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Questions to ask when making storage purchase decisions, part 2

I'm busy with research for a telecommunication company that wants to implement a SAN/NAS solution. I have to evaluate...

different top storage vendors to give the company the best solution.

My question is, what terms do I need to take in consideration for my research?
Click here for part 1. Here are some of the basic questions that need to be asked:

  • Does your storage support RAID? What RAID types does your storage support?
  • What is the name and model number of your array products?
  • What is the maximum usable capacity (in gigabytes; GB) for a single storage array?
  • How many global spares does your array support?
  • What is the mean time between failure of the parts in the array?
  • Do you support internal disk copies for backup and recovery?
  • Do you support array-based remote copy, and if so, does the copy solution provide database write order fidelity over distance?
  • What is the maximum amount of servers that can connect to a single array?
  • How many logical unit numbers (LUNs) does your array support, and what are the minimum and maximum sizes that can be created.
  • What types of connections do you support... FICON, ESCON, SCSI, FC?
  • How many physical connections are available?
  • Are your FC connections 1Gbit or 2Gbit?
  • What are your future plans for 10Gbit?
  • Do you support iSCSI connection?
  • What SAN extenders do you support for remote SAN connections?
  • What storage management solutions do you provide, or are compatible with?
  • What is your best practice fan-in-ratio per storage port?
  • What HBA's do you certify?
  • Do I have to buy all the components from you, or do you certify off the shelf SAN components from other vendors?
  • What operating systems do you support?
  • What clustering technology is certified to be used with your storage?
  • What are the on-going costs for maintenance and configuration changes?
  • Can your microcode be updated while my servers are online, or do I need to take everything down?
  • Do you provide path-failover software, and if you do, how does it work, and what are the timings for failover?
  • How do you handle SAN security?
  • Does your solution "Phone Home" when there is a problem?
  • Can I use my current management framework (Tivoli, CA, Openview, BMC...) with your storage?

These are but a few of the questions that need to be asked if you want to be sure you did your due diligence when selecting a vendor. When you have finalized your short list of vendors, you should then have each of them bring in its solution so you can test it out through a "Proof Of Concept." Ask the vendor if you can do a "Try and Buy", so that if its claims are not supportable by reality, you can send it back at no cost to you. I have a complete chapter covering the basics of an RFI (Request for Information) in Chapter 15 of my book "Storage Area Networks for Dummies," that covers this topic in much greater detail. I hope this helps you in your decision making process for now though and congratulations on your choice of installing a new SAN solution. You will find that managing storage will become so much easier and the solution will have a financial payback in months.

This was last published in June 2003

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