using a single subsystem (does NAS and SAN at the same time).
  • Point in time copy robustness for backup and instant restores (ability to instantly create new BCVs on the fly).
  • Time Stamping and Sequence Ids for writes if doing remote copy for disaster tolerance. (This is important for database transactional integrity when using hardware based remote copy solutions.)
  • Ability to do ASYNC remote copy for extended distances with the least cost and best performance (multi-hop not required).
  • Requirements for special drivers for HBAs due to timing conditions in an array (openness of solution).
  • Ability to quickly make configuration or LUN changes ONLINE without cost or scheduled downtime.
  • Ability to review performance and Cache statistics on a LUN by LUN basis in a graphical or report based format.
  • Support for many switch vendors to enable "best of class" decisions on Infrastructure.
  • Ability to scale the platform to full capacity and max out host connections with no impact to performance.
  • Ability to configure subsystem to maximum connectivity without having to remove other components.


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