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Storage acquisition and the decision making process

We are looking to purchase our first SAN and are still a bit foggy about how and what to buy. We are currently looking at an MSA 1000. Have you done any comparisons on the HP MSA 1000 vs. EMC SAN?

If so, where can I find that information for research and comparison purposes?

In my ongoing effort to be company and product neutral, I do not make recommendations on one product over another. Doing head-to-head comparisons should be left up to the person making the decision.

Purchasing your first SAN can be a very trying experience. The IT folks like yourself, who are tasked with this project, need to do their homework. As yourself these questions:

1. Do you really want a SAN?
2. What about NAS?
3. Would that be better for your current environment?
4. How fast are you growing?
4. Are your current choices able to scale with your needs?
5. Which vendor offers the best support?
6. Who has the most experience with your particular applications and operating systems?
7. What are the on-going and hidden costs?

These are just a few questions you need to ask yourself before you make a purchase decision. The best way to proceed is create an RFI (Request for Information) from all the major storage vendors, select two vendors based on which two meet your needs most closely from their replies and then have them either demo the equipment or let you do a "try and buy," so you can actually "kick the tires."

This is not a blatant plug but I have a whole chapter dedicated to purchasing SANs in my book "Storage Area Networks for Dummies." Here is a brief excerpt:

There are several common issues that are part of the decision making process in every storage acquisition. These include:

  • Product descriptions
  • Company viability
  • Supported platforms
  • Performance
  • Connectivity
  • Disaster recovery
  • Reliability
  • Power consumption/Floor space requirements
  • Product lifecycle
  • Guarantees
  • Warranties
  • Costs
  • Service/Support
  • Training

Your RFI should contain the list the above questions. Use the answers to these questions as the criteria for choosing your storage vendor. The questions should be submitted to a large cross section of companies that develop or integrate storage products. The answers submitted by each company should give you a feel for how the vendor fits into your strategy for making storage purchase decisions. By weeding out the companies whose products or services are not a good fit, you will be able to develop a "short list" of companies that you will feel comfortable doing business with.

Once you have a short list of companies defined, you will want to get more details on their capabilities to determine if the vendors products can solve your business problems. You will need to make sure their service organization has the technical expertise to support you, and if you are a global company, has facilities located at sites world wide located near your facilities. You will also want to make sure they have a good training program so you can become self sufficient with their products. The answers to the questions will help you get a good feel for who you are doing business with.

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